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Cohen rejects request to reopen salmon hearings

Commissioner Bruce Cohen last week rejected an application to reopen his inquiry into the crash of the sockeye salmon, saying evidence of a new salmon virus (HSMI) was too new and uncertain to warrant such a step when his final report is due on September 30.

In his ruling, Commissioner Cohen provided the background of the application from the Aquaculture Coalition, which was submitted on April 23. After summarizing the application and the views of its supporters, including the First Nations Coalition, the Cheam Indian Band, and Conservation Commission.

He also summarized the province's opposition to the application, which included the argument that the commissioner had already decided not to re-open the hearings.

While rejecting that argument, Commissioner Cohen wrote: "...I am not persuaded by the applicant that the information proposed to be entered into evidence at a re-opened hearing would assist the work of the commission in that it would ultimately advance my understanding of the topic beyond the viva voce or document evidence already entered as part of the inquiry."

After pointing out the September 30, 2012 delivery date for his report, the commissioner concluded: "For all these reasons I decline the application to re-open the hearings once again to address this topic."

In a post on her blog, biologist Alexandra Morton, who is part of the Aquaculture Coalition, discussed the ruling and wrote:

There are European viruses in BC farm salmon and they are spreading to wild salmon. The longer BC and Canada refuse to acknowledge this, the greater the risk these viruses will ignite an epidemic that will finish off BC's wild salmon.

I understand Justice Cohen being exhausted, but that is no excuse. DFO either lied on the stand when they said there was no ISAv in BC, or they hid it from their own people, but fact is we never heard about it until the inquiry reopened and an independent scientist sent the secret report to the Inquiry.

... We have to keep testing wild and farm salmon for disease, even though it is devastatingly expensive. Without private testing the $26 million Cohen Inquiry into the Decline of the Fraser Sockeye would not have found any of this out. Now they are closing the door.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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