Category Archives: Stories

Once upon a salmon… in Oregon… (what we knew then…)

The other day I had a post: Once upon a salmon… in Oregon.

1950s

In that post, I highlighted some information from a 1950s report: Some Factors Influencing the Trends of Salmon Populations in Oregon.

The report focuses on coho runs in certain Oregon streams:

Oregon streams

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The trend of salmon populations and specifically of salmon catches within commercial fisheries was rather familiar… dwindling fast.

The report looked at commercial fisheries catches in Oregon from the mid-1920s on to the late 1940s.

It was clear in the report that fisheries were having an impact… (seems like a bit of a no-brainer…).

The report also looked at: Other Potential causes such as:

Pollution?, Hatcheries?, Logging?, Waterflow?

Remember this report is from 1950.

Factors dismissed: Pollution and Hatcheries (most were still quite small at this point).

Factors implicated:

Negative factors

_ _ _ _ _ _

The report paints a pretty clear picture of the impacts of overfishing and logging — and in turn the impact of logging on waterflows.

Logging impacts... "disturbance of ecological balance"

“… resultant erratic flow patterns, silting, increased water temperatures, and general disturbance of the ecological balance…”

Remember this was 1950…

For those in BC who know some of the fisheries history — this was well before the Fish Forest Interaction Program (FFIP) of the 1980s… this was well before studies began in earnest in Carnation Creek on west coast Vancouver Island… that was well before the BC Forest Practices Code arrived in the 1990s. This was before Greenpeace was even ‘Green’ and the “peace” movement was not yet active.

This was when David Suzuki was probably still in grade school… and David Bower hadn’t yet started his rage against dams and facilitating growth of the Sierra Club in the U.S.

John Muir was probably about the only prevalent “conservationist” “tree-hugger”… and he’d been dead awhile…

Here is chart comparing the trends in salmon catch  to the production of lumber board feet in Coos Bay, Oregon through the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.

lumber production to salmon populations

I’m sure someone will want to argue that this is coincidence and that correlation is not causation and so on…

And well… folks did argue against this report. There is transcribed conversation at the end of the report, that really is quite revealing.

“Discussion”

I guess Mr. A.C. Taft from California didn’t understand that part about: “… resultant erratic flow patterns, silting, increased water temperatures, and general disturbance of the ecological balance…”

Logging companies

So Mr. Riddell is fronting the age-old argument… “you can’t really tell us here that overfishing could in fact be an impact…? there must be other factors…”

Then Mr. Glover from California… “do you think changing logging practices would make a difference…?”

Ummm, gee, there’s that curious part about: “… resultant erratic flow patterns, silting, increased water temperatures, and general disturbance of the ecological balance…” again…

Hard bit of info to pick up…

Then there’s the question by Mr. H. D. Fry, Jr. “hey… could you explain that point to me again about how intensive clearcut logging and increased water flows are related…?”

Hmmmmm….

Same answer many folks have provided for generations…

Trees are giant sponges. An average tree, especially an old-growth Douglas Fir absorbs and retains an incredible amount of water that falls from the sky. That water is then retained from suffering the full effects of gravity and raging down hillsides through the point of lowest resistance — stream channels. More water running down hillsides means erosion, mudslides, raging debris torrents, etc.

Trees hold hillsides up and stream channels up.

Take the trees off hillsides and very little is holding all that soil on that hillside. Add in 5-9 metres of rainfall, snow, melting snow, and the worse rain-on-snow events, and what happens?

 

just "natural"

 

west coast of Vancouver Island near Brooks Peninsula

more Seattle Times photos -- 2009 (...salmon stream...?)

I think the point is clear…

The main point of all this is that for well over 60 years we have known what impacts salmon populations.

In Oregon, folks knew in the 1950s that overfishing and logging were decimating salmon populations and in turn decimating salmon fisheries and in turn decimating coastal communities.

Unfortunately, overfishing and overlogging carried on in the Coos Bay area for quite some time after this rather clearly worded report.

Have you been to Coos Bay, Oregon lately?

It’s a nice area, however last time I was through the downtown was gutted with more “for lease” signs then business signs.

The population peaked around 15,000 people in the 1970s and hasn’t changed much since.

Is the story of Coos Bay and salmon and logging — all that different then say any Eureka, California or Port Angeles, Washington or Port Alberni, BC or Port Hardy, BC or Port Clements, BC… or Port Edward, BC… or… or… or….

And yet it doesn’t seem to matter what local knowledge says in these communities. Folks have been sitting there ringing alarm bells saying: “this is not sustainable, this pace cannot be maintained, our communities won’t survive this…”

“This is boom-and-bust…”

“We are upsetting the ecological balance…”

And the response is: “sit down and shut-up you darn tree hugger…”

“don’t rock the boat…”

“if we stop now we will impact the economy…”

and so on, and so on, and so on…

_ _ _ _ _ _

Well… where’s that booming fishing industry now…? Where’s that booming logging economy?

Where are those things that apparently “built BC…”?

And… where the heck are the salmon?

_ _ _ _ _ _

The response… (and no offence to the hard workers involved)… in British Columbia… is another multi-million dollar public inquiry involving lawyers, scientists, and know-it-alls sitting there asking the same questions… looking for the same magic bullet that is not us… some magical coincidence of ocean conditions or climate impact…

And on the other side of the equation, a slew of panels of experts, saying the same thing… “we just can’t say for sure”… “we just don’t know”… “it’s just all so uncertain”…

And the same people and institutions that were on deck to watch the sinking of the wild salmon ship… testify, trying to prove that they didn’t know what ‘sinking’ looked like… or that they believed ramming harder into the iceberg was going to right the ship… not sink it…

No one will admit that they didn’t know how to bail… or simply didn’t want to…

And anyone that suggests: “well, look at this… we harvested the crap out of them [salmon] for close to a hundred years with no respect for small or weak stocks or other species (e.g. mixed stock fisheries)… we nuked the crap out of their freshwater habitat… we are still dumping sewage and all manner of synthetic drugs and compounds into the key areas where they make their adjustments to saltwater as juveniles and freshwater as adults…

…and we’ve systematically changed the climate within a generation, which changes water flows, speeds up glacial melt, and assists in devastating habitat impacts through beetle infestations and otherwise…

and anytime any population demonstrates any sort of population blip to the positive we insist on returning to the old habit of harvesting the shit out them…

Would we treat our households this way?

Would we treat our household finances this way? (oh wait, some do… but then there’s this thing called bankruptcy…)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

And worse yet, the institutions mandated to ensure the future of species like salmon and all of the individual runs — is basing decisions on decades old information.

For example, the numbers that guide how many Chinook should be reaching the spawning grounds in the Fraser River is based on numbers devised in the 1980s. Things have changed a little since then… there may be a few more challenges for those fish to face, so should we maybe not be getting more fish onto the spawning grounds…?

If I planned to run my household on a 1980s reality… would that make sense?

If Jack Layton of the New Democrat Party (NDP)  in the current Canadian federal election ran on the same platform of as NDP leader Ed Broadbent of the 1980s — would something not seem a little off… or fishy?

_ _ _ _ _ _

Fundamental changes are required in our relationship with wild salmon…

And not one based on: how many can we catch?

The story that starts: Once upon a salmon

…finishes with the predictable ending of a fairy tale… its just that this one isn’t a positive fairy tale ending… and it’s not a very good fish-story… more of a grim Grimm’s tale…

It generally ends in:

when I was a kid I can remember walking across that river on the backs of salmon… there were soooo many fish, the river was alive with the sound of slapping tails and slithery, fishy movement…

And now, we’re lucky to see a pair of spawners

Once upon a salmon… in Oregon

random finds

Another random find online:

Some Factors Influencing the trends of salmon population in Oregon” from 1950

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The ‘table of contents’ probably couldn’t be much simpler, nor paint such a clear picture:

 

Table of Contents

.

And here’s a summary of content:

Some factors...?

So there we are with the terra nullius assumption in the graph (e.g. Chinook catch was zero prior to 1870…) — however at least not in the text:

Explorers coming into the region… reported intensive fishing by the large Indian population at natural barriers.

(Granted, it’s odd language… were the Indian populations at the natural barriers or was that where the intensive fishing occurred?).

So we can see the trend of the population:

Around the mid-1880s over 40 million pounds of (just) Chinook salmon were landed on the Columbia River in commercial fisheries

Let’s just say a rough average of these Chinook being 15 pounds each… That’s almost 2.7 million Chinook alone landed in the Columbia by the commercial fleet!

And yet, no idea of sport catch… Or, no idea of what was captured by Native fisheries prior to that — or during that… (so all graphs suggest “0”…)

Regardless, we can see the trend… it’s a common one in fisheries catch statistics around the world — starts high on graph left and trends downwards as we move right towards the present day on the x-axis of the graph.

(At least in regards to looking at fisheries statistics on certain ‘economically’ valuable fish species… the trend in total fisheries catch trends up as human populations explode; however, the fish populations exploited are coming from further and further down the food chain).

_ _ _ _ _

Section 2: Possible Causes of Decline

This section of the report concentrates on Coho — or ‘silver salmon’.

.

The report focuses on Coho in the following Oregon rivers:

Oregon streams

 

 

Here is the Coho catch trends over a 26-year period:

trends of commercial Coho catch -- Oregon 1923 to 1949

Hmmm… similar trend… downwards.

The concerning thing with downward trending commercial catches is that these are not necessarily representative of populations — especially when the troll fisheries for coho were largely unrestricted until 1948.

unrestricted troll fishery

There is certainly ‘trends’ in actual fish populations that can be picked up in declining commercial catches — however they’re very worrying — as an unrestricted fishing fleet is not going to reduce efforts when they see declining catch numbers… they’re going to increase efforts, improve technology, and so on to ensure that the catches from the years previous are matched or improved upon.

(you know… no different then the standard corporate modus operandi… constant, and ever-present “growth” in revenues and profits).

And so declining commercial catches — in the face of ever-improving technology and knowledge — is a very worrisome trend for the actual fish populations (especially over a 26-year time frame… that’s not much time in fish populations — e.g. 6 – 8 life cycles).

Annual landings of Coho on Coquille 1923 - 1946

 

Annual landings of Coho on Stiletz 1923 - 194

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

.

Other Potential causes outlined in the report:

Pollution?, Hatcheries?, Logging?, Waterflow?

Remember this report is from 1950.

To be continued…

Once upon a salmon: “Salmon management for people”… that’s the problem isn’t it?

Pacific Salmon Management for People

I came across this book in a Vancouver Island used book store recently as well. It was published by the University of Victoria in 1977.

It’s quite a remarkable read for simply shaking one’s head and mumbling: “…we just never learn… we just never learn…”

There’s also some recognizable names from today’s salmon debates…

Here’s some material from the Preface of the book:

.

.

.

.

Over the past few years there has been a rapid and widespread expansion of enlightened attitudes towards managing resources and planning their development. Two principle components can be identified. The first is recognition that a resource is part of an ecosystem, and that manipulation of any part of the system will have effects ramifying throughout. The second component is an awareness that people also are a part of the ecosystem, and the ramifying effects will reach them in many different ways and times.

This book emphasizes the salmon resource system — the fish, the environment, the people, and the social organisation and interactions which nowadays link them together and which overlies the natural ecosystem of simpler times. Its examination of this system unfortunately cannot be comprehensive. The system is too complex for that…

… Section III concerns itself with the future, for without such prognostications the book itself would be only an academic exercise of little use to people…

Indeed.

_ _ _ _ _

Here are three quotes from Section I: Emerging Knowledge and Theory.

“One can only look with sadness and with wonder at the record of man’s use of the Pacific salmon resources…”

For myself… this book was published before I was in kindergarten… how sad and with depressed wonder is that view of man’s record with Pacific salmon — now?

_ _ _ _ _

“This (the involvement of biologists in salmon management) is particularly necessary during a management period when a philosophy of systems analysis, in which salmon tend to be regarded as statistically predictable automata, rather than living individually varying animals, is being emphasised.”

Not much has changed on this front… we now have a Department of Fisheries and Oceans “Pilot Study” called the Fraser River Spawning Sockeye Initiative (FRSSI) which is a computer modeling program that uses a variety of paper maché theories to attempt to predict run sizes and fishing limits.

_ _ _ _ _

“It is ironic that just as the agencies are beginning to achieve maximum sustained yield (on the Skeena sockeye at least), the inadequacies of this theory are becoming widely recognized.”

It is even more ironic that in 2011, thirty-four years later — salmon management is still based on this tired old theory of maximum sustained yield. It’s still a central component of the apparent Wild Salmon Policy.

_ _ _ _ _

And, yet… the conclusion to this book could, no doubt, be written today. It could be the same words used in Justice Cohen’s final report…

The problem of Pacific Salmon management is twofold: the maintenance of a natural resource, and its allocation to people with diverse claims. The setting is the contemporary world of urban and industrial growth, unemployment and inflation. The light which we throw on the problem is the new understanding that issues cannot be interpreted, nor decided upon, in isolation but must be seen in a broad context of ramifying relations which we call a system.

James Crutchfield described how man as a predator of salmon has failed conspicuously to maximize either the salmon populations or his own gains. Stocks have declined, and labour and capital have been grossly wasted. From the failure to put the fishery on a sound economic basis stems the failure to reach the primary goal of salmon management – “some composite measures of human well-being.” The chief reasons for the pursuit of immediate profit and conflicts of interest. Inadequate knowledge of the ecological needs of salmon has not been a prime cause of their decline. Decisions have been made knowingly.

The mood of today, and it may be an ephemeral mood, is tempered with restraint. The tradition of stewardship, traceable to Plato has a voice. Man has responsibilities towards nature (and the mind to the body?). Certainly the Pacific salmon must not attain the status of the Atlantic salmon in Europe…

…The problems of salmon management, then, represent in microcosm some great issues of our time. They call not merely for ecological economics but also from ecological politics. They are one test of whether man can make a civilization distinguished by restraint and a sense of place…

I know the sense of place that I have of British Columbia and the Pacific Rim in general… is one that includes healthy runs of wild Pacific salmon.

When will we learn? When will we learn?

Maybe reading these old reports on salmon ‘management’ should come with a mandatory prescription of Prozac.

Where are the 35 million sockeye? — Upper Fraser salmon rally and prayer

Stellaquo Sockeye: returning to where it came from...

Yesterday, my family and I drove to the Stellaquo River — Fraser Lake area — to attend a salmon rally and prayer organized by the Stellat’en and Nadleh Whut’en First Nations. Also attending was Alexandra Morton and her team, who are traveling the many tributaries of the upper and mid-Fraser, as part of the Salmon are Sacred campaign.

Salmon are Sacred

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Stellaquo in sockeye fall colors

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

salmon people

.

nice work Sharolise!

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

It was great to see sockeye in the river…

Stellaquo sockeye

.

And on the banks…

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

But this sign says it all:

where’s the millions?

At the fish fence run by the Stellat’en First Nation, estimates suggest about 200,000 sockeye have gone by this year (and about 4 Chinook).

This is only a percentage of the 800,000 sockeye that have been seen in past years, and millions in years gone by.

This year is comparable to the 180,000 or so counted two years ago — which was a ‘down’ year for Fraser sockeye. A year when there were basically no Fraser sockeye-focussed commercial fisheries.

Historic Fraser sockeye run this year?

Maybe at the mouth, maybe up the Adams River way, maybe in some ocean-based gill nets… sure as hell not in the upper Fraser.

Downstream folks… remember… everything flows downstream.

.

_ _ _ _ _

.

After the riverside ceremony a community dinner was hosted at the Stellat’en Hall. The Nadleh Whut’en youth dancers performed:

Nadleh Whut'en youth dancers

.

Fantastic, really fantastic.

.

.

These youth were such a pleasure to watch perform.

Sadly, unless some tough choices are made in coming years, these youth will see a “historic” year of sockeye, like this year (which – sadly – is far from historic in the upper Fraser) — dwindle away to historic losses.

Many of the salmon runs will only become stories told, names remembered like mythological characters of bygone years, and ghosts dancing in rivers and on riverbanks.

I say  — tough choices — because we can continue to pay top $$ for researchers to find the “smoking gun”, or explain why this year was a good year, or blame dwindling runs on squid, or blame it on El Nino… or we can start making tough choices on the things we can actually do something about — us.

In the Fraser River there’s this really nasty critter that impacts salmon. Generally it has two legs and two arms and apparently the most developed brain in the animal kingdom. It has a great propensity for compassion, forethought, and action. I think you know who I am referring to — you and me.

Why don’t we put some top $$ into the things we can actually do something about.

Ourselves and our impacts.

We can keep spending top $$ on environmental reviews and assessments and preeminent scientific panels and conferences and forums and commissions and public inquiries — and we can blame the dwindling salmon runs between Los Angeles, California and Inuvik, Northwest Territories on ocean currents, seals, orcas, squid, mackerel, trout, Dolly Varden, bears, eagles, and whatever else — or maybe, just maybe, …slow down… take stock… and simply focus in on ourselves and our actions?

And talk to the hundreds of thousands of people around the North Pacific coast and inland areas that have knowledge of salmon, that have knowledge of salmon habitat, and have a lot of ideas about a few things we might need to consider.

For example, I recently heard — and was told again last night — about a wooden stake that was recently extracted from the river bed at the Nadleh Whut’en community. It was part of an ancient salmon fishing weir. The stake was carbon dated to at least 1200 A.D.

This is about the same time the Vikings were charging around the coasts of Europe.

Seems the Vikings get a whole lot of attention and research… what about the salmon people of the upper Fraser?

They were around a lot longer as distinct cultures and people than the Vikings were…

Just a thought.

Somebody get the Fraser sockeye story straight, please…

As I’m preparing a presentation for the Cohen Commission this week, I recently noticed the 9 minute “introduction” video on the Cohen Commission website. It’s a pretty sharp little production, some nice work by the P.R. firm hired by the Commission. I especially like some of the graphics — they portray the picture of a sockeye life quite well.

I have a problem though… there is a graph of Fraser sockeye populations early in the presentation. It looks like this (with the exception of the numbers and question marks I’ve added on the left… and it has some color):

If you look closely on the Cohen Commission video you can see the reference for this graph, little little words on the right:

Oddly, the graph comes from another “Commission”… ummm, the Mekong River Commission. Yeah, that river in Southeast Asia.

The report is called:

Hydropower in the Fraser and Columbia Rivers: a contrast in approaches to fisheries protection.

By, a Dr. Ferguson from Seattle and Dr. Healey from UBC.

There doesn’t, however, appear to be any references by the Dr.’s to where the graph comes from.

More oddly, this is the only graph I’ve been able to find that presents some history of Fraser sockeye prior to 1948 (the time when the great white knight of DFO galloped onto the scene and data became “reliable”).

Even more, more oddly — this is the best that the Cohen Commission can come up with to document historical Fraser sockeye populations? Some 2-3 page paper from the Mekong River Commission, with few data references?

This isn’t necessarily a criticism of the Cohen Commission… I just thought that they had already plowed through hundreds of thousands of pages of documents from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Could not one safely assume that somewhere in there would be a page or two that actually has some data-referenced graphs of historical Fraser sockeye populations?

_ _ _ _

I was recently scolded in an email from a “pre-eminent scientist” here in B.C.:

By the way, you need to get your story straight about how many sockeye salmon there used to be before commercial fisheries.

Yes, please, someone… would the real Fraser sockeye story please stand up and reveal itself!

See… I just keep referring to this 1903 Fisheries Report. Excerpts from the report:

This year’s pack has been the largest known in the province amounting to 1,247,215 cases against 1,026,545 in 1897. 1,154,717 cases were sockeye salmon (O. nerka), exceeding the total pack of 1897 of all kinds of salmon. On Fraser River the pack of sockeye in 1901 was 974,911 cases as against 897,115 cases of all kinds in 1897.

If you are curious a case was 48 pounds.

The small print above reads:

Large as this amount is, representing 30,000,000 fish it could have been largely increased, possibly doubled had the canneries had capacity enough to have handled all the fish available during the run.  On Fraser river, the canneries placed 200 as the maximum number of fish they could guarantee to take from each boat and for 12 days, from 6th to 17th August this limit was enforced. The fishermen could consequently during this period fish only for a short time each day. During the height of the run they dare not put more than a small length of their net in the water. In some cases nets were sunk and lost from the weight of the fish.

_ _ _ _

The scolding email continues:

Ricker estimated 25-50 million based on early catch data, but Argue found errors in that and produced revised estimates of 12-25 million.

But this doesn’t fit so well with other references such as  Northcote and Atagi (1997) “Pacific Salmon Abundance Trends in the Fraser River Watershed Compared with other British Columbia Systems” in “Pacific Salmon and their ecosystems: Status and Future Options” (Stouder, Bisson, and Naiman – editors). You can view most of the book on Google Books – Northcote and Atagi’s chapter starts on page 199:  The actual reference is on page 200 and is further referenced to W.E. Ricker articles on Fraser sockeye.

“The historical abundance of pink and sockeye salmon spawners bound for the Fraser River was enormous with runs up to nearly 50 million pink and <160 million sockeye on a big cycle year (Ricker 1950, 1987, 1989).”

One of the tables in the chapter suggests the average “historical” abundance of Fraser sockeye is over 34 million.

“From Ricker (1987) for 1901-1913, using 100 million for the 1901 ‘line’ and 5 million for the 1902, 1903, and 1904 ‘lines’; see also Ricker (1950)”

_ _ _ _

How can there be so much damn variability?

A 1903 Fisheries report states that over 30 million sockeye were canned alone in 1902, with potential to have canned at least that much more. One can presume then that the run was anywhere between 60-100 million sockeye. That’s a far cry from the 12-25 million suggested in the scolding email I received and references to Argue’s research.

How could there only have been 12-25 million if over 30 million were canned alone (around the Fraser mouth)?

And so… could somebody please get the story straight. Because right now we’re somewhere between 12-25 million vs. greater than 160 million as estimates of Fraser sockeye populations pre-commercial fishing.

my graph

“No shit Sherlock”

Salmon, Science, and Reciprocity on the NW Coast - Bruce Johnson

.

.

At the Cohen Commission, an “ambitious science research program” was undertaken in late August. Twelve research priorities were named:

.

.

.

.

Project 1 – Diseases and parasites

Project 2 – Effects of contaminants on Fraser River sockeye salmon

Project 3 – Fraser River freshwater ecology and status of sockeye salmon Conservation Units

Project 4 – Marine ecology

Project 5 – Impacts of salmon farms on Fraser River sockeye salmon

Project 6 – Data synthesis and cumulative impact analysis

Project 7 – Fraser River sockeye fisheries and fisheries management

Project 8 – Effects of predators on Fraser River sockeye salmon

Project 9 – Effects of climate change on Fraser River sockeye salmon: literature compilation and analysis

Project 10 – Fraser River sockeye salmon production dynamics

Project 11 – Fraser River sockeye salmon: status of DFO science and management

Project 12 – Sockeye habitat analysis in the Lower Fraser River and the Strait of Georgia

One could probably safely assume that these projects are underway. I’ve heard some rumblings here and there; however, there has been no announcement of whether this is the case or not — nor, who the researchers are that have been hired to undertake the work.

Might one further assume then, that some of the researchers hired were most likely some of the disbanded “pre-eminent Scientific Advisory Panel”?

The Panel was disbanded for whatever reasons (it was only formed in April) — there was no press release to explain why. However Dr. Carl Walters from UBC, one of the folks named to the  Scientific Advisory Panel, suggested on CBC Radio that the many criticisms and suggestions of conflict of interest were a big part of the disbanding. Many of the criticisms were well founded in that several of the Panel members had, or do, receive funding from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or had worked for the ministry in the past — the same government ministry that is being investigated by the Commission (or at least its policy, procedures, and practices).

Conflict of interest is one of those often slippery, but sometimes frippery, squishy, gray areas (…not to be confused with brain matter…). Yet, adding to the slippery – like a fresh caught sockeye – element of the potential for conflict of interest was the fact that some members of the Panel may be called as witnesses during the Commission. One resigned — Dr. Brian Riddell.

The world of salmon researchers and “scientists” in BC, and beyond — is relatively small. Finding folks that haven’t worked for, or conducted research for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans at some time is probably quite difficult. If one is not working for the main employer in this line of work, then they’re probably working somewhat in opposition to DFO, or at least regularly criticizing and critiquing — e.g. enviro group, First Nations, commercial fishing unions or outfits. With this, then comes criticisms of bias and agendas.

Oh… what happened to the ideal of objective science…??

No simple solutions…

_ _ _ _

One gaping void within the Cohen Commission ambitious science research program — traditional, local, community knowledge in relation to looking after salmon.

For example, the picture at the beginning of this post is from a paper: Salmon, Science, and Reciprocity on the Northwest Coast from the journal Ecology and Society:

Severe depletion of many genetically distinct Pacific salmon populations has spawned a contentious debate over causation and the efficacy of proposed solutions. No doubt the precipitating factor was overharvesting of the commons beginning along the Northwest Coast around 1860. Yet, for millenia before that, a relatively dense population of Indian tribes managed salmon stocks that have since been characterized as “superabundant.”

This study investigates how they avoided a tragedy of the commons, where in recent history, commercial ocean fishers guided by scientifically informed regulators, have repeatedly failed. Unlike commercial fishers, the tribes enjoyed exclusive rights to terminal fisheries enforced through rigorous reciprocity relations. The available evidence is compelling that they actively husbanded their salmon stocks for sustained abundance.

Or, Ritual Management of Salmonid Fish Resources in California from the University of California eScholarship.

Ritual Management of Salmonid Fish Resources in California - Swezey and Heizer

.

_ _ _ _

Over the last lit bit I’ve been taking a course out of general interest: Issues in Science and Society.

The most recent unit explored societal influences on science; things such as influences of religion, politics, gender, race, other scientists — and the ability of pseudoscience to throw a thick stick into the bike spokes.

One of the folks quoted in the section on racial bias was former scientist and author Stephen J. Gould. He suggested:

Scientists, are not objective and can never be, because they are human beings rooted in cultural traditions of shared belief.

I’d have to agree with that statement.

_ _ _ _

And so why is there so little research and scholarship provided to looking at the systems of looking after salmon in the thousands of years prior to “fisheries science” arriving on the scene within the last eye blink of time (50-75 years)?

Why are there continued “Summits” and “scientific synthesis” and “salmon think tanks” and “pre-eminent scientific advisory panels” and “ambitious science research programs” that refuse to look further back then the last 50-100 years?

Could one not suggest a significant bias — maybe one related to color, or maybe gender, or maybe political — that continues to ignore systems of management that existed for a long, long, long time prior to Mr. Vancouver, or Mr. Juan de Fuca, or Mr. Valdez or other colonial sailor arrived on the west coast of N. America planting a flag in the name of some distant monarch, under the guise of European national pissing matches and territorial expansion and resource revenues?

Instead we get science research programs that continue to suggest that no one thing is responsible for salmon declines, and that no one “smoking gun” factor can simply be fixed and we’re all good… how does that old saying go…

…oh yeah right…

“no shit Sherlock”.

Some more good questions

Got a great comment and question on a recent August post: In-season Fraser sockeye forecasting… making it up as we go

I concluded that post by suggesting:

Spawner estimates is a wonderful example of more — exactly as it says — “estimates”. There’s mark-recapture, counting fences, stream walks, helicopter overflights, and other wonderful estimating tools.

As much as many folks suggest this whole salmon thing is a very precise practice… it is far from it.

It is simply fancy tools that “kick-out” fancy estimates.

There are lots of good folks working hard at these estimates — however they’re still fancy estimates with absolutely no method to truly “confirm” that the models, scale sampling, test fishing, and so on are “accurate”.

Then throw in terms like “ecosystem-based management” — ever present in the Wild Salmon Policy — and I tend to call ‘bullshit’.

We simply don’t know… we’re trying hard to estimate; but really… we’re making it up as we go along… and that’s OK; it’s the defensiveness and insistence by those involved that we do know what’s going on…

well… i think this year is a fine example that we definitely do not know.

_ _ _ _

Bob recently responded with this comment on the post:

As someone who made run size estimates for years, got a better idea? Perhaps we should just leave them alone, in the river, and wait until they have all spawned. Then we can concentrate all the effort on a carcass census and get (a much better estimate of) the real number of fish in the run. Of course that would mean no fishing.

Then, after all is said and done, we still wouldn’t have much of an idea as to what resulted in those numbers; spawning escapement of the parents, juvenile river/lake survival, outmigrant survival, ocean survival, poor/good fishing conditions for returning adults, etc.

Right back were we started……
Any good ideas?

_ _ _ _

Really appreciate the comment, and here’s my response (with a picture):

I don’t know if i have good ideas, I’ll leave that for others [as some have certainly taken issue with some of the comments and posts]; however, my point on a few posts has been that I see very little – if any – effort in research on traditional salmon-human relationships… I hesitate to call it enumeration.. or counting methods.

In my travels through salmon territory I’ve heard various stories and methods. Most of these combined selectivity and analysis of run-size and health. One of the most common was the use of fish weirs (this being limited to river sizes where this can work), as well as fish traps. There are some fantastic pictures of these in the BC Archives and sketches in Hilary Stewart’s book on salmon, as well as “Cedar”.

For example, in the Yukon near the town of the Dawson City is the “Klondike” River. It, as I have had it explained to me, was once one of the greatest producers of Chinook salmon on the entire 3000 km long Yukon River. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people for eons caught Chinook on the river. And as I understand it Tr’ondek is the proper pronunciation — “Klondike” is the anglicized version of the word. The meaning of Tr’ondëk in the Gwichin language of the area is something to the effect of “the sound of stakes being pounded into the river bed.”

Tr'ondek Hwech'in Cultural Centre

If you have, or do visit Dawson City, just downstream of the junction of the Klondike and Yukon is a cultural centre built in the 1990s. The centre was built in such a way as to represent a salmon trap or weir, with elements of fish drying racks. It’s a beautiful building.

The point of this — and I’ve heard this from many different First Nations folks — is that weirs and fish traps were a method of capturing salmon alive and being able to selectively harvest by species, size, and sex – as well as get a good idea of the size and health of runs. There were also the political aspects to these weirs, in that downstream folks could have a big impact on upstream folks by not allowing fish through.

In a sense… counting fences provide some of this same effect — however, there are the excuses of (wo)man-power to operate the fences.

Dip netting is also a non-lethal method of counting. And then there’s the work of LGL and their fish wheels. Much more use of fish wheels could allow non-lethal methods of enumeration — as well as harvest.

And then there’s just good old stream walks [have sure enjoyed my time in the past doing this].

My issues isn’t necessarily with some of the enumeration methods — just the lethal ones, like test fishing, it’s not required. My issue is with the way in which enumeration methods are held up as gospel, and their effect on harvest strategies, and the connection back to computer modeling and simulations. For example, this year, DFO set out to harvest only 25% of the Early Summer group of Fraser sockeye. This is in exception to their goals of 60% on other groups (Summer and Late Summer). The reason for the reduced harvest was to try and limit impacts on endangered stocks such as the Bowron and others in the upper Nechako that really are on a death spiral. There were many concerns brought forward during pre-season planning by upper Fraser First Nations. And some credit needs to be given to DFO on setting that goal with conservation concerns in mind.

Looking at in-season info it looks like the harvest rate on Early Summers will be about 23-25% or so… However, this won’t be known for sure until there is confirmation of in-river spawner counts which will be bounced back over test fishing, commercial catch, and the various computer models. All of those methods are generally regarded as akin to gospel. And thus, much frustration when in meetings with fisheries officials and they start tossing around these numbers as if we actually “know”.

We don’t… as is being made very clear by the fish this year.

If anything, I think – and hope – that most scientists looking at these issues are being greatly humbled by how much we don’t know (and some are, from what I hear and have heard). As the saying goes, the more we know, the more we learn we don’t know. I use the analogy of the old Greek (or Roman) monster Hydra — cut off one head and two pop up in it’s place… it’s the same with questions about salmon.

Lastly, one of the more common suggestions I’ve heard from many folks this year (First Nations and non)… leave the Fraser sockeye alone for a life cycle or two (4 to 8 years). Then there wouldn’t need to be all of this tension between folks looking to harvest them. As well as, there wouldn’t be all of this finger pointing and searching for one “smoking gun” (as referenced by folks at the Fraser Sockeye Forum in late March of this year). As well as pretty unproductive comments about black market sales, un-reported catches and so on.

[we’re already spending $12-$15 million on a public inquiry Cohen Commission (it’ll probably cost more), however much $$ on the Pacific Salmon Commission hosting forums to look into the Fraser sockeye issue, and the other 5 or so public inquiries over the last two decades — what did that cost?… why not re-direct those $$ to a bail-out of sorts… the commercial salmon fishery in BC last year was only $20 million landed value anyways. Not a popular prospect… but neither was losing the entire North Atlantic Cod fishery for coming on 2 decades now…what has that cost in Employment Insurance and re-training?]

just a few ideas… for what they are worth.

I appreciate the questions, comments and discussion — that was my whole purpose for setting up and maintaining this weblog… There has to be a different way; the history of methods we use in the present day; and this insistence by scientists that ‘answers’ lie in science — I find somewhat naive. There are hundreds of thousands of people throughout salmon country that have intimate knowledge… call it community knowledge, local knowledge, traditional knowledge, or maybe just… knowledge.Other ways of knowing.

I just don’t think the issue is going to be solved by intricate equations and computer models. That’s the same method that brought us financial derivatives, and we know where that got us… e.g. sub-prime mortgage.

Visiting salmon and mountains and beautiful places

Food fish smokehouse: Moose Valley Gathering -- Skeena - Sustut

Thankfully been away from the computer for several days.  Several days camped in a very powerful part of B.C.

Ingenika Lakes — Continental divide between Arctic-Mackenzie drainage and Skeena-Sustut drainage (click on image to get a little higher resolution)

Standing in the divide that separates Arctic Canada from Pacific Canada. To reach Moose Valley, the headwaters of the Sustut River and the Skeena and the Peace River (Finlay River) and nearby to the Stikine River headwaters — one must drive through some of the headwaters areas of the Fraser River.

Was fortunate enough to visit the salmon counting fence on the Sustut River in the far upper reaches of the Skeena River and be around folks getting a few salmon for their winter supplies. A few early Skeena steelhead were also spotted.

Sustut River counting fence

enjoying the sight of wild salmon on the spawning grounds

.

.

Upper Sustut: quite a few sockeye, Chinook, and Steelhead in the subalpine & heavy smoke haze (what a place!)

Enbridge: Michigan oil spill… response “too little, too slow” suggest U.S. officials

Remember this?

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Well… don’t forget this:

July 27 2010 Oil leaks into the Kalamazoo River Tuesday afternoon in Michigan

there’s some irony here maybe… a Canada Goose done in by a Canadian pipeline company…

.

.

.

.

Michigan River (Gazette / Jonathon Gruenke)

.

Or this:

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

A worker from Enbridge Energy skims oil off the surface of the Kalamazoo River after a pipeline ruptured in Marshall, Michigan, on Tuesday, July 27, 2010. (Andre J. Jackson/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

_ _ _ _

This out of Michigan today:

Michigan oil spill Enbridge’s ‘highest priority’

Globe and Mail

Tag line to Globe and mail article suggests:

U.S. politicians say Canadian oil company’s response too little and too slow

.

But not to worry it’s only about 3,000,000 litres…

_ _ _ _

But remember this from the nice glossy pamphlet?

I’m feeling pretty confident about this:

Enbridge pamphlet

I wonder if that’s Mr. Pelpola (fellow in picture below “Lead Environmental Consultant”) in the hazmat suit above covered in oil…?

Enbridge pamphlet

Sure Enbridge… a pipeline through Northern BC sounds like a great idea… It’s not a matter of “if” — just a matter of “when”.