Category Archives: Solutions?

The Salmon Cycle… Reviews, inquiries, reports.

salmon Inquiry cycle

salmon Inquiry cycle

Twenty + years or so of salmon reviews, inquiries and reports…

The last one – the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River – led by Justice Bruce Cohen, at a price tag of some $26 million.

26 Million Dollars.

$26 Million of cycling reports, recommendations, outcries And pay cheques for researchers, consultants, communications experts, lawyers, and so on…

And so on…

And so on…

Ad infinitum…

Ad nauseum…

Rinse and repeat if necessary.

And many of these… one species of salmon… on one river. A big one mind you (The Fraser River), but still one and one.

And number of Recommendations implemented from the Cohen Commission?

Zero. Zilch. Zip.

$26 million paper weight.

Mind you the number of folks that collected a pay cheque or consultant’s cheque for this must be pleased with the multiply extended Commission deadlines and two years worth of income…? (wonder if these show up in the ‘jobs created’ numbers quoted by various ministries…? but that would be cynical…)

Add in the price tag of Fisheries Renewal, Forestry Renewal, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (e.g. the disappeared Habitat Restoration and Salmon Enhancement Program (HRSEP)), the amount of funding to the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy and Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management Program which are essentially meant to take the place of negotiated treaties – at least in the interim.

Price tag?


Number of jobs created, meetings held, and ‘consultants’ paid through these programs?



Highly questionable.

The spiral continues…

Presence … absence … presents … absents… & into the Annals of “was”


presence - absence ?

presence – absence ?

Maybe George Orwell said it best some 60+ years or so ago, in his essay: Politics and the English Language.

A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

This from Volume 2 of the Cohen Commission Final Report: The Uncertain Future of Fraser Sockeye – Causes of the Decline. A discussion by one ‘witness’ in the Commission discussing factors in declines of Fraser sockeye:

 “An absence of data, or an absence of evidence to me is not evidence of absence, and I think it’s a little bit dangerous to use an absence of data or an absence of evidence to suggest that contaminants play no role whatsoever or are indeed unlikely to play a role.

…but clearly we’re data deficient in terms of our current capacity to understand what’s happening with the sockeye situation”

So… ummm…. Is it data deficient, or deficient data?

And… does evidence presence mean evidence is in the present… or how about if the President’s evidence is present… Or, absent? Does absence of the President’s evidence mean we have data absence, or data presence, or data presents (like cigars and interns)…?

Is not the absence of data, itself… data? Or is absent data, presence of data absence or just simply absence? What if data absence, become data presence – does that make us wiser? If data absences become data evidences, was not the gap also evidence, or simply evident, or clearly evidents — leading to the gap? If the gap is filled, what becomes of it?

A gap filled, or a filled gap?

Does our “knowledge” really have ‘gaps’…? But aren’t the gaps, still knowledge? Is a gap filled; make better knowledge presence? But still yet, what becomes of the gap?

Is the epitome of all gaps, to become filled, or full-filled… or maybe only half-filled… or is it half-empty? (a half-empty gap, says the pessimistic scientist…)

(I feel for the gap, says the empathetic scientist)…(All i want for x-mas is a tooth-filled gap, says the hockey-playing scientist)

What if a gap filled, in fact, becomes a bigger gap — in knowledge, or evidence, or presence, or absence? What then…

But what of the gap between our reality and our dreams? What becomes of that gap – when filled…?

(Here lies “THE GAP” will say the gravestone… “mighty and gaping in its presence, sad and lonely in its absence.“)

But wait… i can hear the copyright police calling now… …And I will say, I did not know “THE GAP” existed… that is the evidence in my defence… And yet the presence of “THE GAP” in my utterance, is my present offense.

…and they will tell me, as Justice’s well know, ignorance of the law is not a valid defense, and thus stop the pretense.

…and thus the gap in my knowledge will be a detriment, and not a defence… and here evermore absence of presence (e.g. knowledge) becomes a downfall… yet… that absence is still data… data used to prove presence of absence as evidence…

But, what if data abstains in its absence, and in its presence presents evidence?

Does absence of presents present mean conclusively that presents are absent, or simply lacking presence — or is absence of presents due to Santa’s absence? But if Santa is present, reality is absent — isn’t it? (but thankfully, still presents… if you remain a believer)

Yet if reality’s absent, what is mentally present? Mental absence, may mean data presence – but is that data present, and is it a present? In reality’s absence for some, it may become Not criminally responsible which can mean mental absence – says the judge and jury. And, so… to the convicted, evidence of mental absence is the defence of present – some might argue…

Is the data reliable, or simply pliable… like all data that is present or absent. In the present defence, as explained above, presence of absence is the key (e.g. mental). However, with Fraser sockeye salmon, some say it is absence of evidence for ‘smoking guns’. But… for the Province… evidence absence, means the smoke stays in the guns…

If it is absent — data that is — then that does not indicate lack of presence, or presents, or simply pre-sense.  Maybe… it seems… it simply means current absence, not abstention. But if data abstains, is it not present? Or is it simply taking a break, or somewhere south, ‘taking the fifth’?

If it’s broken, is it a gap? If there’s a gap does our decision-making wait for presence — or the presents that come with absence of datum?

If there’s a gap, and nobody is looking, is it still a gap? Is it data? Does data only exist when someone is looking? What if they only see in one eye? What if they are near-sighted… is it far-out data? Or far-sighted… is it near-data?

What about data that is right on the 200-mile offshore marker – is it Canadian data, eh? Or is it international data, da? Who owns it? Data is valuable, no? Are gaps, therefore, worthless data, or simply data worth less?

But some gaps are essential and priceless, like the gap that exists between you and oncoming traffic…

And, yet, what is a data gap, and gaping data – but is not data made up of datum… oh wait, it’s more…

Datum, say some, is simply nothing more than “an assumption or premise from which inferences may be drawn.”

Ohhhh… so presence of inference, does not imply absence of assumption – it actually means presence of premise, and presence of assumption. But assume does not indicate a present to the law, nor to the convicted… assume is a danger because as the old ditty goes: it makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me”…

And so we Houston, BC may very well might have, very likely presence of a problem or absence of a solution…likely, or may have…highly probable, but debatable…

Further, according to Dr. Ross, contaminants very likely contributed to the long-term decline in the sense that they may have contributed through small incidents here and there (i.e., “death by a thousand cuts”) or they may have weakened the fish over time, such that when they went to sea they may have been more vulnerable.

death of a thousand cuts

death of a thousand cuts – Cartoon drawn at the beginning of the Cohen Commission in 2010…

And there, in that last fragment we have the great ecosystem killers of “very likely” and “they may have3

Now pardon the cynic in me, but wasn’t the “Terms of Reference” for Justice Cohen and the Commission:

C. to investigate and make independent findings of fact regarding:

I. the causes for the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon…

Last time I checked, “may have” and “most likely” were in the ‘absence of evidence’ or simply ‘evidence absence’ category within the legal realm, let alone the factual realm.

Orwell concludes well:

If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy… Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind…

Do we honestly think that we can gain ALL of the evidence from this realm?:

Map from Cohen report: Fill ALL the data gaps?

Map from Cohen report: Fill ALL the data gaps?

Here is Justice Cohen’s language in the ‘decline of Fraser sockeye’ from Volume 2:

Life stage 1 findings
I find that there are plausible mechanisms during the incubation, emergence, and freshwater-rearing parts of life history stage 1 by which numerous freshwater stressors, such as effluent, contaminants, predators, warming streams and lakes, infectious diseases, agriculture, and surface and groundwater extraction may have contributed to the decline.

Although these mechanisms are understood, there is insufficient evidence about the actual impacts these stressors, either singly or cumulatively, have on Fraser River sockeye during this life history stage.

These mechanisms are understood, but “actual impacts” is not? And “may have” contributed…


Are we wanting these issues of great, grand ecosystems to look like the ‘mechanisms’ of a bank account…?

As in, “well, mr. salmonguy you say that you ‘may have‘ deposited money to your account, however, we can clearly see that you did not…”

Ecosystems like the North Pacific, or even the Fraser River watershed are mightily complex, complicated, and largely unpredictable entities.

Fraser River watershed

Fraser River watershed

Are we humans expecting that we will delay doing something about certain issues until the evidence is present? Or that ‘findings of fact’ are what is required for action to be taken so as to limit our impacts on other things?

The decline of Fraser sockeye is not due to some unknown entity… We, humans have delivered a good solid 95% + of the “thousand cuts”…

Us. You and Me and Dupree and the other 6 billion+ living souls.

And yet, even if the apparent mechanisms and “actual impacts” slept in the same bed of meaning and ‘understanding’… what would we really do about it?

Wait for the scientists to agree…?

First we’d have to wait for scientists to agree on which knife was delivering the cuts… or wait, was it an axe… no, it was a machete… no, it was a handsaw…

And the salmon farming industry scientist would probably say “what cuts?”

Then we’d have to wait for the proposed ‘solution’… but no, first we’d do that as a ‘pilot study’… then a new government would come into power and cut the funding, and implement ‘their solution’… then some scientists would need to use whistleblower protection and hire security guards, then the Auditor General would get involved, then there’d be a snap election, then there’d be a call for a judicial inquiry… then a court case or two, an appeal, a new government, a fiscal cliff, austerity measures, a bull market, a bear market, a new government… a new scientific discovery… then space travel would take funding priority, then government “Action Plans”, then another review of spending, another court case… and so on and so on.

… go back to top, read again, and rinse and repeat if necessary… (that is if you believe that little ditty on shampoo bottles… ‘rinse and repeat’…).

And if you do then the productivity of Proctor and Gamble will increase a heck of a lot faster then any Pacific sockeye population…

I see evidence of absence that anything is going to change anytime soon… just simply start by doing a rough calculation on the ‘cost’ of Justice Cohen’s recommendations, and this is just for FRASER SCOKEYE – not the other Fraser salmon populations, like the endangered Fraser coho or Chinook… and let alone the other five species of salmon spread throughout BC.

Like every other collapsing fish population with a ‘commercial value’… we will argue, bicker, and use useless language until the last viable population swims into the annals of “was”…

statistical scientific sandbox struggles


I came across this quote recently, in a book about fishing communities and economies in Iceland: “Coastal Economies, Cultural Accounts…” by Gísli Pálsson:

The scientist and the fisherman dwell in the same social world, and if they represent it differently it is not because the latter [the fisherman] remains trapped within his cultural conceptions whereas the former [the scientist] can see the reality beyond, but because their respective positions within the social world constitute them as parties with different and often conflicting interests.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Related to this, some other recent research… a book called “Battles over Nature: science & politics of conservation” edited by Vasant Saberwal and Mahesh Rangarajan:

…any form of knowledge is embedded within a specific social context, a context that influences the process by which information is generated, processed & disseminated. Science in and of itself is no more objective or neutral than the knowledge generated and sustained within communities that use a particular resource.

The collection of information through the former [science] takes place in a more formally defined context than the latter [local knowledge], but both, ultimately are products of specific social contexts.

Further along, they suggest:

“It is when science claims to be necessarily better than other forms of knowledge, basing the claim on notions of objectivity and neutrality, and where this superiority is used by the scientific community to claim primacy of decision-making — then there is cause for concern.”


… despite the ‘rigor’ of science — a series of studies has demonstrated that the questions asked by scientists are influenced by many factors including scientific concerns of the day, priorities of funding agencies, one’s own social context, and that experimental data may be interpreted to conform to existing paradigms.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Going back to Pálsson and his studies of Icelandic fishing communities and their move from small local fisheries to fully globalized factory fisheries and now?…. depleted runs and ‘fisheries…

(tough concept… I know… ‘no fish, no fisheries’…complicated… complex…)

… and in recent time their return to more hook-and-line fisheries as opposed to the factory mothership vacuum cleaner, by-catch tossed overboard model employed by much of the rest of the world (and supported by green-washing initiatives such as the Marine Stewardship Council)…


…I emphasize that ecological knowledge — the knowledge of scientists no less than that of indigenous theorists — is inevitably socially constructed.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

to the philosopher, philosophizing… Nietzsche:

… the base thought of science is that man is the measure of all things. Otherwise said: all natural science is nothing but an attempt to understand man and what is anthropological; more correctly, it is an attempt to return continuously to man via the longest and most roundabout ways.

_ _ _ _ _ _

To another recent book picked up in rambling research: “Handbook of Economic Anthropology” edited by Bill Maurer:

… a mathematical formula cannot be interviewed; its makers and users can, but the results it produces can have effects unintended by and outside the control of those human agents.

_ _ _ _ _ _

And a gool ‘ol Canadian puzzler, John Ralston Saul and his plea for common sense, albeit sometimes in a contradictory form of shouting for simplicity in some pretty dense verbiage (at times), however this rings with some ‘sense’ (from his book “On Equilibrium“):

What is common sense if not shared knowledge?

It is not understanding. Many may find this a difficult idea to accept — that we can know something we don’t understand. Not only can we know it, we can use the knowledge. We must simply be careful not to slip into superstition…

…Superstition is indeed an innate force within us. But we have qualities to help us control it. The shared knowledge of common sense is one of them. You can’t banish superstition. You deal with it. There is a surprising calm in common sense, a stubborn calm which resists the negative aspects of panic.

Take what are presented as natural economic forces. They can only exist to the extent that humans exist and therefore are not natural. The market in software would be surprisingly quiet if put in the hooves of sheep. Cattle have minimal interest in e-mail.

Economic forces must take their appropriate place as dependents of humans; more precisely, as dependent upon human characteristics in order to be shaped appropriately to our circumstances. And those human characteristics are themselves inferior to and shaped by human qualities.

Ralston Saul continues his appeal to common sense as ‘shared knowledge’ suggesting that “the complexity of shared knowledge reminds us that, if one globalization model claims to be the voice of inevitable forces, a dozen other models will appear which don’t. If humans deal with their superstitions and ideologies in an unpanicked manner, then the sensible not-inevitable models will predominate in the long run”

All of this is tied to common sense as ‘shared knowledge’.

What are these apparently “inevitable forces”?

Look no further than the “invisible hand of the market” — good ‘ol Adam Smith’s theory of economies and markets. Leave things to the free market and the ‘invisible hand’ will guide them right… (sheez, doesn’t reek of Christian Ghad overtones at all…)

Yet, the ‘inevitable’ forces of globalization, free market economies, and subscription to science as truth, are what many ideological forces fully subscribe to — especially various governing regimes such as the one currently in Canada.

Ralston Saul:

“We often think of definition as the cornerstone of reason – as our protection against superstition, prejudice and ignorance. A definition is therefore intended to clarify things, to free us from action. But what we have seen in our society is that a definition can just as easily become a means of control, a profoundly reactionary force.”

And he uses a great example for pointing to the point I’m niggling away at…

… the whole idea of a society of winners — a place known above all for its best — leads with surprising speed to a narrow pyramidal social structure. And then to division and widespread passivity. That in turn leads to false populism and mediocrity; to a world obsessed by bread and circuses [think current political circus… or, professional sports… or, Hollywood starlets], Heroes and the need for ‘leadership’.

He suggests that the variety of competitions between ‘certainties’ (think of the opposition of politics and political parties in Canada), has led over the past two hundred years towards: “a civilization of structure and form over one of content and consideration. The way we come at every question is structural, managerial.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Let’s look at a salmon issue for example… the Terms of Reference (structural, managerial) for the Cohen Commission, as summarized in one of the interim reports:

Cohen Commission Terms of Ref.

That’s about as ‘structural’ and ‘managerial’ as it gets — and scouring the pyramids of scientific reasoning and bureaucratic bafflegab.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Ralston Saul’s example:

…In 1997 the World Trade Organization ruled that the Europeans were wrong to ban American beef raised with hormones because there was no convincing scientific case that the hormones represented a health risk. Put aside what you might think about hormones and beef. The central question is elsewhere.

It begins with an absolute certainty: that social policy in a democracy must be based not on popular will — the legitimacy of the citizenry — but on proof; in this case scientific proof. In other words, that our choice must be based on science. But in fact the science in question is not exactly science because it is limited by an initial question formulated in the context of commercial interest.

In other words, food should be considered first as a commercial object, second a scientific object and only third a matter of social, health, cultural or, indeed, of personal choice.

Hormones or no hormones. Health or sickness, sickness or health. The question on both sides is commercially constructed. Is the producer to be permitted to express the right of absolute ownership — that of maximized profit? Or is the producer to be punished by the cost of health needs? And in that context, what is the definition of a health need? No other important, non-commercial questions is admitted to.

[Do you see much difference with the current raging debate surrounding industrial-based open-pen salmon farming on the BC coast and other coastal areas of the world?]

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

So let’s put some of this in a current light…

This headline coming out of the Alberta election:

Wildrose leader booed at Alberta debate for doubting climate change science

EDMONTON — A live audience heckled and booed Alberta Wildrose party leader Danielle Smith at a leaders’ debate Thursday after she said she isn’t convinced that climate change is real…

…“We’ve been watching the debate in the scientific community, and there is still a debate,” Smith said. “I will continue to watch the debate in the scientific community, but that’s not an excuse not to act.”

Really… is this a surprise?

A candidate funded right out of the oil patch — similar to Canada’s current PM — a climate denier!… say it ain’t so…

And is this really all that much more of a surprise coming from someone like Smith, whose husband ‘Dave’ is a senior executive with the Sun Media Group, which owns and runs a bunch of Alberta newspapers and the fine, full of journalistic integrity TV Station SunTV with the likes of Ezra Levant hosting a regular talk show…?

…the same Levant that wrote the book “Ethical Oil” and essentially coined the term for the Harper regime to shop around the world how “ethical” Canada’s oil is…

i’m shocked… (you probably can’t read how firmly planted my tongue is in my cheek…)

Oh, but hey, you can go read a similar story at Sun Media (you know the same place where Ms. Smith’s husband works…):

Smith stares down global-warming cultists

Shocking revelations have come to light about Alberta’s Wildrose party.

Leader Danielle Smith has solidified her views on the theory of global warming: “The science isn’t settled and we need to continue to monitor the debate. In the meantime, we need to support consumers in making the transition to cleaner fuels.”

“The science isn’t settled.” That’s it. Pretty ho-hum if you ask me, nothing earth-shattering. A legitimate statement of the situation.

Because, despite what the global-warming cultists would have you believe, the debate isn’t done — not by a long shot. And the breathless mainstream media has jumped all over Danielle Smith like she was a heretic confessing before an inquisition…

Yup, there you have it… the “global warming cultists”… hmmmm…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

The problem here, goes back to the rational dependency on “science”… of which all sides of debates are guilty of… from the green flapping left wing to the blue flitting right wing.

Yet both trying to demonstrate the ‘righteousness’ of their flight path… e.g. opposite the other wing…

The problem with that… it’s not very conducive to flying anywhere… especially if you’re responsible for being ‘governments’… and thus an electorate… and thus average & not average every-day folks.

Ralston Saul lays this one out well, suggesting that obsession with structural and managerial approaches have done away with common sense and shared knowledge. He uses the example of homelessness and the divide between rich and poor in democratic societies.

We could actually do something about it… maybe even with little effort and little money… however we insist instead on pouring money and effort into things after the fact. After people and families (you know the same families that every politician blubbers on about these days as being so important…) have fallen off the edge into the zone of the excluded, marginalized, and in a situation of not being able to afford housing, necessities, etc….

… efforts focus on pouring money into homeless shelters, emergency services, food banks, drop-in centres, etc. as opposed to simply providing the means (e.g. affordable housing) to get back over the ledge away from the exclusion.

How’s that old saying go about an ounce of…. errr… ummm… oh right… “prevention”…

Ralston Saul does the same with explaining famine. Rather than proactively identify the possibility of famine before it happens, we wait until there is a body count and then governments respond with air drops of food, troops, cash… errrr… loans, etc.

As he suggests: “It isn’t that those responding are unwilling to address the issue of civil wars and landownership. But before they did so, they would have to address key structural problems. For a start, most international aid agencies have one department for dealing with development issues and another for emergency issues such as famine. As if one did not lead to the other….”

He continues:

The same could be said about our response to global warming. For every problematic statistic a theoretically rational reply can be made with a reassuring statistic. The North Pole melts and there’s an immediate chorus chanting that it has happened before. Specialists say polar ice has reduced by forty percent in recent years and continues to shrink by four percent a year. Someone funded to argue the opposite pumps out a reply from an ‘independent’ source.

In an era of utilitarian facts, each side argues its numbers, like little boys caught up in an analytic sandbox struggle.

And thus, folks like Ms. Smith and her girl gone Wild denial Party can come out with easy statements suggesting that the ‘science’ is not conclusive.

Yea… well of course it isn’t, it never will be.

This of course isn’t assisted by the fact that Oil companies now fund various University Research Chairs, including at the University of Alberta and Calgary. Not tough for theses types of positions to plant a little seed of doubt.

Off goes Charles Adler at Sun Media in his opinion piece quoted above:

Regardless of what you think of global warming, oilsands emissions make no difference. Canada produces 2% of all emissions, with our oilsands contributing only about 0.2% of global CO2. We could cripple our economy tomorrow, shut down the oilsands completely, our country could take itself back to the Dark Ages and it just wouldn’t matter. Yet the global-warming alarmists treat the people who question their stupid demands like heretics.

Yup. there’s a couple of the little boys and girls in the sandbox… throw stats like handfuls of sand… or the more damaging Tonka truck.

“ouch, that’s gonna leave a mark…”

See… when ‘scientists’ choose to enter this realm of tossing handfuls of statistics, and sand… it will most likely meet one of those ‘laws’ of physics.

‘every action is met with an equal and opposite reaction’

And thus, the ‘science’ can in fact become a part of the problem. Ideological, populist regimes such as the ones rising to governing status can simply put up a mirror and throw the stats back, planting seeds of doubt, and down the drain goes some common sense.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

I tend to float close to Ralston Saul on this one:

You could describe our obsessive overfishing as a sort of institutionalized panic — a terror before the idea of simply looking at all we know, putting it into an integrated consideration and then acting upon the resulting probabilities…

…Panic is brought on by a denial of shared knowledge. It feeds on the absence of belief in a larger good. And results in an urgent conviction of the absolute necessity of apparently utilitarian, narrow, short-term actions…

Gee does this ring of Conservative/Reform Joe Oliver, Canada’s Natural Resource minister this week, in the previous post on this site:

“We are at a critical juncture because the global economy is now presenting Canada with an historic opportunity to take full advantage of our immense resources,” he said. “But we must seize the moment. These opportunities won’t last forever.”

Let me put that bit from above in again: “…And results in an urgent conviction of the absolute necessity of apparently utilitarian, narrow, short-term actions…”

Ralston Saul continues:

What common sense provides is a clear sense that nothing is inevitable; that we belong to a society. Panic of this sort is therefore unnecessary. We are too intelligent for that.

What prevents us from acting as if we were that intelligent is our unwillingness to insist upon integrated thought — that is, to act as if we shared knowledge with others in our society.


yea, what a thought… ‘integrated thought’….

Here is a drawing I did recently to try and show that in relation to some current work, especially in relation to what the Cohen Commission probably should have spent a lot more time focusing on in trying to understand declines of Fraser sockeye:

integrated thought?


Of course the moment this image is put on paper it captures and represents something static… the reality is that these circles… well… they shouldn’t be circles… but whatever they are, amoebic, fluid… they should be flowing back and forth, thus increasing and decreasing the “somewhere in between”.

both at the same time, increasing and decreasing, flipping and flopping, hurtling and crawling through space.

You might think you’re still, but you’re spinning at about 1600 km/hr as the earth spins, and you’re blasting through space, in the journey around the sun, which is also rocketing around the galaxy at some 220 km/sec.

(… or so say the scientists … i’m often curious what the point of reference is for measuring those apparent ‘speeds’…)

Life is always a struggle of dynamic balance, and impossible balance really because when can you say you hit the sweet spot? As the moment you try to define it, it’s gone.

A mere image… or is it a mirror image…?

Like the age old problem of trying to define the position and speed of a particle at the same time… fixity out of flux… dynamic equilibrium as the saying goes. Constant movement, yet a search for placement; stillness.

Yet once placed, then seeking movement. Once moving, seeking rest…

In the words of shampoo bottles, and consumer culture… Rinse and repeat if necessary…

Mackenzie Valley pipeline: 37 years of negotiation… proposed BC pipelines?

inspired by good 'ol Far Side

It would seem that things may heat up on the BC “pipeline” front… or already have.

This article out of the Calgary Herald the other day (right in the heartland of oil and gas country…)

Pipelines face fight from B.C. First Nations

The blockade of a crew trying to access land near Smithers, B.C. to plan the proposed Pacific Trail pipeline by a group of First Nations people last week is a glimpse of what’s to come as the oilpatch rushes to export energy through Canada’s westernmost province to Asia.

Several thousand kilometres of oil and gas lines are planned for B.C., which has widespread unsettled land claims and very few treaties. The oilpatch is encountering the difficulty of pushing projects through territory in legal limbo.

Some First Nations bands have backed developments, to reap the rewards of employment and financial compensation, but others promise to halt the race to get natural gas and oil to Canada’s West Coast for export to Asia…

… Figuring out just which groups to talk to can prove difficult for energy firms in a province with scant treaties.

“Once there’s certainty that certain lands are treaty settlement lands, industry knows who they have to deal with,” said chief commissioner Sophie Pierre of the B.C. Treaty Commission, which facilitates negotiations between the B.C. government, Ottawa and B.C. First Nations.

“Right now, there’s uncertainty,” Pierre said.

As Enbridge looks to build its 1,200-kilometre, 525,000-barrel-per-day Northern Gateway oil pipeline from Bruderheim, Alta. to Kitimat, B.C. – to the tune of $5.5 billion – it will encounter overlapping land claims in B.C., a thorny issue to tackle.

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It seems maybe some folks don’t read, or look at history… Folks within the oil and gas industry must remember the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline — all too well…

Here’s a CBC story from January of this year discussing some of the history, and current situation with the proposed pipeline.

Mackenzie Valley pipeline: 37 years of negotiation

The proposed gas pipeline from the Beaufort Sea to markets in southern Canada and the United States was billed in the 1970s as “the biggest project in the history of free enterprise.”

It was up to a Canadian judge, Mr. Justice Thomas Berger of British Columbia, to examine the impact of the pipeline on the people who lived in its path.

Dene Chief Frank T’Seleie vowed to stop the pipeline in 1975…

…On May 9, 1977, Berger’s report was released in Ottawa. Significantly, Berger titled his report Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland, for above all he wanted the world to know that though the Mackenzie Valley may be the route for the biggest project in the history of free enterprise, people also live there.

Berger warned that any gas pipeline would be followed by an oil pipeline, that the infrastructure supporting this “energy corridor” would be enormous — roads, airports, maintenance bases, new towns — with an impact on the people, animals and land equivalent to building a railway across Canada. Some dismissed the impact of a pipeline, saying it would be like a thread stretched across a football field. Those close to the land said the impact would be more like a razor slash across the Mona Lisa.

The hard news of May 9, 1977, was Berger’s recommendation that any pipeline development along the Mackenzie River Valley be delayed 10 years, and that no pipeline ever be built across the northern Yukon. The pipeline was delayed far longer than 10 years.

By early 2004, the push to get the pipeline built was gathering steam but then met resistance as negotiations between governments, potential pipeline builders and native groups stalled. Those obstacles began to be resolved later that year. And on July 18, 2005, the federal government announced it would spend $500 million over 10 years to address the socio-economic issues of the northern First Nations.

As it stands today, three of the Dene nations have now settled land claims in the area and are entitled to a one-third interest in any project. The nations include members of the Inuvialuit, the Gwich’in and the Sahtuwill and are collectively known as the Aboriginal Pipeline Group.

Regardless, the plan is still years from development. Imperial Oil has until Dec. 31, 2013, to make a final decision on whether to proceed with the pipeline at all, although it has asked the NEB for three more years to decide.

Should the company decide by 2013 to go ahead, construction would start in 2014 and production would start in 2018. The project’s estimated price tag of $16.2 billion has ballooned from $7.5 billion prior to 2007.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Essentially, Thomas Berger recommended no pipeline building until treaties and indigenous land claims were settled. He estimated ten years for that at the time… the pipeline is still not built and seems the costs are ballooning every year.

Do oil execs not do their research on these sorts of things…?

I suppose one could suggest that they do — however arriving in town with blank cheques is probably not the answer…

_ _ _ _ _

This same approach of trying to bulldoze development projects through un-ceded land (e.g. no treaties or land settlements) rings loudly in the recent BC government far-fetched idea of developing at least eight new mines in BC before 2015.

Without even commenting on the state of world stock markets and commodity prices right now… this cliche: bull-in-a-china-shop approach in fact ends out costing everyone far more in the long run: reviews, court cases, blockades, lines-in-the-sand, etc.

There are different ways of going about things… far different ways…

“Road to Nowhere” — Come on inside… takin’ that ride to nowhere..

Talking institution...

To really appreciate (or maybe not) this post you need to have this link, with music going in the background…

This is an old popular song from the band Talking Heads: “Road to Nowhere


The lyrics for the song start like this:









We’re on a road to nowhere

Come on inside

Takin’ that ride to nowhere

We’ll take that ride

_ _ _ _ _ _

See… the thought process behind comes from this definition of “management” :

definition of management?

“… to manage oneself as a pre-requisite to attempting to manage others…”?? (hmmm)

(including other things…?)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

“Management,” rather obviously comes from the root: “manage”:

"to manage"...


Much of the thought process for this line of illustrations came from school research, and reading an essay by Edward Said, an English literature academic, professor and critic: “Said was an influential cultural critic and author, known best for his book Orientalism (1978).”

This from his collection of essays “Reflections on Exile” and the essay “Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies, and Community“:

The most impressive recent work concerning the history, circumstances, and constitution of modern knowledge has stressed the role of social convention… for example, the shift of attention away from the individual creator to the communal restraints upon personal initiative. Galileos and Einsteins are infrequent figures not just because genius is a rare thing but because scientists are borne along by agreed-upon ways to do research, and this consensus encourages uniformity rather than bold enterprise. Over time this uniformity acquires the status of discipline, while its subject matter becomes a field or territory…


Along with these goes a whole apparatus of techniques… to protect the coherence, the territorial integrity, the identity of the field, its adherents and its institutional presence. You cannot simply choose to be a sociologist or a psychoanalyst; you cannot simply make statements that have the status of knowledge in anthropology; you cannot merely suppose that what you say as a historian (however well it may have been researched) enters historical discourse. You have to pass through certain rules of accreditation, you must learn the rules, you must speak the language, you must master idioms, and you must accept the authorities of the field — determined in many of the same ways — to which you cannot contribute.


In this view of things, expertise is partially determined by how well an individual learns the rules of the game, so to speak…

[e.g. AND WE KNOW WHAT WE CAN’T…. say, or do…]

And most telling in Said’s questions:

Is it the inevitable conclusion to the formation of an interpretive community that its constituency, its specialized language, and its concerns tend to get tighter, more airtight, more self-enclosed as its own self-confirming authority acquires more power, the solid status of orthodoxy, and a stable constituency? What is the acceptable humanistic antidote to what one discovers, say, among sociologists, philosophers and so-called policy scientists who speak only to and for each other in a language oblvious to everything but a well-guarded constantly shrinking fiefdom forbidden to the uninitiated?

This doesn’t sound like a particular fishy government ministry fiefdom (and many closely attached organizations) that is about to, or in the middle of, facing a mass shortage of staff due to retirements and early retirements…?

You want in to that ‘fiefdom’ (e.g. policy scientists… [what a phrase]…),  you better be versed in the lingo, the idioms [A form of expression natural to a language, person, or group of people], the games, the politics, and the methods of moving up the bureaucratic ladder (e.g. the Peter Principle).

Otherwise known as “don’t rock the boat.”

You also better be well-versed, and completely adherent (like crazy glue) to the references and ‘science’ that got us here… you know the things like Maximum Sustained Yield, strategic imperatives, benchmarks, ‘ecosystem-based planning’, and so on…

And… you better have PowerPoint nailed down.

And, know the secret handshakes, and day rate and per diem gravy train intellectual copyrights…

As someone wise-cracked recently too me:

DFO is the least biologically diverse bureaucracy – a small gene pool of scientists that has aged but not recruited young stock…

Diversity would also suggest a wide range of approaches, ‘professionals’, non-professionals, ways of valuing and working from local and community knowledge…

Not government department imperatives, strategic plans, and management objectives.

Time for a Change. (?)

Or as one of the ‘doctor’ toys my kids play with asks: “Time for a Check-up?”

Cohen Commission: “No data means no answers, sockeye inquiry told”

Dead sockeye -- Flickr "Watershed_Watch"

That’s the headline on Hume’s article today in the Globe & Mail.

The lack of hard data on the ocean environment has become an important issue to a federal commission investigating the collapse of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River.

Repeatedly, scientists testifying at the Cohen Commission have said they don’t really know what happens to salmon once they have left fresh water and headed out into the “black box” of the Pacific Ocean. They have complained about a shortage of data, or no data at all, and have said there are limited funds available for research.

Well… it’s not just the ocean environment that has a lack of data. Pretty much every life stage of Fraser sockeye has big black boxes of little to no data. (hard or soft…)

Sure some life stages and critical habitat have been studied more than others, and some folks think they know — but then of course they don’t know what they don’t know, and sometimes they think they know what they don’t know… and so on…

The cold hard reality that Justice Cohen is going to be faced with — or is already faced with — is that we just don’t know. For example, we don’t know how many sockeye juveniles leave the Fraser every year, we don’t even know how many juvenile sockeye leave the majority of the 150 rearing areas where they spend some time as babies.

(DFO only looks at two rearing lakes in any detail… or depth.)

What we know of the population dynamics of Fraser sockeye — and wild salmon in general — is limited to about the simple fact that we know they swim in water… when compared to all of what we don’t know.

No amount of systems theory, chaos theory, or computer modelling is going to shed much more light on things either.

Not only do we not know much about sockeye we know very little about the rest of the dynamics surrounding them. Just as the article suggests:

One of the papers filed with the commission identifies a “hotspot” in Queen Charlotte Sound, for example, where more than 10,000 sharks gather on a main salmon migration route – but nobody knows why the sharks are there, how long they are there, or what they are feeding on.

Black bear cub with sockeye -- Flickr: Gillfoto

Gee… this sounds like grizzly bear research in BC. Or black bear research. Or eagle research. Or coastal wolves research. Or mink research. Or osprey research… or… or…

We simply… just don’t know.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _



If we can’t even predict our own brain patterns, then why do we think we can predict behavior and nature of wild salmon runs?

(for example, does anyone have an explanation on what the heck happened last year? — with 30 million or so returning sockeye to the Fraser. We’ll never know…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

We call it ecosystem-based planning or ecosystem-based management… but we don’t know shit about the ecosystem…

Management is defined as: “The process of dealing with or controlling things or people”.

News flash… we can’t control wild salmon… but we sure as hell can control people if need be… (look at the great federal Conservative crime plans…)

Planning is defined as: “The process of making plans for something” .

Well… what are we making?

An ecosystem?

(well… that’s what the engineers of things like “no-net less to habitat” policies would have us think… we can just “re-create” ecosystems better than Mother Nature did in the first place over millenia…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

One of the definitions of plan suggests: “A systematic arrangement of elements or important parts; a configuration or outline” .

Hmmm… so what are the “important parts”…? And what are we trying to “configure”? And how can we know what we’re trying to configure if we don’t really know much about things in the first place (e.g. the “black box” of the North Pacific)?

_ _ _ _ _ _

The article continues:

The knowledge gap caused Tim Leadem, a lawyer representing a coalition of conservation groups, to wonder out loud Thursday if the Cohen Commission will ever get a definitive answer on what caused the Fraser River sockeye population to collapse. The commission was appointed in 2009 after only one million salmon returned to spawn instead of the 10 million expected.

“What was the cause of the 2009 decline?” Mr. Leadem asked a panel of scientists testifying about the impact of predators on salmon. “I expect at the end of the day … [it will be an inconclusive] death by 1,000 cuts.”

Gee. Maybe Mr. Leadem has seen my cartoon:

Salmon... death of a thousands cuts

I sense a certain frustration or defeatism in that comment…

Yes, Mr. Leadem it is a thousands cuts or so… but the worst ones, the mortal ones for some sockeye runs — have been inflicted by us.

Through direct action (harvest)… or inaction (how’s that enforcement of the Fisheries Act going?)

Pick your killer; our knives are sharp. We’ve filleted Fraser sockeye runs faster than the old terribly named: “Iron Chink” used in salmon canneries.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Article continues:

Mr. Leadem noted most of the science teams that have presented papers to the Cohen Commission have concluded by saying more research is needed.

“This is perplexing,” he said. “If we are depending on science [for guidance], where are we going to find the funding? And who’s going to be pulling the strings and saying what science goes forward?”

Mr. Leadem said it appears scientists “are in a world where you are scrambling for dollars” while facing a growing list of questions.

“Yeah, we are scrambling for research funding and it is going to be the nature of science that there are always more questions that need answering,” said Andrew Trites, a professor and director at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre.

EXACTLY MY FRIGGING POINT!! (thank-you Dr. Trites).

We don’t have to depend on just science for the “answers” — because it won’t have any.

It might be able to provide gentle guidance, or thoughts, or an ‘answer’ here or there — however, at its fundamental core answering one question through science only opens up two more questions. It’s like the mythical beast Hydra — cut off one head, and two more pop up to replace it.

And so, when it comes to “fisheries” science,  it is not really a practice of “truths” and “facts” — and cannot provide all the “answers”. At its heart it is a practice of questions and theories… and analysis of things that we will never understand (e.g. the ocean).

We don’t have all the answers for how our brain works, yet we still function on a day-to-day basis. We still design teaching curricula for our children and send them off to school. And, amazingly, we can actually function and “think” on a day-to-day basis without knowing everything about our brains…

We don’t know the “answers” for the magic of how a child comes into being in the meeting between sperm and egg… We don’t know the “answers” about how we develop a soul, or even the magic occurring between our brains, hearts, lungs and every other organ working in unison. It’s a true magic mystery…

Yet we still carry on day-in and day-out…

_ _ _ _ _ _

The article:

Mr. Justice Bruce Cohen, the B.C. Supreme Court judge who is heading the hearings, asked if there is an overall strategy for addressing the many unanswered questions about the ocean environment. “Within DFO and within the larger community of science … is there an overarching body that does a macro analysis of all the science that’s taking place? Who’s going to draw the agenda? Is this a scrambled situation … or is there actually a game plane here?” he asked.

“My perception as an academic . . . in terms of fisheries management … I don’t feel there is a game plan,” replied Dr. Trites, who appeared on a panel with John Ford, head of cetacean research in the Pacific for Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Peter Olesiuk, DFO’s head of pinniped research.

No… no game plan indeed.

There never has been — and never will be (with all due respect).

And even if there was… what difference would it make?

“Salmon management”… “fisheries management” is a game of politics — not science.

Science can provide some gentle guidance — however it is certainly not the game plan.

(Just like “science” isn’t the game plan in the Vancouver Canucks’ current run at the Stanley Cup — it assists, but is not the plan).

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Our relationship with wild salmon is simply that… A Relationship.

What is that… a ‘relationship’?

Well… suggests: “The way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.”

Just like the relationship between our hearts, minds, and lungs… the relationship between white blood cells and our immune system (our most ancient of systems)… the relationship between children and parents… the relationship between dogs and owners…

What does connected mean?

Joined or linked together;

Related by family.


And curiously, even in mathematics it means:

Not decomposable into two disjoint nonempty open sets.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Salmon and people are both concepts and objects…

And… well… here along the Pacific Rim — we are connected. We are in a relationship.

And unfortunately, this is not a balanced relationship. This is not an equal give-and-take relationship.

We’ve been more on the taking end…

take, take, take... over 80% for 100-years or so...

When people get married, or make commitments, or talk about their relationship — they don’t look to science, nor even tout the latest studies or research, or engage in a peer-review process…

If you talk to a couple that’s been married for 60 years, they don’t tell you about how the marvels of science kept them together.

No… they generally talk about the hard work… the commitments… a knowing… and call it cheesy, or hairy-fairy… but there’s also (as the song says) “a whole lotta love…”

If salmon are as important as certain surveys suggest (e.g. more important to BC’ers as French is to Quebecers) — not that we need surveys to tell us this — then why this great reliance on science… on data… on research…?

The article concludes:

Lara Tessaro, junior commission counsel, later asked the witnesses to name the DFO managers who are directing scientific research in the Pacific, a line of questioning that suggested the issue may be revisited as the hearings continue.

I think most of us know the answer to that question… (and unfortunately, from what it says in the recent Commission status update, we won’t be getting  Project 11 – Fraser River sockeye salmon: status of DFO science and management

(which was to include an analysis, including an economic analysis, of DFO activities in Fraser River sockeye management since 1985;  DFO science and research expenditures related to Fraser sockeye; and  an analysis to evaluate DFO’s ability to meet its stated management objectives relative to Fraser sockeye since 1985).

The great department of Oceans sails a rudderless ship… and will it be exposed as to just how rudderless?

I’m curious to hear the answers to this and who’s at the helm (or not, or will it be like the story of the Queen of the North..? including the stifling of the truth…) — Yet, I sure hope that in the multiple thousands of pages that are being produced by the Cohen Commission that a little more time gets spent on plain language to describe our relationship with wild salmon.

Our connectedness… and how the relationship needs to improve… drastically.  And “data” is not the answer… it’s simply a tool, one piece of the equation… one piece of the relationship… one piece of the connectedness.

Salmon for the Future: test tube babies — more interventionist solutions?

Salmon for the future?


Another salmon article from Mark Hume last week in the Globe and Mail:

Bold experiment hopes to boost salmon population in B.C. waters

Carol Schmitt got up early for the move because she had a lot to pack – 48,500 live salmon to be exact.

Luckily she had rented a semi-trailer tanker truck the night before, sterilizing it so the fish could safely be transported from the Omega Pacific Hatchery, near Port Alberni, to the Sarita River, on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The fish – precious not only because Chinook are endangered in many places in British Columbia, but also because they are part of a bold experiment – had to be handled with care.

Unlike millions of salmon that are being released from Department of Fisheries and Oceans hatcheries in B.C. this spring, Ms. Schmitt’s fish have been held almost one year longer and grown more slowly, to mimic conditions in nature.

“Mimic conditions in nature”… hmmmmm….

Here’s the photo that accompanies the online story:

Globe and Mail photo

So are the two people in the photo mimicking trees?

Or, are they mimicking the kingfishers in the trees that love to eat baby Chinook?

Or the multitude of other birds that love baby salmon?

from Flickr -- caspian tern


No disrespect intended towards Ms. Schmitt or others involved in the article… I can understand the excitement of the project…

However, let’s just keep things in perspective.

I’m sure many folks out there remember the time when the forest industry sold clearcuts as simply “mimicking natural disturbances”…

Like this clearcut on west coast Vancouver Island:


"mimicking nature"?

Just like nature makes it… (this isn’t all that far from the areas where these test-tube Chinook are to be released on west-coast Vancouver Island in this “bold experiment”)

Or this string of photos from a Seattle Times article a few years ago. This is the great logging empire Weyerhaueser mimicking nature…

"mimicking nature" -- Seattle Times photos

And no worries, I’m sure that’s not a salmon stream at the bottom.



more Seattle Times photos -- 2009

And this from a story out of the Everett, WA newspaper in 2008 when the Chehalis River flooded in epic proportions. (don’t worry probably not a salmon stream either… anymore…)


just "natural"

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

The Globe and Mail article continues:

DFO releases Chinook from hatcheries at eight months of age. The fish are known as S-0s, because they are smolts, with less than one year in freshwater. Ms. Schmitt’s approach, perfected over decades growing salmon for B.C. salmon farms, is to keep the fish for 17 months, raising them in water as cold as the native stream from which their brood stock originated. And she restricts feed, so the fish mature more slowly. Those fish are known as S-1s and she believes such “stream type Chinook” are the key to the restoration of wild salmon populations in B.C.

“If you raise them in warmer water and feed them lots, as DFO does, they grow bigger and faster, but you trigger ‘smoltification’ too soon,” Ms. Schmitt said.

Smoltification is when young salmon undergo dramatic physiological changes, turning from fry into smolts, as they adapt for the move from freshwater to salt water.

DFO’s Chinook look ready when they are released, but their immune systems aren’t fully evolved, she said – and most will die from vibriosis, a bacterial disease that attacks fish in salt or brackish water.

“I feel 85 to 90 per cent of federal S-0s are dead within four to six months,” Ms. Schmitt said.

The statistics appear to bear that out, as DFO typically gets only about 1 per cent of its hatchery salmon back as adults. On the Sarita River, only 500 Chinook spawners returned last year – 0.1 per cent of the fish DFO had released as S-0s four years earlier.

Ms. Schmitt, with whom DFO is working on an experimental trial of S-1s on three Vancouver Island rivers, said she is expecting returns of up to 10 per cent.

“If you ship those fish out as S-0s you are accelerating the decline of the river,” she said. “If you release them as proper S-1s, you will get three to ten times as many fish back.”

Ms. Schmitt said in Alaska, releases of S-1 Chinook have resulted in returns as high as 22 per cent.

“Can you imagine what returns like that would mean in B.C.?” she asked. “That would be incredible. It’s pretty exciting stuff.”

With funding support from DFO and four fish farm companies (Mainstream Canada, Marine Harvest Canada, Creative Salmon and Grieg Seafood), Ms. Schmitt is doing trial releases this week of about 100,000 salmon in the Sarita, Phillips and Nahmint Rivers. The first release was Wednesday.

She said it has been tough to get to this point, because DFO has been resistant to change. “Getting DFO to allow us to participate in enhancement has and continues to be a challenge.”

DFO was unable to provide a spokesman to talk about the Omega project.

_ _ _ _ _ _

There are so many things that strike me about this project and article… many of them striking a bit of a sour cord. Maybe this initiative will bear results… however the experiment of “salmon enhancement” for the last many decades has few ‘success’ stories. (the thing with interventions, is they generally become permanent…)

As you can probably already tell by the pounce on “mimicking nature” … Without knowing a lot more about this specific project… yet, about the only natural mimicking I can see is that the water is colder…

The rest truly is an “experiment”… and really how have our experiments with nature gone?

_ _ _ _ _

The ‘companies’ are having some difficulties getting acceptance. Yeah… well… there could be some ethical and other considerations that may need to be considered here.

When private companies start investing in producing fish; could they not rightly express some “ownership” of these fish when they return to spawn?

Or do these fish simply enter the common pool and become lead actors in that famous Shakespearean play “Tragedy of the Commons”…?

Not that I don’t doubt that companies can’t do altruistic, well-intentioned things; however, it does run against the flow of the corporate modus operandi… profit.

But then of course there is some social capital and goodwill gained in this type of effort… isn’t there?

And, don’t you know it… salmon farming companies need some good press these days; and not the kind that gets purchased in multi-million $$ PR campaigns…

_ _ _ _ _

Test-tube salmon “are the key to the restoration of wild salmon populations in B.C.“?

Last time I checked, ‘restoration‘ meant something like:

The return of something to a former owner, place, or condition.

This is about as much “restoration” as lipsosuction and a face lift is “restoration” to one’s youth…

It’s pretty tough to “restore” these sorts of things once they’re gone:

slide from my presentation to Cohen Commission

Or this:

We really need to be careful when we start batting around terms like “restoration”…

It’s important to ‘mean what we say and say what we mean’…

Hatchery interventions can be used to assist in rehabilitation of some areas… however, they can’t be a permanent solution.

Let’s for example look at some of the numbers quoted in the success of DFO’s enhancement efforts.

If they’re getting 0.1% return on investment… does that sound like a sound strategy? That’s worse returns then the common chequing account these days…

But then the initial goals of the Salmon Enhancement Program were:

The Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP) was established in 1977 with objective of restoring stocks of salmon to their historic levels of abundance.

How’s that going?

_ _ _ _ _ _

Making comparisons to Alaskan returns, just isn’t going to cut it.

Different practices (e.g. ocean ranching); different migration patterns; different investments; different priorities.

Seems its convenient in situations like test-tube salmon babies to forget the issues in the ocean — e.g. lower productivity, etc. — but when it comes to judicial inquiries, fisheries ‘management’, etc. then all of a sudden the discussion of poor ocean conditions and the like become prevalent.

(is that because it makes easier… rather than looking in a mirror… and at history)

At some point we need to make a choice on what the issues are…

For example, what’s the point of spending millions of dollars to send test-tube babies out to the ocean if productivity remains low…?

what’s the point of sending test-tube babies out to the wild if the streams they have to return to are largely clearcut to the banks…?

Go down to the Lower 48 and see what sort of success they’ve had at spending upwards of a billion $$ on salmon habitat rehab and hatcheries… ask how many fish they’re catching?

_ _ _ _ _

We are far past the point of “restoring” salmon.

Are we all that far off from basically preserving zoo populations and setting up kids fishing ponds…?

Salmon fishing derbies of the future?

Rather than fumbling around trying to do better what nature already does perfectly (for millions of years) why don’t we clean up the mess we made in the first place?

The problem with salmon isn’t that they need “help” reproducing… they been doing that well before we came along. It’s more that if we’re all to co-exist; then we need to look after the neighborhoods that we co-exist in… for example: watersheds, rivers, lakes, and so on.

With the rapid changes coming due to climate change (less cold water, ocean acidification, water shortages, etc.)… wild salmon are going to need a lot of help making sure their neighborhoods are fit for spawning, dieing, and reproducing in.

Just like your neighborhood… pretty hard to spawn in a mudslide isn’t it?

(fun to wrestle in maybe… not so much fun after that…)

Once upon a salmon: “reducing fishing pressure … to rebuild diminished runs”

Carrying capacity? (circa 1977)

Notice the tag line on this photo: “Carrying Capacity?”

This is from the 1977 publication: “Pacific Salmon Management for People”.

Pacific Salmon Management for People











And yet another image from this book should have the same tag.

Massed gill netters -- Fraser River

As I’ve pointed out in other posts related to this book, the 1977 conclusion states:

To tackle the complex questions of salmon management… highly sophisticated techniques of simulation and decision-making are being evolved… Laymen, and scientists whose experience is in other areas, must take these techniques largely on trust. We are in the hands of technocrats… Certainty is elusive.

One reason for this is the prohibitive cost and difficulty of obtaining precise initial information; another is the yearly variability of freshwater and estuary environments; yet another is the urgency of many managerial choices which dictates that partial evidence must suffice. Misjudgements and errors, then, are likely. Science is to be trusted, but scientists nevertheless make mistakes. The science, as the thalidomide children would remind us, may not be complete.

Ah yes…

_ _ _ _ _

And yet in 1998, a paper emanating out of the University of BC: IMPLEMENTING THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE IN FISHERIES MANAGEMENT THROUGH MARINE RESERVES by Tim Lauck, Colin W. Clark, Marc Mangel, and Gordon R. Munro seems to be pretty clear on a certain issue:

Overexploitation of marine fisheries remains a serious problem worldwide, even for many fisheries that have been intensively managed by coastal nations. Many factors have contributed to these system failures. Here we discuss the implications of persistent, irreducible scientific uncertainty pertaining to marine ecosystems. When combined with typical levels of uncontrollability of catches and incidental mortality, this uncertainty probably implies that traditional approaches to fisheries management will be persistently unsuccessful.

The main gist of this paper is the idea of marine reserves — and idea which is not foreign to the world of wild salmon, with the proposition of wild salmon reserves (at least in their freshwater environment) becoming more common.

The paper continues:

Suggestions for improving the management of marine fisheries have not been in short supply. We will not review here the long history of discussion of the ‘‘problem of overfishing,’’ but will concentrate instead on the implications of uncertainty in fisheries management.

We take as an underlying assumption that fishery declines and collapses result in large part from overfishing, that is to say, from a level of fishing intensity that is excessive in terms of maintaining a sustainable population and fishery. We nevertheless recognize that changes in the marine environment are also often involved in the decline or collapse of any particular fishery.

Levels of catch that may be sustainable under normal or favorable environmental conditions may prove not to be sustainable under abnormal conditions. Many fish populations that have suddenly collapsed under intensive exploitation had presumably persisted for thousands of years in spite of fluctuations in the marine environment. The parsimonious assumption is, therefore, that fishing decreased the resilience of these populations, rendering them more vulnerable to environmental change. From our perspective, this still constitutes overfishing.

Environmental fluctuations are but one of many sources of major uncertainty in fisheries. It is now widely accepted that management must somehow allow for uncertainty and potential inaccuracy in projected sustainable catch levels. It is our contention in this paper, however, that the full implications of uncertainty have not been recognized in the design and implementation of fisheries management strategies. This shortcoming, we believe, has been a major factor in the decline and collapse of many fisheries.

Yes, indeed. And have you looked at the coastwide populations of wild salmon and their changes over… say… the last 30 to 40 years?

Or, have you looked at a shrinking monitoring program of shrinking salmon populations?

One article published in a renowned hallowed-halls, peer-reviewed journal has:

Ghost Runs: management and status assessment of Pacific salmon returning to BC’s central and north coast_Price_2008

I’ll comment on the article in another post, as it certainly relates to recent points in other posts and comments.

One of the more striking lines from the paper — and this isn’t rocket science…

“… reducing fishing pressure as a straightforward management prescription to rebuild diminished runs.

_ _ _ _ _ _

In this time of great environmental uncertainty… from rapidly expanding ocean dead zones due to acidification that have occurred far faster than any “modeling” by world experts predicted to climate change impacts that are also far beyond what “models” predicted…

shouldn’t we be making drastic changes to how we look after essential ‘resources’ such as wild salmon… and their habitat?

Oh wait… I think I might have read something along these lines in something else recently…

Oh yeah, the 1932 British Columbia Fisheries Department report: Contributions to the Life History of the Sockeye Salmon:

BC Fisheries Department 1932











There was a particular excerpt:

Hope you can read that fine print:

“…lack of control of the fishery is quite well understood… Increased escapements appear to be the logical remedy.”

“…in the meantime a very conservative policy is imperative.”

Indeed. Good 1932 scientific wisdom.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Reducing fishing pressure to rebuild runs… (might be the best rehabilitation/restoration/adaptation strategy going).


salmon farming: raising and eating lions, rather than antelope?

Province newspaper image

Here are two thoughts — articles — to ponder together:


“Declaring Chapter 11”

What a poetic phrase, starting with ‘declaring’. Not sighing or announcing or admitting, but Declaring!

Chapter 11 refers to part of the bankruptcy code that covers reorganizations. In Chapter 11, you don’t shut down your business. Instead, faced with failure, you suspend certain agreements and debts and negotiate in a way that permits you to continue.

Chapter 7 is very different. It means “I give up.” You shut down, it’s over.

Metaphorically, we have the chance to declare either kind of bankruptcy whenever we work on a project or consider a habit, a social media addiction or even a job. Teetering on the edge of bankruptcy is painful. Declaring is often a relief.

Acknowledging that you’re stuck is the very first step in getting unstuck…

Perhaps it’s time to stop fighting a losing fight and start creating value doing something else instead. Bankruptcy is never fun, but when you give up something that wasn’t getting you where you needed to go, sometimes you discover a future better than you ever expected.

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From the Province newspaper the other day:

Wild’ oceans at risk from overfishing, B.C. scientists say

The overfishing of cod, tuna and other predatory fish has led to a sizable increase in smaller fish — potentially threatening marine ecosystems and the very existence of “wild” oceans as we know them, a team of British Columbia scientists is warning.

The world’s predatory fish population has dropped by about two-thirds over the past century, says the group from the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Centre.

Meanwhile, the stocks of “forage” fish, such as capelin, sardine and anchovy, have increased by more than 100 per cent.

The researchers call the process “fishing down the food-web” and say it could change the face of the world’s oceans, in short order.

“There are still a lot of fish in the sea, but they’re just smaller,” lead researcher Prof. Villy Christensen said from Washington, where the findings were being presented Friday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“It means we are removing the fish that control the (marine) ecosystems and we’re moving toward an unhealthy situation.”

Led by Christensen, a team of scientists examined more than 200 marine ecosystem models from around the world, dating back to 1880.

Christensen said the revealed trend could threaten marine ecosystems with more disease and other problems.

“Take the Serengeti, for example. What would happen there if we removed all the predators — no lions or leopards? The antelopes and other plant eaters would grow in number and there would be no one to remove the sick, old and injured animals, and that could lead to widespread problems with diseases.”

With a shift to smaller species, Christensen said the oceans’ uses could also drastically change.

“Currently, forage fish are turned into fish meal and fish oil and used as feeds for the aquaculture industry. . . . If the fishing-down-the-food-web trend continues, our oceans may one day become a farm to produce feeds for the aquaculture industry,” he said.

Christensen discussed the issue in a panel in Washington that explored what the world’s oceans would look like by 2050. The panel said the majority of fish will be forage species. The scientists also found that the bulk of the predatory fish decline — 54 per cent — has occurred in the past 40 years.

Although the smaller fish are able to thrive in this situation, Christensen warned environmental changes could result in further population fluctuations. “And that’s a scary outlook,” he said.

Christensen said overfishing creates a “when cats are away, the mice will play” situation that allows forage species to thrive with reduced threats.

To curb this, he said changes to global fishing practices are needed.

“It’s very clear what we need to do,” Christensen said. “The capacity of the world’s fishing fleets is too big and it keeps increasing. We are now getting less fish and seafood from the ocean than we were 20 years ago, and yet we have more boats out there. We need to turn that around.”

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There is a further podcast with Christensen available at the Science Journal: Podcast: Will There Be Fish by 2050?

Dr. Christensen explains in his analogy comparing our fishing and fish eating habits with the Serengeti — how humans are eating the lions, rather than the antelopes.

Our focus on eating the predators of the ocean as opposed to the foragers, means we are eating the lions as opposed to the antelopes or gazelles.

Following this analogy, one might suggest we are grinding up the antelopes and gazelle (forage fish) to raise lions (farmed salmon) — and worse yet, it’s not like the farmed lions are being fed to the poor…

As such is salmon farming part of the ‘solution’ ? — (as purported on certain salmon farming websites?)

Or is it part of a bankruptcy scenario?

Is Godin on to something here: “Perhaps it’s time to stop fighting a losing fight and start creating value doing something else instead.

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Another item to ponder: Is it also time for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for institutions such as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?

Time for a fundamental restructuring in how “fisheries” are conducted?

As Godin suggests: “In Chapter 11, you don’t shut down your business. Instead, faced with failure, you suspend certain agreements and debts and negotiate in a way that permits you to continue…

…Perhaps it’s time to stop fighting a losing fight and start creating value doing something else instead. Bankruptcy is never fun, but when you give up something that wasn’t getting you where you needed to go, sometimes you discover a future better than you ever expected.”

Because… really… what is the purpose of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?

Well… first… it is supposed to be conservation of fish and fish habitat —- isn’t it?

Is the Department achieving that?

From the sounds of things, it doesn’t sound like fisheries departments around the world are doing all that well on this front…

gee… why so much voter skepticism, and government bureaucracy burnout?

Another day, another government spending scandal.

The Globe and Mail ran an article today on the recent spending scandal within the Nova Scotia government legislature:

Dozens of charges laid in Nova Scotia legislature expenses scandal

An expenses scandal that laid bare a backroom culture of privilege in Nova Scotia politics has escalated into dozens of criminal charges against one sitting and three former politicians.

The charges announced on Monday came after provincial Auditor-General Jacques Lapointe blew the lid off years of inappropriate spending by politicians, sparking a nine-month RCMP investigation.

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To an article in Macleans magazine in Sept. 2010:

Quebec: The most corrupt province

…In the past two years, the government has lurched from one scandal to the next, from political financing to favouritism in the provincial daycare system to the matter of Charest’s own (long undisclosed) $75,000 stipend, paid to him by his own party, to corruption in the construction industry. Charest has stymied repeated opposition calls for an investigation into the latter, prompting many to wonder whether the Liberals, who have long-standing ties to Quebec’s construction companies, have something to hide. (Regardless, this much is true: it costs Quebec taxpayers roughly 30 per cent more to build a stretch of road than anywhere else in the country, according to Transport Canada figures.) Quebecers want to believe Bellemare, it seems, because what he says is closest to what they themselves believe about their government.

This slew of dodgy business is only the most recent in a long line of made-in-Quebec corruption that has affected the province’s political culture at every level. We all recall the sponsorship scandal, in which businessmen associated with the Liberal Party of Canada siphoned off roughly $100 million from a fund effectively designed to stamp the Canadian flag on all things Québécois, cost (or oversight) be damned. “I am deeply disturbed that such practices were allowed to happen,” wrote Auditor General Sheila Fraser in 2004. Fraser’s report and the subsequent commission by Justice John Gomery, which saw the testimony of Liberal prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, wreaked havoc on Canada’s natural governing party from which it has yet to recover.

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This was being reported right around the same time as the BC Rail scandal in BC (Sept 2010) from CTV News:

Government corruption trial resumes in B.C. today

The political corruption trial of three B.C. government employees resumes today in Vancouver and political observers say the timing could not be worse for Premier Gordon Campbell.

He is already under fire for breaking an election promise to keep the harmonized sales tax out of the province.

Now, as lawyers argue who’s to blame for leaked documents linked to the sale of BC Rail, critics believe the trial will highlight Campbell’s broken pledge not to sell the former Crown corporation.

This trial, of course, ending out in a multi-million dollar settlement out of court that won’t allow the truth of this matter to see the BC public.

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This accompanied by the fuss today over Conservative MP Bev Oda potentially being found in contempt of Parliament:

Accusations against Oda tied up in a ‘not’

A Conservative cabinet minister risks being found in contempt of Parliament over accusations she lied to MPs and doctored a document to hide the fact that she was overruling her department.

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Ministerial discretionary decision-making…

In the fisheries world, and surrounding wild salmon, there is incredible “discretionary decision-making” granted the Minister of Fisheries — as there is with any Minister.

What happens when citizens start losing faith in the ability of politicians to make good “discretionary” decisions?

Should the potential future of wild salmon be left to the discretionary decision-making ability of politicians — often politicians with little knowledge of fisheries issues and a view to just a few years of election cycles, or the tenuous balance between minority and majority governments, or the constant shuffling between ministerial portfolios?

Does this not highlight the importance of the variety of special interest groups, non-profit or otherwise, that attempt to hold politicians and corporations accountable to decisions and actions?

Or does it highlight the importance of knowing who the senior bureaucrats are that have the ear of the Minister who is making discretionary decisions?

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Add in another complexity. In most of British Columbia, treaties have never been signed with the majority of First Nations. This means that Crown Lands, is in fact disputed territory — until such time as treaties are settled, or other agreements reached.

Here’s an interesting opinion piece from the Vancouver Sun today:

Community serves notice to politicians, corporations that promises must give way to actual benefits

…We hope there is talk -talk amongst the companies, talk amongst government ministries and agencies, talk amongst the companies and government -because a little talk and genuine consultation with us will go a long, long way to setting everyone on the right path toward mutual benefit. Because at the end of the day, the Skeetchestn community is like any B.C. community. We honour the past, we deal with today, and we want to be able to look forward to a future that includes having a say in what happens to us, to our homes, to our traditional lands, and to our culture and community life.

It’s time we all treated each other fairly. The Secwepemc phrase Es tsellts’ílle es westwécw-kt means just that: To treat others fairly, and to be fairly treated in return. It is not a phrase that can be found in the long experience of the Skeetchestn with these companies and government agencies. In the days ahead, our efforts will test the commitment to fairness held by those living off and benefiting from our land. It’s unfortunate, but when the issue boils down to simple survival, a community -any community -has to stand up.

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There is much discussion on this issue — things like “certainty” for all involved: business, government, and citizens of BC (First Nation, non, settler, and so on). There is the cost of lost business and such — much cited by corporations. There is the loss of resources on First Nation lands as treaties drag on, the avalanche of referrals as more businesses look to profit from resource removal, and mounting debt as Nations continue to try and negotiate honorably.

Get frustrated with a process or entity, and the courts become one of the only options. More often than not… the courts say: ‘get back to the negotiating table and work this out in good faith negotiations.’

“Good faith” negotiations…?

Is that still possible with the perfectly legitimate concerns about honest politicians?

There are lots out there… honest politicians that is… they just seem to be overshadowed by the not-so-honest ones.

Then throw in some bureaucracy burnout… and where to we go from here?