Fraser River's missing salmon: inquiry's final report will be made public

VANCOUVER – A report into the 2009 collapse of the Fraser River sockeye run will be made public this week after a public inquiry took two years to study what happened.

Justice Bruce Cohen, of B.C.’s Supreme Court, handed his report to the federal government Monday and a statement from Fisheries Minister Gail Shea says the report will be made public and tabled in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The Fisheries Department had earlier refused to say whether or when the report would be made public.

“Our government recognizes the cultural and economic importance of salmon to British Columbia,” Shea said in the statement. “The report will be tabled in the House of Commons on Wednesday.”

Cohen will hold a news conference in Vancouver to discuss his findings Wednesday afternoon.

The inquiry examined why millions of sockeye salmon vanished in 2009 from one of British Columbia’s most prized fisheries. Just 1.4 million sockeye showed up in B.C.’s rivers and streams in a run that was anticipated to be around 10 million.

The offspring of those salmon are expected to return to the Fraser River during the summer of 2013.

Cohen listened to 160 witnesses and compiled 14,000 pages of transcripts and 2,100 exhibits.

Fisheries advocates are predicting the report will come down hard on the way the Fisheries Department manages the resource.

The inquiry began in August 2010 and ended in December 2011, and during the course of its hearings, the commission tackled some 40 themes, ranging from aboriginal fishing to aquaculture, commercial fishing to disease, habitat management and enforcement to predation.

Cohen’s report, which must be submitted in both official languages, originally faced a deadline of May 1, 2011, but that deadline was extended to June 30, 2012, Sept. 30, 2012, and then Oct. 29, 2012.

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