Category Archives: What if…?

Remember this…? Enbridge doesn’t want you to.

Remember this from early 2012?

The Costa Concordia cruise ship hits a reef and sinks – 32 people die.

I had a post about it back then (Proposed Northern Exit-gateway Pipeline: Accidents happen because of human error… and are not averted due to elaborate statistical analyses…) because ironically enough the Enbridge ‘northern gateway’ pipeline hearings were on in northwestern BC and one Enbridge official (or consultant) was carrying on about the detailed statistical equations they had undertaken, which suggested that the chances of this happening to a massive oil tanker on BC’s coast were: 1 in 15,000 years.


Here’s the Costa Concordia today – over one and a half years later.

The partially submerged Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Italy. Local Waterloo company 2G Robotics is scanning the ship to help in the uprighting process.

This from a CBC article running today:

Waterloo robotics firm helps upright Costa Concordia

Gotta love that media… the ship is still sitting exactly as it is in this picture – e.g., sunk. Yet, the media headline suggests that some Canadian firm actually “helps upright” the ship. Hmmm, maybe the honest headline would be ‘trying to upright’…

So the top picture paints a lovely image. That village has had to put up with a half sunken ship where 32 people died, literally in their front yard for over a year and a half. Probably no oils or fuels leaking… or sewage, or otherwise…


Sure would like to see the ‘statistical analysis’ that predicted the odds of this happening… Probably wasn’t all that different than Enbridge and the Harper gang’s numbers on oil tankers on the BC coast…

Maybe not all that different then the odds that predicted this in Harper’s hometown:

Calgary Saddledome flooded in spring/summer of 2013

Shit happens – no matter what the statisticians suggest.

Italian ‘Earthquake’ scientists charged with manslaughter…failure to adequately evaluate, and then communicate potential risk to local population.

Sockeye circle2Here is a very curious story… scientists — “well-informed professionals” — charged with manslaughter following April 2009 earthquake in the Italian town of L’Aquila. If one searches the term “L’Aquila Seven” a whole range of media stories and otherwise pop up. I became aware of this story through the Dec. 2012 newsletter produced by Simon Fraser University “Centre for Natural Hazard Research“.

[of which in addition to the article on the convicted scientists are very interesting articles on the earthquake and tsunami that hit Haida Gwaii this past October]

As stated in the newsletter:

In October of this year, an Italian judge sentenced six scientists and engineers and a civil servant to six years in prison for manslaughter in connection with the magnitude 6.3 earthquake on April 6, 2009, which devastated L’Aquila. Much has been written about the decision and the international reaction to it, with many learned groups decrying the verdict and the court sentence. This reaction seems to stem from the assumption that the scientists were being condemned because they failed to predict the earthquake, which every geologist knows is not possible.

The story,however, is more nuanced – the decision was based on the scientists’ failure to communicate the risk not predict the earthquake.

There’s another interesting blog article published in October 2012: The L’Aquila Verdict: A Judgment Not against Science, but against a Failure of Science Communication. This article seems to take the opposite tack of many, which is to try and be clear about why the sentence was so harsh – it had nothing to do with the ability to predict earthquakes accurately, but, more to do with the communication that the professionals engaged in (based on their predictions – right or wrong).

The article states:

A court in Italy has convicted six scientists and one civil defense official of manslaughter in connection with their predictions about an earthquake in l’Aquila in 2009 that killed 309 people. But, contrary to the majority of the news coverage this decision is getting and the gnashing of teeth in the scientific community, the trial was not about science, not about seismology, not about the ability or inability of scientists to predict earthquakes. These convictions were about poor risk communication, and more broadly, about the responsibility scientists have as citizens to share their expertise in order to help people make informed and healthy choices.

The article continues:

…That is what this trial was all about; the poor risk communication from Dr. De Bernardinis – one of those convicted – and the NON-communication by seismic experts, who would certainly have offered more careful and qualified comments. Did that poor communication cause those tragic deaths and warrant manslaughter convictions? Certainly not directly, as the defense attorneys argued.

Did it fail a frightened community looking to the scientific experts for help, for guidance, for whatever insights they could offer…a community so scared by the tremors and that lab tech’s prediction that hundreds of people were sleeping outdoors? Yes, the poor communication was a serious failure, although scientists share the responsibility with the Italian national government.

While these scientists were there for their expertise in seismic risk, not as communicators, they also knew full well how frightened people were, and how important their opinions about the possibility of a major earthquake would be, and how urgently the community wanted…needed…to hear from them. But they just left town, and let a non-seismologist describe their discussions. For his failing to do so accurately and without appropriate qualifications, the scientists themselves are also surely to blame.

There is another interesting article on the incident at Earth: The Science Behind the Headlines, which argues in the scientists favor, against the judgement: Voices: Judged unfairly in L’Aquila – roles and responsibilities should have been considered.

The case centers around these statements [statements of the scientists saying the chance of major earthquake was small]. According to a story in Nature [Scientists on trial: At fault?], Simona Giannangeli, a lawyer who represented some of the civil plaintiffs, said: “You could almost hear a sigh of relief go through the town. It was repeated almost like a mantra: the more tremors, the less danger.”

“That phrase,” one L’Aquila resident said in the Nature story, “was deadly for a lot of people here” — largely because local custom had been to go outside when earthquakes struck, even if that meant spending the night outside. Instead, according to plaintiffs, due to the reassurances from De Bernardinis, people stayed inside where they were then killed or injured when their homes collapsed.

The Nature article was written when the indictment was filed against the seven scientists and has some key interesting suggestions:

The indictments have drawn global condemnation. The American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), both in Washington DC, issued statements in support of the Italian defendants. In an open letter to Napolitano, for example, the AAAS said it was “unfair and naive” of local prosecutors to charge the men for failing “to alert the population of L’Aquila of an impending earthquake”. And last May, when Italian magistrate Giuseppe Gargarella ruled at a preliminary hearing that the scientists would have to stand trial this September, the Italian blogosphere lit up with lamentation and defence lawyers greeted the decision with disbelief. “On the one hand, he’s stunned,” Francesco Petrelli said of his client, Barberi. “On the other, he’s very pained and sad.”

The view from L’Aquila, however, is quite different. Prosecutors and the families of victims alike say that the trial has nothing to do with the ability to predict earthquakes, and everything to do with the failure of government-appointed scientists serving on an advisory panel to adequately evaluate, and then communicate, the potential risk to the local population.

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There is much written on this case from a variety of sides and opinions — scientists quite naturally are up-in-arms; however as the last quote suggests and other info on the case — the focus is on the wrong issue.

The issue is not the accuracy of predicting earthquakes (or tsunamis or super storms, etc.) its on the communication surrounding these events and the risks involved, and how those are communicated.

Now maybe its events such as these that will give supposed “experts” pause when making various prognostications about risk… such as with oil pipelines and tankers, for example.

Or, how about government appointed scientists and decisions surrounding the impact of dwindling resources such as wild salmon…

The decimation of wild salmon runs throughout their historic range has led to things such as starving bears having to be shot, starving eagles falling out of trees, and who even wants to begin to tally the losses to human communities – First Nation and settler alike.

Now maybe this is a bit of a stretch for some… however, something to ponder. “Scientists”… the “experts” may need to be held more accountable for recommendations, and especially of their communication about risk — whether human community or otherwise.

However, that seems to maybe… putting us back into a spin cycle of ‘absence of evidence and evidence of absence‘… and… my science vs. your science… our ‘expert’ vs. your ‘expert’

“There’s always the human factor…” says U.S. Coast Guard, as oil tanker hits San Fran Bay Bridge

from Silicon Valley Mercury News

from Silicon Valley Mercury News

The headline from the National Post reads: Oil tanker crashes into San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge:

An empty oil tanker caused minor damage Monday when it struck a tower in the middle of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge while navigating beneath the hulking span, officials said.

The 752-foot Overseas Reymar rammed the tower about 11:20 a.m. as it headed out to sea, according to the Coast Guard and state transportation officials. It didn’t affect traffic on the busy bridge, which is the main artery between San Francisco and Oakland, Ney said.

OSG Ship Management Inc., which is the parent company that owns the Marshall Islands-registered ship, said the vessel hit an underwater portion of the massive bridge structure.

Investigators had not yet determined the cause of the crash.

“There’s always the human factor,” Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Shawn Lansing said. “That is again what we’ll look into and see whether, in fact, it was a human error or something else and take that into consideration in the development of future regulation.”

Visibility at the time was about a quarter-mile, but officials didn’t say if that was a factor.

from Silicon Valley Mercury News

from Silicon Valley Mercury News

The Silicon Valley Mercury News reports Pilot in Bay Bridge oil tanker crash had three accidents since 2009:

…The pilot of the ship was identified as Guy Kleess, 61, of San Francisco, a former Exxon oil tanker captain who has been involved in at least three other shipping accidents since 2009.

The incident provided a stark reminder of a similar Bay Bridge collision five years ago, when the Cosco Busan, a 901-foot-long cargo ship, hit the adjacent tower of the Bay Bridge, spilling 53,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel into the bay, fouling 69 miles of shoreline and killing thousands of birds.

That an oil tanker similar in size to the Exxon Valdez, with the capacity to haul millions of gallons of heavy crude oil, hit a bridge in San Francisco Bay alarmed environmentalists.

This last line is particularly entertaining… what exactly is an environmentalist in the eyes of these writers? Is it only ‘environmentalists’ concerned about this?

The Washington Times reports:

Monday’s mishap brought back memories of a major crash in November 2007 in which the 902-foot Cosco Busan rammed the bridge and spilled 53,000 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay.

That accident contaminated 26 miles of shoreline, killed more than 2,500 birds and delayed the start of the crab-fishing season. Capt. John Cota, the pilot of the Cosco Busan, was sentenced to 10 months in prison after pleading guilty to two misdemeanors.

Apparently, that’s just more than those ‘pesky’ environmentalists fronting concern… I’m guessing the maybe 7 million+ residents of the Bay and surrounding area might be a bit concerned if this ship had hit the bridge with its full capacity of some 500,000+ barrels of oil which it had just offloaded.

from mercury news

from mercury news

The Silicon Valley Mercury News

Biologists for years have said that if a large oil tanker spills in the bay, the currents could carry much of it southward, where it would devastate egrets,herons, harbor seals, salmon and other species in the marshes and wetlands. Because of the weak tidal action in the southern part of the bay, the oil would take months, if not years, to remove.

The article continues with some key questions:

Among the key questions Monday: Why was the ship sailing in significant fog? After the Cosco Busan spill in 2007, the Coast Guard put in place rules limiting large ships from sailing when there is less than half a mile of visibility. Coast Guard officials said Monday that the visibility was a quarter-mile at the time of the accident.

Also, did Coast Guard officials who track ships on radar warn the vessel it was about to hit the bridge tower? [what about the ship’s own radar…?]

And why did the ship or its contracted emergency response crews not deploy boom — floating barriers that protect against oil spills — until hours after the accident?

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Shawn Lansing said the ship, which was built in 2004, had a double hull, which is required under a federal law signed by President George H.W. Bush after the Valdez spill. At a news conference Monday afternoon, Lansing said investigators don’t yet know the cause of the crash but are looking at human error as a possibility.

There it is again… ‘likely possibility’… ‘may’… and now we’re back into the circle of ‘evidence absence’ and ‘absence of evidence’… and… well…

… then the great news cycle… this accident will blow away or float away in the Bay tides in coming days and weeks.

Except maybe in places where people are contemplating the ‘human error’ risk factors present in shipping oil, bitumen, fuel and otherwise in areas where collisions between land, and land-based structures could be absolutely disastrous – as the Exxon Valdez and numerous other accidents demonstrate.

Here’s an image from the Vancouver Sun of the community of Kitimat and the Douglas Channel stretching west:

Vancouver Sun image

Vancouver Sun image

And a more complex view of the Douglas Channel from the Dogwood Initiative website;

from Dogwood Initiative website

from Dogwood Initiative website

And the Bay Bridge… pretty darn tough to see that thing…

Fog City

Double-hulled, triple hulled, highly trained pilots, radar, Coast Guards, regulations (current or future), policies, judicial reviews, ministerial imperatives, etc. … it don’t matter when it comes down to old faithful “HUMAN ERROR“…

It’s not a matter of ‘if’… it’s only a matter of ‘when’… that is… when we’re talking shipping, ships, and oil.

Risk… Reward?

[Remember this post from almost exactly one year ago today: Proposed Northern Exit-gateway Pipeline: Accidents happen because of human error… and are not averted due to elaborate statistical anlayses…  [or elaborate regulations… which may not be followed anyways… as in this case and half mile visibility and big bridges]

Enbridge Northern Exit-way II

Enbridge Northern Exit-way II


PetroChina investing in BC’s wild salmon… (NOT)

inspired by good 'ol Far Side


If this isn’t worrisome to Canadian sovereignty, aboriginal rights & title, and unsettled BC treaties… well… maybe we might as well shed the maple leaf and the white parts of the flag, and scuttle the BC Treaty Process (maybe a self-fulfilling prophecy), and why bother with any court cases about aboriginal rights and title…?

Some headlines from today and yesterday:

PetroChina bids to help build $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline

CALGARY — Chinese investment in Canada’s energy sector could move to a new level if PetroChina wins a bid to build the controversial Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline.

The largest of China’s three state-controlled oil companies has expressed an interest in building the $5.5-billion project across the northern Canadian Rockies and is considering purchasing an equity stake, said Pat Daniel, president and CEO of proponent Enbridge Inc.

“They have made the point to us that they are very qualified in building pipelines, and we will take that into consideration when we are looking for contractors,” Mr. Daniel said in an interview. “It’s an open bid process. They are a very big organization, they build a lot of pipelines, and they would love to be involved from what they have told me.”

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PetroChina produced more oil than industry giant Exxon Mobil in 2011

NEW YORK — A big shift is happening in Big Oil: an American giant now ranks behind a Chinese upstart.

Exxon Mobil is no longer the world’s biggest publicly traded producer of oil. For the first time, that distinction belongs to a 13-year-old Chinese company called PetroChina. The Beijing company was created by the Chinese government to secure more oil for that nation’s booming economy.

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Canada’s ‘Cushing moment’: A northern pipeline crisis looms

CALGARY – Oil traders still grappling with an unprecedented pipeline bottleneck in the U.S. Midwest that roiled global energy markets last year should beware: Canada may be next.

The pipelines that carry crude from Alberta’s oil sands and the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota to U.S. refiners may run out of capacity as soon as 2015, some analysts now warn.

Fears that the export of Canadian crude will be constrained have risen recently as a result of pipeline project delays and the unyielding growth of North Dakota output. Any resulting glut could weaken Canadian oil prices, depress profits for producers like Suncor Energy Inc and Cenovus Energy Inc and choke growth in the largest source of U.S. imports.

A crisis could be avoided, though. Major pipeline operators like Enbridge Inc say they’re confident that an estimated 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of idle capacity on existing Canada-to-U.S. lines is more than enough for up to five years, sufficient time to complete new lines or add pumps.

That view is by no means unanimous.

The government is also taking action. Canada is set to push forward new measures to cut approval times for major pipeline projects in order to speed the completion of proposed routes to the Pacific Ocean and refiners in Asia.

“At a certain point there will be an issue (with capacity),” Joe Oliver, Canada’s natural resources minister, said in an interview this week. “We remain optimistic that pipelines can be built in time to avoid … the kind of problem they have in Cushing.”

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Ottawa to eases pipeline rules in bid to boost oil exports to Asia

The federal government gave a boost to oil sands exports to Asia by streamlining the environmental review process and making it more difficult for environmental groups to mount an opposition.

[ummm… yeah… it doesn’t seem to just be “environmental groups mounting opposition… there’s this finnicky thing called: ‘average Canadians’… that are in opposition]

In its budget brought down Thursday, Ottawa said it will propose legislation aimed at having “one project, one review” that establishes clear timelines for approval of big resource and industrial projects, reduces duplication and regulatory burdens, and focuses resources on the largest projects with the biggest environmental impacts.

Most of Canada’s oil is now exported to the United States, where it is heavily discounted because of pipeline bottlenecks.

Canadian governments and industry have been pushing for market diversification in Asia by way of new pipelines to the West Coast, but have run into opposition from the environmental movement and First Nations that are targeting regulatory reviews to delay the projects…

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If Enbridge gets turned down in the current process surrounding the Northern Exit-way pipeline then folks in B.C. better be ready for an onslaught of pipeline proposals, that will be guided by the new Harper “one project, one review” process.

And PetroChina, now bigger than Exxon (which carried the title of world’s biggest money-maker until Apple recently unseeded it) will not take “NO” for an answer.

Especially when the tar sands oil in Alberta essentially becomes theirs… through straight up buying up whatever they want. There’s already some $20 billion or so (on the low end) invested by PetroChina and other Chinese firms in Alberta’s tar sands operations.

When the world’s biggest oil company, which is trying to feed an insatiable beast…

well, Houston… and B.C. … we have a problem.

Gee, this headline sounds familiar: “Chevron Brazil oil spill may be bigger than thought”

from CBC article

It’s civic election todays in BC, and in many northern-western BC communities there has been much discussion about the potential of Enbridge driving an oil pipeline from Edmonton-area through the Prince George area, and right through the centre of some of the best remaining salmon spawning habitat in BC (including the upper Fraser and upper Skeena watersheds).

Here’s the latest PR for big oil companies coming out of Brazil. Have you heard this one before?

Chevron Brazil oil spill may be bigger than thought

What if…?

is really all one needs to ask…

and yet the rhetoric of jobs, jobs, jobs, will continue on… especially as the Environmental Assessment hearings regarding Enbridge’s proposed “Northern Gateway” pipeline start early in the New Year.



Yellow pink salmon dieing on the Fraser River

Yellow salmon? WTF indeed.

Must say, I have never seen a yellow salmon.

Curious to hear the reasoning from the Department of Fisheries & Oceans on this one…

From Ivan Doumenc’s blog:

Yellow salmon

Have you ever seen a bright yellow salmon before? With shock and horror, I give you one.

This photo was taken yesterday by Dr. Alexandra Morton and activist Anissa Reed on the banks of the Fraser river.

They found several such dead yellow fish yesterday during a field trip. Those salmon clearly died of jaundice. And when Alex opened one fish, she found a severely diseased liver, one which appeared to be covered with tumor-like growths.

Don’t eat that liver!


What is causing this deadly disease in so many of our salmon? Is it a virus? We don’t know. But we need to find out, right now.

Dr. Kristi Miller, the DFO researcher whose work has been recently published in the journal Science, has discovered a candidate virus which may be causing cancer and anemia in wild salmon. Yet last month, it was revealed at the Cohen Commission that she has been denied funding by DFO to test Atlantic salmon in fish farms for her virus. She was asking for $18,750 – a pittance in research terms – yet her DFO hierarchy told her that they didn’t have the money!

Why is DFO doing this? Why is it pretending that it does not have twenty thousand dollars to conduct critical tests on salmon disease? Why would it say that, when it was also revealed at the Commission that the federal government has given $145,000 to the fish farm industry to conduct “research” on how to make farmed salmon more palatable to the end consumer?

Pre-spawn death

As yellow salmon are dying on the banks of the Fraser, this DFO charade must stop. The people of this Province demand that viral tests be performed on fish farms – right now. Not next year. Not next month. Now.

WTF are those whitish growths in that salmon’s gills?!

Re-branding government ministries…

branding is everything... everything is branding.


This article out of the Globe and Mail yesterday:

E-mails cite ‘directive’ to re-brand government in Harper’s name

Despite Conservative assertions to the contrary, a directive did go out to some civil servants last fall ordering them to use the term “Harper Government” in official government of Canada communications.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press contradict a published denial by Dimitri Soudas, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former director of communications, who wrote “nothing could be further from the truth.”

“Since when have we started making announcements as the ‘Harper Government’?” Daniel Morier, Health Canada’s chief of social media, asked in an internal email on Nov. 30, 2010.

Mr. Morier also passed along the following inquiry: “Why is @healthcanada creating partisan ‘press releases’ and marketing them as non-partisan ministry news?”

Erin Junker, a senior communications adviser at Health Canada, responded by email: “This was a directive I received from PCO.”

The Privy Council Office is the bureaucratic nerve centre that serves the prime minister, working in concert with the Prime Minister’s Office.

A PCO spokesman responded to a series of questions Wednesday about the Health Canada email exchange by reiterating that “there has been no change in policy or direction.”

Non-partisan departmental web sites switched to a Tory-blue motif soon after the Conservatives took power in 2006, and taxpayer funded Economic Action Plan website, signs and ads have blanketed the country since 2009 in a “whole of government” exercise that is indistinguishable from the partisan Conservative pitch.

It’s true…quite remarkable, and immensely slimy.  Go look at every federal ministry website you can find. Finance ministry, , Human Resources Development Canada, Treasury Board, and one of my favorites Economic Action Plan.
Better yet, the Economic Action Plan has all headlines stating:

Harper Governmentfederal government of Canada this

Harper Government federal government of Canada that

_ _ _ _ _ _

The G&M article continues:

And the remake of the Government of Canada brand has only begun.

This summer, PCO posted a public notice of “Proposed Procurement” for new design concepts for Government of Canada advertising.

“PCO is seeking to develop a ‘whole of government’ branding approach that increases the public resonance and recall of government messages and information,” says the proposal.

It calls for bids to alter the “voiceovers, sound bugs, music, colour schemes, taglines, vision icons” of government advertising in everything from the Web to TV and radio.

Some critics say they’re alarmed to see any partisan re-branding of what should be the scrupulously non-partisan machinery of government.

“There’s a serious issue here and it’s a deeply corrupting one for the public service,” says Ralph Heinzman, who teaches public administration at the University of Ottawa.

The former senior civil servant spent five years overseeing the Government of Canada’s communications policy and helped rewrite it, then headed the office of Values and Ethics in Treasury Board – which oversees all civil servants.

Mr. Heinzman was awarded the Vanier Medal in 2006, Canada’s highest recognition for public administration for his work in the areas of ethics and citizen-centred service delivery.

His assessment of the “Harper Government” label is scathing.

“I would say that any public servant who’s involved in communications activities of that type is in breach of both the Communications Policy and the Values and Ethics Code,” Mr. Heinzman said in an interview.

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Caught wind of some of those changes. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is being re-branded “Steve-O” in honor of George W.

And the Privy Council Office (PCO) is being re-branded the Primary Conservative Office.

But don’t worry (as some commenters on this site have suggested)… those in Ottawa engaged in communications and PR have no intentions of purposely misleading you…

_ _ _ _ _ _

What do you think the response would be if the NDP got into power and changed all the websites to an ORANGE motif?

And I do seem to remember quite a few old RED federal ministry websites when the Liberals were in concocting the sponsorship scandal…

It really is little wonder that so many folks have become so disillusioned with politics and politicians.

Marketing is everything, everything is marketing.

Which is another way of saying: beware of branding.



And salmon survey says…

Article in Globe & Mail by Mark Hume yesterday evening on a salmon survey recently conducted in B.C.

B.C. residents consider salmon a cultural touchstone, survey finds

Wild salmon are as culturally important to British Columbians “as the French language is to the people of Quebec,” according to a new poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion.

The poll, commissioned by two B.C. conservation organizations, measured the concerns of British Columbia on a broad range of environmental issues, with a focus on wild salmon, which are in decline on the West Coast.

The survey of more than 800 randomly selected adults found that 70 per cent agreed with a statement that maintaining and restoring salmon runs in B.C. is as important to British Columbians as protecting French is to Quebeckers.

That’s pretty impressive.

Now what I’m wondering is — what federal Party is campaigning on this message for the upcoming election?

About the only salmon-related info I’ve seen seems to be coming from the New Democrat Party (NDP) with folks like Finn Donnelly the NDP incumbent in the Vancouver area running a solid campaign. (but maybe there’s others…?)

…Only 52 per cent agreed that higher taxes would be justified, “if that was necessary to protect wild-salmon habitat,” but 69 per cent said the federal government should maintain its policy of no net loss of salmon habitat, even if that meant restricting growth and development…

…In some rivers, small runs of wild salmon return at the same time as much larger populations of hatchery enhanced stocks. When the Department of Fisheries and Oceans allows commercial harvests on so-called “mixed stock fisheries,” fish from the small runs can inadvertently get killed.

A large majority, 77 per cent of those polled, disagreed with the statement that “the extinction of small salmon runs is acceptable as a tradeoff to maintain the commercial fishing industry’s current practices.”

The poll also showed that the pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs (72 per cent), contamination of soil and water by toxic wastes (68 per cent), air pollution and the depletion of fish stocks (both at 66 per cent) are the top environmental concerns for British Columbians.

The Angus Reid survey was done online with 806 randomly selected British Columbians, on April 19-20, from a sample that is considered representative of the entire adult population. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 per cent. The poll was released Monday.

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Would seem this could be pretty decent market research for politicians looking to get elected. Come to BC and campaign on a salmon platform…

When salmon folk lose touch…

You can't be serious...?

Sometimes when one is doing research on wild salmon, salmon ‘management’, salmon conservation, salmon rehabilitation, and the like… one may come across things that bring pause, and an occasional head shake…

Today, I was searching around for information on Chinook salmon. My path led me to the Pacific Salmon Commission; a place I often land in my salmon searches. Specifically, my search led me to a report titled:

Development of the Technical Basis for a Chinook Salmon Total Mortality Management Regime for the PSC AABM Fisheries. February 2011

(It’s down the right hand column of the home page… and only 218 pages).

I tend to be someone who often advocates for “meaning what you say and saying what you mean“. I have varying degrees of success at this, but always looking to improve.

One of my intentions for this website/weblog is to try and present a variety of views on salmon — specifically wild salmon and our rather tenuous relationship with them.

And so when I read a title that suggests that we are looking for a ‘technical basis’ to manage Chinook based on “total mortality”… it does leave me puzzling. Did we manage based on ‘partial’ mortality before?

Well… we based on AABM… which translates to “Aggregate Abundance Based Management“. I won’t get it into it now, but in essence, the AABM means we fish less when Chinook stocks are in trouble and more when they are in good shape.

I know… rocket science.

Part of the problem is that it is done by “aggregate” meaning based on groups of Chinook stocks up and down the coast (Alaska, BC and Washington) that have potential spawners counted through various methods… various methods of accuracy…

There is also ISBM, which is “individual stock-based management” where information from individual stocks is considered when making fisheries decisions.

The move to TM based fisheries… and no that’s not “trademark” as in:

“this is our fishery management regime… TM“.

It’s “total mortality”.

From what I can see it means that Chinook catch numbers will now also include undersize Chinook or otherwise that may incidentally die in fisheries. Some types of fisheries are permitted to keep undersize or otherwise fish (e.g. some net fisheries) — other aren’t (e.g. sport fisheries) and thus undersize or oversize have to be released.

Or in the case of sport fisheries, when there is an imposed limit — say 2 Chinook a day — one person in a boat may ‘limit out’ first, yet keep fishing. If they catch a bigger fish then the two their keeping for their limit, the smaller one goes overboard “for the seals”.

(this isn’t the case with all rec fishers, however, as one myself, I’ve certainly seen it happen often enough)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

As the Commission report describes it:

The TM management regime would estimate catch and the associated incidental mortality (IM) in a fishery, and constrain the fisheries based on defined limits to TM rather than LC [Landed Catch].

… [Total mortality] is the sum of the landed catch and the associated incidental mortalities from fishing…

Hey, now that makes sense, less try and account for all the fish killed in fisheries as opposed to just what shows up at the dock (e.g. canneries or otherwise)…

In other words, it’s sort of like a full accounting for what military folks like to call “collateral damage”… or that other innocuous fisheries term “by-catch”.

Almost all fisheries have size restrictions, so one can imagine the number of undersized fish caught, for example, in commericial troll fisheries… and by the time an undersize fish has been swinging around on troll gear for a awhile, it’s probably not going to do too well when it’s “released”…

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For your pondering:

In 2009, the total commercial troll Chinook catch in Southeast Alaska alone was almost 176,000

Seine Chinook catch was over 54,000 and

Sport Chinook catch was over 69,000

With a total Chinook catch in Southeast Alaska just under 300,000

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In northern BCover 75,000 Chinook caught in commercial troll fishing.

34,000 in sport fisheries.

On West Coast Vancouver Is. … commercial troll over 58,000 Chinook caught.

Sport fishery over 66,000 Chinook.

So throw in another 230,000 Chinook caught (or so).

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Not included here is the Juan de Fuca, Salish Sea/Georgia Strait, or Fraser River mouth catch numbers. Not much going on their commercially, but lots of sports fisheries.

Total 2009 Chinook catch numbers — on what the Commission calls ISBM fisheries — was almost 205,000 with over half of those caught by sport fisheries (approx. 116,000) and First Nation (approx. 53,000) the rest was test fisheries and commercial.

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The estimated “Incidental Mortality” (IM) — e.g. numbers not included in these numbers — appears to be estimated at close to 10%.  (…coincidentally, about the same approximate percentage of Chinook catch in BC, by First Nations…e.g. 12% as compared to the approximate 50% caught by sport fishers )

(And remember, much of these number are based on raging estimates)

Sport fisheries are only covered by creel surveys (e.g. interviews with fisherfolks) and estimates suggest about 10% coverage, as well as fly overs to count boats…

Ever dwindling though, due to funding cuts to Fisheries and Oceans monitoring and enforcement budgets.

So throw in another 70,000 (at least) dead Chinook into the equation.

(that’s almost the entire Fraser River Chinook run in some years…)

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So some of this “Incidental Mortality” stuff begins to make sense once the glaze is peeled back from one’s eyes in trying to read mulit-hundred page documents that have an executive summary that reads like this…

Pacific Salmon Commission Chinook Tech docs

I think I spent more time scrolling back to the Acronym guide… and my new ‘techno-bumpf’ translation app.

However, here’s my favorite part:

The CTC also formed a Total Mortality Work Group (TMWG) in 2003 to develop the technical analyses and approaches necessary to implement total mortality regimes. The TMWG made substantial progress on methods for translating the relationship between nominal landed catch and the abundance indexes (AIs) for AABM fisheries into TM units, but was not able to complete the work due to lack of consensus on the interpretation of the TM language in the Agreement.

The “CTC” is the Chinook Technical Committee within the Pacific Salmon Commission… of which there are 32 people.   I’m not sure how many of those reached “total mortality” to become part of that working group…

Maybe another name might be appropriate…?

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However, this incredible depth of scientific analysis, techncical committees of over 30 people for one species of salmon, and so on… certainly makes one start to ponder “what is being spent on total mortality working groups…” which largely guide “fisheries”?

As opposed to trying to design: “how do we get as many fish onto the spawning grounds as possible — working groups

how do we avoid having to go to capital expensive, concrete-laden, long-term expensive hatchery options… which often do more damage then good — Working Group

And… “how do we make sure those fish have healthy habitat — Working Group

What evidence would you need to see in order to change your mind?

If you live in British Columbia, you’ve probably seen the somewhat annoying commercial of a former CBC radio personality singing the praises of the Insurance Corporation of BC (ICBC). This is largely an example of evidence-based marketing with testimonials from the tribe.

It’s not all that far off from well-known athletes selling the praises of some sugary sport drink, or milk, or underwear. Somewhere in the brain folks think — “hey, if it’s good for them, just imagine what it’ll do for me…”

To a certain degree, the ongoing (apparent) bcsalmonfacts salmon farming campaign has also engaged some of these tactics on their website… Testimonials from various dr.’s, community folks and the like… ‘evidence-based marketing’… look how great our industry is.

I’ve also noticed recently that the Federal government has begun a new round of “look how great our economic action plan is”. Staged actors looking happy and smiley as government bailouts fattens wallets of party supporters and friends.

Cynicism aside… it is curious to see governments launching into apparent ‘evidence-based marketing’ and ‘testimonials’ from the average jill and joe.

Seth Godin has a pretty good related post over at his site:

The limits of evidence-based marketing

That’s what most of us do. We present facts and proof and expect a rational consumer/voter/follower/peer to make an intelligent decision on what’s better.

That’s how science works. Thesis, test, evidence, conclusion. All testable and rational.

Here’s the conversation that needs to happen before we invest a lot of time in evidence-based marketing in the face of skepticism: “What evidence would you need to see in order to change your mind?”

If the honest answer is, “well, actually, there’s nothing you could show me that would change my mind,” you’ve just saved everyone a lot of time. Please don’t bother having endless fact-based discussions.

[Apple tried to use evidence to persuade IT execs and big companies to adopt the Mac during the 80s. They tried ads and studies that proved the Mac was easier and cheaper to support. They failed. It was only the gentle persistence of storytelling and the elevation of evangelists that turned the tide.]

What would you have to show someone who believes men never walked on the moon? What evidence would you have to proffer in order to change the mind of someone who is certain the Earth is only 5,000 years old? If they’re being truthful with you, there’s nothing they haven’t been exposed to that would do the trick. I was talking to someone who has a body of artistic work I respect a great deal. He explained to me his notion that the polio vaccine was a net negative, that it didn’t really work and that more people have been hurt by it than helped.

I tried evidence. I showed him detailed reports from the Gates Foundation and from the WHO and from other sources. No, he said, that’s all faked, promoted by the pharma business. There was no evidence that would change his mind.

Of course, evidence isn’t the only marketing tactic that is effective. In fact, it’s often not the best tactic. What would change his mind, what would change the mind of many people resistant to evidence is a series of eager testimonials from other tribe members who have changed their minds.

When people who are respected in a social or professional circle clearly and loudly proclaim that they’ve changed their minds, a ripple effect starts. First, peer pressure tries to repress these flip-flopping outliers. But if they persist in their new mindset, over time others may come along. Soon, the majority flips. It’s not easy or fast, but it happens.

That’s why it’s hard to find people who believe the earth is flat. That’s why political parties change their stripes now and then. It wasn’t that the majority reviewed the facts and made a shift. It’s because people they respected sold them on a new faith, a new opinion.

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What evidence would you need to see in order to change your mind about the Department of Fisheries & Oceans?

What evidence would you need to see in order to believe that DFO is meeting its #1 objective: “conservation”?

Would this government department have a hell of a time trying to find some ‘tribe’ members to do positive testimonials? (other than its own staff)

Seems DFO is under attack from many fronts… yet, again (or as always)… largely due to dwindling fish stocks, and our continued fishing down the food chain, and fishing down the size restrictions of various types of fish.

is this the nature of government departments? Or, does this mean it’s time for a fundamental restructuring?

Could somebody show me the testimonials? the evidence-based marketing? the every-supportive ‘tribe’?

Maybe read that part about Mac again:

Apple tried to use evidence to persuade IT execs and big companies to adopt the Mac during the 80s. They tried ads and studies that proved the Mac was easier and cheaper to support. They failed. It was only the gentle persistence of storytelling and the elevation of evangelists that turned the tide.