Category Archives: charts and graphs

“Cumulative impacts” at Cohen Commission this week

 

scientific research agenda?

This week, things start wrapping up at the Cohen Commission hearings. And what a fitting note… apparently it is all about “cumulative impacts”… with a brief 363 page report to summarize.

Here is a fitting illustration to get us started: The illustrated guide to a PhD.  Over at Matt Might’s site.

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Imagine a circle that contains all of human knowledge: [or human knowledge about salmon]

By the time you finish elementary school, you know a little: [e.g. salmon in the classroom]

By the time you finish high school, you know a bit more:

With a bachelor’s degree, you gain a specialty: [e.g. fisheries… or statistics… or…]

A master’s degree deepens that specialty: [e.g., fisheries biology… and phalluses…]

Reading research papers takes you to the edge of human knowledge: [e.g. or reading technical report…]

Once you’re at the boundary, you focus:

You push at the boundary for a few years:

Until one day, the boundary gives way:

And, that dent you’ve made is called a Ph.D.:

Of course, the world looks different to you now: [or it looks like a nipple…]

So, don’t forget the bigger picture:

 

Keep pushing.

(Matt’s illustration is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License so use as you wish, just make sure to give him credit and a link).

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I took a little glance at the brief 363 page: Cohen Commission Technical Report #6 Fraser River sockeye salmon: data synthesis and cumulative impacts.

First, I wasn’t surprised to find that several of the authors of the report have done work for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or research, or past contracts… (been a familiar theme at the Commission).

Second, my surprise was also not raised at the usual comment — From the Executive Summary:

Section 5.2 of this report describes 23 recommended research and monitoring activities

And so yet another major (or minor) environmental consulting firm submitting information to the Cohen Commission is suggesting: more research, more research, and… more research.

I can understand the fact that more research may be required… however, what is that going to change in the immediate or near term?

Sure… the North Atlantic Cod also needed “more research” while it was collapsing, as I’m sure the currently collapsed eulachon (oolichan, hooligan) populations on the BC coast also needed “more research.”

Doesn’t there… at some point in time… need to be accountability for the research that has been done, decisions made, research agendas planned, and so on?

At a basic fundamental level, we could always use more research… on everything.

I could use more research to assist me in raising children, or being married, or making day-to-day decisions… Yet… day in and day out, I still have to make decisions, and be accountable to those decisions.

I’m not sure this approach would go over all that well:

“well… my banker… I need to do more research on that overdraft this month, and determine how I won’t go into overdraft next month — so if we could just leave that overdraft sitting there in the red, that would be great…”

NO… I’m thinking my banker ain’t going to go for that…

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When the ‘rate of return’ isn’t sufficient to support you withdrawing money, your financial planner does not come back to you and say “I need to do more research…”

… and please pay me more to do that research”

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As the illustration above depicts… when it comes to human knowledge about things (e.g. wild salmon)… “experts” “more research” “more statistical analyses”, etc. is not going to change things.

Just as a recent cartoon on this site depicted, the old adage that if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.

The institution that is DFO is an unwieldy pig. It’s mandate is wrapped up in it’s original mandate of the 1940s and 50s — support industrial domestic fisheries.

But what happens when your domestic fisheries become drained… well, ask Japan, or other international organizations that rely upon distant-water fleets to supply their internal and export demand.

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More research, and requests for “more research” by firms that specialize in research, seems to me, to be a rather endless cyclical spinning of despair…

And what good is any research… if it’s not followed up by “ACTION”?

It’s akin to movies or books… a director, writer, actor, etc. can ‘research’ until the cows come home… but at some point in time decisions need to be made, and action ensues, Seth Godin (marketing guru) calls it “shipping”.

At some point we all need to ‘ship’…

It would be absolute sham, if the main thing to come out of the Cohen Commission is a $25 million bill for a plan that simply suggests: “MORE RESEARCH”…

Even my early readings of the apparent “cumulative” impacts on wild Fraser sockeye, is big ongaps” and “more research“…

Well… news flash… there will always be ‘gaps’ and need, on some level, for “more research”…

What’s that old saying about lemons and lemon-aid…?

 

trouble at the DFO henhouse?

sinking ship?

So what happens in the federal Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans when colleagues call out their own? …When employees/scientists call out other employees/scientists?

Is this something the ol’ Human Resources dept. deals with?

And what does it do for public confidence when a publicly-funded government institution has their employees bickering?

A memo released as evidence within the Cohen Commission into Fraser sockeye declines suggests a little trouble in the henhouse… (in the list of evidence released July 8th — exhibit #1342)

Hargreaves and Beamish memo 2003

'... i agree with the criticisms of DFO'

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Not that this sort of squabbling is surprising… however, this Ministry has a pretty important function. One is left wondering who’s running the show?

no association, personally or professionally

‘…not a good team player…’

how dare you.

I didn’t realize “science” was a team game…

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The Cohen Commission is into a summer break now, however there could be some more interesting DFO memos etc. How many other non-‘team players’ aren’t pulling the line?

 

how do you spell ‘sinking ship’? “D…F…O”?

sinking ship?

In wandering around information on the Cohen Commission website (inquiry into declines of Fraser River sockeye), one can find some pretty interesting stuff… that is… I suppose if one is into this sort of thing…

Along the left hand column of the website is the navigation bar — under the “Hearings” tab is a link to “Exhibits”.

There are now over 1000 exhibits. Some with no shortage of pages. I hope that someone is able to do some “key stats” work for the Commission upon its completion. (you know… like baseball stats, or other sports stats.)

Early in the exhibits is information on the structure, plans, budgets, etc. of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

Quite an organization… over 11,000 full time equivalents (FTEs), and an internal structure that resembles a decent size military… in hierarchy and command structure…

Unfortunately, as with all large bureaucracies, it also resembles an obese threatened puffer fish, ready to explode at the seams.

Worse yet… it also resembles a Canadian tar sands operations… sucking up more resources to keep the operation going then actual production — or achieving objectives.

The giant sucking sound is now the sound of resources being consumed to fix, ‘restructure’ and simply ‘control’ this unwieldy behemoth — granted it is most likely one of the smaller “public service” ministries.

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A read through some of the ‘organizational’ material submitted to the Cohen Commission as “exhibits”/evidence, rather quickly demonstrates a ministry in deep shit.

Looking through the Department’s “Integrated Business and Human Resources Plan for 2010-11“.

Fisheries and Oceans Departmental Plan_integrated business and human resources plan

and the 56-page “Report on Plans and Priorities” raises some curious comparisons and thoughts…

Here is a look at annual expenditures — past and forecast for the next while.

Expenditures

And so the annual budget has been over $2 billion annually. Apparently, this is going to be cut by about $200 million over the next 3 years, along with a slight increase in employees, then a decrease…

 

Combine this with some stats from the shorter integrated planning document…

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globally competitive fisheries?

That, apparently commercial fisheries, aquaculture and processing generate about $5 billion in economic activity.

Now, the definition of “economic activity” is a rather broad definition… and… so, here’s a ministry with annual expenditures that are 40% of generated “economic activity”…

…granted there’s also the $7.5 billion or so apparently generated by sport fisheries, however, there is not a significant amount of DFO time or resources spent monitoring these fisheries — at least not in BC (some, but not much).

And there’s even a big disclaimer in the report outlining how DFO shares monitoring and enforcement of the recreational fishery with provincial and territorial governments.

And the “economic activities” generated certainly are not generating revenue to keep the DFO Ministry operational…

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The integrated and human resource business planning document outlines some other curious issues in this Ministry.

...numbers that matter...??

As outlined in the document, this Ministry has a serious problem upcoming. The “Age Distribution” box (top right) showing 40% of their workforce at 50 years or older and that 40% of their workforce is retiring by 2014 (bottom left pie chart).

There’s also this other curious little anecdote that the Ministry wants to cut down hiring time:

“reducing the average time it takes to staff a position to 133 days by implementing components of the national approach to resourcing…”

Wow… if they want to cut down to 133 days — what is it at right now?

So there are over 11,000 full time equivalents in the Ministry — 40% of the workforce is due to retire in less than 5 years (so somewhere around 4,000 to 5,000 people) and the time for hiring new people is going to be cut down to just over 4.5 months…

And yet, the first chart above shows $300 million in budget cuts coming — just as guidance, not as reality — it could be much worse. The Pacific region alone is talking about $50 to $60 million in cuts this year alone.

So how is the Ministry going to do succession planning?

In any business, you don’t just send one person off to retirement and seamlessly ‘integrate’ a new person into the role left and so on… all the way back down the chain.

And so if the Ministry is even successful in cutting hiring times to 4.5 months — that’s still a rough average of say 200 new hires every quarter (4 months) of every year for the next 4 years (and that’s just 4,000 new people to replace the 4,000 to 5,000 lost to retirement).

And don’t forget the classic Peter Principle at work here…that “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his [or her] level of incompetence”, meaning that employees tend to be promoted until they reach a position at which they cannot work competently.

And all of this in a budget slashing environment… gee, sounds like a real secure career choice, and smooth functioning Ministry that’s only responsible for all of Canada’s coastlines (and more).

What else is in the “numbers that matter” above?

In the top centre pie graph is the “FTE’s [full time equivalents] by strategic outcome”. The violet box is “IS” or Internal Services at 18%.

So 18% of the folks working within DFO are simply concerned with the internal workings of the bureaucracy. (Granted, if one did a much more in-depth analysis of people’s time spent working on, stressing about, and dealing with internal staffing, internal politics, and just general internal crap… it would equate to a lot more than 18%).

What is the costs of this I.S. (internal shit)?

Well… that’s outlined in a “financial information” chart.

financial information...?

First thing to point out is that whomever did this chart, maybe didn’t do a very good job of editing.

If you look at the pie charts and accompanying tabular chart below, we’d be led to believe that “Internal Services” (in the purplish color) is responsible for 18% of Capital by SO (strategic outcome)? — the lower left pie chart… but in the table below IS Capital expenditures are more like less than 1% of Capital (e.g. $0.4 million – or $400,000).

…and that Safe and Accesible waterways — the dark blue — is responsible for 81% of capital costs in pie chart, but only 7% in the table.

hmmmm.

Seems there’s some confusion as to which pie chart should be “G & C” (Grants and Contribution) and which chart should be “Capital”. I’m guessing the pie charts are about right… and the table is wrong.

And sooo…the conclusion is that Internal Services are costing the ministry about 20% of its resources — capital including human — in just a financial perspective. Would be curious to determine what all these internal services truly cost in terms of lost productivity, etc. etc.?

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This 80-20 split in expenditures, costs, etc. between internal vs. external… starts to make me think of the Pareto Principle

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Business-management consultant Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population; he developed the principle by observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.

It is a common rule of thumb in business; e.g., “80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients”.

Hmmm… so might we conclude that 20% of this Ministry is costing it 80% of its budget?

Or… 80% of the costs are coming from 20% of the Ministry?

Or… that this 20% of “Internal Services” is getting 80% of the work done?

Doesn’t really matter.

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Bottom line is — on so many levels — this Ministry is a “sinking ship” and in need of serious restructuring.

Right now it’s tag line could be: “come work for us… we’re slashing budgets, increasing workloads, and operate in a massive military-like bureaucracy… and we blow 20% of our budgets on fiddling internally…”

“… oh yeah, we also protect fish… sometimes… as we did ‘manage’ the North Atlantic Cod into oblivion…”

“… but come work for us anyways..we need YOU…”

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… don’t matter how many ‘career fairs’, ‘recruitment rallies’, and ‘university schmooze fests’ you attend with fancy displays (part of “integrated business and human resource strategy”), and beer bongs, and free t-shirts… it’s still a broken ministry.

(all of this said of course with respect to those individuals trying hard to actually keep this ‘ship’ from settling in Davy Jones’ locker… keep up the fight, cuz the basic numbers sure aren’t pretty… or, worse… not always quite right… if a Ministry that is supposed to keep very careful track of fish caught can’t get basic numbers on expenditures correct… where else are ‘numbers’ being fumbled?)

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Fair enough to those that say: “gee, big bureaucratic behemoth… easy target… stop the DFO bashing…”

It’s not a personal thing, it’s simply that so much more efficiency and effectiveness could be realized with a much different operation. Yet, we’re always limited to the two to four year timelines of elections and changes in politicians for any political will to be built to exact change.

And, even when changes are proposed or mandated by Royal Commissions, public inquiries and so on… change comes at the speed of an advancing glacier in Greenland. (oh wait, there aren’t any…they’re retreating…).

For wild salmon — Pacific or Atlantic — change is a must; and rapid change.

The changes they currently face are certainly faster than evolutionary time scales…

Upper upper Fraser River sockeye: Recipes for Extinction 2011

 

Sockeye salmon in spawning channel, Nadina River Spawning Channel, Houston, British Columbia

This is a continuation of the last post — outlining the current Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Pacific Salmon Commission cookbook recipes for decimating troubled Fraser River sockeye stocks.

At the moment there is a $20 million (or so) judicial inquiry investigating the 2009 shockingly low returns of Fraser River sockeye.

One may not need to look too much further then the current cookbook approach to “managing” troubled sockeye stocks from the upper Fraser River.

These stocks are being “managed”/cooked into oblivion.

One might suggest it’s akin to throwing fish and steak on the same bar-b-q at the same heat and cooking the fish the same way as the steaks. The result…?

hockey puck fish… not much good to anything or anyone.

If the current DFO method of “managing” Fraser sockeye, specifically upper Fraser sockeye is not a Recipe for Extinction… then someone let me know what it is…

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The last post…

…explained how the Bowron River and Nadina River sockeye that spawn in the eastern and western reaches of the upper Fraser River face dismal pre-season forecasts for 2011.

These two runs are grouped into the “Early Summers” which include several stocks from all across the Fraser watershed that all migrate into the river at approximately the same time. These sockeye stocks have been ‘grouped’ for “management” purposes.

(e.g. it is easier to devise ‘fishing plans’ on an aggregate of stocks that migrate into the river at similar times… as opposed to carefully trying to protect smaller, endangered runs).

Some of the other Fraser sockeye stocks that co-migrate with the Bowron and Nadina stocks are larger, healthier stocks that have relatively decent productivity in recent years and decent pre-season forecasts.

As a result, the aggregate total of all the runs combined means some limited fishing may occur on the Early Summers — however this means that the potential total allowable mortality predicted and permitted for the Early Summers in potential fishing plans could potentially wipe out an entire troubled sockeye run like the Bowron or Nadina or both.

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Late Stuarts and Stellak0 — Summer grouping

There is a similar story for the Late Stuarts and Stellako sockeye runs.

 

upper Fraser sockeye -- Summer group

These two stocks of Fraser sockeye are grouped into the “Summers” — an aggregate based on run-timing a bit later into the Summer (hence the name).

DFO Fraser sockeye pre-season forecast -- Summer group focus

 

There is a very concerning picture here.

Let’s look at the 50% probability pre-season forecast for the Summer stocks:

Fraser sockeye forecast -- Summers - 50p prediction

Summers -- 50p forecast

 

This shows a total run size forecast for the four “Summer” stocks — all grouped together — of a little over 1.4 million sockeye.

The Chilko run (west of Williams Lake) is looking pretty decent with some green boxes in productivity and a run that appears to be within range of average (“mean”) run sizes.

The 50% probability suggests a run size of a little over 1.1 million, comprising almost 80% of the total “Summer” group returns.

The other Summer stocks…?

not looking so good!

The Late Stuart is showing a 50p pre-season forecast of only 41,000.

This is well below the mean run size on all cycles of well over 500,000.

And even on this cycle year, a mean run size of over 80,000.

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Similarly for Stellako.

A 50p pre-season forecast on this stock of only 79,000.

The mean run size on all years is over 460,000.

Worse yet, 2011 should be an up year with a cycle average of just under 600,000!

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Things don’t look good on these stocks…

…even…

…even if they were left entirely alone and no one went fishing.

However, DFO and the Pacific Salmon Commissionin their great wisdom — are proposing fisheries on the Summer aggregate/group that will allow up to 57% mortality on the overall group run size.

At the 50p forecast of 1.4 million fish — this equates to a potential catch of well over 800,000 Summer-run sockeye.

Yeah… that’s right… 800,000 sockeye are proposed to be caught as part of pre-season fishing plans.

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Let’s take another look for a second at those numbers….

The total run size forecast for the Summer-grouping of Fraser sockeye at the 50% probability level is: 1,414,000.

Pre-season planning by DFO and the Pacific Salmon Commission is suggesting a target of 57% exploitation, which equates to over 800,000 Fraser Summer sockeye dead.

That means that — theoretically — both the Stellako and Late Stuart runs could have the entire runs captured in fisheries — as they only comprise together less than 10% of the total Summer grouping run size.

Their total run size is 120,000.

(remember this isn’t what is predicted to reach spawning grounds — this is just predictions for reaching the mouth of the Fraser).

With a predicted fishery exploitation of 800,000 — doesn’t seem all that difficult to consider that fisheries might catch every last Late Stuart and Stellako sockeye, or 120,000 sockeye.

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Quesnel River stocks — Summer group

Not only that — factor in the one other “Summer” group stock — the runs that return to the Quesnel River (e.g. the famed Horsefly and Quesnel Lakes runs). The 50p forecast on these is only 153,000 (just over 10% of total Summer-run size)

And thus the potential fishery exploitation rate of 57% of the Summer group — over 800,000 fish — could potentially eradicate three of the four Summer stocks.

(these three runs comprise only about 20% of the total Summer group)

(And it must be remembered, as well, the “management adjustment” — or death en route to the spawning grounds — such as hot water, drought, disease, and so on, is not even factored in here… these fish face a gauntlet of threats trying to reach spawning grounds — let alone avoiding fisheries that are targeting a 60% exploitation rate)

How is this not a recipe for extinction?

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This is the absolute absurdity of mixed-stock fisheries…

…DFO’s aggregate management (groups of stocks based simply on run-timing — not health of the stocks or geographic distribution), and a “salmon management system” that is based on limited information and fisheries-first — not conservation goals.

Worse yet… ask DFO if they have “escapement objectives” for runs like Stellako, Late Stuarts, Nadina, etc. — this means how many spawners do they guess they have to get onto the spawning grounds for each sockeye stock, just to meet conservation objectives (e.g. survival of the individual runs)?

They don’t know.

The escapement objectives for Fraser sockeye are also done by the aggregate groupings — e.g. Early Summers, Summers, etc. — so if particular runs like the Stellako and Late Stuarts disappear… it doesn’t really matter if other stocks within the groupings remain somewhat healthy.

Worse yet, DFO and the Pacific Salmon Commission only have enough information to track 19 individual Fraser sockeye stocks.

Estimates suggest there might have once been over 200 individual Fraser sockeye stocks, utilizing over 150 different spawning areas. (Other estimates suggest that total run sizes once reached numbers of over 160 million Fraser sockeye on a yearly basis…).

How is this current system not a recipe for extinction?

This cookbook has already cooked, baked, poached, decimated… call it what you want… numerous small, distinct Fraser sockeye stocks.

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(Cohen Commission… hope you’re reading this… and looking into this vital issue… if this Recipe for Fraser Sockeye extinction does not come out in final reports… it’s largely a wasted $20 million — and we can all start writing the eulogy for upper, upper Fraser sockeye).

upper Fraser River sockeye 2011: DFO Recipe for Extinction

adapted from Cohen Commission tech report #2

It might be with some irony that today the Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser River sockeye is conducting hearings into fisheries Monitoring and Enforcement. There is probably little question that better Monitoring and Enforcement could assist Fraser sockeye stocks; however, on a cost-benefit analysis between ‘good management‘ vs. ‘monitoring, enforcement, & compliance‘ would there really be much comparison…?

Let’s look at this coming year’s sockeye forecasting and pre-season planning (2011): As the Recipe for Upper Fraser Sockeye extinction is plain as day

Below is a rather complex chart produced by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that documents the “recent productivity” of 19 (of the over 150) distinct Fraser sockeye stocks.

The 19 sockeye stocks in which DFO actually has enough information to utilize are further grouped into four run-timing groups (Early Stuart, Early Summer, Summer, and Late Summer).

These can be seen down the far left hand side — Column A. (I will break this chart down further with specific focus on some key numbers and columns).

 

DFO 2011 "Recent Productivity" Fraser Sockeye Forecast

First off, the Early Stuarts, one of the furthest upstream migrating Fraser sockeye — Northwest of Prince George in the upper Nechako drainage (Stuart River is main tributary — see map above), is in deep trouble.

In essence, what column “I” suggests is that the historical ‘mean run size’ for the Early Stuarts — based on all cycles — is 311,000.

On the 2011 cycle (Fraser sockeye predominantly run in four-year cycles) the mean run size is 172,000.

Columns “K” to “O” give the ‘probability’ of various forecasts.

Column K is the “10p” forecast suggesting that there is a 10% chance (or 1 in 10 chance) that runs will be at or below this number — for Early Stuarts that’s 6,000.

The standard generally used in pre-season forecasting is the 50p or 50% probability forecast which for Early Stuarts is 17,000 (column “M”).

So the Early Stuart median for all cycles is 311,000 — for the 2011 cycle-year it is 172,000 — however for this year the 50% probability pre-season forecast for 2011 predicts a run size of only: 17,000.

Even the best-case scenario (90p — 90%) predicts a run-size of only: 42,000.

(Note: Last year 2010 — the apparent big record year — the Early Stuarts met the 90p pre-season forecast and had an estimated return of 100,000).

However, raise any questions on the Early Stuart sockeye and DFO will say “but we’ve been in conservation mode on these fish for decades”. Yet, even just as far back as 1997 — the total run size of the Early Stuarts was estimated at almost: 1.7 million sockeye.

And yet that year the estimated catch was over 770,000.

Worse yet, an en-route loss is estimated at over 630,000.

Only an estimated 260,000 reached the spawning grounds. A mere 15% of the total run.

And then this year the best case scenario suggests only 42,000 as a total run size, not even what might reach the spawning grounds — some 1000+ km upstream…

Hmmm. wonder why we there’s a problem…?

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Estimated Returns and Historical Productivity

So, yes, the Early Stuarts have been in trouble for quite some time — however, it seems like this is akin to a flu-bug in the upper watershed. Trouble for upper Fraser sockeye seems to be contagious..

In the “Early Summer” grouping there are two sockeye stocks with enough information for “management” purposes — the Bowron (returns to Bowron River east of Prince George, and northeast of Quesnel) and the Nadina (returns to upper Nechako River, west of Prince George and southwest of Fraser Lake).

Here are the numbers blown up from the above chart:

2011 Fraser sockeye forecast: Bowron and Nadina River runs.

This half of the chart shows the estimated Effective Female Spawners (EFS) in columns “C” and “D”.

The “BY” stands for Brood Year. Therefore, 2007 is the Brood Year (BY) for the majority of returns this year: 2011 — as sockeye largely have a four-year life cycle. However, some years and some runs have more five-year old sockeye return as well. Often this is in the range of approximately 20-30% of the total run. And thus column “D” is the estimated Effective Female Spawners of 2006.

And so in 2007, the estimate suggests there were 1,100 Effective Female Spawners (EFS) and in 2006 there were 600 for the Bowron.

For the Nadina there were an estimated 1,000 Effective Female Spawners in 2007 (the main brood year for this year’s 2011 returns) and 4,500 EFS in 2006.

_ _ _ _ _ _

The next columns — “E” and “F” are estimates of the productivity of each Effective Female Spawner over an 8-year time period (column E) and 4-year time period (column F).

For a population of any critter each female (effective female spawner) must average a productivity of 2 progeny that live to become reproductive adults — ideally an average of one male and one female — just to maintain any population with no growth or depletion.

The Bowron has an estimated productivity of 2.4 (over 8 years) and 2.1 (over 4 years) returning adults for each female spawner (the numbers in red boxes — red meaning bad/stop ).

estimated productivity of Bowron sockeye stocks

This means that the Bowron stock of Fraser sockeye is barely replacing itself at current productivity.

The Nadina is faring a little better with estimated productivity over 8 years of 3.0 (in the red box) and over 4 years of 4.6 returning adults per effective female spawner (in the yellow box — meaning, caution).

estimated productivity of Nadina sockeye

Sockeye salmon enhancement facility, Nadina River, British Columbia

 

(It should be noted that the Nadina sockeye largely utilize man-made spawning channels… and they are still in trouble…).

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The next set of numbers further along the right on the chart are rather revealing as well, here’s a clip with columns C-H taken out:

 

Fraser sockeye forecast_2011 Estimated probabilities for Bowron & Nadina stocks

Columns “I” and “J” are showing average “mean” runs sizes for these various runs as an overall average of all years previous — “all cycles” column “I” and the four-year cycle that includes 2011 column “J”.

For the two runs of concern — Bowron and Nadina — one can quickly see that the difference between the average run sizes and the various probabilities of run sizes this year — there’s a big discrepancy.

(And it must be pointed out that this is estimates of Total Run Size returning to the Fraser which may be targeted for fisheries — not the total run size that is predicted to reach, or reached, the spawning grounds.)

As mentioned earlier the 50p or 50% probability forecast is the one most commonly used during pre-season forecasts. For the Bowron that’s 5,000 estimated as a total run size (as compared to a mean average of all years of 39,000) and for the Nadina 12,000 (as compared to a mean run size of 80,000). (Remember, total run size predicted, not what’s estimated to reach the spawning grounds).

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Recipe for Extinction

The Bowron and Nadina River adult sockeye stocks migrate into the Fraser River approximately the same time as several other stocks that migrate to different parts of the Fraser River. The other stocks are listed in the chart above — names like Fennell, Gates, Pitt, Raft, etc. These stocks are spread from the upper, upper Fraser through the upper Thompson River, right down to the lower Fraser with the Pitt.

All, most likely, quite genetically distinct from each other — however, simply grouped because of run-timing. These are called the Early Summers for exactly that reason. Convenient for fishing plans… maybe not so convenient for conserving genetic diversity of stocks… or even conserving stocks themselves…

If you look through the various other runs within the Early Summers grouping, a few are looking relatively healthy, with 50% forecasts suggesting run sizes a little larger then the mean averages. There is even some green in the productivity and EFS boxes.

Total 50% probability pre-season forecast for all Early Summers is 453,000. With a few healthy runs… this means potential fisheries targeting this Group.

At the present time apparently DFO and Pacific Salmon Commission is considering fishing plans that would target a 40% exploitation rate on these Early Summers — which suggests that close to 200,000 of these Early Summers could potentially be targeted in fisheries.

For the Bowron and Nadina sockeye runs, this could mean total disaster.

There are only a total of 17,000 total fish at the 50% probability pre-season forecast for both these runs combined — and this is just fish forecast to reach the Fraser River, not the actual number forecast to reach the spawning grounds, which for these two runs is over 1000 km up the Fraser River.

These 17,000 potential fish could easily be swallowed in fisheries targeting other healthier Early Summer stocks.

Or, let’s say even conservatively that these targeted fisheries only catch half of the Bowron and Nadina returning runs — 8500. Conservative estimates suggest that 40% or more of these fish will die en route or prior to spawning. If that occurred there would still be 90% of the total run wiped out.

This is all considering fish on paper… which is the problem here.

The Recipe of Extinction for upper Fraser sockeye stocks is: mixed stock fisheries based on fisheries management plans that manage to the Aggregate Groups (only four) and do not discern between endangered individual, genetically distinct runs — such as the Bowron and Nadina stocks.

(let alone the 130 or so unnamed Fraser sockeye stocks that don’t have enough information to be considered by DFO or the Pacific Salmon Commission).

Tomorrow?

We consider the Late Stuarts and Stellako, two more Upper, Upper Fraser River sockeye runs that face a worse scenario as part of the Summers group of Fraser sockeye.

They are the Recipe for Extinction — Chapter 3.

NEW E-BOOK… 1 Fish, 2 Fish: Do you really want to know about Maximum Sustainable Yield

New e-book on Maximum Sustainable Yield

Today is the release date for the first e-book on this site. It’s not a long one, however, maybe informative.

1 Fish, 2 Fish: Do you really want to know about Maximum Sustainable Yield

Here is a sample from page 1…

Page 1: How (not) to “manage” fish…

Please share this document with anyone — or send folks to this site to download. (Please comment at will.)

And please consider making a contribution to support this site, and future publications — look along the right hand side of this page for the PayPal link.

Maximum Sustainable Yield — A sure Recipe for Wild Salmon Extinction.

And stay tuned for more e-books coming soon.

slippery secret salmon science society

is this the secret?

Announcement: the Slippery Secret Salmon Science Society (S5) is hosting Seance Saturday (S2)…

It’s called S5 + S2 = ??

If you can answer the question you win a new neutron microscope…

(remember your secret spawning salmon handshake…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve been reviewing various kernels of information on the Cohen Commission. One can surf through the Executive Summaries of some of the technical reports — only one of the reports is available to download (Project 9 – Effects of climate change on Fraser River sockeye salmon).

Some others are hidden in transcripts as “evidence”. Others are not available yet. And one — Project 11 – Fraser River sockeye salmon: status of DFO science and management — is apparently not going to be done. At least according to the most recently posted status report:

Commission counsel have decided not to present project 11, Fraser River Sockeye SalmonStatus of DFO Science and Management, into evidence. The financial information requested by the commission’s researcher for project 11 could not be obtained in the time frame needed to complete the intended analyses.

Further, the Commissioner has heard or will hear direct evidence on the issues covered in the technical report. In particular, the Commissioner will hear evidence directly from DFO witnesses on these issues during the final hearing topic, “DFO Priorities & Summary.”

Hmmm… the report that would most likely shine the light on the biggest culprit in Fraser sockeye declines slinks off into oblivion.

Might some surmise this is because the small world of salmon scientists didn’t want to open the can of worms and potentially affect their chances of securing contracts with the only show going out there — the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?

(I wouldn’t want to be so cynical… however, some may not find it a huge stretch…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

A couple of curious things I’ve noticed in reading the Technical Reports:

1. Each report has two reviewers — comments and responses from reviewers and report authors are recorded at the end of the documents.

Now, one should probably conclude that this is meant as a quasi-peer review process — the great leveler of scientific literature. Oddly, though, many of the reviewers are some of the authors of other Commission technical reports. And more oddly, some of the reviewers are co-authors of other papers with the authors of the technical reports that they are reviewing.

Is this really a transparent, open method of reviewing and providing critical feedback?

Or, is this the ‘secret’ society of salmon scientists…?

Is the world of salmon experts really so small that something as important as the science review for the Cohen Commission resembles a tight-knit Conservative Party climate change fundraiser in Calgary (the heart of oil and gas co. headquarters)?

Even reading through one of the better technical reports — Project 9 – Effects of climate change on Fraser River sockeye salmon — one reads about the past in-depth research done by these two researchers paid for bythe Pacific Salmon Commission and DFO

Did you read in yesterday’s post how a “seance” is sometimes known simply as a: “sitting of a society”?

Is this “scientific” work simply a seance of a salmon society?

2. The bulk of the reports appear to simply be literature reviews. Some go so far as to hypothesize qualitative matrices (“the matrix”) and so on that organize literature reviews into some sort of quasi-scientific view of the salmon world.

And, there is a whole lot of: “due to limited data…” and “lack of data…” and “lack of data limited testing for cause and effect…” and “Due to our inability to rigorously test for cause effect relationships…”

And so on, and so on…

And take a guess at what the bulk of the recommendations are…?

We need more research…”

We highly recommend research priorities focus on…”

more research…” “More Research…” and (you got it) “MORE RESEARCH…”

Is this not akin to police doing investigations on themselves and concluding no wrong-doing…or… more investigations required?

Or, politicians recommending their own raises and increases to expense accounts…or increased terms?

Ok… maybe a bit of a stretch… and not necessarily similar — simply intended to make a point… there is some irony in scientific researchers saying they need to do more research — when that’s what brings home the bacon.

Some of this should potentially be taken with a big truckload of salt… we can research EVERYTHING further… or summarize research further, or review research, or identify gaps, or… or…

The other danger of this approach is that it makes implementing real change — rather difficult.

Why implement change when “we just don’t know… we’re not sure… the apparent evidence is not conclusive.”?

It’s not all that different… than say… cancelling elections and simply basing governments on poll results. Or, waiting until Inuvik, NWT experiences green Christmases before implementing real climate change policy…

Watching election coverage last night, Elizabeth May the Green Party leader and first elected North American Green Party candidate quipped: “the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic was built by professionals…”

Granted, that apparently god was directing Noah’s building plans… however, the Titanic was most definitely deemed unsinkable by the pros…

_ _ _ _ _

Now, I recognize these technical reports for the Cohen Commission are meant for the privilege of Justice Cohen himself.

The commission established a scientific research program to enhance the Commissioner’s understanding of the science behind the decline of Fraser River sockeye. The commission contracted with qualified and experienced external scientific researchers to study a wide range of technical and scientific issues designed to address potential causes for the decline. (from Apr. 27 Status Report)

My quick look-up of the definition of “enhancement” suggests: “To make greater, as in value, beauty, or effectiveness; augment.” So I’m guessing the Commissioner might have augmented knowledge, or more effective knowledge, or even beautiful knowledge of salmon science… or… errrr… ummm… the apparent incredible “lack of data”… “limited data” … and the mass of opinions in the slippery salmon science society suggesting “more research required” .

Let’s hope that this augmented knowledge sees past the slippery secret society to suggest real meaningful change — because if real change is to be dictated by scientists… then we’re going to be waiting a lot longer than the great bovine herd return… (errr… homecoming of the cows…)

Plus isn’t science supposed to be “objective”… e.g. “presented factually”… and how do we do that if we don’t have ALL the data? all the “facts”? the “truth”?

_ _ _ _ _ _

I recognize this is a little tough on the scientific institution… there is a valuable place for science, and I’m prone as the next wild salmon guy to quote my gumboot biology textbook… however, healthy wild salmon runs aren’t really about SCIENCE… They’re about politics and political will.

There are a heck of a lot more scientists involved in stating that climate change is here, here to stay, and one of the greatest threats to humankind… there are scientist declarations… scientists warnings… scientists sit-ins… scientist hunger strikes — stating that climate change is here, and it could be devastating.

But show me the life altering policy changes at the political level… show me a current sitting politician (not a previous politician flying hundreds of thousands of kms a year touting the dangers of climate change…) that is making the hard decisions to stem the tide…

Even this Cohen Commission report #11 states:

Overall, the weight of the evidence on the adverse effects of recent warming on survival of some individual life stages, as well as its possible cumulative effects across life stages, suggest that climate change has been a possible contributor to the observed declining trend in abundance and productivity of Fraser River sockeye salmon over the past 20 years.

And so if climate change is having a negative effect… what difference do any other changes make, if most world governments refuse to make changes to the things causing climate change?

So where is the research reports for the Cohen Commission on political decision-making? — a literature review of all the political decisions that have endangered salmon runs (or cod… or sturgeon… or whales… etc.)?

Science plays a part… yes… but politics rule the game…

And how are you salmon folks feeling about the new majority rule here in Canada (put in with about 40% of the popular vote)? Think it’s going to get better for wild salmon out there?

salmon science… a body of “facts” and “truths”?

data gaps?

Science” : the intricate process of saying a lot with a variety of charts of graphs and concluding… well… not much at all…

Oddly enough, dictionary.com suggests that “science” is sometimes mistaken as “seance” .

A seance being some spiritual communing with the dead; a ‘sitting’ — (which is the actual French roots of the word).

And as such, a seance is also defined as: “a sitting of a society”.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Now the definition of science suggests it is:

a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws.

A fact: “Knowledge or information based on real occurrences.”

And truth: “Conformity to fact or actuality.”

Or: “A statement proven to be or accepted as true.”

And some suggest:“Perhaps the most general description is that the purpose of science is to produce useful models of reality”

Reality…?

Hmmmm.

So what happens when science and its practitioners enters the unknown?

Well…sometimes… it makes shit up

(…or models it with “expansion lines” and algorithms…).

Or… simply states all sorts of disclaimers, qualifiers, and other forms of political speak.

Or… gift wraps affirmative statements in crinkly, fancy ambiguity and obscurity with lovely bows of contradiction and inconsistency.

All of these sent priority post with a hefty invoice for reassurance.

_ _ _ _ _ _

I’ve started reading through the various scientific and technical reports of the Cohen Commission into Fraser River sockeye declines. At least the ones I can find…

In August 2010, the Commission announced an “ambitious scientific research program to help the Commissioner understand the science behind the decline of Fraser River sockeye.”

After disbanding the initial pre-eminent scientists panel formed in the early days, the Commission announced 12 Research projects back in August 2010:

Project 1 – Diseases and parasites

Project 2 – Effects of contaminants on Fraser River sockeye salmon

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

Project 4 – Marine ecology

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

Project 6 – Data synthesis and cumulative impact analysis

Project 7 – Fraser River sockeye fisheries and fisheries management

Project 8 – Effects of predators on Fraser River sockeye salmon

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

Project 10 – Fraser River sockeye salmon production dynamics

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

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

Back at the time that these projects were announced and the pre-eminent science panel disbanded — the Commission was still on timelines to be wrapping up right now — May 2011. As such, the researchers were given very tight timelines: “In most cases, the researchers will provide the commission with a progress report by November 15, 2010 and a final report by January 31, 2011.”

In other words… science doesn’t only need to state facts and truths about reality… it needs to be fast.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Now since then… the Commission has been extended a year; however the scientific reports were still rushed — and it shows in reading some of them.

(And if you suffer from insomnia… three of the  reports I’ve seen comes in at a pithy 120+ pages each… and when it doubt, and in a rush… list as many references as possible).

_ _ _ _ _ _

Now that I’ve stirred up the scientific ire of a hypothesizing hornets nest…

Does this make sense to you?

This is from Project Report 12 – Fraser River Sockeye Habitat Use in the Lower Fraser and Strait of Georgia, which you have to dig out of Commission transcripts, it’s not available on the main webpage.

Our review and analysis involved compiling available data from various technical reports, primary literature and online sources of potential factors or measures related to human development and activities in the lower Fraser and Strait of Georgia.

A statistical analysis of the association of human activity and potential impacts on sockeye habitats and, in turn, on Fraser sockeye productivity was not possible in this review due to the limits on the nature and extent of data available for human activity and in particular the lack of quantitative information on sockeye habitats.

So, the information doesn’t really exist… this is confirmed further in the report:

An approach reliant on quantitative measures of changes in sockeye habitats was not possible for this report due to the lack of quantitative data available on the extent and quality of sockeye habitats across the lower Fraser River area, lower Fraser watersheds (Harrison, Chilliwack and Pitt Rivers) and the Strait of Georgia.

There you have it… the information is not there, not available, not collected and so on. Yet… yet… this ‘scientific’ report which maxes out at 60+ pages of report and another 50 pages of fluff, suggests:

Overall, the development of major projects and resource restoration efforts during the period 1990 – 2010 has resulted in a net gain of sockeye habitat and these gains have been substantially added to through efforts to restore historically lost or damaged fish habitats.

Ohhh… so there’s “lack of quantitative data available on the extent and quality of sockeye habitats across the lower Fraser River” yet the report then goes on to suggest that there was a “net gain of sockeye habitat” and goes on further:

Although the effectiveness of habitat compensation projects in the Fraser River appears to be improving, the need for an improved habitat science, monitoring and data management framework is clear and aspects of this need are consistent with recommendations made by others over the past decade or two.

So… no data on the habitat… but apparently that habitat is “improving”?

The habitat protection strategies used in the lower Fraser River and Strait of Georgia, appear to be effective at supporting sockeye habitat conservation. More broadly, a hypothesis that the declines in Fraser River sockeye production over the period 1990 – 2009 are the result of habitat impacts from project development is not supported by the net habitat gains that have occurred over the 1990 – 2010 period.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

How the heck does this work?

There’s not enough data on human activity and there’s not enough data on sockeye habitat; yet, these folks can conclude that all’s well… all’s good in the hood… habitat protection is working, and so on…

Where the heck is the systematic arrangement of “facts” and “truths” that are supposed to represent “science”?

And what did this report cost? Apologies to the writers of this report and the apparently ‘well-respected’ firm that authored this report… but this makes little sense…

(and how much work has this firm — Golder & Associates done for DFO over the years?)

Alaskan salmon fisheries: is this sustainable – or a great intervention?

During a quick look around Twitter and the ‘tweets’ of some fishy folk, I came across various news articles from other geographic areas with wild salmon fisheries. It got me pondering the great Alaskan salmon fisheries experiment

Here is salmon catch in Alaska for the last century… or so… (the PNP program is the “public — non-profit program” for running salmon hatcheries – ocean ranching operations).

 

Are these levels sustainable into the future?

Is there any way possible that this is sustainable into the future?

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Here are two other telling graphs:

 

Anchovies... South America

Canada's North Atlantic cod catch

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Is there a trend here?

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That trend has a common shape… and curiously the Alaskan commercial salmon catch has a price trend that may be foreshadowing the catch trend…

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(Remember, there was no shortage of salmon being caught prior to 1878 — especially in Alaska where Russian and other ‘explorers’ and ‘settlers’ were pillaging the coast for sea otter furs for quite some time prior to 1878 — And First Nations and Inuit had been harvesting wild salmon for eons prior to ‘contact’ — including in a commercial context for trade…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Now, let’s add another even more worrisome trend into this Alaskan commercial salmon catch graph:

 

Hatchery to wild salmon commercial catch in Alaska

This graph comes compliments of “The Great Salmon Run: competition between farmed and wild salmon” (Knapp, Roheim and Anderson, 2007). It’s suggesting that the average hatchery-salmon catch is starting to approach 25% of the commercial catch in Alaska — or ocean ranching as they call it.

As the black boxes in the graph demonstrate, and as history most likely teaches us, the great intervention will need to continue to maintain catch levels that high. As we move into the second and third decades of the 2000s the hatchery-ocean ranching intervention will need to continue and the percentage of catch supplied by human intervention will continue.

The potential problem here is that this is a nasty little cycle that no one really wants to talk about…

_ _ _ _ _ _

Hatcheries/Ocean ranching operations in Alaska are run by the PNPs — the “public — non-profit partnerships” . These were formed in the 1970s and 80s when the State of Alaska took over management of wild salmon from the Feds (as shown in the graphs).

These PNPs are largely operated by commercial fishing associations and the like. This means that the hatcheries-ocean ranching operations were set up under the same auspices of Canada’s Salmon Enhancement Program (SEP) — to increase salmon production and therefore increase commercial salmon catches.

These grand industrial/ecological balance upsetting experiments began in earnest in the 1970s. A time of a different mainstream cultural mindset, and a different understanding of ecological processes (well… sort of…).

In Alaska, the key to keeping these PNP Aquaculture Associations (hatchery-ocean ranching operations) afloat is that salmon caught commercially have:

FIRST — a cost recovery component and then

SECOND — a profit motive for the commercial fishing folks.

However, as one can see in the graphs above — stupendous salmon catch levels are being maintained at over 200 million fish across Alaska; YET the price levels are falling faster than the 2008 Dow Jones stock market index. (And cracks are starting to show in whether these catch levels can be maintained — see Yukon River fishery disaster at end of post)

And just like the stock market, sure there’s been a little blip back up in price — but nothing that resembles past price levels.

What does this mean for the Alaskan Hatchery-Ocean Ranching Operations?

Here’s a sample from one of the annual reports: The Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association 2008 Annual Report.

Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association (CIAA) was created to make more salmon for all users in Cook Inlet. Our forefathers hoped to provide a home for salmon biology; to gather ideas and knowledge, and a means of broadcasting this science to fishing communities and to the general public. These founding visionaries clearly planned to have a hatchery. (my emphasis)

Quite a fascinating opening to an annual report… I’m not one to quite buy-in to the philosophy of salmon hatcheries as manifest destiny… however, each to their own…

The annual report goes on to explain:

Meanwhile, the CIAA hatchery program also continues to financially struggle. A new sockeye project at Tutka Bay was very successful in 2008. Recent high prices for early hatchery-produced sockeye at Resurrection Bay have also shown promise. I’m currently holding my breath and hoping adjustments to the cost recovery program are successful, concurrent with improvements in ocean survival for the Resurrection Bay stocking.

About 15 hatcheries across Alaska have closed and facilities at Crooked Creek, Eklutna, Port Graham, and Tutka Bay are among them. These sites continue to be used for various projects, but at a fraction of their capabilities. I believe CIAA needs to find funding to maintain operation of Trail Lakes Hatchery. Achieving escapement goals for all systems in Cook Inlet and financing a hatchery are challenging endeavors, but they are essential for the many users of today’s salmon.

We need to find a way through the financial problems we are facing and then begin to build a healthy revenue reserve. The men and women who founded CIAA were wise to do so. I am proud to join them in their effort to realize more salmon for all users.

And so now hatchery/ocean ranching operations are having to close due to financial hardship. Furthermore, some of the practices such as lake fertilization, and mass hatchery operations are starting to show some serious issues on the ecological front. Some of these are even highlighted in the good old Marine Stewardship Council audits of the Alaskan salmon fishery (however, that’s a separate post…)

In short, the mass practice of hatchery releases has huge impacts on wild, self-sustaining populations — in terms of loss of genetic diversity and in terms of giving a false sense of security in opening certain fisheries.

_ _ _ _ _ _

And so now the vicious cycle begins — something akin to this:

 

Alaskan PNPs... the vicious cycle

And so what is a State government to do?

It has set this mess up through its devolution from Fed responsibility.

If more hatcheries go belly up (like a salmon in an oil spill) this means less salmon going to sea and the less salmon we will see (returning).

This means lower catch, which means less $$ for commercial fishing industry… and less $$ in cost-recovery initiatives of these public — non-profit aquaculture operations.

Less fish going out, less fish coming in, less money coming in.

Interim solution?

Catch more fish to bring in more $$ to curb the debt load.

Catching more fish means less fishing spawning and producing naturally. Less fish producing naturally, and less fish being propagated by humans — means less fish to catch down the road.

What does this all set up?

Government bail-out.

Bail out of the fishing industry — like US government had to do on the Yukon River last year.

Anchorage Daily News reporting in January 2010:

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke declared a commercial fishing disaster for Yukon River king salmon Friday following two years of poor runs, fishing restrictions and bans.

“Communities in Alaska along the Yukon River depend heavily on chinook salmon for commercial fishing, jobs and food,” Locke said in a statement from the Commerce Department. “Alaska fishermen and their families are struggling with a substantial loss in income and revenues.”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

When we intervene with most anything — e.g. oil-rich dictator run countries — history suggests that these interventions can — in the long-run — become very, very expensive and sometimes counterproductive.

When it comes to wild salmon — the interventions are endless (hatcheries, fertilization schemes, fake habitat construction, and so on…).

The problem is that once the interventions start ‘working’ everyone seems to forget they were interventions in the first place. And so we return to how things used to be — before the interventions…

The result?

A worse frigging situation than prior to the intervention.

Look at the US bank and auto industry bailout packages — do you really think the ridiculous executive compensation packages have stopped?

Or, that auto executives curbed their flying around in private jets?

Are individual citizens taking the example of debt out-of-control and curbing their own household debt?

fuggedaboutit…

Maybe we need to look at the root of the word and put it in the right context…

intervene comes from Latin intervenire “to come between, interrupt.”

Various definitions suggest: “Come between so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events”

Or most fitting for this situation: “Occur as a delay or obstacle to something being done.”

And what were we, or are we, “delaying”?

The inevitable.

If we continue to hammer away at salmon runs and at salmon habitats and ignore the potential perils of climate change and its affect on salmon and their habitat… we will reach a time when no intervention will offset the inevitable collapse…

What are we potentially delaying in relation to “something being done”.

That’s called lack of political will… (and public pressure)

And nobody wants to make the real tough decision… e.g. intervene on the interventions… because that will cost…

And the public has a tough time exerting pressure because the world of salmon and “salmon management” has become the world of technocrats, techno-bumpf, endless hundreds of pages government documents, inaccessible meetings flooded with inaccessible PowerPoint presentations, inaccessible government bureaucrats (e.g. “sorry that’s not my department), inaccessible language, and legislation that simply is not enforced, legal teams with little interest in enforcing and the list goes on…

Is it time for a full-on public intervention?

A Citizen’s Assembly on Wild Salmon?

Or…?

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

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

1950s

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

The report focuses on coho runs in certain Oregon streams:

Oregon streams

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

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

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

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

Pollution?, Hatcheries?, Logging?, Waterflow?

Remember this report is from 1950.

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

Factors implicated:

Negative factors

_ _ _ _ _ _

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

Logging impacts... "disturbance of ecological balance"

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

Remember this was 1950…

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

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

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

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

lumber production to salmon populations

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

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

“Discussion”

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

Logging companies

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

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

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

Hard bit of info to pick up…

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

Hmmmmm….

Same answer many folks have provided for generations…

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

Trees hold hillsides up and stream channels up.

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

 

just "natural"

 

west coast of Vancouver Island near Brooks Peninsula

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

I think the point is clear…

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

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

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

Have you been to Coos Bay, Oregon lately?

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

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

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

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

“This is boom-and-bust…”

“We are upsetting the ecological balance…”

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

“don’t rock the boat…”

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

and so on, and so on, and so on…

_ _ _ _ _ _

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

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

And… where the heck are the salmon?

_ _ _ _ _ _

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would we treat our households this way?

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

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

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

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

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

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Fundamental changes are required in our relationship with wild salmon…

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

The story that starts: Once upon a salmon

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

It generally ends in:

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

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