Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this place in Adjournment Proceedings to pursue a question I asked just last week of the Minister of Fisheries.
The response from the minister was far from adequate, but I did not expect to feel the rage I now feel in taking the question up again. The question last week was about whether the minister was prepared to act on the Cohen Commission's recommendation 19 to remove the toxic fish factories near Discovery Islands.
I feel as though I am experiencing déjà vu all over again. I am one of those people in the country who remembers the collapse of our cod stocks. I am a Maritimer. I remember the moment when it was really the large offshore dragger companies that declared the moratorium, because the cod stocks were gone.
In 1998, Michael Harris wrote the horrible narrative, the deep details of the corrupted science within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, in his book, Lament for an Ocean. I read it and gave him a blurb for the back of the book, which was that after reading this book, I would not trust DFO with my aquarium.
I did not know that it was possible to be this angry again. I thought the Department of Fisheries and Oceans had begun to understand the notion of sustainability. However, the Cohen Commission, at a cost of $25 million, commissioned by the previous government under Stephen Harper, looked at the collapse of salmon returns when in 2009 only one and a half million salmon returned up the Fraser River, instead of the five million that were expected. This year is the all-time low, a return of 270,000 salmon.
First nations up and down the Fraser, up and down the coast are declaring the collapse of Pacific salmon. It is a disaster. The committee on fisheries and oceans was studying this very matter until prorogation pulled the plug on it.
When I asked the minister if she was prepared to act by September 30, which is the deadline, she said that several steps were under way. I did not know those steps would be fiction from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Once again, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is cooking its science. How? It issued it today, to say that the risk to salmon from those open pen toxic fish factories was a minimal risk, that there was no need to close them down at the Discovery Islands. The minister has launched a consultation with some of the first nations involved, but not all of course.
How is it possible that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans could say such a thing? In March of this year, DFO gave those salmon farms virtual permission for out-of-control sea lice. As a result, three different academic studies found that 99% of the 2020 juvenile sockeye migration through the Discovery Islands were infected at levels we know will reduce their survival.
How could it be that DFO now says it is low risk? As marine biologist, Alexandra Morton, said, DFO did not assess the impact of sea lice, the most visible threat. If we are going to do a study to see whether an activity is dangerous to salmon, let us exclude the number one cause of disease and danger to the wild salmon populations, the burgeoning sea lice. There is a reason for these companies in our waters, Norwegian-owned fish farms, but in Norway they are moving to closed containment.
The Liberal government promised in its platform to end open pen fish farms. When will it happen?