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Sea to Sky residents spurred salmon inquiry, Weston says

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Sea to Sky residents played a big role in calling for a federal inquiry into the disappearance of salmon, the area MP said this week.

John Weston, Member of Parliament for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, said in a report that community members throughout the region played an important role in the decision to hold an inquiry into the disappearances of salmon from a run through the Fraser River.

"Constituents asked me to pursue an inquiry into the diminished salmon stocks - the request was not my idea," he wrote. "My plea and calls by others led the Prime Minister to create the Cohen Inquiry, a judicial inquiry into the state of Fraser River Salmon."

The inquiry, which is expected to start its work within the next week or so, aims to investigate the causes of 9 million sockeye salmon not returning to their regular cycle through the Fraser River. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen will head up the investigation.

On Nov. 5, 2009, Weston stood up in the House of Commons and asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper what the government was doing to address the decline of salmon in the Fraser. Harper then stood up and announced the inquiry.

Weston singled out Dave Brown, vice-chair of the Squamish-Lillooet Sportfish Advisory Committee, as one of several Sea to Sky residents who pushed him to ask for the inquiry. He said that the two of them initiated a series of roundtables to inform the MP more effectively about the salmon issue with "broadened local knowledge and information."

Weston said that Brown and other constituents helped him set priorities in his work on the fisheries issue.

Brown was flattered to hear that he and other residents of the Sea to Sky region played such a significant role in pressing for the salmon inquiry.

"When we contacted John initially, I believe we sent our letter in early August, he got back to us and expressed an interest in meeting with us, which I thought was great," he said. "Our initial working group was about 12 members of the community, from Mount Currie down to Whistler, Squamish and West Vancouver. Right away John took our concerns seriously."

Back in Ottawa, Weston has concentrated much of his work as a statesman around fisheries. He's on the House of Commons Fisheries Committee and had a chance to question Trevor Swerdfager, Director General of the Aquaculture Management Branch at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on March 22.

Weston asked Swerdfager whether aquaculture, or fish farms, were promoting sea lice and hurting wild fish stocks. Swerdfager answered that fish farms have to treat fish for lice if they find three live lice and companies must monitor lice loads on fish in the farms.

Weston went on to ask him about the allegation that sea lice are developing resistance to the drug that treats them. Swerdfager said the department has no evidence that sea lice are developing such a resistance, as numerous people critical of fish farms have claimed.

Brown said the Squamish-Lillooet Sportfish Advisory Committee is considering making a submission to the inquiry and that others throughout Sea to Sky may consider applying for standing.

"We have two bands in our area in Sea to Sky, the Mount Currie band and the Squamish band, we've got the Squamish Streamkeepers, a number of angling guides, Whistler Streamkeepers, we've got the Pemberton Wildlife Association," he said. "There's a lot of groups that are interested so I wouldn't be surprised to see a few of these groups coming forward."

 

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