Salmon Leaks Part 4: Inquiry Digs Deeper into Fishing

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The sockeye inquiry continued its examination of various types of fishing and the underlying implications on Fraser salmon sustainability. It’s no doubt that salmon fishing needs consideration by Justice Cohen. In February and March the inquiry looked into the direct human effects on salmon through commercial and recreational fishing and also revisited harvest management.

See transcripts for commercial and recreational fishing as well as harvest management part 2:


On Feb 21 counsel along with DFO staff Gordon Curry and Brent Hargreaves talked about selective fishing methods and how these techniques can benefit the conservation of threatened salmon stocks by avoiding or releasing these fish quickly. Counsel then touched on an internal memorandum to the Regional Director General (starts on page 32, line 3) which highlights an oppositional opinion by the commercial fishing industry towards selective methods:

“In spite of the large investment and very promising results to date, industry leaders have recently informed DFO that they are opposed to any addition testing or broader implementation of these new selective fishing methods in 2004.”

After counsel established that industry was generally opposed to some selective fishing techniques, they continued further on this topic and entered an internal audit on the Pacific salmon selective fishing program into evidence. Counsel questioned Gordon Curry on this report (page 33, line 20) and whether they thought selective fishing techniques dropped off DFO’s radar. Hargreaves stated,

“So I think from about 2003 or so, shortly after the end of the CFAR funding, selective fishing has stalled to a large degree. There are a number of elements that continue to be a part of our normal practices, both for conservation and management (…) but I don’t think the emphasis is still there, and certainly the interest in terms of continuing to develop these methods has waned considerably since 2002.”

Curry concurred,

“And it’s without having a directed funding source and without having someone working to continue to work with First Nations and recreational and commercial harvesters to progress with some of these gear and methods that we had started, some that could definitely use completion, there wasn’t someone driving that. So it has relaxed and there isn’t the same type of push that I feel there should be in order to solve some of these issues that are getting more and more stringent as we move to Wild Salmon Policy, SARA legislation, more and more a need to solve some of these bycatch issues.”

Another interesting document that surfaced on Feb 21 was a briefing note from 2000 to the Minister of Fisheries that touches on the declining economic value of certain salmon stocks, theories for their declines and a strategy for communications to the public.

Two other reports of interest that were released during this section were the Policy and Practice reports produced by the Cohen Commission which summarize a broad range of issues related to the commercial and recreational fisheries.

Linkages were made between the Wild Salmon Policy and the commercial fishery on Feb 24. Ecojustice—counsel for the Conservation Coalition (which includes Watershed Watch)—questioned Jeff Grout of DFO on useful tools such as shared-based management and selective fishing, that might be emphasized by DFO in order to better implement the Wild Salmon Policy (page 23, line 12). Grout agreed.

For more information see:



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