Sto:lo Tribal Council leaders welcomed the final report of the Cohen Commission’s inquiry into the decline of Fraser River sockeye.
But Tribal Chief Tyrone McNeil said the commission could have gone further to protect wild salmon from diseases carried by farmed fish.
“I wanted the Commissioner to recommend there be no (salmon) farms on the migratory route of Fraser sockeye, and the relocation of farms to new sites,” he said.
Diseases transferred from farmed fish “pose a singular threat to wild salmon,” he said, and “could decimate wild fish entirely.”
“Indeed, contagion from salmon farms may already be taking their toll,” he said.
Grand Chief Clarence Pennier said the STC is studying the report while awaiting the federal government’s reaction to the recommendations, which come at a time when wild salmon are under assault from many sides.
“Ottawa is failing to protect Fraser River sockeye,” he charged, and the federal government “has added insult to injury by gutting habitat safeguards in the Fisheries Act, trashing the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and scuttling the Navigable Waters Act.
Pennier said job cuts and funding cutbacks at federal fisheries shows “obviously, this government is not the least bit concerned about the future of Fraser River Sockeye.”
McNeil said he also wanted the commission to recommend “an overhaul of the relationship between First Nations and the DFO” and restore traditional aboriginal knowledge and salmon management practices.
Instead, the commission recommended that Ottawa hang onto the role of the ultimate authority in the fishery.
“This is both troubling and ironic,” McNeil said, “because it was Ottawa that got all of us and the fish into trouble to begin with.
The Sto:lo Tribal Council represents eight First Nations located within Sto:lo Territory in the Fraser Valley.