IN THE NEWS ~ Plenty of questions to answer in fish inquiry

Burnaby Now
Section: Opinion

Plenty of questions to answer in fish inquiry

Finally a Canadian prime minister is doing what none of his predecessors had the guts to do: Ask why Fraser River sockeye are going the way of the Atlantic cod.

Conservative MP John Cummins of Delta-Richmond East - never one to hold back criticism of Canada's fisheries policies, even when it's his own government at the helm - heaped praise on Stephen Harper for his recent "gutsy" decision to order a judicial inquiry into the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye. Cummins himself deserves inquiry a reality.

Likewise, kudos belong to Burnaby-New Westminster New Democrat MP Peter Julian, who has been leading the charge calling for just such an inquiry.

If they and other critics are right, Department of Fisheries and Oceans bureaucrats have been ignoring the warnings of their own scientists and managers for years. It is widely believed that some have been muzzled. It will be interesting to see what they have to say when those muzzles come off.

Cummins told the NOW's sister paper, the Richmond News, that he feels that senior fisheries managers are often hesitant to take action that will be unpopular or politically incorrect. He hopes the findings of an inquiry frees them to make those tough decisions.

One thing that many stakeholders hope will come from this inquiry is a recognition of the inherent conflict of interest DFO is in with respect to being responsible for both the wild and farmed salmon sectors.

We can expect the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association to be out in full force with their own studies refuting the meagre science available on the effects of fish farms on wild salmon. It is meagre because it seems that most of it has been left to one independent researcher, Alexandra Morton. It appears DFO hasn't done any serious science here. If it has, it hasn't done much to publicize it. And that's one question we'd like answered at this inquiry - why not?