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Harper calls judicial inquiry into sockeye crash

Advocates for wild salmon were delighted to hear that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is calling a judicial inquiry into the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye run last summer.

The run, predicted to total about 10.6 million fish, was only about 1.37 million.

On her blog, biologist Alexandra Morton thanked everyone who had written and called their MPs to demand the inquiry:

When an animal demonstrates a pattern this bold (the fish migrating north disappeared, while the fish moving south flourished), it is possible to decipher the cause. However, DFO has thwarted progress with a torrent of highly contradictory and confusing misinformation.

The purpose of a Judicial Inquiry is to reveal the facts and then make recommendations to government. It is run by a judge and testimony is given under oath. Our sockeye are at the moment of no return. If there had been a Judicial Inquiry into DFO's management of our North Atlantic cod stocks, certain DFO scientists would have been allowed to speak earlier and we would still have those fish stocks.

I feel cautiously optimistic. Our salmon are dying of conflicted, tangled politics which we now have the opportunity to sort out.

In its report on the judicial inquiry, the Vancouver Sun said lower mainland fishers have been "at a loss to explain the disappearance." The story lists various possible causes, but not the possibility that sea lice from fish farms are responsible for destroying the sockeye.

The report said Stockwell Day, as the regional minister for B.C., will be in Vancouver on Friday to name the judge heading the inquiry and to set its terms of reference.

The websites of Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea, and of DFO itself, had no immediate response to the prime minister's announcement.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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