Something is fishy indeed about the federal government's overtly two-faced approach to B.C.'s salmon industry.
Three years ago, when the annual sockeye salmon run virtually disappeared from the Fraser River, Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched an inquiry and appointed B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen to look into the matter.
The federal government, however, didn't bother waiting for Cohen's report. For all they knew, Cohen might have found some horrific biological cause behind the salmon's disappearance, necessitating the full attention of biologists with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Instead, just weeks before Cohen released his report, leaked government documents showed that Ottawa is planning to make major cutbacks to biologists who oversee protection of the fish.
The optics are terrible. It looks as though the federal government only cares about the salmon industry when Ottawa is flush with cash.
As it turned out, Cohen could not find a single cause for the huge decrease in sockeye in 2009, but he did cite some worrisome observations, including the proliferation of fish farming near sockeye migratory routes, disease, substances contaminating the water, predators and changing climate.
Key to protecting the salmon is more research, something that will require the expertise of those very same biologists who are about to lose their jobs. The feds simply cannot have it both ways.
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