Cohen Report Card

The $37 million Cohen Commission is the most comprehensive review of Pacific salmon management in Canada. The Commission tabled its final report and 75 recommendations to government in October 2012. The report provides a roadmap to restoring Pacific salmon populations and re-establishing sustainable communities and economies that depend on salmon.

Since the recommendations were tabled in 2012, we began tracking implementation of the recommendations that have attached deadlines. Given the lack of transparency of the last federal government and not having access to internal information, tracking implementation has been difficult.

According to our assessment, 18 out of 20 deadlines have lapsed without meaningful and transparent government action (see below). Some of these recommendations include several actions and deadlines attached to them. In our assessment, the 18 lapsed deadlines translate to 13 recommendations that have not been completed out a total of 14.

After considering other recommendations (i.e., those without a deadline), the picture doesn’t appear any brighter. For example, there is no evidence DFO has taken any action on recommendation #3 which calls for the removal of the DFO mandate to promote salmon farming as an industry and its products.

Further, the Wild Salmon Policy (WSP) doesn’t appear to be an important DFO priority, likely because recommendation #6 has not been realized—the establishment of dedicated funding to complete WSP operations and implementation. Finally, despite the need for the best information to protect sockeye into the future no visible action has taken place on recommendation #73—the development of a central inventory of information about existing and new research available to the public.

Implementation of Cohen recommendations is so far behind, a second round of deadlines are lapsing for some recommendations. For example, Recommendation #75 called for an independent body to report publicly on the status of WSP implementation, followed by a public report every two years after. March 31, 2016 came and went without any such public update.

We were encouraged to see a direct commitment in the 2015 mandate letter to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to implement the recommendations, and we are eager to see these promises fulfilled. We also recognize at least 8 recommendations are directed at Environment Canada and 8 are directed at the Government of Canada.

Recommendation Deadline Grade
The appointment of a Wild Salmon Policy (WSP) Associate Regional Director General (Final Report Volume 3 pp.14-15, rec.#4). Immediately after release of Final Report (Oct 31, 2012) Incomplete
New Wild Salmon Policy Associate Regional Director General should decide whether the Habitat Management Program (Ecosystem Management Branch) or the Science Branch will lead implementing Wild Salmon Policy Strategy 2 (Assessment of Habitat Status) and Strategy 3 (Inclusion of Ecosystem Values and Monitoring) (Final Report Volume 3 p.16, rec.#8). January 31, 2013 Incomplete
DFO will ensure salmon farm licences in the Discovery Islands don’t exceed one year, no new licences or increased production are allowed (Final Report Volume 3 p.25, rec.#14). Immediately and continuing until September 30, 2020 Pending
If the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans determines salmon farms in the Discovery Islands pose more than a minimal risk of serious harm those farms should cease operations (Final Report Volume 3 p.26, rec.#18). Between now and September 30, 2020 Pending
New Wild Salmon Policy (WSP) Associate Regional Director General publishes a detailed plan for WSP implementation (Final Report Volume 3 p.15, rec.#5). March 31, 2013 Incomplete
Identification of red zone Conservation Units under Wild Salmon Policy Strategy 1 (Standardized Monitoring of Wild Salmon Status) (Final Report Volume 3 p.17, rec.#9). March 31, 2013 Incomplete
As part of Wild Salmon Policy Strategy 4 (Integrated Strategic Planning), completion of a socioeconomic framework for decision making in the integrated strategic planning process (Final Report Volume 3 p.17, rec.#10). March 31, 2013 Incomplete
As part of Wild Salmon Policy Strategy 4 (Integrated Strategic Planning), response teams should be formed for all Conservation Units in the red zone (Final Report Volume 3 p.17, rec.#10). March 31, 2013 Incomplete
DFO revises salmon farm siting criteria to reflect new scientific information (Final Report Volume 3 p.25, rec.#16). March 31, 2013 (and every 5 years thereafter) Incomplete
DFO sets out a detailed plan addressing a number of points in relation to implementing the 1986 Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat (Final Report Volume 3 pp.43-44, rec.#41). March 31, 2013 Incomplete
DFO will make the rational for sockeye harvest rules public (Final Report Volume 3 pp.29-30, rec.#25). Within 30 days of the approval of the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) Complete
DFO completes and makes public a risk assessment of the interactions of sockeye and enhanced salmon (Final Report Volume 3 pp.28-29, rec.#23). September 30, 2013 Incomplete
In relation to Wild Salmon Policy Strategy 4 (Integrated Strategic Planning), DFO completes overview reports for the Fraser watershed and marine areas relevant to sockeye salmon (Final Report Volume 3 p.17, rec.#9). September 30, 2013 Incomplete
DFO completes its planned review of the Fraser River Sockeye Spawning Initiative model and address the criticisms of the model (Final Report Volume 3 pp.30-31, rec.#26). September 30, 2013 Incomplete
DFO completes its analysis of the socio-economic implications of implementing the various share-based management models for the Fraser River sockeye fishery (Final Report Volume 3 pp.38-39, rec.#38). September 30, 2013 Incomplete
DFO renegotiates their relationship in regard to Environment Canada’s responsibility to enforce section 36 of the Fisheries Act in the Pacific Region in accordance with the 2009 report from the office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (Final Report Volume 3 p.56, rec.#59). September 30, 2013 Incomplete
In relation to Wild Salmon Policy Strategy 4 (Integrated Strategic Planning), habitat indicators and benchmarks are developed by DFO for assessment of the Strait of Georgia, Juan de Fuca Strait, Johnstone Strait, and Queen Charlotte Sound (Final Report Volume 3 p.17, rec.#9). December 31, 2013 No Public Response
As part of Wild Salmon Policy Strategy 4 (Integrated Strategic Planning), DFO will start an integrated strategic planning process for Fraser River sockeye salmon (Final Report Volume 3 p.17, rec.#10). January 31, 2014 Incomplete
An independent body will report to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and the public on Wild Salmon Policy implementation progress (Final Report Volume 3 pp.66-67, rec.#75). March 31, 2014 (and every two years thereafter) Incomplete
The Wild Salmon Policy Associate Regional Director General will report on implementation progress on DFO’s website (Final Report Volume 3 p.15, rec.#7). March 31, 2014 (and every anniversary thereafter) Incomplete
In relation to Wild Salmon Policy Strategy 4 (Integrated Strategic Planning), response teams will complete plans for the protection and restoration of priority Conservation Units (Final Report Volume 3 p.17, rec.#10). December 31, 2014 Incomplete
An independent body will report to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and the public on the extent to which the Cohen Commission’s recommendations have been implemented (Final Report Volume 3 pp.66-67, rec.#75). September 30, 2015 Incomplete
The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will prohibit net-pen salmon farming in the Discovery Islands unless they are satisfied that farms pose at most a minimal risk of serious harm to migrating Fraser sockeye (Final Report Volume 3 pp.25-26, rec.#19). September 30, 2020 Pending

Final Report of the Cohen Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River

Watershed Watch Salmon Society’s Executive Director, Dr. Craig Orr, and Fisheries Biologist, Stan Proboszcz, attended the Cohen evidentiary hearings, and also compiled the report “Cohen Inquiry Highlights: Synopsis of Key Evidence from the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Fraser River Sockeye.” They are available to assist with interpreting Cohen Inquiry evidence and the Final Report’s recommendations in light of their participation and comprehensive review of the inquiry.

To arrange an interview please contact:

  • Dr. Craig Orr, Executive Director, Watershed Watch Salmon Society – 604-809-2799
  • Stan Proboszcz, Fisheries Biologist, Watershed Watch Salmon Society – 604-314-2713

 

Resources:

 

Cohen Inquiry Media Coverage:

 

 

On October 31st, 2012, after 18 months of testimony and $26 million, the Cohen Commission’sFinal Report “The Uncertain Future of the Fraser River Sockeye” was released. The Report was heralded as a blueprint for salmon conservation, providing 75 recommendations to Government, many involving deadlines and milestones. The following “Cohen Report Card” grades Government performance regarding the Cohen Final Report recommendations and deadlines.