A federal judicial inquiry into the collapse of sockeye runs in the Fraser River has ordered British Columbia's salmon farming industry to produce fish health data covering the past 10 years for 120 farms.
The ruling greatly expands an earlier direction from the commission that had 21 fish farms providing just the most recent five years worth of data.
A coalition of environmental groups had argued the earlier direction was too limited and sought the filing of disease, sea lice and stocking data dating back prior to 2000.
Commissioner Bruce Cohen agreed to expand his direction, but said "there is much uncertainty regarding the quality, availability and format of data from the years prior to 2000," so he would limit the scope of his order to the past decade only.
Mr. Cohen also expanded the reach of the order to add another 99 farms, after hearing arguments from the coalition that all farms within 30 kilometers of the sockeye migration routes should provide data. The earlier direction applied only to a cluster of 21 farms on the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, but now farms throughout Georgia Strait and on the West Coast of Vancouver Island will also have to provide data.
"I wish to make it clear that this ruling is not to be construed in any manner as a finding on whether aquaculture is a cause for the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon," Mr. Cohen states in his ruling, which was released Wednesday.
The Commission of Inquiry Into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper after stocks collapsed last year. The inquiry is proceeding even though there was a record salmon run this year, because the 2009 collapse was part of a long trend of decline that goes back more than a decade.