April 12, 2005
Fisheries Minister Shuts Down Williams
OTTAWA - "The Minister of Fisheries has shut down the investigation into his Department's management of the 2004 salmon fishery in British Columbia," said John Cummins, M.P. (Delta-Richmond East).
The Williams Committee was scheduled to finish the second half of its review in the next few weeks and submit Part II of its report in May. It was to deal with the evidence of illegal fishing in the Somass River on Vancouver Island and problems in the management of other Fraser River salmon stocks. The hearings have already been held.
Part I of the Williams Committee Report which focused on Fraser River sockeye was made public on April 7. It observed that the Department was no longer a "credible fisheries management agency," noting that portions of the Fraser River were "a no go zone for DFO staff," fishing was "no longer monitored in a meaningful way" and the Department was "not maintaining a credible enforcement presence and not properly enforcing the Fisheries Act." Part I concluded that "illegal activities ... were rampant in 2004 and that enforcement against these activities was lacking."
The Department refused to provide a key report on illegal fishing, the Melvin Report, to the Williams Committee, a report the Committee concluded went "to the core of enforcement policy and practices."
The Williams Committee noted that "the fact that DFO wishes to withhold this evidence from the Committee seems representative of the enforcement policies which have in part contributed to the disappearance of a substantial number of Fraser sockeye."
It seems clear that Fisheries and Oceans had expected the Williams Committee would be compliant, focusing on water temperature rather than rampant illegal activity which the Department chose to ignore.
The Melvin Report has now been released to Williams but curiously not to the members of the Williams Post Season Review Committee.
The Williams Committee noted the problem was not with the Fisheries Officers in the field but with the leadership in Vancouver and in Ottawa: "The blame," they reported, "goes to a much higher level, and must be charged to those in the Vancouver headquarters and Ottawa responsible for overall management and budget decisions." For the Minister that may have been too close for comfort.
"With the release of the Melvin Report to Williams and the damning observations on the failure of leadership and the rot leading right up to the Minister panic has taken over at the senior levels of the Department," Cummins declared. "It is time to stop hiding the truth; it is time to release the Melvin Report to the public."
"What is the Minister afraid of? Is the Williams Committee getting too close to the truth? The Williams Committee was given a job to do, let them finish it," Cummins said.
Contact: John Cummins, M.P.
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