The Canadian federal inquiry into B.C.’s Fraser River sockeye fishery cost at least $37.3 million.
While the $37 million in legal charges returned no additional fish, our $2 million ocean pastures restoration project is on course to confirm an additional 500 million fish.
That’s far higher than the $26.4-million price tag that has long been pitched by officials regarding the 2012 judicial inquiry/report by BC Supreme court Justice Bruce Cohen.
The reason for the $11 million and rising overrun of previously unreported cost in this sockeye judicial review is that the lower, more publicly palatable number was diced out of the total bill under the guise that it reflected “direct” Cohen commission costs.
The nearly $11 million in newly confessed costs includes salaries and benefits to federal bureaucrats working full-time to collect and process documents, review policy papers, prepare departmental witnesses for testimony, and communicate internally between federal Fisheries Department staff in B.C. and Ottawa, according to documentation provided by Fisheries Minister Gail Shea.
The tally still doesn’t include the inquiry-related efforts of staff, including highly paid senior department executives, who worked only part-time on commission matters after Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched it in 2009.
“So the price tag is sure to be significantly higher,” said Stan Proboszcz, a biologist with the B.C.-based Watershed Watch Salmon Society. Some in the know suggest that “all in” the Cohen effort toted up a bill of over $50 million!
The inquiry, which took place over four fiscal years, included carefully pre-selected and orchestrated testimony as part of a sharp legal strategy to bring before the judge carefully scripted testimony from government, industry, environmental groups and First Nations – almost all on the dole in one form or another from the commissions lavish budget. More than 500,000 documents were tabled and 179 people gave testimony.
Cohen made 75 policy recommendations and since then the federal government and environmental groups have been bickering over whether Ottawa is going to take the judge’s advice seriously. But seriously folks what was there to take seriously in this (kangaroo salmon) court proceeding. Every special interest group pitched their interest and every scientist pitched the core of his research and grant proposal. No one was speaking for the salmon.
Justice Cohen ignored utterly in his examinations the fact that while salmon spend just a fraction of their lives in freshwater, where they put on less than 5% of their adult weight, they put on the remaining 95% of their weight out on ocean pastures that are demonstrably depleted. Salmon pastures in the ocean like cow pastures on land cannot grow livestock without “grass.” Cohen might have noted this and made comment on the fact that 99% of salmon management money spent goes into freshwater salmon management with nary a dime dedicated to their vital offshore ocean pasture environments.
As proof of the folly of federal salmon management methods and the Cohen inquiry an important ocean pasture restoration project that was in planning before and during the Cohen Commission inquiry was completed in the summer of 2012. It’s intention was to restore and replenish the most vital BC salmon nursery pasture just west of the Queen Charlotte Islands. It Just Works!
For less than 4% of the commissions lavish budget that ocean pasture restoration has resulted in the return of salmon to their highest numbers of abundance in all of history from Alaska, through BC, to the Columbia River.
This summer the Fraser river is now teeming with Sockeye in what the forecasters have said will be a run double the largest in all of history. That these fish are coming back from their ocean pastures where they must have been well fed is not in question.
The usual salmon boffins are all in agreement that some incredible abundance of food was waiting for those baby fish when they swam out to sea in 2012. But nary a single one of the “experts” nor Justice Cohen will dare to give credit to the “not invented under their roof” solution that has restored salmon to historic abundance.
From the fewer than 2 million Sockeye crisis that resulted in the Cohen commission to 72 million is the “out of the box” work and result of Vancouver company Ocean Pastures Corporation and it’s ocean ecology guru Russ George.In SE Alaska and BC last fall the expected Pink returns were exceeded by more than 4 times.
The Alaskan forecast was for a catch of 50 million Pinks and in fact 226 million were caught. 650 million Pinks are reported to have returned to the whole of the Pacific coast compared to the forecast of 149 million.
Shea responded this month that implementation of the wild salmon policy “remains a priority,” while a departmental official said Tuesday that Cohen “provided us with valuable information that informs our day-to-day work of protecting salmon.” Shea also said conservation is the department’s “first priority.”
Proboszcz called the answers vague and said Ferguson should order a formal audit into how the federal government responded to the Cohen inquiry.
Dave Brown, who submitted a separate list of questions on behalf of the Sea to Sky Fisheries Roundtable, said the government’s lack of specific answers to his group’s questions reveals a “desire of the Conservatives to just bury the whole findings of the Cohen Commission.”