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Cohen Commission resumes hearings

The Cohen Commission will resume its hearings on Wednesday, August 17, but the greatest interest will likely be in the August 24-25 testimony of Dr. Kristi Miller.

On August 17, testimony will deal with effects on habitat in the marine environment, with Dr. Jack Rensel, a consultant, and three officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. More DFO officials will testify on August 18.

Testimony on aboriginal fishing will be given on Friday, August 19, but public interest is likely to increase when the topic turns to disease on Monday, August 22. Various experts and DFO officials will give testimony on the 22nd and 23rd. Attention will then focus on Dr. Kristi Miller, who is scheduled to appear on the 24th.*

Miller published a paper early this year on a possible viral infection as a cause of "prespawn mortality" in sockeye salmon. DFO then ordered her not to speak to the media about her findings until after she gives her testimony. This has led to speculation about the political implications of her study, and to a protest by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada at what it termed her "muzzling."

For the rest of August and on September 1, the theme will be aquaculture, with various scientists, veterinarians and academics. The theme of aboriginal fishing returns on September 2. Then more witnesses will be heard on aquaculture, with biologist Alexandra Morton appearing before the commission on September 7 and 8.

The last five sessions, on September 22-23 and 26-28, will deal with cumulative impact assessment.

Various interest groups are planning to attend the hearings, with Salmon are Sacred planning an August 30 rally. Meanwhile, the BC Salmon Farmers Association has published nothing on its website about the commission since April 29. Its summer 2011 newsletter, also on the website, mentions Dr. Miller's paper and promises more updates on aquaculture testimony at the commission.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee. *The date of Dr. Miller's appearance has been corrected after a tweet from the Cohen Commission.

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