Category Archives: Solutions?

Citizen’s Assembly on Wild Salmon in BC?

Search “BC salmon” on google or otherwise and one can get a list of media articles. As usual, there is much debate from all sides of the issue — many of which are explored on this site.

Some curious comparisons this week…

The release of another peer-reviewed scientific study (Public Library of Science ONE — PLOS):

Sea Louse Infection of Juvenile Sockeye Salmon in Relation to Marine Salmon Farms on Canada’s West Coast


Pathogens are growing threats to wildlife. The rapid growth of marine salmon farms over the past two decades has increased host abundance for pathogenic sea lice in coastal waters, and wild juvenile salmon swimming past farms are frequently infected with lice. Here we report the first investigation of the potential role of salmon farms in transmitting sea lice to juvenile sockeye salmon.


This is the first study to demonstrate a potential role of salmon farms in sea lice transmission to juvenile sockeye salmon during their critical early marine migration [spring time]. Moreover, it demonstrates a major migration corridor past farms for sockeye that originated in the Fraser River, a complex of populations that are the subject of conservation concern.

Now to be fair, if one looks at the authors of this paper there are some organizations involved that may fairly be suggested to have some bias in their perspective. However, there is a rather significant difference between profit-based bias and non-profit-based bias; between satisfying-shareholder-make-profit-bias and special-interest-group-protect-wild salmon bias.

And really this whole bias thing is rather complex isn’t it?

Major universities get millions and millions of dollars of funding from industrial companies — say for example close to home here in Prince George: Canfor the major forestry company has invested a lot of money in the University of Northern BC (UNBC) campus. Go to a public presentation and you will most likely sit in the “Canfor Theatre”.

Do you think major research is going to come out of these institutions that might affect those donations?

Hard to say…?

The important point is that information gets out into the public realm for people to make up their own minds — that’s democracy isn’t it? People power?

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The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has invested probably over $100 million (or more) in aquaculture over the last decade or so — think it’s going to start releasing research or policies that have potential to make those investments obsolete?

Probably not.

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And so what does the BC Salmon Farmers Assoc. (BCSFA) have to say about this recently released research paper?

More research needed into sea lice

The British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association [BCSFA] has stated that additional research into sea lice and its effect on wild salmon stocks is both important and necessary in response to the findings of a new study [above] that ties salmon farms to wild salmon infected with sea lice.

… the study recorded the highest lice levels on juvenile sockeye in the Georgia Strait near a farmed salmon processing plant, which intensifies existing concerns regarding the full potential consequences of the salmon farming sector on wild salmon in BC.

The aquaculture industry agrees with the researchers that more work is needed.

“Our farmers take very seriously the responsibility of managing sea lice on our fish to ensure they are not putting additional stress on wild salmon,” said BCSFA Executive Director Mary Ellen Walling. “Both sea lice and the challenges faced by BC’s wild salmon are complicated, multi-layered issues and there is more work to be done.”

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But hold on a second…

The “fact” reported at the Salmon Farmers site suggest: “farmers work to protect wild salmon from sea lice” and the added commentary from the site moderators suggest:

…the precautionary approach is a very interesting topic. Many would suggest that aquaculture (growing fish and shellfish that help take pressure off wild stocks) is one step in the precautionary principle. But you are correct that, like all forms of food production, farming seafood also has some inherent risks


If you’ve read other posts on this site; I’m not one to buy this: “salmon farming takes pressure off wild stocks” argument… that’s the good old apples and oranges thing… it’s like saying goose farms take the pressure of wild geese… and so on.

Furthermore, you can watch the little Youtube video at the site:

There’s kind of an important piece of “fact” left out in this little video…

It’s all fine and dandy that the adult Atlantic salmon are checked for lice — and you can see one pulled of an adult salmon in the video — and it’s fine and dandy that the farmed salmon pick up the lice “naturally”, and so on and so on.

That’s not really the problem.

The problem is that the farms accentuate a naturally existing parasite.

Sort of like the pine beetle infestation.

Pine beetles have been around about as long as trees. The two co-existed with ups and downs… however when intensive logging, fire suppression to protect the logging industry, a beetle break out in a Provincial Park and lack of interventions, and a list of other interventions occurred — a “naturally” occurring parasite became a devastating infestation.

The farmed salmon are in southern B.C. bays largely all year round, this means the parasitic lice have hosts all year round. Whereas wild salmon are not around all year round and thus lice don’t exist at the same densities as migration time.

When southern salmon fry migrate through salmon farming areas (many of which are directly on wild salmon migration routes — esp. Fraser salmon fry) they pick up the sea lice that wouldn’t be there in the same numbers if the salmon farms weren’t there. The sea lice are there on adult farmed salmon — adult salmon which wouldn’t be there, and haven’t been there since time immemorial.

(think head lice and elementary schools… the lice wouldn’t be there in the same numbers if there weren’t a concentration of close proximity kids heads to infest)

It only takes a few lice to knock down a baby salmon. (And if you read the study quoted above, there is a big difference in sea lice densities on salmon in areas like the Skeena River: no salmon farming — and the Georgia Strait: lots of salmon farming, plus salmon farm processing plants with guts, lice, and such pumped directly into the Strait.

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So let’s take the comment from “bcsalmonfacts” at their site:

…the precautionary approach is a very interesting topic. Many would suggest that aquaculture… is one step in the precautionary principle. But you are correct that, like all forms of food production, farming seafood also has some inherent risks

And combine it with Ms. Walling’s recent comment:

“Both sea lice and the challenges faced by BC’s wild salmon are complicated, multi-layered issues and there is more work to be done.”

And the comments from the above article:

[this] intensifies existing concerns regarding the full potential consequences of the salmon farming sector on wild salmon in BC… The aquaculture industry agrees with the researchers that more work is needed.

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Well… the European Union, and European Environmental Bureau (1999) has some interesting definitions and considerations of “the Precautionary Principle” :

2.2 Precaution places the burden of proof on the proponents of the activity.

The reversal of the burden of proof is a fundamental principle of precautionary action. The reversal of burden of proof creates incentives for the proponents of an activity to prove that their product or activity is safe. The traditional burden of proof, which lies with legislators [think DFO’s new legislation and the Province of BC before that], may cause considerable delays before action is initiated [considerable delays when government bureaucracies handle things… no… I don’t believe it].

Furthermore, in the case of ‘uncertainty’ the traditional burden of proof may not work. Yet failure to act may in some cases impose considerable costs upon society and health

2.3 Precaution applies the substitution principle, seeking safer alternatives to potentially harmful activities, including the assessment of needs.

Where safer alternatives are available or may be marketed in the forthcoming future, these should be promoted as a substitute to the activity giving rise to ‘reasonable suspicion’. The substitution principle allows for technology driven changes (best environmental option) instead of waiting for the proof of harm. [think closed containment salmon farming, and no salmon farms on wild salmon migration routes]

The principle should be applied in a wide sense including the consideration of alternative products or services to serve the same function in addition to alternative materials for the same product…

2.4 Precaution requires public participation in decision-making.

Risk perception has a cultural dimension.

There is a considerable degree of subjectivism in choosing for a risk averse or a risk friendly approach, different within and between different societies. Decisions on the acceptability of technologies and activities, as well as on the intensity of their control cannot be defined by ‘sound science’ alone, but requires a mechanism to identify the preferences of the society. [this is where non-profits come into play]

Therefore, accountable, transparent public and democratic decision-making within Community institutions is a prerequisite to intelligent decision-making that will serve all citizens…

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A mechanism to identify the preferences of society.

Great point.

This isn’t just about science. This isn’t just about peer-reviewed journal articles. This isn’t just about esteemed fisheries scientists and their viewpoints and research. And this most certainly isn’t just about economics and agricultural exports and even just about jobs.

This is about the relationship between people and salmon; people and their surrounding environments; and people and their desired futures.

Maybe a Citizen’s Assembly on Wild Salmon in BC… Rather than a quasi-legal, Dr. science-heavy, multi-million dollar Commission? (but I will wait to read the final report next year on this… Maybe Justice Cohen has and will hear the voices of common BC’ers and otherwise).

Maybe a Citizen’s Assembly on Wild Salmon in BC… rather than just an under-financed, sometimes overworked, heavy on the B bureaucracy that is fundamentally broken in so many way.

What do you think?

What’s your salmon story?

The space matters… salmon matter.

Another gem from Godin:

The space matters

It might be a garage or a sunlit atrium, but the place you choose to do what you do has an impact on you.

More people get engaged in Paris in the springtime than on the 7 train in Queens. They just do. Something in the air, I guess.

Pay attention to where you have your brainstorming meetings. Don’t have them in the same conference room where you chew people out over missed quarterly earnings.

Pay attention to the noise and the smell and the crowd in the place where you’re trying to overcome being stuck. And as Paco Underhill has written, make the aisles of your store wide enough that shoppers can browse without getting their butts brushed by other shoppers.

Most of all, I think we can train ourselves to associate certain places with certain outcomes. There’s a reason they built those cathedrals. Pick your place, on purpose.

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So many salmon-related meetings, commissions, forums, and so on — in urban hotel conference rooms. So disconnected from the rivers that are the salmon arteries.

What would the Cohen Commission feel like if it was held on a gravel bar beside sockeye spawning grounds…?

What would various ‘forums’ on salmon conservation and harvest planning sound like if they were alongside the Fraser Canyon, beside fish drying racks, and footholds in the rocks where people have fished for thousands of years…?

What would a salmon think tank come up with if it was outside the confines of a “tank”…?

What would court cases over salmon and fishing rights look like if they were held in longhouses?

Or, on one of the old trollers built by settler families in the early 1900s out of Sitka spruce and cedar — rolling on a west coast swell?

Or, besides folks smokehouses — First Nation or settlers alike.

Or, in the spring as millions upon millions of baby salmon migrate downstream all across the Pacfic Rim, feeding everything as they go?

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There’s a reason why the Fraser River was one of the most densely populated areas of the Americas pre-contact…

There’s a reason why some folks suggest they are almost more salmon than human.

‘There’s a reason they built those cathedrals. Pick your place, on purpose.’

one fish, two fish, three fish…

Endangered fish, endangered fish! We must do something…

Figure this one out, it’s a curious story (if you’re into fish stories… I know the Cohen Commission into Fraser sockeye is into this sort of stuff):

I’m pretty new to this sturgeon issue; however, it still leaves me shaking me head at where priorities and planning within federal government institutions come from.

White Sturgeon in the Upper Fraser River and Nechako River were listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2003 along with some populations in the Columbia River — they were listed as a species of concern as early as 1990. The SARA listing means there are various prohibitions and other fuss over these ancient fish (fossil records suggest these fish — that can live to be over a hundred years old and grow to great lengths — have been around 175 million years or so).

There are things like protecting critical habitat (remember this as we move forward on this post), developing recovery plans, and ensuring that these species are not subject to ‘death, harm, harassment, capture, or possession.’

The population of upper Fraser white sturgeon is apparently distinct from the Nechako River sturgeon. The last population estimates done on these fish was in the late 1990s (as far as I can tell from poking around).

At that time, sturgeon were “managed” by the Province as they are a freshwater species. Once they became listed under SARA, they came under the domain of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. (please… you cynics out there, I heard the groan, just hear this piece of the story out).

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By catch of White Sturgeon: Discussion of Potential Mitigation Options” was the name of the recent PowerPoint presentation by Department of Fisheries & Oceans in Prince George.

This sounds serious. When I hear the term “by catch” I have visions of huge trawlers on the open ocean dumping 70% of their catch overboard dead because they’re simply looking for some specific fish. (for example, the Bering Sea pollock fishery that catches impressive amounts of Yukon River salmon and simply dumps them overboard as “useless by-catch”).

However, by-catch can also mean so much less than that.

What is the target of this DFO “by-catch reduction” on endangered upper Fraser and Nechako white sturgeon?

Well… it is the First Nation food, social, and ceremonial fisheries for salmon.

Apparently, during the spring and summer months when First Nations in the upper Fraser and Nechako areas are salmon fishing (something happening less and less frequently due to salmon population declines across the board in the upper Fraser areas), the occasional juvenile sturgeon or older fish might get tangled in nets.

First Nation folks who have had this happen explain that they remove the sturgeon and release them back to the river.

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So let’s take a little sidebar trip here…

In the meeting I attended, an expert from the Province explained the main issue for declining sturgeon populations around the world… and this isn’t a shocker… habitat loss and impacts.

And pretty much any quick search on the Internet will confirm the long list of well-known impacts: dams, pollution, loss of critical habitat, warming waters, disease and pathogens and so on. Dams are known to be a very serious issue — whether it’s in the upper Colombia River or in the Nechako River or other parts of the world where sturgeon live.

This is explained quite clearly on DFO’s webpage and fancy brochure on sturgeon:

Over the past century, white sturgeon populations have been adversely affected by over-fishing, construction of hydroelectric dams, diking and drainage projects, dwindling food resources, and declining water quality as human populations and activities intensify

In the early 1990s harvest of white sturgeon in the upper areas of the Fraser watershed (inc. the Nechako) was stopped to try and protect what was considered a dwindling population. There was also an intensive 5-year study launched to attempt population estimates.

The last known estimates appear to be 1999 with an estimate of just under 600 Nechako sturgeon and just under 300 upper Fraser sturgeon. One thing I haven’t found in my relatively quick searches is how this compares to historic populations. All that folks suggest is that there have been dramatic declines.

However, this is not necessarily the point here. It appears quite clear that sturgeon populations aren’t doing very well. One of the main examples cited is that there simply aren’t enough juveniles growing into reproductive adults.Why?

No one can say with any certainty.

Except with maybe the issues on the Nechako River. See, there’s this rather large dam in the upper reaches that was created in the middle of the 1900s, or so. The dam was built by Alcan so that it could reverse water through the mountains back to Kitimat so that it could produce power for the aluminum smelter there. The company is now known as Rio-Tinto Alcan.

This is the same company, based on the northern BC coast (e.g. near the mouth of the Skeena River) that would like to use more Nechako River water, which should be flowing down the Fraser — so that it can produce more power and sell it back to BC Hydro.

Due to the dam, the Nechako River has been completely altered. Flows of the river are controlled by the massive upstream dam, temperatures have changed significantly within the river since it was dammed and so on, and so on.

And, thus, it’s not really rocket science to figure out what has caused an apparent precipitous decline of white sturgeon.

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Back to the by-catch of sturgeon meeting.

We do know (more or less) that habitat is the issue worldwide for sturgeon populations — and yes, fishing does have an impact.

But… what is the impact that we were discussing in this particular meeting?

How many of these endangered sturgeon are being caught in First Nation salmon fisheries?

Well… survey says:… one, two, three!

Anecdotal information, not scientific or actual, but largely rumor, suggests that there might be about three sturgeon killed as by-catch in First Nation salmon fisheries.

On an apparently declining population of approximately 800 or so — is this an impact? Yes.

What might be the best way to deal with this issue?

Well, how about a focused communications campaign?

And then focus other resources on the real impacts — like the massive dam on the upper Nechako that has not posed much good for Nechako fish populations (including salmon).

Water flow estimates in Nechako pre and post Kenney dam

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No, instead, a meeting is funded (travel costs and hotels and so on) for about 30 individuals from a variety of organizations. About 6 – 8 DFO staff. And meeting agendas that suggest formation of “Working groups” and potentially significant changes to how First Nations fish for salmon, and training funds, and policy development, and, and, and…


For three fish.

One, two, three…

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There are suggestions on the agenda for the meeting that either the group comes up with changes or DFO will “impose” them.

Well, gee, isn’t that nice ‘relationship-building’ language.

And the response from many folks: ummm… ok… so you’re threatening to impose changes on salmon fisheries (based on aboriginal rights and the Constitution) because there is anecdotal information suggesting an impact on three fish. What sort of threats of imposing changes is RioTinto Alcan facing?

DFO: “oh, well we’re in discussions with them about a ‘conservation agreement’ and potentially helping to fund a hatchery.”

participants: “but no ‘imposed’ changes potentially coming for them?”


Yet, we know — worldwide — that the main issue facing sturgeon is habitat.

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If you’d like more perspective on this issue read one of the most popular posts on this site: Cull the endangered Orcas?

The relationship here?

Well… the resident Orca pods in the Salish Sea (Georgian Strait) are also listed under SARA. And their main food source during the spring and summer months?

Chinook salmon.

These orcas will actually knock other salmon out of the way to get to the Chinook.

Some of these Chinook populations, bound for the Fraser, are also in trouble — yet, not listed under SARA. But the orcas are listed — and yet sport fisheries remain open on one of their main food sources. And, it is certainly more than three Chinook being caught in those sport fisheries. (and population estimates on the Orcas is in the low hundreds… highlighting even more the importance of the Chinook as a food source).

Any “imposed” changes being talked about there…?

How about, working groups, and training and funding and all-expenses paid meetings, and so on…?


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This isn’t to question lots of the hard work that many folks are doing on these issues… more simply to ask, what are the priorities here?

And where is the cost-benefit analysis on these sorts of DFO initiatives?

And, more so, why don’t we direct funds and professional staff to the really tough issues, the issues that might mean making changes that have potential significant economic impacts and impacts on rather powerful stakeholders?

Spending $50,000 – $100,000 or more (total estimates on my part) to fund meetings to discuss big changes based on anecdotal evidence of, one, two, three fish mortalities…

When DFO staff repeat time and time again at meetings, that they can’t get the resources — for example — to properly implement the Wild Salmon Policy.

good use of dwindling resources?

Maybe we could recreate those three dead sturgeon out of Alcan’s aluminum foil?

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(Hopefully the Cohen Commission is considering funding priority setting within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?)

Warning: skewed graphic content?

Fitting quote…

Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery.

~Mark Amidon

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Hence, why it is pretty important to make best efforts to: mean what you say, and say what you mean.

As famous writer E.B. White suggested:

No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing.

Or as Edward Tufte, professor emeritus at Yale University and design expert, suggests in one of his fantastic books Envisioning Information:

Lurking behind chartjunk is contempt for both information and for the audience. Chartjunk promoters imagine that numbers and details are boring, dull and tedious, requiring ornament to enliven. Cosmetic decoration, which frequently distorts the data, will never salvage an underlying lack of content…

Worse is contempt for our audience, designing as if readers were obtuse and uncaring. In fact, consumers of graphics are often more intelligent about the information at hand than those who fabricate the data decoration. And, no matter what, the operating moral premise of information design should be that our readers are alert and caring; they may be busy, eager to get on with it, but they are not stupid.

Clarity and simplicity are completely opposite simple-mindedness. Disrespect for the audience will leak through, damaging communication.

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Fitting post from Mr. Godin today as well — especially surrounding this highly contentious BC salmon farming issue:

Self-destructive instructions

If you ever have to say ‘lighten up’ to someone, you’ve failed twice. The first time, when you misjudged an interaction and the other person reacted in a way you’re unhappy with, and the second time, when you issue this instruction, one that is guaranteed to evoke precisely the opposite reaction you’re intending.

I’ll add “I was joking,” to this list, because it’s an incredibly lame excuse for a failed interaction.

One more: Raising your voice while you say, “You’re just going to have to calm down!” (And I’ll add librarians yelling at kids to be quiet…)

It’s completely valid to come to the conclusion that someone else can’t be a worthy audience, conversation partner or otherwise interact with you. You can quietly say to yourself, “this guy is a stiff, I’m never going to be able to please him.” But the minute you throw back instructions designed to ‘cure’ the other person, I fear you’re going to get precisely the opposite of what you were hoping for.

(Generally speaking, the word “oh” is so neutral, it’s a helpful go to pause while you wait for things to calm down.)

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Might something akin to this occur with the current PR-campaign by the BC Salmon Farmers Association, or tar sands PR campaigns, or otherwise?

For example, the “bcsalmonfacts” TV commercials that ask the question along the lines of: “do you believe everything you’re told?”

Doesn’t seem to be all that different than TV commercials these days advertising cars as good “environmental choices” and promoting the fact that fewer greenhouse gases were released in the making of the commercial because they put the car on a treadmill of sorts and sprayed it with a hose to make it look like it was raining.

Well, sure, producing the commercial might have saved a few ounces of greenhouse gases, but what about the amount that that same car is going to produce over its lifetime?

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Advertising and PR (and the prime time nightly news and campaigning politicians) that market to folks as if they are the lowest common denominator will (most likely) eventually have things blow up in their face.

All the more complicated… throw in a pile of finger pointing, stabbing and jabbing — attacks on the other sides “science”, credibility, “facts”, and just simple attacks; and… well… many folks just zone out. At least the folks in the middle or maybe even on the fence.

For others that have an impassioned opinion on either side, fires are simply fueled, logs are thrown on the blaze, and the inferno of “who’s more right?” burns through the night. (just like a marriage or family member argument that burns for years because one person is sooo much more right than the other person… and vice versa).

Calm, measured, listening, middle-road approaches — with questions of clarification, attempts at balancing and limiting assumptions, and conversations that seek clarity and understanding (and maybe even agreeing to disagree on some things)… might garner much stronger, lasting results?

Or, is that just pie-in-the-sky idealism?

Kill the geese! Kill the geese! save a salmon…?

The east coast Vancouver Island goose plot thickens. First those pesky critters cause planes to crash in the U.S. … now they’re destroying a neighborhood near you. Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail:

Bird lover advocates eradication of Canada geese

As a leading bird expert and a lifetime bird lover, Neil Dawe is the most unlikely advocate of a radical new idea that is calling for “the eradication” of virtually every Canada goose on the east coast of Vancouver Island.

“I don’t like doing it. They are beautiful birds. But what I am saying is we messed up and it’s urgent that we take action,” said the retired Canadian Wildlife Service biologist, who thinks wiping out the Island’s 15,000 resident geese can’t happen soon enough.

“You can cull the population, but that takes time, or you can eradicate the population … rounding them up during the summer molt,” he said. “Nobody likes talking about it, but it has to be addressed. They have exceeded the carrying capacity of the ecosystem.”

Hmmm. Geese exceeding the carrying capacity of the ecosystem…?

I recognize they can be a nuisance… many farmers get excited about them eating fresh seed in the spring and so on. But really… could we not have a bit more measured discussion about this. Such as, how did the geese get there in the first place?

Oh right, we humans introduced a non-migrating form of these geese earlier in the 1900s. Brilliant.

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For 31 years, Mr. Dawe managed national migratory bird sanctuaries on Vancouver Island, publishing more than 80 scientific papers and co-authoring the encyclopedic, four-volume tome, The Birds of British Columbia.

He noticed the estuaries he’d first seen in the 1970s were radically changed by the 1990s and a few years ago set out to find out why. Working with Andy Stewart, a biologist in Victoria, and Ron Buechert, a Qualicum Beach biologist, the researchers have confirmed, in two papers that are not yet published, that Canada geese are the prime cause of widespread habitat degradation.

Before the great goose kill of 2011 begins… maybe we should look at a few other factors in the estuary degradation. Like, maybe, what was the human population of Vancouver Is. in 1970 as compared to the 1990s, and now?

Or… maybe look at some of the efforts of eel grass planting in other areas. Or… Or…

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Mr. Buechert, who examined the Englishman River estuary, said his findings of habitat damage mirror those of Mr. Dawe’s on the Little Qualicum. “We are talking huge changes in the vegetation; massive areas; many hectares,” he said.

Mr. Buechert said he’d like to see hunting encouraged, but it might not be possible in some estuaries, because of nearby housing.

Hmmm, I don’t imagine all those folks in nearby housing have had any impact on the estuaries?

Is there any ‘eradication’ proposed for those growing suburban multiple thousands of square footage, breadbox neighborhoods? (which in turn flush their toilets, and wash their cars, and the occasional spillage at the gas station that ends out in nearby estuaries, or the increased run-off due to the local WalMart parking lot…)

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“many hectares” is considered “massive areas”?

What does that, then, make all the clearcuts on the upper slopes of these watersheds? (which might very well be the cause of increased silting of the estuaries).

Or, maybe increased acidification of the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait) might be playing a part too?

Or, increased pollution levels?

That’s not the geese’s fault, is it?

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a position similar to folks that flip out about the proposed rabbit kill at the University of Victoria. I’m not a contributing member of PETA, or even the local enviro organization.

It’s the somewhat ridiculous-ness (with respect to the researchers quoted here) of simply proposing another narrow-viewed human intervention to a problem we created in the first place.

Narrow-viewed folks introduced geese in the first place — just like the deer, raccoon, squirrel, rats, and other species introduced to places like Haida Gwaii (formerly referred to as: Queen Charlotte Is.) — for narrow-viewed reasons e.g., increase hunting opps, or to be predators of previously introduced species…

It’s not all that different than the raging debate over wild salmon vs. use of hatcheries to augment wild runs.

Or re-introducing species like wolves to an area, then, a few years later proposing culls or sterilization because wolves are killing cattle, or too many moose, etc.

Or building communities in prime cougar habitat then flipping out when they kill the family dog in the wooded backyard.

There must be some other ideas out there that take into account the wider impacts?

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It’s a mirror image of the great search these days for the great salmon killer — must have been the seals… must have been he squid… must have been the mackerel… must have been the ocean currents.

Well, sure, all of those probably play a part — but are they THE reason? No.

We are – for the most part.

It’s like some biblical prophecy gone wrong.

Man has dominion over the earth. Thou shalt introduce animal species wherever thou pleases… Oh wait… (a few decades later) thou shalt cull thous’ introduced animal species because they are a scourge upon the estuary.

Thou shalt throw $75,000 (or so) at the issue and presto thous’ estuary is healed… and the salmon fry will prosper and, thus, thou will prosper.

There’s a reason why nature is often referred to as: The “Wild”.

You know… that word that has a variety of definitions, such as:

Lacking supervision or restrain“;

marked by extreme lack of restraint or control”;

Lacking regular order or arrangement; disarranged“;

Based on little or no evidence or probability; unfounded.

Or one of my favorites: A natural or undomesticated state.

Hmmm…. all of these seem to suggest that maybe we’re just a cog in the gears, or a little screw in the mechanics — not the one driving the bus.

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Maybe a little wider camera angle on this would prove more fruitful? Or, as the saying goes, maybe we should stand on the balcony and look at this issue from a little further back… as opposed to up to our knees in mud and goose shit.

This continued interventionist view, as if we humans can really “fix” the issues we are largely responsible for in the first place, is akin to sending the population of Prince George to pee on summer wildfires burning pine beetle killed forests.

Or, introducing policies through the United Nations to stop all cattle on the planet from farting and thus reduce greenhouse gases.

Or, telling all the latest leadership candidates in BC politics to stop blowing so much hot air and thus reducing coastal erosion due to increased storm events and climate change. (or maybe suggesting they actually talk about things that matter)

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When it comes to living in “the wild”, maybe a little more adaptation and a little less useless mitigation efforts might be the way to go?

Just a thought… or did I get your goose?

Open source salmon?

Mama Grizzly and 3 cubs - Babine River counting fence: Open Source Salmon


How about this for 2011…? The Pacific Salmon Commission opens their ‘science’ to anyone that’s interested. They put a call out for a contest to anyone to devise a better system of in-season salmon management.

They base this system on initiatives such as Proctor and Gamble’s “Connect and Develop” initiative, which is tagged as an “open innovation strategy”. Rather than relying only on internal research and development, P&G has opened up their product development to any outsider that’s interested.

Also in 2011, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) starts an initiative called: WikiSalmon.

What is it?

Well… in an incredible turn of events, DFO opens their process of “managing” salmon and in turn reduces the financial sucking noise emanating from their overly inflated ‘senior manager’ salaried workforce based in Ottawa (that real hotbed of salmon spawning and migration).

Throughout the range of Pacific salmon, impassioned folks (referred to as the Gumboot Army) are setting out across thousands of cricks, creeks, streams, and lakes looking at salmon habitat, counting salmon, evaluating inputs and outputs from salmon ecosystems — and entering all of this information onto their computer, and in turn onto the worldwide web — similar to Wikipedia (one of the more impressive open source projects online).

As opposed to a $15 million+, legal-heavy, DFO-heavy, paper-producing, ‘fisheries science’-heavy, preeminent expert-laden process of an ‘inquiry’ — the B.C. and Canadian government, the states of Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho, and the US federal government fund a: Citizen’s Assembly on Wild Salmon.

The Assembly utilizes technology as much as possible cutting down on travel (teleconference, etc.) and has dedicated teams in each state and province that travel to as many small communities as possible to let people know about the Assembly and get information from average everyday folks about salmon in their area. (citizen science at work)

This info-gathering process utilizes a ‘wiki’-like format, rarely utilizes “panel-like” processes where public speaking and presentations is a must. (did you know that public speaking ranks higher than the fear of death for the majority of folks in the western world?).

Instead, more encouraging formats such as World Cafe, or Open Space, or my absolute favorite: sitting at the kitchen table… are the most-relied upon for gathering info.

About this point, some folks reading this may be wondering what was in my Christmas shortbread cookies or holiday brownies…

_ _ _ _ _

If you haven’t heard the term “open source” or aren’t too sure what it means — it doesn’t really matter… What I can guarantee you though, is that this term will continue to become much more familiar to many in the near future.

Many already are — especially with the current fuss over WikiLeaks.

If you’ve been reading any of the multitude of books emanating from the ‘business’ section at the bookstore, or Amazon, or the library — “open source” is probably quite a familiar term, as are success stories of this approach.

Open source

Furthermore, if you’re reading this blog post you are benefiting — well… utilizing — open source software. WordPress has been an immensely successful open source project. As has Wikipedia.


If you’re using Firefox as your web browser: open source.

Pretty good chance that when you’re at work the computer servers are running on Linux: more open source. (Linux is the poster child for open source).

Or, web servers running on Apache: it’s been developed open source.

If you don’t want to get sucked into buying Microsoft crap, go with OpenOffice. It’s been out for ten years now.

_ _ _ _ _ _

mass collaboration

Think it’s just a technology thing then read about Canadian gold miner Goldcorp (or companies like Proctor & Gamble and others). These stories are told at length in the very successful book: Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything.

There’s a shorter version from a 2007 BusinessWeek article by the authors of the book:

A few years back, Toronto-based gold mining company Goldcorp was in trouble. Besieged by strikes, lingering debts, and an exceedingly high cost of production, the company had terminated mining operations.

Conditions in the marketplace were hardly favorable. The gold market was contracting, and most analysts assumed that the company’s fifty-year old mine in Red Lake, Ontario, was dying. Without evidence of substantial new gold deposits, Goldcorp was likely to fold.

Chief Executive Officer Rob McEwen needed a miracle. Frustrated that his in-house geologists couldn’t reliably estimate the value and location of the gold on his property, McEwen did something unheard of in his industry: He published his geological data on the Web for all to see and challenged the world to do the prospecting.

The “Goldcorp Challenge” made a total of $575,000 in prize money available to participants who submitted the best methods and estimates.

Every scrap of information (some 400 megabytes worth) about the 55,000 acre property was revealed on Goldcorp’s Web site. News of the contest spread quickly around the Internet and more than 1,000 virtual prospectors from 50 countries got busy crunching the data.


But Goldcorp isn’t a dot-com kind of company. Mining is one of the world’s oldest industries, and it’s governed by some pretty conventional thinking. Take Industry Rule No. 1: Don’t share your proprietary data. The fact that McEwen went open-source was a stunning gamble. And even McEwen was surprised by how handsomely the gamble paid off.


The contestants identified 110 targets on the Red Lake property, more than 80% of which yielded substantial quantities of gold. In fact, since the challenge was initiated, an astounding 8 million ounces of gold have been found—worth well over $3 billion. Not a bad return on a half million dollar investment.

Today, Goldcorp is reaping the fruits of its radical approach to exploration. McEwen’s willingness to open-source the prospecting process not only yielded copious quantities of gold, it introduced Goldcorp to state-of-the-art technologies and exploration methodologies, including new drilling techniques, and data collection procedures, and more advanced approaches to geological modeling.

This catapulted his under-performing $100 million company into a $9 billion juggernaut while transforming a backwards mining site in Northern Ontario into one of the most innovative and profitable properties in the industry.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Hmmm… open source, innovation, and citizen science fully utilized to better look after wild salmon? Quite a thought.

Thousands of people reading open scientific articles, newspaper articles, and the like and then sharing these through various open source and social media venues. (sidenote: Facebook just passed Google as the number one most visited site in the world).

These days if average joe and jill want to read scientific articles… forget it. They are protected behind their peer-reviewed electronic walls, remaining the domain of the preeminents and annual subscription paying folks with various letters behind their names.

Want to access Fisheries and Oceans science or decision-making rationale… the ‘science’ and ‘decisions’ paid for by citizens… gotta go through “Freedom of Information” legislation.

Want to look at data from salmon farmers on the BC Coast,  practices that potentially endanger wild salmon (as they have anywhere else open-pen salmon farms have been operated), and that utilize First Nations traditional territories and public lands and waters — nope, got to go through legal challenges.

_ _ _ _ _

One of the biggest barriers?

In my humble opinion… demographics.

Much of the senior civil service is occupied by… well… more ‘senior’ individuals (many approaching retirement in coming months and years)

The demographics of Canadian politicians … well… more ‘senior’, with an average age of 55.

I recognize I dance a dangerous razor edge here… I don’t mean to be ‘age-ist’; more suggestive of diversity in looking to solutions.

At a “digital economy” conference in 2009, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore (part of the more ‘senior’ contingent) comments on this issue (in regards to digital copyright laws) and is a fitting conclusion to this post:

The average age of a Member of Parliament is 55…

And you’d be surprised the number of Members of Parliament who have never held an iPhone, who couldn’t tell you, functionally, how a Blackberry works and have no idea how these things integrate.

The old way of doing things is over. These things are all now one. And it’s great and it’s never been better and we need to be enthusiastic and embrace these things.

I point out the average age of a member of parliament because don’t assume that those who are making the decisions and who are driving the debate understand all the dynamics that are at play here. Don’t assume that everybody understands the opportunities that are at play here and how great this can be for Canada.

Bullshit Bingo Card

Salmon Think Tank

Last night I attended the Simon Fraser University sponsored Speaking for the Salmon Series: which consisted of a recent “Scientific Think Tank” presenting its findings from a recent “Think Tank” on: The Ups and Downs of Fraser River Sockeye.

It was an interesting presentation by some good folks that have spent a lot of time ‘studying’ salmon. Many folks that I have respect for in their dedication and energy in exploring these issues. I can also appreciate that the group last night approached the issue with a certain amount of openness to other perspectives.

However, just as I mentioned in my comments last night at the public presentation — what really can one expect the outcomes to be from a gathering of some 35 scientists?

Well… from the summary paper given to attendees last night:

“efforts should be made to develop a coordinated multi-disciplinary research program to address these issues” (e.g. ups and downs of Fraser sockeye).

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So a group of scientists get together, 23 listed on the sheet from last night, 21 with “Dr.” preceding their name — and a big recommendation coming from the Think Tank is: “more science, more research.”

My thoughts passed along last night… if we got 20+ economists together to discuss the salmon issue — they would most likely suggest an approach that would explore: ‘supply & demand’, ‘cost benefit analsyis’, and marginal benefits…

If we got 20+ teachers together to discuss salmon issues — they would most likely recommend curriculum development, teaching tools, and classroom activities…

If we got 20+ lawyers together (e.g. not much unlike the Cohen Commission) — they would most likely recommend some legal analysis, constitutional rights, and legal precedent…

If we got 20+ politicians together — they would most likely launch into the importance of ‘democracy’ and ‘justice’ and ‘open & transparent processes’ and the importance of their ‘constituents…

And thus scientists recommending more science  — isn’t too surprising.

(of course they did also turn up the pressure on implementation of the Wild Salmon Policy too…)

I sort of ponder what would happen if we got 20+ salmon together to discuss the issue…

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As I mentioned last night, and in posts on this site —- what if instead of repeated Commissions and Inquiries and Auditor General reports, we established a process not much unlike the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform which finished its work in BC in 2004.

With this type of process, there are no experts, or preeminent scientists, or folks that tend to use lots of big words, or bureaucratic drivelers or politicians — driving the process. Those sorts of folks are just advisers making recommendations.

It’s average joe and jill folks, randomly chosen, that evaluate the information and release their recommendations. Good plain old common sense, intuition, and street smarts — all used to look for ideas, potential actions, and solid recommendations. And, in the case of the Citizen’s Assembly, it went to a referendum.

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As with any ‘group’ of people — when a group gets together that is all versed in the same language and mode of thinking, it can become challenging to really step outside the confines of that world and really think with some innovation. (even good, well-meaning individuals like salmon scientists).

One of the other problems is that some language becomes common-place — when used in the world outside of the room, average folks need some serious translation. And sometimes, after awhile, some words just don’t really mean anything at all — they become like the empty nutrients in a chocolate bar, or Coke Zero, or something to that effect…

“ecosystem-based management” as one of the finest examples of this.

For this purpose, I had a post awhile back on Bumpf-Word Bingo.

Last night, this idea came up in casual conversation — and for any of those folks attending the Cohen Commission or other fisheries meetings — we can politely rename this Bullshit Bingo.

And here is your playing card. Standard Bingo rules apply: when you black out a line, or an entire card, you shout out “Bullshit”!

stewardship conservation implementation plans ecosystem objectives variables
sustainability ecosystem restoration benchmarks policy
strategic planning biodiversity transparency best practices safeguard
performance indicators extirpation establish linkages baseline monitoring ecosystem integrity
comprehensive escapement data management adaptive management framework

This would be all the more interesting if some folks would put up some prizes for the game… happy playing.

decolonizing salmon management?

a rather odd recent presentation by DFO to First Nations reps

As folks that read this blog from time to time have probably noticed, I often note Globe & Mail articles in my post. I was drawn to one today:

Who will pay for the environmental mess we’re in?

The article starts:

Cancun’s white beaches and resort hotels provide a fitting setting for a global argument over the rich world’s responsibility for damaging the Earth’s environment and the extent of its “climate debt” to poorer nations.

Divisions between the rich and poor – so apparent in such sunny vacation spots – have fueled bitter debates that threaten to block progress at the United Nations climate summit under way on the Mayan Riviera…

I don’t think I am the only one that finds some irony in the idea of hundreds, if not thousands of people, flying across the globe to attend a conference on climate change.

However, what peaked my attention a little more from this article:

The recognition of differing levels of responsibility between developed and developing countries has been embedded for decades in international agreements that deal with the growing climate crisis.

Based on 160 years of fossil-fueled economic growth, the industrialized world has emitted an estimated 75 per cent of the man-made greenhouse gases that remain trapped in the atmosphere.

Globally, energy-related emissions have climbed to 29 billion tonnes a year from 200 million tonnes in 1850 as the developed world relied on coal-fired electricity and oil-fueled transportation to deliver unprecedented prosperity to its citizens.

I heard a news report the other day that 2010 is shaping up to be the third hottest year globally, ever recorded in history… curious that.

The article continues:

Bolivian President Evo Morales has been leading the case for the prosecution, calling not only for reparations but also a “people’s tribunal” to impose monetary and criminal sanctions on offending rich-world governments and corporations.

Last April, Mr. Morales played host to the People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which issued a manifesto calling on rich countries to finance the “decolonization of the atmosphere.” The Cochabamba Accord was endorsed by activist groups throughout the developed world.

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This idea of ‘decolonization‘ is certainly not a new one; however, it seems to be surfacing more in various areas. Here in northern BC, I started hearing the term more frequently in 2007 when Northwest Community College (based in Terrace, BC) started an institution-wide initiative called “Decolonizing Education“.

Since 2007, NWCC has hosted a conference called “Challenging the Paradigm” . In the invite to this years conference the letter states:

Northwest Community College is on a transformative journey to indigenize the culture and practice of how it provides education in Northwest British Columbia. This involves learning from Aboriginal values and needs, and taking direction from the communities. We base our approach on respect, relationships and responsibility.

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Yet, this idea is not just some small regional idea… the United Nations has had dedicated Committees for Decolonization since the 1960s and even a question and answer (Q & A) sheet. The UN also had two successive “International Decades for the eradication of Colonialism” . The second of which is just about to end in less than a month (2001-2010).

Going all the way back to 1960 the UN adopted Resolution 1514: also known as the “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” or simply “Declaration on Decolonization” .

It states that all people have a right to self-determination and proclaimed that colonialism should be brought to a speedy and unconditional end.

Now reading through this material, one might ask “hey salmonguy, the UN work is largely for countries working towards self determination in places like Africa and the Caribbean that were long under colonial rule… This isn’t really relevant in Canada…”

Maybe in parts of Canada where Treaties were negotiated with indigenous people… but, certainly not here in large sections of British Columbia where no Treaties exist — would be the response from salmonguy.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Canada and British Columbia have exerted ownership and control over the lands, rivers, and coasts (out to 200 miles) of B.C. (and the critters that inhabit those) — e.g. the common belief that most every open space is “Crown Land” . Those powers are divided up in Canada through Sections 91 and 92 of Canada’s Constitution.

Yet, this is a great misconception.

British Columbia has been engaged in a Treaty Process with First Nations for about 18 years now. This, in simple terms, means that much of B.C. remains: disputed territory.

One could draw an analogy with the many disputes around the world over territory — places like the island recently shelled by North Korea… disputed territory. Or, the ongoing disputes between Israel and Palestine.. disputed territory.

Or… closer to my own heritage: the disputes over the Alsace-Lorraine area between France and Germany. Or, Ireland and England (e.g. Northern Ireland), Wales, Scotland… disputed territory.

Or right here in Canada with the discussions surrounding Quebec.

_ _ _ _ _

Territorial disputes are complicated things… and in BC, the issue of Treaties with First Nations and the growing body of case law and policies on aboriginal rights and title  — is no exception.

Plus, in British Columbia, and the ongoing kangaroo court of a Treaty process, is stumbling, bumbling, and fumbling in reaching resolution of a complicated 150 years, or so, of history between colonial contactees and First Nations folks and communities.

The Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser River sockeye, commissioned a research paper on this issue: The Aboriginal and Treaty Rights Framework Underlying the Fraser River Sockeye Salmon Fishery. It’s a “simple” 66-page read…along with the 70 page read on International Law, and 15-page read on the Legislative Framework.

As explained at paragraph 145 of the Aboriginal and Treaty rights paper:

With relatively few historic treaties and even fewer concluded modern treaties, it appears that, in many cases, fisheries management decisions will require consideration of proven or unproven aboriginal rights and title as opposed to negotiated treaty rights.

Yet, as continued in the next paragraph… even if treaties were settled, this is not necessarily conclusive on the issue — paragraph 146:

Also, although treaties may be an important source of information in assessing the rights held by aboriginal peoples, they nevertheless cannot be taken as comprehensive. As articulated by the Court in Mikisew Cree, “[t]reaty making is an important stage in the long process of reconciliation, but it is only a stage” and as such, a treaty is “not the complete discharge of the duty arising from the honour of the Crown, but a rededication of it.”

What is central to the salmon issue from the colonial perspective — at least at this point in the history of BC and established case law,  is the “honour of the Crown” and “the Duty to consult.

Cohen Commission report, paragraph 159:

The “Crown’s assertion of sovereignty over an aboriginal people and the de facto control of land and resources that were formerly in the control of that people” is the foundation for the Crown‟s duty of honourable conduct. The honour of the Crown is always at stake in its dealings with aboriginal peoples and it is this honour that may give rise to a duty to consult aboriginal peoples in a process of fair dealing and reconciliation. (my emphasis)

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Reconciliation — at its core, means “to become compatible or consistent” .

At its root is ‘conciliate’: To make or attempt to make compatible.

The example sentence for ‘reconciliation’ from the Free Online Dictionary is a perfect one in this case:

reconcile my way of thinking with yours. (See Synonyms at “adapt”.)

So there you have it, there is ‘adaptation’ required on all sides of the equation; from all sides of this complexity.

There is a reconciliation required, which at its roots means that all sides must seek to find some compatibility.

Unfortunately, my experiences thus far in this work of salmon; in this long-stretching discussion about how we all look after salmon… is largely governed by dictation.

And I use that term in its multiple meanings.. for example: “to read aloud” — Or, to “prescribe with authority; impose.”

More unfortunate, is that many well-meaning folks within the institution that has been given responsibility for ensuring conservation of salmon, paragraph 156 of Cohen Commission report:

Conservation, in particular, is a responsibility that the Court has stated is shouldered by the federal government alone…

may not have a very good understanding of the history of First Nations people and communities in BC and their relationship with salmon — and most likely, have very little understanding of the atrocities, challenges, and highly-unbalanced political reality of the last 150 years (or so) of history. (Some folks may, however, most… not likely).

Add in the highly unbalanced financial and technical reality of participating meaningfully in decision-making, policy-making, and fisheries decisions regarding BC’s salmon — and I ask:

How is reconciliation achieved?

If to ‘conciliate’ suggests attempts to make thinking and cultural realities ‘compatible’…. and “reconciliation” means to: reconcile my way of thinking with yours…

How do we do that in the current reality, current climate, and current governing regime?

Yes, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as part of the federal government, currently has the mandate to ensure “conservation” of salmon.

However, they also have a responsibility to act honorably and consult meaningfully with First Nations.

dominant DFO scientific paradigm

How is that done through the confines, paradigms, and mental models of the dominant colonial culture? How is that done through the overly-intense focus on science and statistics?

And how is that done through a court system that is composed of largely foreign laws in relation to indigenous communities?

Maybe, as Northwest Community College has indicated, this: “involves learning from Aboriginal values and needs, and taking direction from the communities. “?

And furthermore, maybe the key to the approach is respect, relationships and responsibility.

This is going to require some decolonizing of salmon management… so that the federal government’s way of thinking is reconciled with First Nation communities way of thinking… so that the scientific paradigm is reconciled with traditional and community knowledge… so that the understanding of settler cultures relationship with salmon is reconciled with indigenous cultures relationship with salmon.

Maybe even, so that our own human relationship is reconciled with salmon…

If… as so many people suggest… this is truly about the fish; about the salmon… then some serious reconciliation, understanding, and meeting with open hearts and minds — will be required.

Continued conflict, bickering, and narrow mental models will only make our relationship with salmon all the more strained — and thus our relationships with ourselves.

everything is Marketing…and death by PowerPoint…

I’ve read this ‘marketing statement in a few places… the death one, I made up somewhat… and there is a lot of truth to both — including the wild salmon world.

At the beginning of this past week I sat through two days of presentations from the Department of Fisheries and Ocean on fisheries catch monitoring including: First Nation fisheries, commercial and recreational/sport. (One of my recommendations to presenters was to visit Garr Reynold’s blog Presentation Zen and some of the work of Nancy Duarte… I also recommend Edward Tufte’s work and books on how to present statistical and quantitative information)

Part of the reason for this is:

everything is marketing


marketing is everything

Seth Godin has a decent post on the issue from January this year:

In between frames

Scott McCloud’s classic book on comics explains a lot more than comics.

A key part of his thesis is that comic books work because the action takes place between the frames. Our imagination fills in the gaps between what happened in that frame and this frame, which means that we’re as much involved as the illustrator and author are in telling the story.

Marketing, it turns out, works precisely the same way.

Marketing is what happens in between the overt acts of the marketer. Yes you made a package and yes you designed a uniform and yes you ran an ad… but the consumer’s take on what you did is driven by what happened out of the corner of her eye, in the dead spaces, in the moments when you let your guard down.

Marketing is what happens when you’re not trying, when you’re being transparent and when there’s no script in place.

It’s not marketing when everything goes right on the flight to Chicago. It’s marketing when your people don’t respond after losing the guitar that got checked.

It’s not marketing when I use your product as intended. It’s marketing when my friend and I are talking about how the thing we bought from you changed us.

It’s not marketing when the smiling waitress appears with the soup. It’s marketing when we hear two waiters muttering to each other behind the serving station.

Consumers are too smart for the frames. It’s the in-between frame stuff that matters. And yet marketers spend 103% of our time on the frames.

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See, it’s not just public service workers that succumb to the “death by PowerPoint” disease; I was audience to another dreadful PowerPoint presentation on Wens this past week following two days of fisheries meetings. This presentation was on literacy in Canada. The sad part is that some of the stats within the presentation were rather stunning — the presentation itself, however… was absolutely dreadful.

It was jammed full of graphs from Microsoft Excel (about as much creativity as a block of concrete) and slides so full of ‘bullets’ they looked like beer cans dead by a fence post at a rural redneck protest against Canada’s long gun registry.

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To give you an idea of some of the stunners… over 9 million Canadians have literacy levels of Level 1 and 2 — on a 5-Level scale. Level 3 is the level suggested to be the minimum to function effectively in today’s society — and about equivalent to a high school graduate.

One of the industries with the biggest gaps between what is required for literacy skills, and what is actually present in the workforce:


(now that’s a scary thought).

Worse yet… research suggests that 98% of nurses do not have the literacy skills required for their often highly technical jobs.

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Here’s the challenge:        you  can have some of the best, most alarming, most important, statistics and information ever…     However, if you can not present them well (e.g. the “frames” as Godin calls them), or in a unique way that cuts through the buzz of today’s Information Age… you and your info will be lost in the noise of today’s society. You won’t even make it to the space in between the frames… other than folks suggesting “man… did you stay awake for that PowerPoint presentation…”

(And trust me, spending hours agonizing on the little bullet point animation tricks — e.g. “checkerboard from right”, “flash from left” and so on and so on — only make it worse.

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How does this fit in the salmon world?

Well… everyone is so busy trying to prove their own statistics (see post on salmon science and Ikea effect for dangers of this), or arguments, or “best practices”, or “strategic frameworks” or “statistical models” for saving salmon — and thus many seem to have forgotten the: “in-between frames stuff.”

An other big part of the “in-between stuff” (you know, it’s like how coffee breaks and lunch time are always the most productive components of workshops or conferences) is that the frames that corral the “in-between” should be seriously innovative, seriously different, and just plain… less serious.

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The combination of PowerPoint — or overhead slides in general — and a speaker to provide narrative, is an excellent tool; it’s an opportunity. However, like the great yin and yang, it’s also a frigging crutch.

Some PowerPoint presentations are so bad these days that i’d almost prefer if people put their entire presentation in tiny print and asked me to read it and ask questions when I was done.

PowerPoint hell by N. American leading salmon scientist

Case in point from a keynote speaker, who is also a leading North American salmon scientist, at a conference this past March with delegates from all around the Pacific Rim.

Death by PowerPoint… double ‘p’ homicide…

Collaboration: the key to social change

Now here’s a thought:

Collaboration the key to social change

“It’s not technology or money that’s lacking but a culture of collaboration,” Richard Alvarez, president and CEO of Canada Health Infoway told The Globe and Mail recently.

…Wicked problems are complex and deeply rooted and they involve many stakeholders in government, business and the community. No single actor, no matter how much money and clout it has, can overcome such problems. Instead, all the stakeholders must make common cause, contributing skills, influence and resources that can make social transformation unfold.

Achieving social change requires a different set of operating values, according to Michael Edwards, author of Small Change: Why Business Won’t Save the World. These operating values are co-operation rather than competition, collective action more than individual effort, and patient, long-term support for systemic results over immediate results.

I couldn’t agree more…

The last several days I have been on the road. Monday and Tuesday were spent in a conference room with the curtains closed watching numerous PowerPoint Presentations by Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) staff. All of the presentations were focussed on fisheries catch monitoring — First Nation, commercial and recreational.

(with some irony the next two days of my trip involve literacy and community development — I’ll have a post soon with thoughts on the importance of the links between all of these)

The two day “workshop” was put together by a ‘committee’ of First Nations and DFO reps. Unfortunately, they may not have got the memo on the ‘operational values’ espoused above:  “co-operation rather than competition, collective action more than individual effort, and patient, long-term support for systemic results over immediate results.”

I don’t doubt that the intention for positive results was forgotten… just that some of the approaches are the same old, same old. For example, one of the first presentations was a ‘concept’ presentation. “Concept” in that there was nothing to share other than the concept of another DFO “strategic framework”. There were some “ideas thrown around” on how a “risk continuum might look like”.

Nothing concrete, nothing overly solid.

The issue I have, is not the fact that the presentation was about a forthcoming document, and was presented in the spirit of trying to let folks know about a “Draft” document coming out that would involve “consultation”.

The issue is that if there is a true spirit with the Department to truly engage in collaborative management, or joint management, or the scariest term “co-management”… then it can’t continue to write Draft documents and “strategic frameworks” behind closed doors and then suggest that they are “open for input”.

If collaboration is not present from the beginning — such as the moment pencil hits paper — then the ‘wicked complex deeply rooted problems’ (e.g. looking after wild salmon) will only continue to fester and knot themselves so tight that all circulation is choked off.

This is not to necessarily sound like another DFO-bashing rant, as I met some very good people that work within the organization with passion and fervor for the issues; it’s more to suggest that we can all do better.

We have to do better.

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As suggested above: everyone involved “must make common cause, contributing skills, influence and resources that can make social transformation unfold.”

As “collaborate” does mean: “To work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort.”

However that is made very difficult when the player with the majority of the sticks, balls, bats and financial resources lays the first foundation with no input from others and then says — “ok, now we’re ready for your input…”

Once words are on paper — and ‘risk continuums’ and ‘strategic frameworks’ and ‘cost-benefit analysis’ and so on — then positions are entrenched, defensive barricades have been erected, the artillery is ready to fire, and the momentum of the growing snowball rolling downhill is underway.

When there are power imbalances, resource imbalances, 150 years of not-so-good history, and some real barriers to empathy and understanding of other teams — then ‘common cause’ (e.g. the fish and all they support) and social transformations become even more difficult then they already are.