Category Archives: wild salmon

Sadly misplaced focus…? $30 million to ‘eco-terrorists’ opposed to irresponsible oil and gas dev… Yet,$10 Billion of PetroChina ‘investment’ in Canadian sovereignty?

do you know the story of Cerberus the mythical three-headed dog that guarded the gates to Hades?


Shhhh… nobody tell the “Harper”- Reform government that maybe they are misplacing energy, time and resources barking up the wrong tree..

And… maybe opening a real can of worms that some folks flapping their Right wings may not want opened… (not mentioning any – Fraser Institute – names…)

Or… is this ruse to bark up the enviro-terrorist tree simply an effective ploy to keep us all:

Hush, Hush

…about the huge increase in PetroChina (Chinese government owned corporation) multi-BILLION dollar investments and direct purchases of Canada tar sands projects, and natural gas, and… and… and…

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Coming from the National Post newspaper:

Are new guidelines for charities just upholding current law or a way to silence oil-sands critics?

The Conservative government will keep a closer eye on environment-focused charities accused of breaking rules that cap their political activity, cracking down on groups that allegedly engage in politically charged work beyond the legal limit.

Thursday’s budget arms the Canada Revenue Agency with $8-million over two years to ensure charities devote their resources to charitable work and to improve transparency by asking them to disclose the extent to which their political activities are funded by foreign sources.

“[Some charities] are not acting like they’re a charitable institution; they’re acting like they’re an environmental lobbyist — that’s the big objection,” said [Professor] Frank Atkins, a University of Calgary economist. “They’re hiding behind their charitable status.”

The revenue agency says a charity is allowed to devote up to 10% of its total annual resources to political activities, but Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said this week the government has received “a lot” of complaints from Canadians who worry their donations are going toward political action rather than charity work.

“There is clearly a need, in our view, for more vigilance,” Mr. Flaherty said.

The question of foreign money being used to affect Canadian policy is chief among the government’s concerns, Prof. Atkins [at University of Calgary] said.

“What’s happening out here is that whenever there’s a regulatory approval process, it gets loaded up with all these obscure groups seemingly out of nowhere,” he said, referring to “deep-pocketed foundations in the United States” challenging oil-sands development and the pipeline project. “Even those using Canadian money are still not acting like a charitable institution.”

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Hmmmm… is that the same Professor Frank Atkins that is listed on the Fraser Institute website as:

Frank’s main academic areas of interest are monetary policy and the application of time series analysis to macroeconomic data. Frank had the privilege of supervising the Master of Arts (Economics) thesis of Stephen Harper, who is now the Prime Minister of Canada.

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Well… geee… National Post reporter that sounds like some credible, un-biased ‘sources’…?

Seems the Fraser Institute got quoted twice in this article… as the article finishes with:

Niels Veldhuis, a Fraser Institute vice-president, said there is no question the federal government believes some environmental groups are not abiding by the rules.

“The government ought to look into that,” he said.

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Right… this is the same Niels Veldhuis who thinks that Stats Canada numbers are wrong on many Canadians ability to meet basic needs:

as of 2005, only 4.7 per cent of the Canadian population did not have enough income to meet basic needs

(Stats Can suggests its almost twice that…)

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Oh wait… is that also the same University of Calgary that has various “Research Chair” positions in its Faculty of Medicine sponsored by the likes of Enbridge, Husky Energy, and no shortage of either pharmaceutical companies or other corporations?

For example:

AstraZeneca Chair in Cardiovascular Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Who’s AstraZeneca? Well, they’re a “global biopharmaceutical company…”

Or, the GSK Professorship in Inflammatory Lung Disease — what’s GSK?

Oh that’s just GlaxoSmithKline Inc.:

“GlaxoSmithKline is one of the largest research and development (R&D) investors in the industry, collaborating with academic institutions, governments and other pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to help people live healthier lives.”

Or, the Novartis Chair in Schizophrenia Research. Who’s Novartis?

Oh just this little company that:

Over the past decade, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada has introduced 20 new medicines that have had an important impact on patients suffering from a wide variety of major illnesses…


Not that I’m necessarily saying this is “bad” or “good”…

Just asking the ‘fair question’…

as, when Harper and buddies start barking, they should probably think it through a bit, and maybe ask around their caucus:

S.H.: “hmmm Joe [as in Oliver] is there maybe some worm cans we might open here?”

J.O.: “Oh no, Steve-O we’ll just shit-can those enviro-terrorists out there in BC…”

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It’s also the same University of Calgary Economics dept that lists one of its “Affiliates” as the Canadian Energy Research Institute.

Who has the mission to:

to provide relevant, independent and objective economic research in energy and environmental issues to benefit business, government, academia and the public.


CERI’s economic studies are highly relevant and objective and the analysis and advice contained therein are sought by government and business planners and decision-makers.

Ahhh, yes… I read one of those highly “objective” studies from their website:

Oil Spills and First Nations:  Exploring Environmental and Land Issues Surrounding the Northern Gateway Pipeline

Here’s one of the many fine “objective” comments from the report (and it quickly becomes clear who is “to benefit”…:

A major oil spill in the Kitimat estuary region may cause a high number of sea bird mortalities as well as marine mammal and fish deaths due to the abundance of species living there and the diversity of the habitat. However, there are controls in place to reduce the likelihood of widespread and catastrophic spillage of an oil tanker or within the oil pipeline.

Even if such an event should occur, the habitat range of most species is vast enough that populations should be able to recover in time…

Oh yea… interested to see where that ‘objective’ theory comes from… (e.g. don’t worry about the effect of oil spills on migratory species…)


Conclusions on the Environment 

…Construction activities will cause a deterioration of habitat, but this deterioration is short-lived and species will be able to recover.

And, apparently, this ‘objective’ organization that wrote this little 50-page report (including relying on several references from the 1970s), is also an expert on issues of aboriginal law & aboriginal rights and title:

Aboriginal law is not cast in stone, with much depending on the nation involved and the context:

ancient Code of Hammurabi (written in stone...)

Huh… fascinating… I’m not sure that I know of any “law cast in stone”.

Oh wait… there is the ancient Code of Hammurabi…



But don’t worry say the authors:

CERI recognizes the various environmental concerns and does not hold a position for or against the pipeline…

(Funny, but reading the report I caught a strong whiff of bovine deposit surrounding that statement…)

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Where’s the root of some of this enviro-charitable-crimes theory coming from?

Well… Vancouver-based researcher Vivian Krause (@fair questions) seems to be tooting her horn on this one…

She wrote an article in January in the Financial Post suggesting that maybe her research was at the root of Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s and honorable Steve-O, great leader’s, crack-down on these apparent ‘enviro-terrorist’ organizations…

So much so that she was actually asked to come and testify at the federal House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources in early Feb. 2012.

the National Post newspaper opinion piece:

Vivian Krause: Oil sands money trail

Last week, on the eve of the environmental review for the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline project that would carry Alberta oil to Kitimat for export to Asia, Canada’s Minister for Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, expressed concern that foreign-funded environmentalists would jeopardize the review and block the pipeline.

Oliver didn’t mention my name, but the research that raised concerns about the foreign funding of environmentalism in Canada is apparently mine.

For five years, on my own nickel, I have been following the money and the science behind environmental campaigns and I’ve been doing what the Canada Revenue Agency hasn’t been doing: I’ve gathered information about the origin and the stated purpose of grants from U.S. foundations to green groups in Canada. My research is based on U.S. tax returns because the U.S. Internal Revenue Service requires greater disclosure from non-profits than does the CRA.

Speaking on CBC last night [Jan. 16, 2011], Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “But just because certain people in the United States would like to see Canada be one giant national park for the northern half of North America, I don’t think that’s part of what our review process [for the Northern Gateway] is all about.”

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Krause has been getting some federal government airtime on this one…

A Vancouver Sun article (Feb. 9, 2011) reporting on her testimony to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources:

Vivian Krause’s conspiracy theory — you decide

Vancouver researcher Vivian Krause is one of the most controversial figures in the rather incredible battle shaping up over the Northern Gateway pipeline.  You can google her name and find various profiles, but the bottom line is that this personable Vancouver researcher has portrayed herself as a woman of marginal means who has devoted the past five years or so of her life to unearthing details about U.S. financial influence on the Canadian environmental movement…

… I should add that hers is a rather remarkable story, as she is surely more influential on Canadian natural resource policy right now than the vast majority of parliamentarians we’re paying lavish salaries to in this town [Ottawa].  Her theory about a grand “plan” behind all this money has been given credibility by none other than Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Enbridge Inc. CEO Pat Daniel.

[link to Edmonton journal article also by same journalist: “American anti-pipeline trusts just blowing smoke? Right and left have conspiracy theories about groups’ funding” with quotes from great-leader Harper and CEO Daniels]

Krause appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources today, and there were some lively exchanges…

The article goes on to quote some of her testimony…

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Now, if you’re curious at all, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources was:

Established by the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, the mandate of the the Standing Committee on Natural Resources is to study and report on matters referred to it by the House of Commons, or on topics the Committee itself chooses to examine.

It can study all matters relating to the mandate, management, operation, budget and legislation of the Department of Natural Resources and of organizations pertaining to its portfolio.

The issues being dealt with by the Committee that Krause was called to testify at is the:

Current and Future State of Oil and Gas Pipelines and Refining Capacity in Canada.

She testified on Feb. 9, 2011 and the transcripts are available by clicking on the link.

Here are some curious components:

What hasn’t been known until recently, however, is that some of the opponents of various pipeline projects, and the campaigns against the Canadian energy sector also have some deep-pocketed supporters south of the border. In order for the joint review panel to conduct its work in a manner that is open, fair, and transparent, I believe that funding on all sides should be out in the open.

In my review of the American tax returns of the foundations that are funding the environmental movement both in the U.S. and in Canada, I’ve traced $300 million that has gone from American charitable foundations to environmental campaigns affecting our country. Most of my analysis is based on American tax returns because the IRS requires greater disclosure than the CRA.

The $300 million is from roughly 850 grants that I’ve traced from 10 foundations. In addition to these foundations, there are an additional dozen or more American foundations that have granted substantial funds to Canadian environmental groups.

By my analysis, American funding from the foundations I’ve followed has increased ten-fold over the past decade, from about $4 million in 2000 to $50 million in 2010. Of the $300 million in American funding I’ve traced, at least $30 million is specifically for campaigns targeting the oil and gas industry in Canada

… It’s not small amounts of money from a large number of foreign sources; it’s very large amounts of money from a very small number of billion-dollar foundations.

Actually, my blog and most of my writing has been about the science and the money behind environmental campaigns. Really, it’s the use of the flawed science and some of the exaggerated claims that are my biggest concerns. Some of what the environmental organizations are saying is simply untrue…

When billionaire funders are involved in influencing public opinion and public policy on a major issue of national importance, I think the money should be out in the open, whether the billionaire funders are American or Canadian.

I believe that this applies to foreign investment and philanthropy, as well.

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Well… Ms. Krause… you are EXACTLY RIGHT!

Just like Professor Atkins of the Fraser Institute… errr… University of Calgary… errr… Fraser…

What was it he said again at the beginning of this article…?

“They’re hiding behind their charitable status.”

Seems Fraser Institute (a charitable organization) researchers might be hiding behind the ‘objectivity’ and ‘neutrality’ of an academic institution…?

I find it quite curious actually… I agree with many aspects of Ms. Krause’s research and even Professor Atkins… I’ve asked similar questions since working and serving on a Board for a large enviro organization over a decade ago.

Not in a “conspiracy theory” manner, but more in a: Whose mandate are we fulfilling here?

I called these types of enviro-organizations: US-foundation puppies — and decided to find a little different line of work…

It’s pretty hard to imagine that one is doing good, principled work on environmental issues and otherwise when one’s work is simply being funded by money that was basically made by oil tycoons or computer giants, or otherwise…

As the old saying goes: “there is no such thing as clean money”…

It’s all dirty.

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So What?

And, as Ms. Krause asks in her testimony, some folks suggest: “So What?…” about her findings.

I ask the same: SOOO what?

What difference does $300 million… or… errrr… ‘targeted $30 million’ make…

…when compared to the Billions of dollars that PetroChina has offered to invest in the proposed Enbridge Northern Exit-way pipeline,

Or the $2.5 Billion that PetroChina invested to buy out Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. MacKay River oil sands project.

Or, just a few months ago… (Feb. 2012)

PetroChina takes stake in Shell gas field in B.C.

Canada’s push to access Asian energy markets got a shot in the arm Thursday after China’s largest oil and gas firm agreed to buy a 20-per-cent stake in Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s shale gas properties in British Columbia.

With the planned investment, PetroChina International – a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corp. – has underscored its commitment to participate in a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project that Shell is planning for Kitimat, B.C.

Neither side would release the value of the deal Thursday, but reports in Asia pegged it at $1-billion.


PetroChina to invest $5.4 billion Canada gas

CALGARY—PetroChina has agreed to invest $5.4 billion for half of Encana Corp.’s Cutbank Ridge shale natural gas assets, enabling an enormous chunk of land on the Alberta-British Columbia boundary to be developed more quickly than would otherwise have been the case.

“This agreement is the culmination of more than nine months of discussions between PetroChina and Encana and represents both a significant achievement and a major milestone in the developing relationship of our two companies,” Encana CEO Randy Eresman said in a statement Wednesday.

That’s just a cool, $8 – $10 BILLION DOLLARS of PetroChina investment alone in Canada’s resource sector — in the last year or so…


What percentage is this $30 million of conspiracy-theory U.S. foundation money in comparison…

I think we’re far below 0.1%…

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Hmmmm… like Ms. Krause testified…

When billionaire funders are involved in influencing public opinion and public policy on a major issue of national importance, I think the money should be out in the open, whether the billionaire funders are American or Canadian [or Chinese?]. I believe that this applies to foreign investment and philanthropy, as well.

Yes, let’s get those ‘books’ opened.

And while we’re at it, lets’ get those book of The Fraser Institute open as well. And maybe the the Canadian Energy Research Institute, and, heck, while we’re at it how about the Van Horne Institute as well. (Another of those neutral objective ‘think tanks’ affiliated with universities in Alberta — and consisting of a longgg list of executives from oil and gas and pipeline companies).

The Fraser Institute is also listed as a charitable organization in Canada.

Go read its Annual Reports and see if they report any real numbers…

Where is the Fraser Institute getting its money? (some suggest players like Exxon Mobil).

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All in all this fuss over where environmental organizations are getting their funds seems like the difference between peeing from a helicopter on a pine-beetle-ravaged-forest-fire (e.g. potential $30 million in opposition funds to Canada’s oil and gas sector) and the all-out Asian-giant-resource-gobbling population-exploding BEAST

of BILLIONS and BILLIONS of dollars… and this little issue of a Billion people or so…

And yet, the Conservative/Reform crew just allocated $8 million to the Canada Revenue Agency to ‘crack down’ on this crazed-funding frenzy to enviro-terrorist organizations… that apparently will stop at nothing to protect their backyards…

Come-on… let’s get a grip here folks.

Where’s the potential bogey-man… in OLD oil money flowing north out of the States to pay minimum wage to enviro-researchers and organization?


in NEW oil money flowing in the BILLIONS & BILLIONS & BILLIONS from a government (directly as PetroChina is owned by the Chinese government… they have to do something with all that American debt they’re holding)…

…that has a rather shady and questionable practice of dealing with several things… like basic human rights (ever heard of the Tibetans? or the veto on doing something in Syria…?), the environment (have you checked Beijing’s air quality today…?), dissenters (check recent headlines), and so on…?

Which is not to suggest there is a bogey-man — simply asking where should the inquiring eye, research, and questions really be directed?

Should Canada’s “Standing Committees” be spending time on small potatoes… or the entire quarter section potato farm…?

Should Canada’s “Standing Committees” be spending time inquiring into ‘conspiracy’ theories about how the soon to be bankrupt neighbors to the south want to keep all the oil to themselves…?

Does anyone really think that these BILLIONS of dollars of Chinese investment in Canada’s oil sector are simply going to be used to ship oil and gas to the U.S. through existing transportation networks?

No frigging way!!

BILLIONS of dollars of investment by a government-owned corporation mean that that Government is going to damn well want the resources they paid for… and… well… OWN. (like the former Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. MacKay River and other projects).

Let’s maybe call off the Conservative/Reform-Cerberus (three-headed dog)… and have an honest discussion about handing away Canadian resources to a foreign entity.

Remember when Canadians ‘lost it’ over Mulroney handing away Canada to our southern neighbors through the Free Trade Agreement?

This new brand of “Conservatives” (which even the old Conservatives are uncomfortable with… eh, Joe Clark?… seem to have lost that “progressive” tagline…) seem ‘hell-bent’ on putting the dogs at the gates of selling Canadian sovereignty, selling Canada’s future, and doing a brilliant job of making a fuss about little things, so as to provide the infamous diversionary tactic…

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What does this have to do with wild salmon?


and marine resources… and ocean protection… and shoreline preservation… and fish habitat… and water pollution… and… and…

This whole crackdown is like busting the kid that takes spare change left in a phone booth tray, while in the lobby of Enron…

It smells of something much, much more ominous… (and sadly, this is no April Fool’s…)

Wild salmon catch — is it worth it?

sockeye catch San Juans

Commercial catch statistics for last year are posted on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans website.

Grand total in 2010 of salmon caught commercially: 6,777,763

With 5,774,694 of those being sockeye.

This is a cumulative weight of 17,757,562 kg. With a little over 15,000,000 kg of that being sockeye.

Grand total value of all salmon… $53,567,127

With sockeye making up a little over $44,000,000 of that.

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Seems we’ve improved from the 2009 season (see popular post: $2 for one wild salmon… do you see a problem?). Rough averages suggest we jumped last year to an approximate value of $8 per salmon

Or, roughly, $1.30 a pound or so — on average.

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On the sockeye front, the catch statistics suggest total sockeye landed = 5,774,694 with a landed weight of: 15,025,525 kg or approx. 33,000,000 pounds.

The total value of sockeye = $44,192,198

That’s about $1.33 per pound.

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This fits in roughly with averages over the last few decades.

My question: Is it worth it?

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And this is directed in so many different ways…

What does it cost these days for the operating costs of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans? What are the operating costs of the 100+ “salmon team” alone — including stock assessment, management, admin, etc.?

What does it cost to relocate, or shoot a starving bear rooting through some villages’ garbage because the local salmon runs disappeared?

What is the true value of what is required on the salmon habitat front — both protection/preservation and rehabilitation?

What does the Department of “Fisheries” & Oceans and the Department of Justice pay these days in court costs to argue that the First Nations fronting numerous challenges in relation to fishing rights — don’t actually have any rights, or had little involvement in trading fish and salmon pre-contact, and so on, and so on…? (mainly, it appears, to protect commercial and other interests — as why argue it otherwise?)

High court to consider landmark B.C. aboriginal fishing rights case

The Lax Kw’alaams band, located near Prince Rupert, claim a constitutional right to fish, not only salmon, but also halibut, herring and other species, commercially along the north coast.

The federal government maintains that aboriginal right to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes does not extend to the right to sell fish.

The case has been winding its way through the legal system for five years. In 2006, the Lax Kw’alaams sued the federal government in B.C. Supreme Court, arguing their historical reliance on fish and centuriesold trade in fish oil gave them a modern right to a commercial harvest.

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The old economic vs. environment argument starts to wear pretty thin when it comes to the value of commercial salmon fisheries.

This isn’t meant to paint those who still commercially fish with a bad brush. I know many who do — or did…

It’s more to ask the hard questions.

The Department of “Fisheries” & Oceans is aptly-named. It harkens of a bygone era and so does much of the culture within the institution (the “mustache” crowd as many folks have dubbed it). There are many good folks within the organization, with good intentions.

However, maybe a parallel could be drawn with sports teams that finish last. Maybe lots of good players and management — but often have adopted a losing culture, or an outdated culture.

How many senior managers, administrators, and asst. deputy ministers and otherwise within that organization were there in the heyday of high salmon prices and catches in the 1980s and otherwise?

For over a hundred years that organization has existed — and how many complete restructuring initiatives, re-culturing, or complete overhauls have happened?

Say… compared with other older organizations like General Electric, or Bell, or CN Rail or otherwise.

Most everything about the “management” of wild salmon is structured around who is going to catch them… from the Pacific Salmon Treaty and the Pacific Salmon Commission, through DFO.

And yet… up and down the coast of BC massive changes have occurred over the last few decades in every small (once) fishing-focused villages and towns. As the fisheries closed due to dwindling runs, canneries shuttered, dock pilings rotted, trollers turned into pleasure craft, bears starved, and the like — the Department of “Fisheries” simply became more concentrated in Vancouver and Ottawa.

Less regional offices, less regional staff, less stock assessment (because the stock just aren’t there to assess…), less habitat protection and monitoring, less enforcement — yet more and more and more paper.

MORE paper then one could ever imagine.

Look at the Cohen Commission into Fraser sockeye declines — an entire year extension and multi-million dollar budget expansion — largely due to paper (reports, emails, briefing notes, meeting notes, meeting minutes, Minister’s briefings, and so on and so on).

Teams of people blasting through PAPER… and more PAPER… and still… more PAPER.

Go look at the meeting schedules of DFO staff, or look on their website, or phone one of the employees and ask.

Meeting after meeting, after meeting…



When problems occur… what’s the solution… hire more people to produce more PAPER. Or get rid of people and load up the remaining folks with more paper…

It’s like the 4 P’s of Marketing recreated… People Pushing & Producing more Paper.


For a $1.30 a pound?

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There’s about 1.57 lbs in a litre of fuel. That means that at about $1.30 per liter of gas right now (more for diesel, but cheaper for marine fuel), that translates to roughly 87 cents a pound.

How many pounds of fuel does it take to catch a pound of salmon?

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I came across a note the other day for a conference on building Resilient Communities in the face of climate change. The note suggested:

fish circle

Resilience Theory is a discussion about how communities and societies will adapt to climate change. We understand that we must mitigate climate change and adapt, or we will be in a very difficult place…

And yet, we don’t change our ways of “managing” salmon, or at least our relationship with salmon, to account for these same sorts of changes coming rapidly down the pipe.

When it comes to wild salmon in BC… we’re already in a “difficult place” and have been for years. Go ask… again… all the old fishing villages up and and down the coast. Go ask all the First Nation communities that have depended on yearly salmon returns for eons…

(or add up the costs of the fifth major ‘commission’ in less than two decades on how to better look after salmon)

If one reads through Pacific Salmon Commission and DFO documents — for example on Fraser Chinook — various ‘targets’ for ideal number of spawners (“escapement” they call it — which harkens to the time of counting spawners based on what “escaped” fisheries) are based on numbers derived in the 1980s.

I’m thinking there’s been a few changes in the habitat of Fraser Chinook since the 1980s and that they face a suite of challenges a little more dire than… say… the average water temperature in the Fraser River in the 1980s and earlier.

How has our ‘management’ of salmon changed to account for the dramatic changes occurring as a result of climate change? Some changes we won’t even know until there on top of us.

Look at ocean acidification on the Pacific coast… it has happened at a rate 50-times faster than any scientific models predicted. It’s there, and it’s getting worse.

Dead zones, etc.

Theories change, climate changes, cultures change, organizations change, nature changes… maybe it’s time for change in how we guide our relationship with wild salmon? Fundamentally change…

And what is a “department” anways…?

Free dicitonary online suggests it is: ”

A distinct, usually specialized division of a large organization, especially:

a. A principal administrative division of a government.
b. A division of a business specializing in a particular product or service. [e.g. “fisheries”]

An area of particular knowledge or responsibility; a specialty. [e.g. “fisheries”]

And see, running with this definition is exactly why salmon aquaculture was ruled by Canadian courts to revert back to the Federal government and the Federal department of fisheries and oceans from the Province of BC — because aquaculture was basically deemed a “fishery”. And under the division of powers in Canada that must be managed federally.

Thus, do we maybe need a new “Department”?

A ‘department’ of “fish and habitat conservation”.

Because it seems that the goals of keeping “fisheries” afloat can run directly in the face of conserving fish and habitat. And, therefore, we have a federal “department of conflicting mandates” (just as the anti-fish farm lobby consistently suggests…)

What would we call this specialized “department” if all salmon fisheries are curtailed?

“department of oceans”? (granted some other fisheries would still continue)

$8 per fish; $1.30 a pound… is it worth the risk?

The death of economics? The death of salmon “maximum sustainable yield”?

In recent travels to a used book store,  I picked up a book on economics alongside some old reports on salmon from the 1930s. (And, yes, this did illicit some groans from certain family members…)

The Death of Economics

The Death of Economics” was written by British thinker and economist Paul Ormerod in the mid 1990s. It became a pretty good seller. He’s written two other books on similar topics. His website suggests that his research interests are:

Networks – How people, firms, things are connected to each other, and how different ways in which they are connected have different implications.

Complex Systems – How the properties of systems as a whole emerge from the interactions of their component parts. These are systems in which the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

‘Rule of thumb’ – decision makers in economics. How we can understand many social and economic questions better if we relax the traditional assumption that decision makers attempt to find the ‘best’ decision. Instead, they appear to use simple rules of thumb to arrive at ‘fairly good’ decisions.

Those three research interests are rather fitting to our relationship with wild salmon. If we approached discussions and research on wild salmon with those three categories in the forefront, we might just improve the relationship.

See… the tools of “salmon management” really aren’t that far off from the tools of economics. For example, does the term “maximum sustainable yield” (MSY) really sound like an equation developed by ecologists or systems theorists or quantum physicists exploring complex systems?

No… not really.

MSY is a single species, largely single-factor, narrow-minded, simple system equation for maximizing profits.

Well… and… the history of the salmon fishery on the BC coast demonstrates time and time again that we have utterly failed at “maximizing profits” from the ‘resource’. An over-capitalized, over-subsidized, fishing fleet coupled with dysfunctional equations and models and political interference and political lobbying by high-powered special interest groups has led us down the road we currently find ourselves lost on (e.g. another multi-million dollar judicial inquiry: Cohen Commission — as one example, the fifth in 20 years…).

And in the meantime… where is the $$ and focus on the actual places where salmon live… I think it’s called “habitat”?

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Omerod in his book:

Many people feel instinctively uncomfortable when mathematics is applied to the analysis of human activities [or salmon, or nature in general]. The description of behavior in symbols and equations seems in some rather disagreeable way to undermine the concept of free will…

… the temptation to use mathematics is irresistible for economists. It appears to convey the appropriate air of scientific authority and precision to economists’ musings. More subtly, its use hides the implications of many of the assumptions which are made routinely in professional work.

Despite these important qualifications and reservations, mathematics — if properly used — can be of great value in political economy. Like language, it is simply a tool to assist the process of thought.

Seen in its proper role, as servant, not master maths is an invention which can increase enormously the productivity of thinking [think of George Orwell’s thoughts that words are our servants, not our master]. In our everyday lives we are familiar with the myriad inventions which enhance productivity, whether at home or at work. The washing machine enables more washing to be done more efficiently in much less time that if it were done by hand. The word processor allows more documents to be produced more quickly than if they were written out by hand.

Similarly, maths can vastly increase the power and effectiveness of thought. Complex problems, which would take many pages of words to describe, can be stated more succinctly, and their implications analyzed more clearly, by the use of mathematics than by the use of words. And there are many problems which are quite beyond the power of words to analyze. In the same way that one would use words and not maths to write poetry, maths and not words is helpful in deciding how to send a rocket to the moon.

… But it was not the use of maths by itself which led economics to its present erroneous path; rather, it was a result of seeking to raise economics to the status of the physical sciences that the pioneers of the new economics in the late 19th century adopted the then dominant view of the harder sciences, which saw the world as a smoothly functioning machine. As it happens, this particular picture of the world led to the use of certain kinds of mathematical tools and approaches rather than others. But at least initially the economics drove the maths, rather than the other way round.

Much the same issue remains in “natural resource management”… the world is a smoothly functioning machine in the eyes of ‘resource managers’, which continues to lead us to mathematical tools and computer models which drive our relationships with things and critters like wild salmon.

Yet… a classic conundrum remains — how does the machine-mentality of math and computer modeling dominant in “salmon management” compare with the simple emotional, spiritual, and cultural connection (indigenous and settler alike) to wild salmon and the streams they inhabit?

How do government ministries and bureaucrats quantify the salmon connection throughout the range of Pacific salmon across the Pacific Rim?

Not that quantifying it is what really needs to happen… however what would be the purpose of a giant budget-sucking Ministry if we simply looked after wild salmon for the simple fact of keeping them in our lives and in our backyards because of a deep spiritual and cultural connection?

What if coastal communities and interior communities alike suggested: “you know… actually… we prefer salmon in our streams as opposed to salmon fishing boats at our docks.” (at least until population recover coast-wide to numbers that can support food fisheries).

Or: “you know… actually… we prefer wild salmon in our streams as opposed to the twinning of that freeway… let’s put that money into habitat work instead, which still means jobs and economy…”

But then that would just be idealistic nonsense, wouldn’t it?

Or… is this just a classic boom and bust cycle that has haunted human civilizations for quite some time. If you read much of the older mainstream material on salmon over the last… say 70 – 100 years… the absolute main focus is on economic values.

How many cases of salmon were canned this year?

What was the ex-vessel value? How many jobs?

In behind all the economic discussion are warnings of overfishing, habitat destruction, caution, precaution, tragedy of the commons warnings, and the like… but those all play second fiddle to the lead soloist: Economics.

Is it possible that the death of economics will come in the salmon discussion?

Near the end of his book, Ormerod states:

Behavior of the system in aggregate cannot be deduced by simply summing up the behavior of its individual component parts.


the role of assumptions…

If you ask a physicist how long it would take for a marble to fall from the top of a ten-storey building, she will answer the question by assuming that the marble falls in a vacuum. Of course, this assumption is false. In fact, the building is surrounded by air, which exerts friction on the falling marble and slows it down. Yet the physicist will correctly point out that friction on the marble is so small that its effect is negligible. Assuming that the marble falls in a vacuum greatly simplifies the problem without substantially affecting the answer.

The art in scientific thinking — whether in physics, biology, or economics — is deciding which assumptions to make. Suppose for instance, that we were dropping a beach ball rather than a marble from the top of a building. Our physicist would realize that the assumption of no friction is far less accurate in this case: Friction exerts a greater force on a beach ball than on a marble because a beach ball is much larger. The assumption that gravity works in a vacuum is reasonable for studying a falling marble but not for studying a falling beach ball.

More from one of my economics textbooks…

Thus my questions to fisheries biologists that came up with the concept of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) is this: when we assume… are wild salmon a marble falling from a building, or, more like a beach ball?

_ _ _ _

See, for about 50 years, wild salmon (and East Coast cod) have been largely “managed” by the concept of Maximum Sustainable Yield. It’s based largely on the scientific assumption that habitat for salmon (ocean or freshwater) remains static over time and will produce a similar amount of baby salmon every year, which will swim out to the ocean (the pasture), and return in similar numbers 4 or 5 years later.

(MSY is a great assumption for farming fields… maybe not so much for looking after an essential species that depend on a range of ecosystems including the North Pacific).

Not only that, MSY as practiced, suggests that humans can kill 80% of a predicted salmon run, and assume that the remaining 20% that “escape” fisheries will reproduce the same size run in perpetuity.

In essence, fisheries biologists (employed by Departments of Fisheries and Oceans and running hallowed halls of educational institutions) assumed that wild salmon were a marble falling from the building (in a vacuum). See the evidence in this recent graph produced by the Pacific Salmon Commission and placed in the Dec. 09 Salmon Think Tank convened by Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

Percent of Fraser River sockeye harvested each year

So there you go… 40 years of taking about 80% of the estimated run. Then in the early 90s that marble in a vacuum became a cannonball. (Or, “oh shit…”)

Now the worst part about this whole story is that Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) is still an essential component of ‘managing’ wild salmon in Canada. It’s in the Wild Salmon Policy

Wild Salmon Policy and MSY

And it’s in this year’s 2010 salmon “management planning” documents. Curiously… it’s not called MSY in the 2010 Fraser Sockeye Escapement Strategy. It simply states that killing 60% of some of the sockeye runs is the goal (no… wait, sorry… it’s “mortality”; not kill).

This is a cut and paste from the first page:

Note: "low abundance" (DFO oxymoron)

So take heart… as I’ve heard a DFO rep explain to me recently: “look we’ve reduced MSY to 60% from 80%”… as if that was a step in the right direction…

This is also directly related to the continued mantra from fisheries folks everywhere: “it’s complex, we just don’t know what’s causing these dramatic declines… could be the ocean… could be climate change… could be [enter externality here]…. could be [enter lack of taking responsibility here]”

_ _ _ _

So… assuming that a salmon swims upstream — in a vacuum — or, falls from a building — in a vacuum — (wait… what falls faster a humpy or a sockeye…?  A chum or a spring?)

… what sort of things are we “assuming” out of our equations for achieving MSY? (like the friction on the falling marble, or on the falling beach ball)

Well… there’s those darn seals, orcas, eagles, osprey, bears, squid, mackerel, sharks, parasites, disease, river rapids, hot water, and so on, and so on.

Those darn critters and externalities exert a bit of ‘friction’ on the upstream migration of salmon and successful spawning. Not to mention, the ‘friction’ exerted on baby salmon as they arise out of the gravel and begin their journey downstream and ocean-bound (like all of our shit, prozac, cialis, pulpmill effluent, urban paved road run-off, and so on…)

Just as “Assuming that the marble falls in a vacuum greatly simplifies the problem without substantially affecting the answer”… assuming that wild salmon swim in a vacuum greatly simplifies the problem; however, it also greatly affects the answer. Especially, when the answer = n salmon that we can kill according to MSY equation.

The problem is that Fisheries and Oceans and other North American fish managers have been ‘managing’ salmon according to assumptions that wild salmon are like a marble falling from a building in a vacuum.

When in fact, they are significantly more like a beach ball, which sways all over the place as it falls, and may even go back up on the right updraft… and might get eaten or maimed by some several hundred other things on its journey to the ground. Added, that some of those ‘several hundred other things’ depend greatly on the annual falling of beach balls — in other words the “friction” is essential to life of all involved.

As with the lower benchmark, the upper
benchmark will also be determined on a case-bycase
basis depending on the species and types of
information available, and may apply:
• A proportion of the number of spawners (S)
estimated necessary to provide maximum
sustainable yield (MSY) on an average
annual basis given existing environmental
conditions (e.g., Smsy

what if superman fought batman…?

If you visit the Cohen Commission (Public Inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon on the Fraser River) website you will notice the schoolyard-like reasoning has begun… you know the: “superman would beat up batman in a fight” or “my dad is stronger than your dad”.

Or, maybe more aptly it’s the parliament-like antics of our hallowed national institution… “my MP slept with your MP…” or “my MP’s husband used your MP’s office to secure government contracts…” Or, my party donor investigated my MLA’s apparent wrongdoing…

Or, maybe even more aptly, another U.S. bank is under investigation by federal authorities for de-frauding investors (the public) of money through bundling up sub-prime mortgages selling them to investors, then betting against those investments and making billions. (Gee, I’m shocked…)

I’m referring to the list of culprits in the declines of Fraser sockeye salmon. Today visiting the Commission website, I notice it’s been re-formatted and the latest public submissions can be seen summarized along the right-hand side. Here’s the summaries I see today:

“The decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon is due to predation by harbour seals, which are growing rampant in the Gulf of Georgia and the…”

“The shortfall witnessed in the 2009 Fraser sockeye salmon run was a localized issue caused by open pen fish farms…”

“The disappearance of salmon stocks may be due to the illegal sale of salmon by First Nations…”

(many of these opinions sounding rather similar to various news headlines over the last decade…)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

If you read my post from the other day — Salmon culture, culturing salmon, and enculturation — you can see that around the North Pacific Rim there are completely different opinions (scientific included) and national practices surrounding the use of salmon hatcheries.

Some say good, some say bad, some say we don’t know, some say it’s all we got…

In that same post, I mention Alexandra Morton’s walk along the length of Vancouver Island to protest open-net salmon farming in British Columbia. Now a hot debate has erupted about whether there were 1000, or 4000, or 10 000 people in Victoria this past Saturday on the lawn of the BC Legislature. Letters are being written to editors, conspiracy theorists about corporately controlled media are flying fast and furious and so on.

(It doesn’t really matter; the event was a success in getting the word out that change is needed…)

And that, I suppose, is my fundamental point here.

Kids in the schoolyard will launch into the most in-depth research of Marvel Comics over the last 50 years gathering their evidence on Superman and how he defeated Octopus Man, or whatever other evil do-no-gooder; how he did it with a pulled groin in the 1963 Issue 6 Volume 4; how he did it under the influence of kryptonite in the 1986 Issue 3…

Some really bright kid might start graphing his evidence in Excel spreadsheets, coming back to the school yard with pie charts, regression analysis, Bayesian statistical comparisons, and so on… Or better yet, create complicated modeling programs that try to predict 69 times out of 70 with 95% accuracy 9 times out of 10 whether Superman beats up Batman.

Some other kid just states the common sense point: Poor lowly batman just defeated a glorified clown, and drove a fancy car… Superman Wins!

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Out of curiosity I recently ordered two online courses: Principles of Microeconomics and Principles of Macroeconomics.  (yes a sick curiosity, some might suggest…)

The early chapters of Microeconomics have been rather revealing though:

… an economy is just a group of people interacting with one another as they go about their lives… the behavior of an economy reflects the behavior of the individuals who make up the economy…

Apparently there are ten principles to economics; here’s a key one:

Principle #1: People face tradeoffs.

“There is no such thing as a free lunch.” To get one thing that we like, we usually have to give up another thing that we like. Making decisions requires trading off one goal against another.

Principle #2: The cost of something is what you give up to get it

Because people face tradeoffs, making decisions requires comparing the costs and benefits of alternative courses of action…

Thus, if an economy is just us interacting with us, making tradeoffs and looking for free lunches — and that the cost of things is what we give up to get those things…

well then, doesn’t everything then come down to individual choices?

This “my science” vs. “your science” is about as productive and effective as the “superman” vs. “batman” schoolyard debate, or my politician is more ethical than your politician, or my bank is more reputable and honest than yours…

No matter which way “we” approach any issues there are going to be multiple opinions from all sides… and in the end tradeoffs need to be made. (and sadly, these tradeoffs are often made by the legal profession in courts of law…)

Which tradeoffs are appropriate? —  is the key question.

Most importantly — what tradeoffs are we all willing to make individually for wild salmon…?

Group think

Henri Tajfel developed the “social identity theory” with his colleague John Turner in the early 1970s. The theory suggests that people have a range of identities — from personal through social. The social range often distinguishes itself through identifying with a particular group. Folks generally identify themselves with a group through four elements: categorization, identification, comparison, and psychological distinctiveness.

Using a range of pretty simple methods Tajfel and Turner were able to test how individuals attach themselves to groups and begin to react to perceived “outsiders”. For example, in one experiment they separated teenage boys through showing them paintings by two different artists and let the boys know that their choice would determine which groups they were in.

After this setup the boys were taken to a separate room and were asked to distribute money to other members of both groups. The only information they had was a code number for each boy and which group they were in. There was a clear bias towards their own group over the other. This type of experiment has been replicated in numerous settings, with even less obvious group distinctions.

“Us” vs. “Them” is a powerful, powerful motivator in human behavior. If you’re a hockey fan — look at the Olympic hockey tournament where players represented their country (a very powerful, patriotic group distinction) and played against individuals that they actually played with on their NHL team for a large portion of the year. Quickly friendships, and even roommates in some cases, were dropped in favor of group distinguishment.

We see it in schoolyards, we see it on Parliament Hill (similar forums, mind you…), and sometimes even at dinner parties, and sadly — and quite powerfully — we see it in discussions of how we look after wild salmon.

The group identity, group dynamics, and group discrimination in wild salmon politics are often debilitating and approaching discriminatory. Worse yet — government organizations continually propagate these group distinctions through holding various forums, meetings, discussions — and providing separate funding, departmental support, and sometimes even access to politicians.

I don’t think it’s necessarily always on purpose; however, in wild salmon discussions if the Departments of Fisheries and Oceans continues to host separate meetings and discussions with individual groups (and provides separate funding) — “Us” vs. “Them” will only continue to dominate.

If educational institutions continue to host salmon-related events that are largely geared towards one group (e.g. scientists and researchers) over another — “Us” vs. “Them” will only continue to dominate.

If “groups” within the salmon-related discussions continue to identify themselves with one group over another — for example: ‘we can’t meet with those a**holes, that’ll just be a fight…’ — “Us” vs. “Them”  will only continue to dominate.

The more polarized, conflict-ridden, and groups staking their position we all become in these discussions of how we look after salmon — the more the discussion become dominated by folks professing their rights.

It seems, though, that organizations and individuals that focus more on their responsibilities and less on their rights tend to outperform.

You’re responsible to your community, to your customers, to your employees and to your art. Serve them and the rights thing tends to take care of itself.

Seth Godin

What we all decide to do — i.e. action, right now — for wild salmon is a responsibility. If somehow we can all rise above the politics of group-think, above group-identity, and in many cases job-protection — maybe, just maybe, we’ll start to see a different relationship evolve; with each other, and with wild salmon.

(I attached the classic image of the three monkeys — “hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil” — as it is often associated with two quite different interpretations. In Asian cultures the image is considered three wise monkeys and is often associated with proverbs suggesting: be of good mind, speech, and action. In Western cultures it is the opposite, often associated with suggesting some individuals deal with impropriety by looking the other way, not saying anything, and pretending to see nothing).

Free money – Part I

I have a proposition for you. I have a fail-proof investment scheme that is guaranteed free money. And trust me… some folks suggest there is no such thing as a “free lunch”. Yet, I’ve got it right here.

It’s called my: Free Lunch/Investment Return Tool (FLIRT). Here’s the concept:

You have some money; principal, let’s call it… say $1000. This FLIRT is so good that I guarantee if you take 80% of your principal every year ($800), the 20% ($200) that’s left in the account will be sufficient to bring back $1000 the next year and thus financial returns large enough so that you can take 80% again the next year, and the next year, and the next year. Take 80%, and 100% of the original principal returns year after year.

This tool is so damn good — FLIRTing let’s call it — that we don’t even have to worry about all that other crap out there like: stock markets, surrounding business environment, or even what your neighbour is doing. It is so simple that we only have to ensure we grab that 80% surplus every year (this is the Free Lunch – FL). In fact, you actually have to take the 80% every year because if you take less than that — like say 60% — this will result in less return the next year.  You must be vigilant in taking your 80% – and actually if you accidentally take 90% – FLIRT will still produce; maybe even better.

The reason we must be vigilant — i.e. take our free lunch: 80% return annually —  is that if we let the remaining annual principal  ($200) get any bigger, all that extra free lunch (i.e. returns) will just get stale, moldy, and impact our future returns (i.e. free lunches). We only have so much carrying capacity in our accounts — we don’t want to use that all up, overcrowd it, and so on. Say for example, we lose our FLIRTing vigilance and we only take 60% on an annual basis — leaving $400 every year in our account — the returns the next year just won’t be as robust. Too much free lunch is a bad thing and ensures we’ll get a worse lunch the next year, and so on.

my sketching

FLIRTing ensures that every year we generate the “maximum sustainable yield”; year in and year out.

Yet, the reality is that taking 80% ever year is flirting with disaster, too many free lunches, and a downward spiral is underway for all involved.

Ok, so do you want to FLIRT? Sound ridiculous?

It is.

However, this is how salmon, and many other fisheries, have been managed for over 50 years. The concept of “maximum sustainable yield” came out of some hallowed educational institutions in the 1930s. It took over salmon management in the late 1940s and 50s and is still part of the current Wild Salmon Policy adopted in 2005.

The assumption is based on an old fisheries concept called stock recruitment. (Remember that military analogy from the other day?). Now I mean no disrespect to the individuals that created these concepts, they were cutting edge in their time — but so were PCBS, and asbestos, and atomic bombs. Just because they were cutting edge at one time does not mean blades remain razor sharp, or, even rust-free for that matter.

The stock/recruitment (S/R) relationship theory suggests a certain amount of spawning fish (stock) reproduce a certain amount of baby fish that return as adults at the end of the life cycle (recruits). The theory suggests that in a natural state, the number of babies (and eventual recruits) produced by a salmon run begins to level off and even drop as the number of spawners increase — otherwise growth would continue indefinitely.

The graph is assumed to demonstrate a “dome-like” relationship, as shown in the sketch graph above.

There are comparisons with the classic salt curve or taxes curve. A little is good and effective up to a point, once the tipping point is reached though; too much quickly becomes very bad — for our health, for society, for everyone.

Fisheries science suggests that too many spawners is actually bad — overcrowding, disease sets in, spawners dig up each others’ eggs, and so on. Thus, the theory holds that a certain amount of spawners may be harvested without necessarily having a detrimental impact on the overall population. And in fact, in most cases harvesting fish may actually make the reproduction of babies ( and eventual recruits) more productive. More recruits means a higher harvestable surplus when spawners return. The theory being that if we find that magical point on the upswing of the “dome”, we can actually make spawning that much more effective (i.e. free lunch).

The theory suggests further… we need to determine the sweet spot where free lunches grow on trees; the sweet spot at which a certain amount of spawners produces the optimal amount of recruits. Once we know that sweet-spot number of spawners (optimal escapement or benchmark) required to produce the optimal number of recruits that can be harvested and theoretically reproduce the same size run four years down the road (i.e. typical salmon life cycle) — we have then apparently determined the Maximum Sustainable Yield.

When it comes to Fraser River sockeye, for close to 50 years the Maximum Sustainable Yield has apparently been 80% of the run. Fisheries science, and the institutions that “manage” salmon, figured that catching 80% of the Fraser sockeye population and expecting 20% of the run to reproduce the same size run four years down the road was a good idea, was sustainable, and was optimal for the health of the salmon.

Here’s the graph showing harvest levels on Fraser River sockeye over the last 50 years.

Statement from Think Tank of Scientists 2009

Remember that mention of the invention of bombs… MSY has turned out to be a bomb for salmon populations — especially Fraser River sockeye.

Of course, this is my humble, un-Dr’ed. opinion.

I’ll also add that many individuals much smarter than I, look at this blue line graph and the red line graph below demonstrating levels of Fraser sockeye productivity — and suggest there isn’t really a relationship. That we need more research, we need a “smoking gun”, we need conclusive evidence, it must be out there in the ocean…

Statement from Think Tank of Scientists 2009

I guess maybe I subscribe more to the less rigorous approach of a “balance of probabilities” as opposed to “beyond a reasonable doubt” when we start considering evidence.

One of the relationships between these two graphs appears to be the sad failure of stock-recruitment analysis in considering productivity of an ecosystem. Stock-recruitment accounts for nothing more than one relationship — the relationship between recruits and spawners.

The S/R model assumes a static ecosystem. This many spawners, results in this many babies, which results in this many ‘recruits’ — end of story. Yet, the red line graph shows a disturbing trend in Fraser salmon productivity. A ‘train wreck’. As other individuals suggest, the slowest train wreck you’ll ever see… but a train wreck nonetheless.

S/R analysis has no way of recognizing train wrecks in productivity. It only looks at two things: spawners and recruits a few years later…

Still want to FLIRT for free-money?

lobbying for goats and lawnmowers…

Yesterday, I was wandering the local library. One of the books I picked up was “End of the Line by Charles Clover. This coming week I am at the two day Summit on Fraser River Sockeye Salmon: Understanding Stock Declines and Prospects for the Future hosted by Simon Fraser University at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue in downtown Vancouver.

Clover’s book has now been turned into a documentary, which will be shown at the SFU session on Tuesday. From flipping through the book, and watching the trailer; maybe having many of the science-types at the conference watching this film will snap them out of the “we need more research” paradigm — and the “government better do something” disease — that seems to dominate the discussion.

This two-day session is the third part of the “Salmon Think Tank” that released a statement in Dec. 09. See one of my earlier posts for comments on the statement.

One of the comments in Clover’s book that got me thinking was something to the effect of comparing values of fisheries in the United Kingdom with lawnmower manufacturing  — Economically, apparently, they are worth similar values. He asks — how different would things be if lawn mower manufacturers have the same lobbying power as commercial fishing sectors?

It’s laughable — I snickered at least…

But, it’s also sad. I have an earlier post on the true ‘economic’ value of world fisheries: one fish, two fish…  in the red debt fish.

I decided to take a look at some numbers — just for comparison sake.

  • In 2000, total value of greenhouse tomato production in BC was $73.6 million.
  • In 2001, the value of potatoes produced in BC was approximately $28.5 million.
  • In 2002, BC produced 36.7 million pounds of blueberries at a value of $44.2 million. By 2008, blueberries were worth over $120 million.
  • In 2001, the value of goats in BC was approximately $5 million. Estimated number of goats in BC: under 20,000.

Last year the total landed value of wild salmon in BC was less than $20 million.

This was just over 18,000 tonnes landed, approximately 10.5 million salmon – mostly pink and chum — basically 0 Fraser sockeye.

  • In 2008 it was $20.3 million. (5, 100 tonnes — high % of northern sockeye, basically no Fraser sockeye)
  • In 2007 it was $30.7 million.(20,100 tonnes — high % of pink and chum, basically no Fraser sockeye)
  • In 2006 it was $60.9 million. (24,300 tonnes — over 50% of total is sockeye, thus higher value)

Let’s jump a little further back:

  • In 1997 it was $109.4 million (48,600 tonnes)
  • In 1996 it was $99.2 million (34,600 tonnes)
  • In 1995 it was $85.8 million (48,500 tonnes)
  • In 1994 it was $257.3 million (65,800 tonnes)
  • In 1993 it was $201.0 million (85,000 tonnes)

Wait… I think I see a trend…

It’s not tough to see the years when sockeye make up a larger proportion of the catch on the strong sockeye cycle years. For example, 1994 compared to 1993. There were 20,000 less tonnes (somewhere around 10 million salmon)  landed in 1994, yet $56 million more valuable at landing.

The wholesale value — value added manufacturing like canned, smoked, dressed, etc. — in those years has gone from a high of $466.8 million in 1993; dropping to $135.2 million in 2008. Canned salmon generally makes up between 30-45% of this “value-added” wholesale value.

It would seem some folks finally got a little smarter about value-added manufacturing in the 1990s — kind of like the logging and lumber industry (gee, maybe shipping raw logs to Japan is not the most efficient use of resources).  Landed salmon value in 1993 was $201 million on 85,000 tonnes caught with a final wholesale value of $466.8 million.

In 2006, salmon landed value was $60.9 million on 24,300 tonnes and yet wholesale value was almost $226 million. One might suggest that folks are finding almost 4-times the value in salmon now — as opposed to the early 90s.  Granted these are not always simple comparisons because of the stock composition each year. Some years are big pink and chum years (much less value) and other years are big sockeye years (much more value).

A pretty big question still remains — at least in my mind:

When tomatoes add more to the B.C. economy then wild salmon do we have a problem?

If goats surpass wild salmon — is it time for a fundamental house cleaning of government ministries responsible for looking after wild salmon?

Are we going to start giving goat farmers (no offense) the same lobbying power as commercial fisherfolks?

Wild salmon built this province — biologically, geographically, economically, and most importantly culturally (aboriginal and settler culture alike).

Tomatoes, potatoes, blueberries, and goats did not.

Sources of change? Speak up.

Maybe not the best timing for releasing a report — during the Olympics; however the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council released a new report in late February:

Priorities and Strategies for Canada’s Wild Pacific Salmon and Steelhead

If you’re not familiar with the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council it was established in 1998 following the early 1990s Fraser Inquiry into salmon declines. The organization is funded by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, members are appointed by the Minister.

The organization is intended to: “provide independent advice on conservation and environmental sustainability of Pacific salmon stocks and their freshwater and ocean habitats. The Council’s role is to advise the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the British Columbia Minister of Fisheries and the public.”

In its over ten year existence the Council has published almost 70 different reports and background papers on a range of issues. Many of them provide very good information.

It seems that maybe the Council has finally had enough. This most recent paper comes as close as possible to smacking Fisheries and Oceans and the Province of BC across the face and telling them to “Get a Grip!”

Of course it’s framed in politically polite language; kind of like a kid giving his parents shit — even though he knows that’s where his allowance comes from.

The Council has been disappointed by the inability or reluctance of governments to apply the precautionary approach in ways that assigned tangible value to environmental protection in many of their regulatory and development decisions that ultimately permit the undermining of salmon and steelhead populations.

Also of concern has been the tendency for governments to be reactive to crisis conditions, rather than being proactive in what have often been predictable and preventable situations or initiating habitat ecosystem protection for vulnerable and high-productivity areas.

The “face-slapping” report suggests:  “The need for effective and immediate action by the governments of Canada and British Columbia to fulfill their salmon conservation obligations has never been more important” — lays out five areas of “prioritization of conservation issues and policy advice.”

I understand the organization is limited in how it might lash out and say what actually needs to be said. The organization simply provides advice to various government Ministers. Unfortunately, what starts out as a pretty clear ‘enough-is-enough’ type tone — concludes with five “Ministers should…”

  • fisheries Ministers should….
  • fisheries Ministers should…
  • rinse and repeat three more times….

Sadly, with the release of the British Columbia and federal budgets over this past week — there is a plethora of “Ministers should…”

With federal and provincial governments looking at some substantial red numbers for the foreseeable future, the population of “Ministers should…” is only going to grow — like an H1NoFun virus.

This is not necessarily meant as a criticism of the report — as this is the mandate of the organization… provide ministerial advice.

I suppose a sentence from the last PFRCC Annual Report illuminates the issue further:

A widely held and emphatically expressed view of many British Columbians is that neither the Government of Canada nor the Province of British Columbia is making a sufficient effort to fulfill its legislative and moral obligations to protect and preserve pacific salmon and steelhead stocks.

I might suggest that I am also one of those “many British Columbians”; however, as the story goes we are lucky to live in a democracy — meaning ‘people power’. The “governments” are the elected representatives. Representing who? You and I apparently.

Therefore if many British Columbians don’t think governments are making sufficient effort to preserve and protect wild salmon than they need to do something about it. Many do.

Sadly, change in government policy and mandates does not come from Ministers — nor will it ever. Ministers are simply puppets plopped onto a portfolio (e.g. Minister of Environment, Minister of Fisheries, etc) as little more than interns or temps.

One can envision a Prime Minister or Premier doing the penultimate Cabinet shuffle, handing the Fisheries portfolio with the advice: “don’t do anything stupid or brash” — “just hold ‘er together until the next election…”

Or, these days, the next confidence vote in the House of Commons.

No offence to Ms. Shea the current federal Fisheries Minister; however, I don’t see a rookie minister with a long career in Revenue Canada implementing stunning new fisheries management practices or mandates; or implementing a true ministry-wide ecosystem-based planning model (whatever that is?).

“Legislative and moral obligations”?

The legislated mandate of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is to ensure there are commercial fisheries — why else was the Ministry created? Sure there’s some other words on paper about what they’re supposed to do regarding habitat and “conservation”. However, those words have about as much meaning as this year’s predictions on sockeye salmon returns to the Fraser — Paper Fish

(unfortunately, nobody can eat those words).

Moral obligations?

Now that’s starting to go down a slippery and maybe frippery philosophical road.

If it’s so moral, and climate change is a true issue and threat to salmon, then maybe a few less salmon conferences, a whole lot less flying in jets (maybe Parliament could be done by teleconference), and a heck-of-a lot less driving.

Bottom-line… governments will not be the source of change when it comes to salmon. They like to join the party later. They’re like trendy folks in Los Angeles who show up to every party late — because that’s what cool people do.

Maybe a little less looking to ‘government’ to implement changes — and a lot more looking in our backyards to the water running downstream. If there’s a problem, speak up.

“Is this still necessary?”

“As a ship’s hull attracts barnacles, so all processes attract complications and additions which add little value.”

— Edward de Bono “Simplicity

When it comes to looking after wild salmon — there is a desperate need for questioning and thinking — and asking whether certain practices, policies, complications, etc. are really necessary.

The Cohen Commission looking into the Fraser River sockeye population crash will be conducting a “policy review”:

The commission is currently developing the policy review process. As outlined in the commission’s Terms of Reference, the focus of the review will be any previous examinations, investigations or reports that the Commissioner deems relevant to the inquiry and the Government’s responses to those examinations, investigations and reports.

It’s a long list.

In just the last two decades alone there have been numerous inquiries, reviews, negotiations, provincial, federal and United States government bickering. Including the 1994 Fraser Inquiry that found major problems in Fisheries and Oceans Canada such as:

  • estimating salmon runs;
  • dysfunction at the senior management level;
  • understaffing at the field level; and
  • a lot of illegal fishing or catch unchecked.

As pointed out in previous posts, Fisheries and Oceans costs, budgets, and subsidies compared to actual benefits from commercial salmon fishing represents a significant net-loss. Historically in British Columbia, commercial salmon fishing has accounted for approximately 90% of the total salmon catch.

Edward de Bono (Simplicity):

That some way of doing things has survived over time does not mean that it is the best way or the simplest way. It may only mean that no one has yet tried to find a better way.

As part of his book Simplicity de Bono suggests a tree as a metaphor for looking at things.

The trunk of the tree is the basic supporting purpose. What is this all about? Why are we doing this? What do we hope to achieve? What is the intention? What is the core purpose?

Sometimes things grow in such a messy fashion that eventually it becomes impossible to tell what the real purpose is. It is said that the purpose of many bureaucracies is to continue in existence. It can happen that something set up for one purpose continues only because its purpose has become that of survival. This is a legitimate enough purpose (everyone seeks to survive) provided other people do not think there should be a different purpose.

“Many things are there simply because they were good yesterday — and the day before. There may have been a good reason for them at one time but that reason may long since have disappeared. A historical review means looking at the whole operation and also parts of it, and asking: ‘Is this still necessary?’ “