No ‘smoking gun’ for Fraser River sockeye salmon collapse

CBC News

Posted: Oct 31, 2012 12:59 PM PT

There is “no smoking gun” to explain the “steady and profound” decline of the Fraser River sockeye, according to the B.C. Supreme Court justice who led a two and half year inquiry into the collapse.

But in his final report released today in Vancouver, Justice Bruce Cohen lays out 75 recommendations, including the shutdown of dozens of fish farms on the sockeye migration route, if they’re found to be too risky.

In a hefty, three-volume report spanning more than a thousand pages, Cohen says that “the idea that a single event or stressor is responsible for the 1992-2009 declines in Fraser River sockeye is appealing but improbable.”

There is no smoking gun to explain the steady and profound decline of the Fraser River Sockeye, according to the B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen who led a two and half year inquiry into the collapse.There is no smoking gun to explain the steady and profound decline of the Fraser River Sockeye, according to the B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen who led a two and half year inquiry into the collapse. (CBC)

Instead, Cohen says a string of cumulative factors likely played a role, such as contaminants in the Fraser River, development along its shores, and ocean conditions that may have contributed to long-term decline as well.

“Climate change and warming waters present perhaps the most daunting long-term threat to the Fraser River sockeye fishery,” Cohen wrote.

DFO conflict of interest

Cohen also identified a potential conflict in the job of the federal Fisheries Department, which both promotes and regulates B.C.’s fish farms.

“As long as DFO has a mandate to promote salmon farming, there is a risk that it will act in a manner that favours the interests of the salmon farming industry over the health of wild fish stocks.”

Salmon farms along the sockeye migration route in the Discovery Islands — amounting to dozens of farm sites — have the potential to introduce exotic diseases and to aggravate diseases endemic to the wild fish.

“Mitigation measure should not be delayed in the absence of scientific certainty.”

Cohen recommends a freeze on new open-net salmon farm production in the Discovery Islands until September 2020.

“If by that date DFO cannot confidently say the risk of serious harm to wild stocks is minimal, it should then prohibit all net-pen salmon farms from operating in the Discovery Islands.”

Cohen also took a jab at the Harper government, writing that he was troubled by the recent amendments to the environmental assessment process and the Fisheries Act, because experts he heard from emphasized the importance of protecting fish habitat.

He says it’s “regrettable” the Harper government put them through without the benefit of the final report from his commission.

Cohen appointed in 2009

The report comes after Cohen held several months of hearings, collected more than three million pages of documents and heard from 179 witnesses at the $25-million inquiry.

Cohen was appointed to lead the inquiry by Prime Minister Stephen Harper after only 1.4 million of the highly prized salmon returned to spawn in 2009. Approximately 10 million sockeye were expected to return to the river that year.

The huge shortfall forced the closure of the commercial, recreational and aboriginal sockeye fisheries on the river over the summer, and raised questions about the long-term survival of B.C.’s salmon stocks.

Although only a fraction of the fish that were forecast showed up in 2009, the 2010 run saw 35 million sockeye, the biggest run since 1913. About 4.5 million returned in 2011 and just 2.3 million in 2012.

The offspring of those few sockeye that made it back in 2009 are now out in the ocean and are due to form the run for the summer of 2013.

Article taken from

Multimillion dollar fish farming industry suing activist for defamation

Reporting on the trial of Don Staniford vs Mainstream, by Elena Edwards

Round two for Don Staniford has wrapped up as the slapp suit from Mainstream Canada, aka Cermaq, ended its second week. While the first week started on shaky ground, the footing in this boxing ring for justice solidified as Don’s lawyer, David Sutherland, delved deeper into the deception of Norwegian parent company Cermaq’s offspring. Round III begins with Dr. John Volpe on the stand Monday, January 30th.

Mainstream’s case, like so many other lawsuits launched by big industry, is not so much about seeking justice as it is about trying to protect its economic interests by keeping damaging information from emerging. Don has been exposing just such damaging information for over 14 years, earning him the title of “Public enemy # 1” by the fish farming industry. (One might imagine what the courts would be like if every damaging industry had a “Don Staniford” to contend with.)

Of the 52 allegations made by Don through his “Cigarette ad” campaign, Mainstream has narrowed the focus down to “Salmon farms are cancer,” and “Salmon farming kills like smoking” as the two “stings” they feel to be most damaging.

Week one brought witnesses selected by Mainstream and, not unlike many DFO witnesses at the Cohen Commission, they demonstrated having been coached to avoid telling the “whole truth and nothing but the truth”. Mainstream Area Manager Brock Thomson, Wallace Jones Samuel of Ahousaht Aquaculture Committee, Lise Bergan, spokesperson for Cermaq HQ in Norway, and toxicologist Dr. Michael Gallo all took turns on the stand, each displaying a willful, nay, intentional ignorance of the structure of the fish farming industry and the controversy that surrounds it. It was with disbelief that observers in the courtroom heard Mainstream witnesses refuse to admit controversy regarding fish farming, in spite of evidence proving as much. It makes one wonder just what kind of oath they take when entering into the business of Aquaculture.

The first witness of week two brought Ruth Salmon to testify much along lines, as the others. From forgetting what the EPA is (Environmental Protection Agency) to suggesting that the esteemed journal Science does not publish factual research, Ms. Salmon’s middle name should most certainly be “Farmed”. David Sutherland rightfully objected to Mainstream lawyer David Wotherspoon’s process of questioning, calling Ms. Salmon’s testimony “window dressing” and “irrelevant”.

In cross examination by Mr. Sutherland, Ms. Salmon was asked if she knew about California seeking to have health warning labels placed on foods containing dioxins, PCB’s and contaminants. Ms. Salmon’s response was to hesitate before saying she’d heard “rumblings” but could not answer to that. It was an odd response given her position of promoting farmed salmon, with California being one of the largest importers of B.C. farmed salmon.

Sutherland followed with questions about when the tobacco industry was under pressure to put warning labels on cigarette packages, first in the U.S. and then in Canada. Ms. Salmon admitted to recalling “some of that”. Sutherland then brought up Don’s writings “Smoke on the Water, Cancer on the Coast” and asked Ms. Salmon to look at the part of the publication that showed ads by the tobacco industry prior to labeling, with slogans such as “More scientists and educators smoke Kents” and “As your Dentist, I recommend Viceroys “. Sutherland then made the point that the tobacco industry, much like the farmed salmon industry, were making their claims based on science, by comparison drawing attention to the BC Salmon Facts website and the public campaign making claims that farmed salmon was safe and healthy based on scientific “facts”. Ms. Salmon responded that she did not see the comparison and that she put her faith in the CFIA,WHO and the government of Canada, saying “If we can’t trust the government…” (Let’s put that can of worms on the shelf for the time being!)

Following lunch break, Mary Ellen Walling, Executive Director of the BCSFA, took the stand. It was quickly established that Ms. Walling’s educational background was to study strategies used by ENGO‘s such as CAAR to attack the Aquaculture Industry, then working for the BCSFA to educate people about fish farming and the so-called benefits while promoting the industry to various communities and public in general. Not to her credit, she proudly mentioned working with the S.A.D. (Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue and yes, it’s as sad as it sounds) WWF, CAAR, PEW and a few others.

Mr. Sutherland took to cross examination of Walling with the composure and grace of Edvard Greig’s “Morning Mood”, getting straight to the matter of an editorial cartoon in the Province newspaper that depicted Ms. Walling as a gun toting seal killing PR person for the BCSFA. Why, pray tell, should Don’s depictions on his blogs be seen as any worse than what’s published in mainstream media editorial? The best Walling could come up with is that she feels Don’s attack is more personal and persistent and that he is not an editorial cartoonist.

While Mary Ellen Walling testified that she spent about 65% of her time “responding to miscommunication about salmon farms” (aka damage control), it would seem that she is blind to the fact that Don Staniford is doing the exact same thing spending his time on the miscommunication from the salmon farming industry. Only, he is working to prevent the damage done by salmon farms to wild salmon and the environment, not his economic proceeds.

Wednesday of week two had Dr. Gallo return as witness via Skype. It was almost impossible to follow Gallo’s testimony as he danced around questions and gave answers.

The afternoon continued with the cross examination of Jasminder Jason Mann, employee of EWOS Canada since 1988, currently working in feed formulation and nutrition. Descriptions of feed from processing plants where chicken guts and feathers were converted to feed were compared to “brown sugar” and “peanut butter” in substance. All in all the testimony was rather surreal as PCB and dioxin levels were discussed with the flippancy of tea and crumpets.

Mainstream employee Richard Finch was last to testify for the plaintiff, revealing that salmon samples were skinned before being sent for testing of PCB’s. Troubling information given that PCB’s and dioxins are most absorbed in the skin.

The final day saw Justice Adair grant the admission of Eric LeGresly’s study on the tobacco industry that she may fully understand how comparing the salmon farming industry to the “worst of the worst” might bring a “sting” to the offended party.

Come Monday, January 30th, the tide will change significantly as Dr. John Volpe steps up as witness for Don Staniford, followed by Don Staniford on the stand as of Wednesday. The next few weeks will be Truth time. Free speech cannot be denied. Be there to bear witness to the court case that will expose the salmon farming industry as comparable to the “worst of the worst”.

For more on this article check out

Check out Don Staniford’s website at

2011 Commercial salmon fishing season was promising

The radio begins to crackle seconds after the Marlin arrives at the outskirts of the salmon fishing fleet about three miles from the coast of Stinson Beach.
“Fish and Game is here. Fish and Game on scene,” say the disembodied voices, as Lt. Andy Roberts and his crew from the state Department of Fish and Game smile at each other, happy to have a job to do.
It’s nearing the end of the first commercial salmon fishing season in three years. The ocean is crammed with trollers piloted by seasoned fisherman hoping to score a final catch, under the watchful eye of state officials making sure they do so legally. It’s been a “so-so” year, they all agree, but one that brings hope that salmon fishing in California has returned for good.
“It’s just nice to be fishing here again,” said Capt. Greg Ambiel, 43, as fish and game warden Ryan Thiem dug through Ambiel’s catch measuring the salmon’s size. Ambiel was among a dozen salmon boats on the unusually calm Pacific Ocean on Sept. 30. “Most of us guys have barely squeaked by.”
By the end of August, the most recent totals available, commercial fishermen in California had spent a combined 5,105 days fishing salmon since the season opened in May, catching more than 68,900 Chinook salmon along the state coast. While the commercial season ended Friday, recreational fishermen can continue catching salmon until the end of the month.
The 2-year-long hiatus, sparked by an alarmingly low salmon count

in 2009, cost the state more than $255 million in economic activity and roughly 2,263 jobs. It also resulted in $170 million in aid from the federal government that was sent mostly to fishermen who were prevented from making a living due to the ban.
But this year, the gloom was behind the fishermen as they once again took to the ocean in search of the West Coast’s iconic fish.
Both fisherman and state officials said that while the 2011 catch was low compared to other full seasons, the price paid for salmon was on average higher, due to the two-year-long ban. Reports from the coast had fishermen selling salmon anywhere from $4 to $8 per pound, depending on the day it was caught.
Biologists from the Pacific Fishery Management Council had predicted that more than 739,000 salmon would be found off the coast this year, and more than 377,000 headed up the Sacramento River to spawn. The forecast was triple the number from last year and convinced biologists that the fishery could reopen to commercial and recreational anglers.
In 2009, a mere 39,000 Sacramento River fall Chinook salmon were thought to have returned to the Sacramento River Basin, an all-time low that prompted the closure of the commercial fishing season.
“It’s not uncommon to see sharp turnarounds both positive and negative, but we were surprised in 2009 when it got so low,” said Chuck Tracy, salmon staff officer for the Pacific Fishery Management Council, a group that works with the state to monitor fisheries.
The decision this year to open the commercial salmon season was welcome news to the hundreds of fishermen in California who had been forced to either dock their boats or try their luck at another, less profitable fishery.
“It means we can do the thing that punches our ticket,” said David Bitts, president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “Not only will we be able to make a living, we will be doing something that gets us all excited.”
That excitement could be seen on the ocean recently, when even a visit from state game wardens didn’t appear to dampen the spirits of many fishermen. Most welcomed the wardens with pleasant greetings and were happy to show off their catch and talk, again, about fishing salmon.
Wardens patrolled the salmon fleet on a small patrol dinghy launched from the Marlin. The wardens, Thiem and Ian Bearry, inspect the fishermen’s gear and measure the size of their catch — ensuring that “short” salmon, also known as jacks, are not kept on board.
Under regulations meant to ensure the salmon fishery would continue to grow, the Department of Fish and Game has regulated the size of fish that can be kept and how those fish could be caught.
For commercial fishermen, any Chinook salmon larger than 27 inches are fair game, while recreational fisherman can keep Chinook salmon larger than 24 inches. Coho salmon caught off the California coast must be thrown back.
In addition, all fishermen are banned from using barbed hooks.
The owner of the Sachiko of Sacramento saw firsthand how strict the wardens of fish and game are.
The boat’s captain, who refused to speak to a reporter, was cited for having a salmon that was ¼-inch short of the 27-inch limit. The maximum fine for such a violation is six months jail and a $1,000 fine, but Roberts said the maximum penalty is rarely used.
“The size regulation is there for a reason,” Roberts said. “He didn’t plant the salmon; he is just out there taking them. We have to set a limit and if it’s close we can’t let them go. If we did, where would it end?”
Fishermen interviewed Sept. 30 said that while this year’s catch was modest, they saw many smaller salmon that they hope will grow to regulation size by the 2012 fishing season.
“We’ll continue to starve this year but next year we’ll finally make some money,” Ambiel said.
Capt. Wilson Quick of the Sun Ra said he had caught dozens of “short” salmon, also know as jacks, that he was forced to release.
“There’s a lot of jacks and that’s a really good sign,” Quick said with a smile.
While Tracy could not say with certainty that the salmon have returned for good, he thinks the anecdotes he has heard from fisherman about this year’s catch reveal a promising trend.
“Things look reasonably good for the near term at least,” Tracy said. “They should be here for the long-term.”
Bitts, for one, hopes so.
“I would say that most of us are pretty eager for next year to see if the promise this year is fulfilled,” he said. “When we see a lot of short fish like we saw this year, it gives me a lot of hope that we haven’t screwed it up yet.”
By the numbers
$255 million
Amount of economic activity lost when Fish and Game officials suspended salmon fishing in 2009.
Number of jobs lost during that two-year period.
Estimated number of salmon experts expect to be swimming in off the California coast.
Number of fish hauled in by fishermen since the fishing season began in May.

By the numbers
$255 million
Amount of economic activity lost when Fish and Game officials suspended salmon fishing in 2009.
Approximate number of jobs lost during that two-year period.
Number of salmon experts expect to be swimming off state coast.
Number of fish hauled in since the fishing season began in May.

ONLINE: To view a slideshow
of California Department of Fish and Game wardens conducting offshore patrols, go to

California opens salmon fishing summer 2011

? DFG to Hold Final Public Meeting on Suction Dredge Permitting ProgramRepeat San Francisco Abalone Poacher Sentenced to Jail ?
California Ocean and Inland Salmon Seasons Set by Fish and Game Commission

Media Contacts:
Scott Barrow, DFG Fisheries Branch, (916) 445-7600
Larry Hanson, DFG Northern Region, (530) 225-2866
Harry Morse,DFG Communications, (916) 322-8962
The Fish and Game Commission today adopted ocean salmon fishing regulations that allow for a season this year. Inland salmon season regulations were also adopted for the Central Valley, and Klamath and Trinity rivers. This represents a restoration of the traditional salmon fishery throughout California, the first since major closures were enacted in 2008 for both ocean and inland waters.
“It is excellent news that we can set ocean and inland salmon seasons that allow commercial and recreational fishing while still protecting stocks of salmon that need special considerations,” said John McCamman, Director of the Department of Fish and Game (DFG). “Anglers will again be able to enjoy salmon fishing, while individuals and communities that rely on income from this industry will hopefully begin to recover from the economic losses they’ve experienced over the past few years.”
The newly adopted ocean salmon sport fishing regulations conform to those adopted by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council. They are now available on DFG’s website at
Please note, on all Central Valley rivers, the daily bag limit and possession limit is two Chinook salmon, and anglers on the Trinity and Klamath rivers must have Salmon Harvest Cards in their possession when fishing for salmon.
Details of the newly adopted inland salmon seasons and regulations for Central Valley rivers and the Klamath and Trinity rivers are as follows:
Upper Sacramento Zone: Open Aug. 1 through Dec. 18 from the Deschutes Road Bridge near Anderson downstream to 500 feet upstream from Red Bluff Diversion Dam.
Middle Sacramento Zone: Open July 16 through Dec. 18 from 150 feet below the Lower Red Bluff (Sycamore) Boat Ramp to the Highway 113 Bridge near Knights Landing.
Lower Sacramento Zone: Open July 16 through Dec. 11 from the Highway 113 Bridge near Knights Landing downstream to the Carquinez Bridge.
Open July 16 through Dec. 11 from 1,000 feet below the Thermalito Afterbay Outfall downstream to the mouth of the Feather River.
Nimbus Dam to Hazel Avenue Bridge will be open to salmon fishing from July 16 through Dec. 31.
Hazel Avenue Bridge to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) gauging station cable crossing near Nimbus Hatchery will be open to salmon fishing from July 16 through Sept. 14.
The USGS gauging station cable crossing near Nimbus Hatchery to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) power line crossing the southwest boundary of Ancil Hoffman Park will be open to salmon fishing from July 16 through Oct. 31.
The SMUD power line crossing at the southwest boundary of Ancil Hoffman Park to the Jibboom Street Bridge will be open to salmon fishing from July 16 through Dec. 31.
The Jibboom Street Bridge to the mouth will be open to salmon fishing from July 16 through Dec. 11.
Open to fall-run Chinook salmon fishing from Aug. 15 through Dec. 31 with a daily bag limit of three Chinook salmon, of which no more than two may be more than 22 inches in length. The possession limit is nine Chinook salmon, of which no more than six may be more than 22 inches in length. The 2011 quota for the Klamath River basin is 7,900 fall-run salmon more than 22 inches in length. Once this quota has been met, no Chinook salmon greater than 22 inches in length may be retained (anglers may still retain a limit of Chinook salmon under 22 inches in length). A weekly DFG status report will be available by calling 1-800-564-6479.
Open to spring-run Chinook salmon fishing from Jan. 1 through Aug. 14 with a daily bag and possession limit of two salmon. The take of salmon is prohibited on the Klamath River from Iron Gate Dam downstream to Weitchpec from Jan. 1 through Aug. 14.
Open to fall-run Chinook salmon fishing from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31 with a daily bag limit of three Chinook salmon, of which no more than two may be more than 22 inches in length. The possession limit is nine Chinook salmon, of which no more than six may be over 22 inches. The 2011 quota for the Klamath River basin is 7,900 fall-run salmon more than 22 inches in length. Once this quota has been met, no Chinook salmon greater than 22 inches in length may be retained (anglers may still retain a limit of Chinook salmon under 22 inches in length). A weekly DFG status report will be available by calling 1-800-564-6479. The Trinity River main stem downstream of the Highway 299 bridge at Cedar Flat to the Denny Road bridge in Hawkins Bar is closed to all fishing Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.
Open to spring-run Chinook salmon fishing from Jan. 1 through Aug. 31. The daily bag and possession limit is two Chinook salmon. The take of salmon is prohibited from the confluence of the South Fork Trinity River downstream to the confluence of the Klamath River from Jan. 1 through Aug. 31.
All other regulations for bag and possession limits for trout, salmon and other species, as well as general information about restrictions on fishing methods and gear on the above rivers, are available on the DFG website at

This story can be seen at

Fishing Trip to Tierra Del Fuego January 2011

Tierra Del Fuego is definitely an interesting place. The culture is sheep farming and this is all you will see while traveling the large expanse of dusty gravel roads. Even though it can turn to rain at any time, the constant wind gusts keep the ground mostly dry and that is definitely the case with the roads. After about 5 hours traveling we came to a very large estancia. In South America a farm is called an estancia which literally means a place to stay or a ranch. Because the land is so dry and the soil barren, the only possible livelihood is sheep. There are cows in the central and northern areas, but mostly sheep in southern Chile. The estancias are much larger than ranches or farms in North America because of the low sustainability per acre. The estancia we stayed on was many hectares and is navigated by vehicles and by horseback. Gauchos are South American cowboys who tend the farms. They live by very primitive means often without power and modern comforts. We stayed in a place that had limited hot water, heated only by the woodstove in the kitchen.

Fishing opportunities are quite vast in this area. The key is knowing where to go. Just because there is water somewhere does not mean there are fish. And sometimes there trout in the most unlikely places. We fished one very small lake which most would call a pond. You could wade most of it and it was only about .5 of a mile long. To my surprise, it was filled with mostly large trout. The first brown trout I caught was 4.5lbs. We roasted it on the fire for lunch. After lunch one of my fishing buddies headed out to the same spot I was at and started hooking one fish after another. By the time I got there he was finally landing one after losing a few. I immediately hooked into a large trout about 7-8 lbs that jumped and really gave a good fight. After releasing him, all 5 of us fished for another couple hours and hooked a few more trout. All the trout seen and hooked were quite large. This seemed to be a strange phenomenon considering the amount of water for them to live in.

During the trip we also fished Lago Blanco and Rio Blanco which are large bodies of water. I was a little disappointed with the results; however, there is apparently some good fishing on Lago Blanco in other locations, just not where we fished at the south end of the lake. During the trip we fished the Rio Grande in a few different parts. The goal was catching sea trout which are sea run brown trout. Among 5 of us, we caught 5 sea trout, none bigger than 8 lbs. We were there at the end of January, however the best time is either October or March. Next time I go, I will go in these months! All in all, it fueled my passion for fly fishing which previously was quite limited. I had mostly fished salmon in the river by the fly, but fly fishing trout can be quite and art. I plan on returning to Chile sometime, this time a little better prepared for what I can expect. For all nature lovers it can be quite a romantic place with a wide expanse of thinly vegetated land and a few different species of animals including the most common guanaco which roams freely in many places.