On Sept. 19th or so, the Cohen Commission has two days of hearings on cumulative impacts. Two days… to discuss cumulative impacts…
There’s also several days of DFO largely defending itself, etc. …
This following the release of a DFO ‘Communications Plan‘ entered as evidence last week at the Commission… suggesting that the public is dull, and all these slanted journalists… and so on.
There’s an interesting editorial at the Times Colonist from the other day:
Many British Columbians will likely be mildly insulted to find the Department of Fisheries and Oceans considers opposition to salmon farming the result of a confused and unaware public, manipulated by environmental groups and poorly served by biased reporters.
That’s the conclusion in a DFO communications plan filed as an exhibit at the Cohen Commission investigating the decline of Fraser River sockeye runs.
The National Aquaculture Communications and Outreach Approach report, by a New Brunswick communications consultant, is revealing.
The DFO is assumed to be the champion of the industry. Critics – or reporters – are presumed to be self-serving. Environmental groups raising concerns are seeking “to further their agenda and fundraising efforts.”
News coverage often draws those sorts of comments. In the case of salmon farming, both supporters and critics routinely accuse the news media of favouring the other side. That’s one of the things that is troubling about the report. The industry can be expected to have an agenda.
So can communities and environmental groups.
But the DFO should be a neutral, science-based regulator, ensuring that the best evidence is used to set standards for fisheries, farmed and wild, that protect the environment and the public interest. That role is undermined, even corrupted, if the government department becomes an advocate for a particular industry segment. Its impartiality and willingness to enforce standards is cast in doubt. Its pronouncements can no longer be trusted.
Actions like forbidding scientists from discussing their research are taken as evidence of pro-aquaculture bias.
The report highlights a fundamental conflict. The DFO, or at least senior management, believes it should be promoting aquaculture. At the same time, it is charged with regulating the industry. The two roles create, at the least, the perception of conflicts of interest.
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The issue with DFO in general is that its one huge institutional conflict. The number one mandate is supposed to be “Conservation” — however, it’s institutional focus for the last hundred years has been to support commercial and sport fisheries.
On one hand it hands out money to various groups for fisheries related work… and then on the other hand shows up with big truck and guns demanding to know what folks are doing in a creek.
On one hand, its supposed to ‘conserve’ fish habitat, and then on the other hand approve major hydro dams and mining projects, which in turn are supposed to ensure “no net-loss of habitat”…
On the one hand, its supposed to ‘conserve’ fish habitat, and then takes on ‘economic development’ with aquaculture…and hands out over $100 million in ‘research & development’…
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Is this not akin to the RCMP arresting and investigating crimes… and then having an economic interest in building more jails, or recovering funds from the sale of goods seized in crimes…?
(there’s enough fuss as it is — with the RCMP investigating itself…)
shouldn’t maybe the ‘conservation’ of wild salmon get handed over to Environment Canada, or some ministry with an actual mandate to ‘conserve’…
there’s significant irony in a government ministry having the central mandate of “conserving” something so that people can catch and kill it…
and ‘conserve’ for whom? why?