Submission 0086-SKIPPER

Submitter: Peter Skipper

Community: Nanaimo

Date Submitted: June 20, 2023

DFO is failing in its mandate to safeguard wild salmon. The commission should recommend that the Fisheries Research Board become an independent research entity, as well as investigate the possibility that fish farms impact the survival of Fraser River sockeye through the transmission of sea lice and viruses. Also of concern is the lack of transparency by fish farm companies on the measures they employ to control disease.

Dear Cohen Commission,
I grew up on the B.C. coast as a DFO ‘brat’ during the 50’s and 60’s as my Fisheries Officer father moved his family from one location to another on the B.C. coast. Since that time many changes have taken place in the salmon fishery and in the fortunes of those that choose to make a livelihood from the sea. In my brief submission, I would like to emphasize the need to no longer give excuses for the disappearance of our cultural icon, our economic and natural treasure, our wild salmon. The mandate of the DFO is to protect this wild resource and on its watch the cod fishery of the East coast disappeared. If the same fate befalls our sockeye salmon of the Fraser the DFO has failed miserably in its responsibility and so has the International Salmon Commision.
Actions speak much louder than words. This Commission must complete a report that calls for action in safeguarding wild salmon to avoid its report becoming one of a score over the years that sits on dusty DFO shelves. Why have DFO if it does not perform its mandate within its ability to do so? The measuring stick is the abundance of wild salmon. Period. Many members of the public have lost confidence in DFO as presently constituted.
I am hoping the Cohen Commission hears from a variety of sources as to the cause of the disappearance of our sockeye and not just DFO officials. An ogranization that loses a whole cod resource is suspect and perhaps needs the ideas of others to help fulfill its mandate. Protecting your backside does not speak to the wider need of the DFO mandate = protecting wild salmon.
I also recommend that the Fisheries Research Board become an independent research entity separate from DFO masters. Their reports and research should be available to the public and fisheries research community and not screened by DFO bureaucrats to see if it fits the political agenda of the day. Transparency is key to where truth may lie. We need open scientific discussions. We need our scientists to be able to do their research and speak out freely about the results of their findings without fear of sanctions.
I would like the Cohen Commission to thoroughly investigate the possibility of the fish farms impacting the survival of Fraser River sockeye. I have heard mixed opinions from research of the impact of fish lice and viruses from farmed to wild stocks. This needs to be made as clear as possible to the public.
What concerns me as well is the secrecy of the Norweigan fish companies in controlling disease within their open water feeding lots. Transparency of measures to control disease, viruses and lice is not just their private business interest but it is the business of the public as to wild salmon and aquatic survival. Pouring various chemicals/medicines into public waterways is of public concern as to its impact on the environment.
In my view the fish farms need to prove through public and scientific peer scrutinized literature/research that fish farms do not impact wild salmon. If they cannot establish that truth beyond a reasonable scientific measure then the benefit of the doubt should be given to the preservation of wild species and farmed salmon should be moved to land based containment systems as soon as possible.
Finally, the concern over farm fish viruses escaping into the open ocean as they have done in Norway, Britain and Chile to devastate wild fish stocks needs to be examined. Economically our wild salmon are too important a resource to be left to the fate of secretive farm fish companies and their interests to their bottom line and not the B.C. bottom line. Our salmon need to be sustained not exploited.

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