As the days get cooler and shorter, millions of salmon are making the arduous journey up the rivers and streams of British Columbia to the spawning grounds where they were born. Waiting for this rich pulse of life from the Pacific Ocean are bears, gulls, wolves, eagles, ospreys, crows, pine martins and dozens of other species. Communities and businesses wait, too. It's fitting that this time of year also marks the first anniversary of the final report of the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.
The record decline in sockeye returning to the Fraser River in 2009 provided the initial push for a federal judicial inquiry. Now, four years later, the offspring of those salmon are returning to spawning grounds in dismally low numbers -- so low that sockeye salmon fishery closures are widespread.
What happened to Justice Bruce Cohen's 75 carefully crafted recommendations to rebuild Pacific salmon? What will happen to the industry and communities that depend on them?
The Cohen Commission took three years, 2,145 exhibits, 892 public submissions and 138 days of hearings with 180 witnesses to create its report. The David Suzuki Foundation worked with lawyers at Ecojustice to provide research and testimony to help ensure the inquiry looked into problems within the current management system. With optimism that the federal government was taking the decline of wild salmon seriously, this independent and thorough review created a blueprint for action. What had become a contentious and polarizing issue had a direction forward.
That clear direction, however, has been followed with near silence and little effort from the government. Although politicians say they're reviewing the report and taking actions "consistent with the recommendations," the few steps they have taken, such as providing grants for research projects, miss the mark and don't address the significant issues and opportunities raised by Justice Cohen.
The government's own Wild Salmon Policy, released in 2005, provides a strong template for salmon conservation and formed a key plank of Cohen's recommendations. It's time to bring this policy to life with a cost-itemized plan for determining tasks, delegated responsibility for carrying them out and defined timelines. The government hasn't even appointed a champion to navigate the complex social, economic, ecological and political world of wild Pacific salmon.
The commission concluded that climate change is one of most troubling stressors for the fish. Salmon are sensitive to water temperature changes and Fraser River waters are projected to warm. Canada must do its part to address climate change if fisheries management is to have any influence on the future of these amazing creatures and all those that depend on them.
Impacts from open net-pen salmon farming also came under the inquiry's scrutiny. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans continues to both promote and regulate the salmon farming industry. Justice Cohen recommended DFO separate these conflicting mandates and end its responsibility to promote farmed salmon. DFO should return to what it did well: gathering relevant scientific data, applying it and making it available to the public.
Justice Cohen called for a freeze on fish farm expansion in the Discovery Islands, along an important salmon migratory route, and removal of farms if impacts aren't addressed by 2020. The commission interviewed British Columbians and received a clear message: don't risk the future of wild salmon and their important contribution to the fabric of First Nations culture, coastal communities and the whole of Canadian life.
A year has passed, the testimony is in, the evidence heard and $26 million spent. It's time for action to rebuild wild Pacific salmon runs, so this iconic fish can be shared and enjoyed for generations to come. The fate of wild salmon is too important to be left to languish in government offices. We can't go on setting up inquiries to review problems and then ignore their recommendations.
This is a serious report with a clear blueprint to address problems. It deserves a serious response. As the salmon struggle to make their miraculous journey up B.C.'s wild rivers, we have to tell Prime Minster Stephen Harper and Fisheries Minister Gail Shea it's time for the government to get moving too.
With contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Specialist Theresa Beer. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.
<a href="http://www.ciat.cgiar.org/Newsroom/Documents/ghana_ivory_coast_climate_change_and_cocoa.pdf" target="_hplink">A report released by the International Center For Tropical Agriculture </a>warns chocolate could become a luxury item if farmers don't adapt to rising temperatures in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where a majority of the world's cocoa is grown.
Coffee lovers may want to get that caffeine fix before the treasured drink becomes an extinct export. Starbucks raised the issue last year when the company's director of sustainability told <em>The Guardian</em> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/16/starbucks-climate-change_n_1011222.html" target="_hplink">climate change is shortening the supply chain of Arabica coffee bean</a>.
Famed for producing some of the world's best beer, <a href="http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080502/full/news.2008.799.html" target="_hplink">Germany could suffer from a drop in production due to climate change induced water shortages</a>. Barley and hops can only be grown with water and using cheaper alternatives like corn isn't possible in Germany because of strict regulations about what you can make beer with.
Thanks to a failing peanut crop due to last summer's scorching hot weather, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/10/peanut-butter-price-jump_n_1003732.html" target="_hplink">there's a shortage of peanuts in supply</a>. If temperatures continue to rise, a jump in peanut butter prices is just the prelude to what's in store for the beloved American spread.
Scientists at the British Meteorological Office warn that Italy may soon be forced to<a href="http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/climate-threat-to-italys-pasta/story-e6frg6so-1225797946930" target="_hplink"> import the basic ingredients to make pasta because climate change will make it impossible to grow durum wheat domestically</a>. The crop could almost disappear from the country later this century, say scientists.
<a href="http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/goodbye-maple-syrup-climate-change-pushing-sugar-maple-out-of-northeast-us.html" target="_hplink">A warming climate could make maple syrup history.</a> Shorter cycles of below freezing weather mean sugar maples aren't producing enough sap, which is later boiled down to make maple syrup.
<a href="http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/current/Hone/Hone-03-30-2012.pdf" target="_hplink">It's no secret that bee populations are dropping nationwide</a>. Wetter winters and rainy summers make it harder for bees to get out and about to collect, leaving them to starve or become malnourished and more prone to other diseases. This doesn't just mean a decline in honey. We rely on bees to pollinate crops. When bees disappear many food crops could also die off.
<a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/best-served-chilled-top-french-wines-at-risk-from-climate-change-a-748139.html" target="_hplink">France is losing its enviable climate for grape growing</a> thanks to a shifting climate. Because a wine's taste is a result of the balance of sugar and acidity in the grapes it is made from, the right growing temperature is essential. Grapes grown in cold are unlikely to develop fruity flavors, giving an acidic taste. Warm weather produces too much sugar, leaving a "jammy" and heavy taste.
This trailer for "Carbon Nation", documentary movie about climate change SOLUTIONS, will impact you even if you doubt the severity of the impact of climate change or just don't buy it at all.
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