Tag Archives: Cohen Commission

Salmon farm scapegoating is getting ridiculous

Some people have been so effectively brainwashed into using salmon farms as a politically correct scapegoat that their automatic finger-pointing reflex kicks in for almost anything.

Case in point: two news stories on Global TV on January 5, which aired one after the other, took the opportunity to blame salmon farms for the hunger plaguing an impoverished First Nation, and also for harming wild salmon which feed bald eagles.

Salmon farms have had no impact on either subject, and the people making those claims should know better.

Bill Chu from the Canadians for Reconciliation Society helped organize a food drive to help the Mount Currie Indian Band (the Lil’wat First Nation, located 40 km northeast of Whistler) and was quoted in the brief Global News Sunday segment. He blamed salmon farms for causing a decline in sockeye runs in the Birkenhead and Fraser Rivers, which he said the Lil’wat rely on to fill their freezers.

Well, nonsense. The Birkenhead River, according to fishing guides, is a “little gem” and a “productive” river which gets “good returns of Chinook, Sockeye and Coho salmon.” It’s had its up and downs over the years: in 1994 it was down and illegal poaching was of concern, while 2003 was the largest return on record.

“Historical abundances of sockeye salmon returning to the Birkenhead River range from as low as 15,000 in 1939 to as high as 350,000 in 1986, and have averaged 90,000 fish. The 2003 return is turning out to be one of the largest on record.” – Pique News, September 19th, 2003.

As for the Fraser River, salmon returns have been highly variable over the past few years. A scientific inquiry that looked into a poor return of 2009 Fraser River sockeye concluded that marine conditions in the Strait of Georgia resulted in poor zooplankton (food for sockeye)  (Cohen Commission Final Document, Volume 3, page 59). In 2010, the largest run of sockeye salmon in 100 years returned to the Fraser River. Oh, and pink salmon returns in British Columbia in 2013 were the highest in 50 years.

Thor Froslev’s claims in the second segment – that salmon farms are starving eagles – are even more ridiculous.

010514 Thor Froslev










Thor and his wife run the Brackendale Art Gallery north of Squamish BC. Every January they do an eagle count in the region and in the news segment Froslev blamed salmon farms for causing eagle numbers to decline. They blame salmon farms every year, whether there are few eagles, or record highs.

Thor knows better — the eagle count numbers for 2014, collected this Sunday, were the highest they’ve been in six years! This year was higher than the 30 year average, and the historical numbers on his own website show eagle count numbers have varied wildly since the 1980s.

The reporters who covered the stories didn’t ask Bill or Thor to back up their claims, nor did they bother to fact-check these allegations before including them in their stories.

As salmon farmers, we are getting tired of being blamed for things that have no connection to us, or our farms. We’re proud of our fish and how we farm them, using methods that are as gentle on the environment as possible. And we’re proud of how far we’ve come since the pioneer days of salmon farming. It’s disheartening to see nonsense persist in news reports looking for a quick, catchy sound bite and a convenient cartoon villain.


Dear anti-salmon farming zealots, feel free to visit our website

In an effort to find something to complain about this month, anti-salmon farming activists were “outraged” that the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River website had been deleted.


The funny thing is, these people have convinced themselves that the Cohen Commission confirms their negative feelings toward salmon farming. It doesn’t. In fact, it clearly states that the “primary factor” for the poor return Fraser River sockeye in 2009 was because of scarce food availability when this yearclass of salmon entered in the ocean in 2007:

“I am also satisfied that marine conditions in both the Strait of Georgia and Queen Charlotte Sound in 2007 were likely to be the primary factors responsible for the poor returns in 2009. Abnormally high freshwater discharge, warmer-than-usual sea surface temperatures, strong winds, and lower-than-normal salinity may have resulted in abnormally low phytoplankton and nitrate concentrations that could have led to poor zooplankton (food for sockeye) production.” (Final Report, Volume 3, p. 59)

Furthermore – specific to salmon farming – Justice Bruce Cohen concluded that:

“Data presented during this Inquiry did not show that salmon farms were having a significant negative impact on Fraser River sockeye.” (Final Report, Volume 3, p. 24)

Dear anti-salmon farming zealots – we are much more disappointed than you are that this thorough scientific review that concluded plankton was lacking in 2007, and that salmon farmers had nothing to do with the poor return in 2009 (and nothing to do with the RECORD return of Fraser River sockeye in 2010!) has been deleted from the web.

However, we were smart enough to save all the Cohen documents on our own website. So – anti-salmon farming activists – feel free to visit our website for all your Cohen Commission needs, and please drop by our myth vs FACT section while you’re there! Here’s the link: http://farmfreshsalmon.org/cohen-commission-0