Statistical methods do not prevent mistakes, faulty reasoning, incorrect conclusions, inaccuracies, or faulty use of statistics…
Probability: “The quality or condition of being probable; likelihood.”
Probable: “Likely to happen or to be true.”
These are a few definitions fronted by the Free Online Dictionary.
Generally, most of us use probable to suggest that this event, or that event: is probable. However, in fisheries ‘management’ on the West Coast of North America – and specifically salmon management – we now use probable in the opposite way. We now say that certain ‘forecast’ numbers are ‘probable’ to not occur.
Here’s an excerpt from the latest Pacific Salmon Commission news releases regarding Fraser Sockeye:
Thus, the suggestion is that there is a 75% probability that the run will not be at the 8.595 million level, and will in fact be below that.
So here’s a great way to make predictions sound fantastic “there is 100% probability that the Fraser Sockeye run will be at or below 40 million”. Say that every year and then down the road it sounds like you’ve been right every time.
Here’s my suggested new ‘financial’ management language:
However, this is my favorite quote from the news release, and hence the cartoon above:
Last time I checked… a dead fish is… well… a dead fish.
Won’t be long until we have ‘probability’ forecasts for ‘impacts’ of fisheries. And, yet, the great irony in all of this is that the ‘management’ actions only continue to grow as the ‘available’ catch shrinks. The classic human folly in natural systems…
The more we learn… the more we learn we don’t know. The more we don’t know… the more we figure we need to know, and thus “gentlemen, start your research engines…” – (rinse and repeat if necessary).
When it comes to most fisheries worldwide – as the allowable catch shrinks… the ‘research’ agenda, and ‘management actions’ grow. (rinse and repeat if necessary).
“When an apple ripens and falls — what makes it fall? Is it that it is attracted to the ground, is it that the stem withers, is it that the sun has dried it up, that it has grown heavier, that the wind shakes it, that the boy standing underneath it wants to eat it? No one thing is the cause.” – Tolstoy, “War and Peace”
Fallacy of the single cause… or the ‘smoking-gun fallacy’. Several years ago Tracy Chapman sang about it: “Give me one reason…”
After the near-global financial meltdown of 2008, the explanations of causes began… Alan Greenspan, fiscal policy, investors, leveraged-funds, greed, etc. etc. Pundits, journalists, economists, world leaders and advisors, and every other somebody-wanting-to-be-somebody pondered the reason for the collapse.
There is no ‘ONE’ reason.
Yet… it seems that we now may have a $25+ million investment in the Cohen Commission with Chapman singing the theme song: “Give me one Reason”.
(and no, this is not ‘give me one reason’ to actually implement the recommendations… that’s a different story)
All of this to explain the ‘collapse’ of 2009 Fraser River sockeye.
Yet, could we not have done the same for the record run (for some areas of the watershed) the next year: 2010? Why not study the ‘record’ up, as well as the ‘record’ down… would that maybe not explain more as opposed to trying to find a ‘smoking gun’ for the collapse.
If we did a $25+ million judicial inquiry of the record-run the next year – what would we be looking for? What would be the analogy…? the ‘fertilizing gun’…?
Was the entire issue with the Cohen Commission that maybe everyone used the wrong analogy?
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What do both of these events prove: a record collapse followed by a record run?
(sound like stock markets anyone? of course, government pundits and leaders will tell you that the stock market runs have been all about the government intervention and ‘stimulus’… )
What does 2009 and 2010 tell us about Fraser sockeye?
That we, and the ‘managers’ charged with ‘managing’ wild salmon – don’t really have a clue. Like the pundits that try and predict stock market rises and falls based on illusions of some factor or other… we don’t really know what’s going on – yet, if we stick to the ‘averages’ from some 100 years of tracking, that will probably provide some sort of illusion of prediction…
Like financial markets, and various other fields, ‘predicting’ salmon runs comes down to chance – the ‘illusion of skill’ pervades…. and that if we just spend enough money, on enough ‘experts’ we will come up with an answer – THE ANSWER.
Nope – fallacy of the single cause.
There’s a pretty decent review at Scientific American that sums things quite well:
…he’s brilliant, funny and fearless and tackles consequential topics. What are the limits of science? Of understanding and prediction? Given our limited ability to know and control the world, how should we live our lives? How can we prosper in spite—and even because—of life’s vicissitudes?
A former derivatives trader, Taleb made his reputation by bashing conventional economics and finance, but his scope has always ranged far beyond Wall Street. His Big Idea is that life inevitably serves up surprises, or “black swans”–from AIDS and nuclear weapons to the 9/11 attacks and the internet—that our necessarily retrospective models of reality cannot foresee.
…Here is how he sums up his message in The Wall Street Journal: “We should try to create institutions that won’t fall apart when we encounter black swans—or that might even gain from these unexpected events… To deal with black swans, we instead need things that gain from volatility, variability, stress and disorder.” That is what Taleb means by “antifragile.” He offers some suggestions for achieving antifragility in government, business and other spheres: “Think of the economy as being more like a cat than a washing machine.” “Favor businesses that learn from their own mistakes.” “Small is beautiful, but it is also efficient.” “Trial and error beats academic knowledge.” “Decision makers must have skin in the game.”
Taleb has a decent editorial in the Wall Street Journal this past November:
Several years before the financial crisis descended on us, I put forward the concept of “black swans“: large events that are both unexpected and highly consequential. We never see black swans coming, but when they do arrive, they profoundly shape our world: Think of World War I, 9/11, the Internet, the rise of Google.
I also recommend Taleb’s earlier book from 2007, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. The review on Amazon sums it well:
A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.
This certainly sounds like the 2010 return of Fraser sockeye… the big one. And in turn the ‘collapsed’ run of the year previous.
There are some pretty good YouTube clips of Taleb speaking. He’s known to be volatile and unpredictable at times. In one of his calmer appearances, he has a great comparison between plane crashes and bank failures…
He suggests that when a plane crashes, generally people die – however, we learn from those crashes, which in turn reduces future plane crashes.
Yet when big banks crash and fail, we don’t learn from those events and in fact, more big banks fail more regularly.
Taleb suggests, as the handwritten quotes above suggest, that we spend far too much time and resources trying to predict things, that we can’t in fact predict.
Hmmmm. like salmon runs? for one.
And two, predictions of how many salmon can be caught from those badly predicted run sizes… yet retain the ‘health’ and ‘resilience’ of these runs, or collection of salmon runs which comprise the Fraser sockeye runs?
And so on, and so on.
We know that the concept, and formulaic practice of determining Maximum Sustainable Yield in fisheries is a highly failed, flawed, and screwy model. It should be banished, yet it still dominates ‘fisheries management’…. [see free E-book in right hand column]
…that term in itself a misnomer… it implies we can ‘manage’ the fish, and in turn the ‘fishers’ that target and bonk them… the latter being somewhat more ‘controllable’… ‘manageable’….
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Wading through Justice Cohen’s reports, evidence (or lack of…), and 1000+ pages makes me think of Taleb’s quote above: ‘the limit is mathematical, period, and there is no way around it on this planet. What is nonmeasurable and nonpredictable will remain nonmeasurable and nonpredictable no matter how many PhDs you put on the job.’
And like banks and politicians — no one is held accountable for making bad or wrong predictions based on complex spreadsheets and formulaic equations. As Taleb essentially asks: what if we held scientists accountable, would we continue to get the same bullshit models and faulty prediction regimes? He suggests that far too few ‘predictors’ and ‘spreadsheet makers’ are ever held accountable for their ‘predictions’.
What if fisheries scientists and predictors and prognosticators were held accountable for their predictions? and risk models? and so on…?
Would we all of a sudden see a massive simplifying of this ever-increasing ‘science’ which is not really a ‘science’. Similar to economists, fisheries scientists can predict future salmon runs with as much accuracy as the prognosticators predicting where financial markets will close next Wednesday…
So why do we continue to waste millions and millions of dollars on faulty science, predictions, consultants, law professionals, and so on.
As has been pointed out in recent posts, and many past posts, wild salmon inhabit far too many vast areas (e.g. the North Pacific) of which we will never, ever be able to make accurate ‘predictions’ about. So why flaunt and flit about suggesting that we ‘understand’ things that we don’t…
It’s kind of like lying on one’s resume then getting the job, or taking performance enhancing drugs for decades and yet maintaining innocence, or lining one’s own pockets or those of their friends while an elected politician…
“Our track record in figuring out significant rare events in politics and economics [and natural systems] is not close to zero; it is zero.”
In reading through Justice Cohen’s 1000+ pages reports, there is quite a bit of positive recommendations, ‘conclusions’, etc. — however there are some glaring contradictions, and sad disappointments.
Justice Cohen explains his weight given to evidence in Volume 2 of the Cohen Commission Final Report: The Uncertain Future of Fraser Sockeye – Causes of the Decline:
Assessment of the evidence
In the field of law, lawyers and judges ask whether the evidence led at a trial “proves” the case. In a civil trial, the plaintiff must prove his or her case on the balance of probabilities – that is, the judge or jury must be satisfied that the plaintiff’s version of events is more likely than not true. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove the accused’s guilt to a much higher standard – beyond a reasonable doubt.
In this Inquiry, I have not conducted a trial, and in relation to making findings of fact regarding the causes of the decline, it would not be appropriate in my view to apply either the civil or the criminal standard of proof set out above. Rather, I use terms that express likelihood or degrees of certainty to describe the strength or weakness of the evidence, as did many of the authors of technical reports and other witnesses who testified during our hearings. (pg. 103)
The good Justice suggests in the 2nd volume:
It is not, in my view, a matter of choosing one potential cause over the other [for Fraser salmon declines]. Given our limited understanding of how the many identified stressors actually affect Fraser River sockeye and how regional processes affect many different sockeye stocks, prudence dictates that neither be ruled out.
The available evidence has identified a risk that both Fraser River–specific stressors and region-wide influences may have contributed to the long-term decline. Regrettably, that is as far as the evidence takes me. However, there are things that can be done to fill in knowledge gaps and progress toward finding cause-effect relationships.
Sadly, I think this is the great mis-guidance of our time… as well as a great contradiction. Plus a ‘limited evidence trail’ that cost some $25 million to write up.
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Here’s a true “cause-effect” relationship… Catch Fraser River sockeye, bonk on head, dead fish.
Cause of death: catching and bonking…
Effect? Dead fish.
Not complicated. Quite simple really.
‘Climate change’ and Fraser sockeye? Human-altered salmon habitat and large salmon run declines?
Well… the ‘arguments’ for this will rage until the last sockeye comes home… and… well… moo’s like the cows that came home too…
And thus there’s all this legal talk by the good Justice of “available evidence” as well as the complex, Donald Rumsfeld (Dubya Bush’s former Secretary of Defense) ‘absence of evidence, not to be taken as evidence as absence‘, etc. As aren’t we essentially looking for ‘weapons of mass destruction’ of Fraser salmon…?
But what about ‘presence of evidence’ to be taken as ‘evidence of presence’? (well that may be likely or probability is high… and enter other wiggly, slippery words here…)
Climate change is one of those sticky ones… sure the ‘climate’ is changing… but is that ‘climate’ as in the entire global — if so, how do we prove or proof the evidence? Is there evidence of presence… like on a criminal trial burden of proof? or a civil? or Justice Cohen’s ‘probably likely’ tests used in these reports? [and no offence intended, this is a complex subject... higher burdens of 'proof' or 'evidence' would have meant no report.]
When it comes to climate change, these are debates raging around the world, with deniers and climate change gurus alike. My point is not to pick a side… but to point out the obvious… if we humans (especially those esteemed peer reviewed scientists) can’t even agree that climate change is occurring or not, and that human activities are the cause, or at least accelerating what may be occurring naturally since the last ice age…
…then how are we having these theoretical discussions about theoretical impacts on things like ‘Fraser sockeye’ — from the ocean to the natal stream…?
And how do we separate out the historical reality that during the last big glacial advance, say some 10,000 or 12,000 years ago… wild salmon barely existed between north of the Columbia River and somewhere in Alaska and the Yukon (e.g. Beringia)… theories suggest some salmon were living as far south as areas in Mexico during the big glacial advances.
If that’s the case… then wild salmon have done just fine re-colonizing after cataclysmic events… And if that may (or may not) be the case… then do we really need to spend $26 million (or so), largely on lawyers, legal realm experts, and supposed ‘salmon experts’ (who essentially bickered with each other and ‘their’ research agendas) — and trying to implement a slew of recommendations that will probably cost some $500 million or so to actually implement…
[Note: completely theoretical number... disclaimer... i'm not a government economist prone to making grandiose economic predictions...like fighter jet cost budgeting...or niggling about cliff diving off the famed Fiscal Hills located near Washington, DC]
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See it’s commentary such as this – below – that drives me batty:
Only a few studies have explored the relationship between temperature and survival of immature sockeye salmon in the open ocean.
Oh, Ok…. so if we do more studies on the temperatures of the North Pacific and the ‘relationship between temp and survival’… we’re going to be able to better manage the relationship between ourselves and wild salmon?
Hmmmm. Let’s ponder that…
salmon… North Pacific… survival… temperature…
so are we measuring the temperature at the surface… 5 ft down… 15 ft down… (I know that whenever I swim in the North Pacific temperatures can range dramatically in a 30 ft radius, especially if there’s whales peeing in the area…)
How about where in the North Pacific…? it’s kind of big…
Survival…? Hmmmm. How?
Or better yet… how, accurately? Or wait… is it precision…?
… or accuracy…?
We can’t even get accurate counts of spawning salmon in a river 20 feet wide… and say 10 feet deep… let alone an ocean some several thousands of km wide and miles deep… full of salmon… well… from all across the Pacific Rim…
This is akin to trying to accurately measure the water displacement in my bathtub when a speck of dust lands in it… or better yet, tracking that speck of dust from my bathtub drain, some 800 km upstream of the mouth of the Fraser River, downstream, out to the Pacific, and how it impacts a gray whale migrating from Baja Mexico…
Page 77 of Volume 2 report:
During the evidentiary hearings, Dr. McKinnell testified that Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections for future climate are difficult to represent in terms of the finer-scale climate, such as climate changes that will occur in British Columbia and what the response of the marine ecosystem will be in the northeastern Pacific Ocean.
These consistent theories that suggest developing more theories, devised by professional theorists, will assist in devising a theoretical ‘management’ strategy (aka theory), implemented by more professional theorists, adhering to the initial theorists’ theories to catch theoretical salmon… just doesn’t hold a lot of water. Especially, when it’s all said and theoretically done… the Minister still has the unfettered power to overrule the theorists and make decisions that make more sense to the other professional, practitioning theorists… the economists.
So no matter how much we continue to debate, argue, protest, whine, snivel, shout, cry and kick&scream and then delay doing things… because of absence of data… or… is it absence of evidence… or is it evidence of data absence…
No… it’s ‘high likelihood’ and certain certainty or is it just likelihood and certain evidence… likelihood of data absence, or evidence of data likelihood…?
ah, I can’t remember… however, one things for sure… if you’re in the salmon theorizing field (and it’s a pretty small one) chances are pretty good that your job security, or research contracts are looking pretty decent.
Oh wait… under the current Canadian governing regime, only if it’s researching fish that supply a ‘fishery’…
Likelihood that the evidence of absent data gets filled in near future by present evidence and theory…? Low.
Likelihood that $$ continues to be wasted on theoretical processes that result in preconceived, unfettered decisions…? High.
Likelihood that even if evident data gaps got filled with evidence and data-gap filler, that our ‘management’ of salmon fisheries, salmon habitat, and slowing ‘climate change’ or ‘climate change impacts’ will occur…? Low!
(cost of that opinion… well… FREE).
Maybe George Orwell said it best some 60+ years or so ago, in his essay: Politics and the English Language.
A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.
This from Volume 2 of the Cohen Commission Final Report: The Uncertain Future of Fraser Sockeye – Causes of the Decline. A discussion by one ‘witness’ in the Commission discussing factors in declines of Fraser sockeye:
“An absence of data, or an absence of evidence to me is not evidence of absence, and I think it’s a little bit dangerous to use an absence of data or an absence of evidence to suggest that contaminants play no role whatsoever or are indeed unlikely to play a role.
…but clearly we’re data deficient in terms of our current capacity to understand what’s happening with the sockeye situation”
So… ummm…. Is it data deficient, or deficient data?
And… does evidence presence mean evidence is in the present… or how about if the President’s evidence is present… Or, absent? Does absence of the President’s evidence mean we have data absence, or data presence, or data presents (like cigars and interns)…?
Is not the absence of data, itself… data? Or is absent data, presence of data absence or just simply absence? What if data absence, become data presence – does that make us wiser? If data absences become data evidences, was not the gap also evidence, or simply evident, or clearly evidents — leading to the gap? If the gap is filled, what becomes of it?
A gap filled, or a filled gap?
Does our “knowledge” really have ‘gaps’…? But aren’t the gaps, still knowledge? Is a gap filled; make better knowledge presence? But still yet, what becomes of the gap?
Is the epitome of all gaps, to become filled, or full-filled… or maybe only half-filled… or is it half-empty? (a half-empty gap, says the pessimistic scientist…)
(I feel for the gap, says the empathetic scientist)…(All i want for x-mas is a tooth-filled gap, says the hockey-playing scientist)
What if a gap filled, in fact, becomes a bigger gap — in knowledge, or evidence, or presence, or absence? What then…
But what of the gap between our reality and our dreams? What becomes of that gap – when filled…?
(Here lies “THE GAP” will say the gravestone… “mighty and gaping in its presence, sad and lonely in its absence.“)
But wait… i can hear the copyright police calling now… …And I will say, I did not know “THE GAP” existed… that is the evidence in my defence… And yet the presence of “THE GAP” in my utterance, is my present offense.
…and they will tell me, as Justice’s well know, ignorance of the law is not a valid defense, and thus stop the pretense.
…and thus the gap in my knowledge will be a detriment, and not a defence… and here evermore absence of presence (e.g. knowledge) becomes a downfall… yet… that absence is still data… data used to prove presence of absence as evidence…
But, what if data abstains in its absence, and in its presence presents evidence?
Does absence of presents present mean conclusively that presents are absent, or simply lacking presence — or is absence of presents due to Santa’s absence? But if Santa is present, reality is absent — isn’t it? (but thankfully, still presents… if you remain a believer)
Yet if reality’s absent, what is mentally present? Mental absence, may mean data presence – but is that data present, and is it a present? In reality’s absence for some, it may become Not criminally responsible which can mean mental absence – says the judge and jury. And, so… to the convicted, evidence of mental absence is the defence of present – some might argue…
Is the data reliable, or simply pliable… like all data that is present or absent. In the present defence, as explained above, presence of absence is the key (e.g. mental). However, with Fraser sockeye salmon, some say it is absence of evidence for ‘smoking guns’. But… for the Province… evidence absence, means the smoke stays in the guns…
If it is absent — data that is — then that does not indicate lack of presence, or presents, or simply pre-sense. Maybe… it seems… it simply means current absence, not abstention. But if data abstains, is it not present? Or is it simply taking a break, or somewhere south, ‘taking the fifth’?
If it’s broken, is it a gap? If there’s a gap does our decision-making wait for presence — or the presents that come with absence of datum?
If there’s a gap, and nobody is looking, is it still a gap? Is it data? Does data only exist when someone is looking? What if they only see in one eye? What if they are near-sighted… is it far-out data? Or far-sighted… is it near-data?
What about data that is right on the 200-mile offshore marker – is it Canadian data, eh? Or is it international data, da? Who owns it? Data is valuable, no? Are gaps, therefore, worthless data, or simply data worth less?
But some gaps are essential and priceless, like the gap that exists between you and oncoming traffic…
And, yet, what is a data gap, and gaping data – but is not data made up of datum… oh wait, it’s more…
Datum, say some, is simply nothing more than “an assumption or premise from which inferences may be drawn.”
Ohhhh… so presence of inference, does not imply absence of assumption – it actually means presence of premise, and presence of assumption. But assume does not indicate a present to the law, nor to the convicted… assume is a danger because as the old ditty goes: it makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me”…
And so we Houston, BC may very well might have, very likely presence of a problem or absence of a solution…likely, or may have…highly probable, but debatable…
Further, according to Dr. Ross, contaminants very likely contributed to the long-term decline in the sense that they may have contributed through small incidents here and there (i.e., “death by a thousand cuts”) or they may have weakened the fish over time, such that when they went to sea they may have been more vulnerable.
And there, in that last fragment we have the great ecosystem killers of “very likely” and “they may have“3
Now pardon the cynic in me, but wasn’t the “Terms of Reference” for Justice Cohen and the Commission:
C. to investigate and make independent findings of fact regarding:
I. the causes for the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon…
Last time I checked, “may have” and “most likely” were in the ‘absence of evidence’ or simply ‘evidence absence’ category within the legal realm, let alone the factual realm.
Orwell concludes well:
If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy… Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind…
Do we honestly think that we can gain ALL of the evidence from this realm?:
Here is Justice Cohen’s language in the ‘decline of Fraser sockeye’ from Volume 2:
Life stage 1 findings
I find that there are plausible mechanisms during the incubation, emergence, and freshwater-rearing parts of life history stage 1 by which numerous freshwater stressors, such as effluent, contaminants, predators, warming streams and lakes, infectious diseases, agriculture, and surface and groundwater extraction may have contributed to the decline.
Although these mechanisms are understood, there is insufficient evidence about the actual impacts these stressors, either singly or cumulatively, have on Fraser River sockeye during this life history stage.
These mechanisms are understood, but “actual impacts” is not? And “may have” contributed…
Are we wanting these issues of great, grand ecosystems to look like the ‘mechanisms’ of a bank account…?
As in, “well, mr. salmonguy you say that you ‘may have‘ deposited money to your account, however, we can clearly see that you did not…”
Ecosystems like the North Pacific, or even the Fraser River watershed are mightily complex, complicated, and largely unpredictable entities.
Are we humans expecting that we will delay doing something about certain issues until the evidence is present? Or that ‘findings of fact’ are what is required for action to be taken so as to limit our impacts on other things?
The decline of Fraser sockeye is not due to some unknown entity… We, humans have delivered a good solid 95% + of the “thousand cuts”…
Us. You and Me and Dupree and the other 6 billion+ living souls.
And yet, even if the apparent mechanisms and “actual impacts” slept in the same bed of meaning and ‘understanding’… what would we really do about it?
Wait for the scientists to agree…?
First we’d have to wait for scientists to agree on which knife was delivering the cuts… or wait, was it an axe… no, it was a machete… no, it was a handsaw…
And the salmon farming industry scientist would probably say “what cuts?”
Then we’d have to wait for the proposed ‘solution’… but no, first we’d do that as a ‘pilot study’… then a new government would come into power and cut the funding, and implement ‘their solution’… then some scientists would need to use whistleblower protection and hire security guards, then the Auditor General would get involved, then there’d be a snap election, then there’d be a call for a judicial inquiry… then a court case or two, an appeal, a new government, a fiscal cliff, austerity measures, a bull market, a bear market, a new government… a new scientific discovery… then space travel would take funding priority, then government “Action Plans”, then another review of spending, another court case… and so on and so on.
… go back to top, read again, and rinse and repeat if necessary… (that is if you believe that little ditty on shampoo bottles… ‘rinse and repeat’…).
And if you do then the productivity of Proctor and Gamble will increase a heck of a lot faster then any Pacific sockeye population…
I see evidence of absence that anything is going to change anytime soon… just simply start by doing a rough calculation on the ‘cost’ of Justice Cohen’s recommendations, and this is just for FRASER SCOKEYE – not the other Fraser salmon populations, like the endangered Fraser coho or Chinook… and let alone the other five species of salmon spread throughout BC.
Like every other collapsing fish population with a ‘commercial value’… we will argue, bicker, and use useless language until the last viable population swims into the annals of “was”…
Oh where, oh where, did Justice Cohen’s report go?
It came with a bang on Halloween Day… and went out with a whimper by Christmas…
$25 million or more spent. 1000+ pages. Some hard-hitting recommendations. Will Justice Cohen’s multi-million dollar work simply become one more Data Gap?
Justice Cohen suggests in his lengthy report:
There are still many aspects of the Fraser River sockeye life cycle about which little is known. Many stressors have been identified, including predators, climate change, infectious diseases, human development, contaminants, municipal wastewater, pesticides, harmful algal blooms, salmon farms, hydroelectric projects, interaction between wild and enhanced salmon, and the effects of agriculture, forestry, and mining. We still have a lot to learn about the relative detrimental impact these stressors actually have on sockeye and their habitat.
This lack of understanding about actual effects applies not only to individual stressors but also to cumulative effects (e.g., the combined effect of contaminants, disease, and warmer waters on the health of a fish) and to delayed effects (e.g., a contaminant or pathogen picked up during the outmigration leading to mortality during the return migration). I therefore recommend that further research is crucial to understanding the long-term productivity and sustainability of Fraser River sockeye salmon… (Volume 3: page 101)
Or, this is one of my favorites:
Many of the researchers participating in the Commission’s research program encountered difficulty in locating and obtaining access to relevant data. In some cases, different organizations had collected data on the same issue but had used incompatible databases.
Justice Cohen suggests in his Recommendations:
When an independent body, such as a commission of inquiry, makes recommendations to a department of government in accordance with the mandate given to it by the Governor General in Council, a degree of accountability for those recommendations should follow.
… maybe all some folks were wanting for x-mas was a judicial inquiry with some real (two front) teeth…
That accountability thingy appears to be coming a data gap too…
As does the gap in filling the gaps… e.g. nothing like trying to fill the North Pacific with ‘understandings’ and ‘data’…
Does more data really make us ‘better managers’? (of anything…)
Say for example… financially…
We know that credit card debt with high interest rates is BAD. Or at least carrying a balance at high interest is Really BAD. Yet the average Canadian (this is individual, not household), non-mortgage debt is over $26 000 with credit card debt, the worst kind at an average of over $3 500 per.
Yea… we probably need more data to better manage our collective debt loads…
MORE DATA = BETTER MANAGEMENT, BETTER DECISION-MAKING, BETTER OUTCOMES…
My suggested equation is a little different:
(X) BETTER CARE OF SALMON HABITAT = ONLY FIGHTING CHANCE FOR WILD SALMON IN FACE OF CLIMATE CHANGE.
(Y) BETTER ‘MANAGEMENT’ OF SALMON = LESS POLITICS, MORE SENSE
(Z) NORTH PACIFIC = UN-FILLABLE DATA GAP
More science, more data, more research will not lead to better decision-making.
Healthy salmon populations, and therefore healthy ecosystems in which they inhabit, require simple things. Clean, cool water, clean gravel, and lots of salmon having lots of salmon sex.
Then lots of salmon babies need a pretty clear and clean path to the ocean, and back.
Simple equation… difficult execution.
too much politics and economics in the way…
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:
…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:
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?
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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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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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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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)
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.
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.
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…)
Over the last two days I’ve had the good fortune to listen to Dr. Charles Menzies (Associate Professor in Anthropology at UBC) speak in Prince George on two different topics – yet intimately related…
On the UBC website it lists Charles research interests as such:
My primary research interests are the production of anthropological films, natural resource management (primarily fisheries related), political economy, contemporary First Nations’ issues, maritime anthropology and the archaeology of north coast BC.
I have conducted field research in, and have produced films concerning, north coastal BC, Canada (including archaeological research); Brittany, France; and Donegal, Ireland.
Last night, at Art Space within Prince George’s independent book store Books & Company, Menzies delivered a presentation called:
“Abalone, Pipelines, and Aboriginal Rights – Making Sense of Coastal Opposition to the Northern Gateway Project.“
Found it to be quite a fascinating subject, quite enjoyed Menzies taking some pointed shots at academia and some ‘status-quo’ theories of some academics. Stirring the pot a little… (wooden spoon anyone?)
Namely, taking shots at some archaeologists that have adopted some rather faulty views of what folks on the coast may, or may not have been doing pre-contact.
You know at the apparent “discovery” of North America… and especially coastal northwestern North America.
In the research that informed Menzies’ presentation he visited ancient (and contemporary) Gitxaała village sites.
Gitxaała (Kitkatla) territory is south down the coast from Prince Rupert, BC and in the general vicinity south of the Skeena River mouth. As I understand it, Dr. Menzies’ family comes from that area, and he himself grew up in Prince Rupert.
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(that last bit being my editorializing…).
He explained that the ‘status-quo’ archaeological ‘investigations’ and theories of this particular area suggest that people of this area did not harvest many abalone.
Community members most clearly say otherwise…
But archaeological theory continued to deny otherwise… look at our evidence, they say…
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Dr. Menzies and his crew, through low impact archaeological investigation and community elder direction to sites, sort of blew that proverbial misguided boat out of the water.
Or… i suppose… put the bilhaa (abalone) back in the water… one might say…
Menzies’ and crew found, what one might characterize, as no shortage of evidence of abalone use by ancients. Some dating back further than 4,000 years.
Menzies has an interesting paper at his publications page documenting the ancient Gitxaała connection to abalone — bilhaa.
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There’s a fitting quote early in the paper, which also relates to recent posts on this site regarding the federal government’s apparent ‘modernization of Canada’s commercial fisheries’:
The development of the non-aboriginal commercial dive fishery in British Columbia is a classic example of competitive greed combining with ineffectual resource management to decimate a resource.
The story of the collapse of abalone (bilhaa ) up and down the coast, is a common story, caught quite well by Menzies:
Bilhaa is one of a set of Gitxaała cultural keystone species. Cultural keystone species are species that “play a unique role in shaping and characterizing the identity of the people who rely on them.
These are species that become embedded in a people’s cultural traditions and narratives, their ceremonies, dances, songs, and discourse”. Until the late 20th century, Gitxaała people were unhindered in the harvesting of bilhaa within the traditional territory and in accord with longstanding systems of indigenous authority and jurisdiction.
However, the rapid expansion of a non-aboriginal commercial dive fishery through the 1970s-1980s brought bilhaa stocks perilously close to extinction. The DFO responded to this non-aboriginal induced crisis by closing the total bilhaa fishery. DFO made no apparent effort to accommodate indigenous interests.
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Abalone (bilhaa), was most certainly not just limited to the BC coast.
In a recent research project I’ve been involved in… here is an image from old Father Morice’s journals (e.g. namesake for Moricetown, Morice Lake, etc.) from Dakelh (Carrier) people in the now Ft. St. James area in late 1800s.
These types of ornaments would have traveled in on the oolichan grease trails and other various trade routes including dentalia shells, and other items, with prized hides of various sorts and soapberry traveling to the coast.
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In today’s presentation at UNBC Charles spoke about his research into artisanal fisheries on the coast of France — in other words small family, or community owned fisheries…
The story is remarkably similar to the story of agriculture throughout Canada, and other areas. The move from family-owned plots of land and specialized crops, to monoculture, highly centralized and controlled institutions and corporations that control much of the flow.
As Menzies suggested, when fish prices change in Brazil it affects fisherfolks in Canada… the impact of globalization (and maybe one might suggest: ‘systems theory’…)
Similar with wheat, barley, rye, and so on…
The fish market of the globe is largely controlled by only a handful of organizations. Fishing gear is largely down to only two or three companies.
Gee, does this sound like Monsanto or other mega multinational corporations controlling agriculture worldwide…?
The benefits of this, largely benefiting only a few, and the implications and drawbacks having devastating consequences on the small players of the world — you know… the little players like community members and families.
(gee… one might almost feel bad for all those “singles” out there… hey?)
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The great thing about sitting at the ‘back’ during presentations such as Dr. Menzies’ is that one can watch the various academics squirm and frown with mere mention of ideas that might challenge the status-quo economic theories or otherwise that are currently being jammed down the whole medley of ‘students’ out there.
All the more sad as they riddle themselves with debt (students that is) the size of a small European nation and learning tired and worn out theories — such as the “invisible hand of the market” and other ‘strength of privatization’-bumpf flying around like the old passenger pigeon of old
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Not unlike the current Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ bumpf-filled, fluffy, blather around ‘modernizing’ Canada’s fisheries.
(yeah, sure… go for it… modernize the ‘fishery’… but I think i can safely say that the fish themselves are not all that interested in ‘modernizing’…
… think it’s called barely surviving…
…fish populations around the world are on death-row, which means the fleet can be as modern as it wants to be, but an empty fish net, is an empty fish net…
(net… river… ocean… shoreline that once had abalone…)
or we… simply… just keep fishing down the food chain until bullheads start looking pretty tasty at the latest and greatest restaurants…
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Great finish to this, from Menzies (and colleague Caroline Butler) paper: “Returning to Selective Fishing through Indigenous Fisheries Knowledge”:
The historical abundance of salmon along the west coast of North America has been significantly reduced during the last two centuries of industrial harvest. Commercial fisheries from California to Alaska and points in between have faced clearly documented restrictions on fishing effort and collapse of specific salmon runs.
Even while salmon runs on some large river systems remain (i.e., the Fraser and Skeena rivers), many smaller runs have all but disappeared. The life histories of many twentieth-century fisheries have been depressingly similar: initial coexistence with indigenous fisheries; emergence of large-scale industrial expansion followed by resource collapse; introduction of limited restrictions on fishing effort, which become increasingly severe, making it hard for fishing communities to survive and to reproduce themselves.
Yet for nearly two millennia prior to the industrial extraction of salmon, indigenous peoples maintained active harvests of salmon, which are estimated to have been at or near median industrial harvests during the twentieth century.
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Menzies raised this point in the discussion part of his presentation today at UNBC.
It’s one of my favorite points, which I’ve used in many presentations over the years.
In simple terms…
Wow, I think I felt the flinch in the room today from a few academics…
And then the excuses and questions and qualifiers start flying when some folks realize that the pedestal that academic keeps trying to stand on is jussssst a little bit shaky.
Maybe not even shaky… it’s simply an imagined pedestal.
Just picture the classic Wiley Coyote running off the cliff chasing Road Runner then realizing there’s nothing under him…
Menzies and Butler conclude their paper on selective harvesting:
Scant attention has been paid to traditional fishing techniques and technologies and the ways in which they might contribute to sustainable harvesting and species conservation, and indeed, provide an alternative to current practices.
Traditional knowledge of salmon production may be of significant value in the current search for successful selective fishing techniques for the British Columbian salmon fisheries.
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See that anywhere in DFO’s plans…?
The image at the beginning of this post is from a British newspaper story:
For a millennium it has lain undisturbed beneath the waves a stone’s throw from one of Britain’s best-loved beaches.
But now modern technology has revealed this ancient fish trap, used at the time of the Norman Conquest.
Stretching more than 280 yards along the sea bed, the V-shaped structure was used to catch fish without the need for a boat or rod. Scientists believe it is one of the biggest of its kind. [Menzies might argue this as he's found kilometres of these along the northwest BC coast]
The trap close to Poppit Sands on the Teifi Estuary in Dyfed was discovered by archaeologists studying aerial photographs of the West Wales coast. [love that term "discovered"]
It was designed to act like a rock pool, trapping fish behind its stone walls as the tide flowed out.
At its point is a gap where fisherman would have placed nets to catch fish. They could also have blocked up the gap, and then scooped up fish trapped in the shallows.
What a concept… so my ancestors in Wales and other areas were using similar selective fishing community-based technology… hmmm.
Pop this into the old search engine ‘ancient rock fish traps’ and you will find examples from around the world: the Arctic, Australia, Hawaii, Indonesia, Mediterranean, and so on…
What a concept, local knowledge being put to use to ‘manage’ a local resource. (and ensuring that resource survives for many human generations…)
I think they call that ‘rocket science’… or is it ‘not’…
science that is… it’s just knowledge… and… ummmm… COMMON SENSE.
Earlier this year I introduced you to the new corporate sponsor for the Cohen Commission:
Cross off “summer” in the illustration above and put in “Winter”… as we move into the close of ‘hearings’ for the Cohen Commission and the short daylight hours, and long winter nights of Justice Cohen and his staff forging through testimony, upwards of a million pages of ‘data’, bumpf out the ying-yang, job-protecting bureaucrat testimony, and so on.
In my somewhat cursory review of the technical reports completed for the Commission — at least those available for review, let me give you a few of my salmonguy summary notes:
(1) very few scientists want to come out and actually take a hard line on something… (all protect the almighty god of Objectivity)
(2) there are many scientists lining themselves up for an ambitious and aggressive research agenda… (i’ve lost count of the “recommendations for research” in the technical reports). And one doesn’t do well on that front by having ‘opinions’ contrary to the funding agencies…
(3) I’m starting a list of how many ways one can say “limited data” or “data gaps. There are more ways to say it then there are ways to count a sockeye…
I’m hard pressed to believe we actually know anything more about Fraser sockeye then they swim downstream go to the ocean, come back, swim upstream, spawn… and… wait for it…
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Let me give you a little taste:
Technical Report #1: Diseases and parasites
…There are certainly many pathogens that occur in wild sockeye salmon, but their precise impacts on survival in these stocks are poorly understood...
The absence of data on pathogens and diseases in wild salmon in British Columbia is a reflection of the historical research focus on fish diseases, in both the Province and other regions. Most research on salmonid diseases has been directed toward those afflicting captive fish, either in government hatcheries or private fish farms.
As with many scientific issues, more research is needed to elucidate the impacts of pathogens on Fraser River sockeye salmon…
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Technical Report #1A: Hatchery Disease Impact Assessment
…The disease impacts of salmon enhancement facilities on Fraser River sockeye salmon are largely unexplored in the literature. The published literature failed to provide sufficient direct or indirect evidence to fulfill standard criteria for causation.
The literature was unable to provide sufficient information to determine the likelihood of salmonid enhancement-associated diseases impacting Fraser River sockeye salmon, the magnitude of the hypothetical impacts, or the ability of enhancement facilities to prevent or mitigate the risks…
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Technical Report #2: Effects of contaminants on Fraser River sockeye salmon
…Many other substances in the Inventory of Aquatic Contaminants have the potential to adversely affect Fraser River sockeye salmon, including organometals, cyanides, monoaromatic hydrocarbons, chlorinated and non-chlorinated phenolic compounds, resin and fatty acids, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, hormone mimicking substances, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, wood preservation chemicals and nanoparticles.
However, insufficient information was available to evaluate the hazards posed to sockeye salmon in the Fraser River associated with exposure to these contaminants…
(now that’s comforting — if I can’t pronounce it, it’s probably not good for me… or sockeye)
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Project 3 – Evaluating the Status of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon and Role of Freshwater Ecology in their Decline
…Given our review of available data, measures of freshwater habitat condition are generally not available across many CUs even though Strategy 2 of the Wild Salmon Policy is charged with developing relevant habitat indicators. Given this gap…
Given a general lack of information that could be used to reliably define dynamic changes in condition across sockeye salmon spawning, rearing, and migratory habitats…
Given a lack of experimental design in the way population, habitat, and stressor data have been collected, our ability to test for cause and effect relationships between the freshwater environment and Fraser sockeye salmon declines was limited. As a result, we were only able to use a limited set of quantitative techniques and data summaries to assess the role of freshwater influences.
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Project 4 – Marine ecology
Quite satisfingly, doesn’t carry on about all the data limitation — just the time constraints of pulling the report together:
A major objective that was achieved in this report was to assemble, within an eight week period, as comprehensive a summary as was possible of what is known about Fraser River sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) in the ocean. While much of this effort involved summarizing information published in data/technical reports and the primary literature, where necessary, original data have been re-examined and new analyses conducted to fulfill the terms of the Statement of Work.
However, it was more an exercise of regurgitating information already out there… (appreciate the honesty).
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Project 5A – Summary of Information for Evaluating Impacts of Salmon Farms on Survival of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon
Inferences from statistical analyses that correlate trends in abundance or survival of Fraser River sockeye with trends in pathogens found in salmon farms will be extremely limited by the number of years of available data. There are only 3-5 years of overlapping Fraser River sockeye survival and salmon farm data available for statistical evaluation.
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Project 5B – Examination of relationships between salmon aquaculture and sockeye salmon population dynamics
The analyses in the first part of this report are based on short time series of aquaculture variables, beginning no earlier than 2003, with low statistical power to detect relationships should they truly exist.
(nothing like only 7-8 years of data to do ‘analysis’…)
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Project 5C – Impacts of salmon farms on Fraser River sockeye salmon: Results of the Noakes investigation
(No points about limited data, more about how other ‘scientists’ are not looking at the right data…)
Some of the publications are highly speculative for a variety of reasons including but not limited to the absence of data from government and industry as well as assumptions used by the researchers. In some cases, the publications were deficient to the point that they were neither objective nor scientific and they generally lack credibility.
(interesting… absence of data can in turn make someone have a non-objective nor scientific opinion and therefore lack credibility? that’s a rather bold subjective statement in itself to be made in a “scientific” investigation– is it not?)
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Project 5D – Impacts of salmon farms on Fraser River sockeye salmon: Results of the Dill investigation
(And in a complete about face from the above report…)
Unfortunately, it turned out that the data provided by Provincial government (BCMAL) and the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) were insufficient in both quantity and quality to allow a rigorous analyses capable of answering these questions with certainty. The biggest problem was the very short length of the time series available for analysis, basically only 4-5 year classes.
(these darn scientists, why can’t they just all get along…seems like reports 5C and 5D are a little pissing match between each other)
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Project 7 – Fraser River sockeye fisheries and fisheries management
The final section of our report provides recommendations which address important data gaps and known deficiencies in the fisheries management system
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Project 8 – Effects of predators on Fraser River sockeye salmon
Naming the predators of sockeye salmon should not be a difficult task given that everyone likely loves sockeye—but scientifically supported ecosystem-level information about predator species (numbers, diets, trends, and distributions) is sparse throughout the sockeye salmon range.
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Project 9 – Effects of climate change on Fraser River sockeye salmon
…There has been little research examining cumulative impacts, both across multiple stressors (e.g. fisheries capture, temperature, pollutants) or life history stages (i.e. carry-over effects), and/or among generations (i.e. intergenerational effects). These information gaps are critical to fill to begin to understand current trends in sockeye salmon productivity and abundance
(ummm… so… what has been the purpose of the Cohen Commission then…? to simply identify data gaps and recommend a big research agenda? Or… was it to try and answer some questions around current trends in salmon productivity and abundance, e.g. 2009 collapse).
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Project 10 – Fraser River sockeye salmon production dynamics
Further research is required to draw definitive conclusions about the relative influence of such large-scale versus more local processes.
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Project 12 – Fraser River Sockeye Habitat Use in the Lower Fraser and Strait of Georgia
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. In our view, some efforts have been made in this direction, but these have not been adequate and are even less likely to be adequate into the future…
Research in habitat ecology to evaluate alternative approaches to those prevailing today will be needed to adequately evaluate habitat compensation projects.
Programs and management initiatives used to examine and understand the quantitative parameters of habitats, potential losses and gains, habitat quality types and the dynamics of habitat productivity do not appear to be sufficient for keeping track of the current and future status of habitats used by sockeye and potential links and associations to variations in sockeye productivity.
However, one of my favorite lines comes early in the Executive Summary for this report:
Salmon are often viewed as a living barometer of the conditions in the environment and their habitat state and stock status could reflect potential impacts from human activities.
Yet… sadly… for crying out loud… we’ve got that little legal disclaimer in there…
ghad forbid, we say there’s actually been an impact of humans on salmon…
(that wouldn’t be objectively peer-reviewed…)
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Now, I suppose the question is whether or not, Justice Cohen will rely upon his legal training to come to some sort of conclusion on this rather expensive exercise.
Will he decide the issues on a matter of facts…?
Or will it be in the objective test of a reasonable person?
The sad thing is… that the objective test of a reasonable person means someone acting prudently… and in this case it could potentially be a professional person acting prudently.
And thus, will Justice Cohen be adopting the prudent, objective viewpoint of a fisheries scientist to review this information? or a policy maker?
ghad help the salmon if he is. Save yourselves little oncorhynchuses…
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I can safely say I do not envy his work over coming months…
and here’s to hoping that more fisheries scientist could actually come out with an informed “opinion”.
This whole “objective” science thing is BS anyways… go read the old philosophers to find out how realistic it is to sit on the throne of objectivity and not have an opinion.
It’s not possible, and it sure as hell doesn’t do wild salmon any good.
We might as well all just run around with our tail between our legs, babbling on madly about how we don’t have “enough data”… if we could just get “more data”… “then we’d understand”… “then it’d be easy”.
We’ll never have enough data!
And how is it that catching and killing over 80% of the Fraser sockeye runs for over 50 years is not an impact!
A devastating one…
It’s the same story the world over… it’s why fisheries stocks around the world are in deep shit.
We catch them and eat them. All my empirical objective data says so… (as does the United Nations…)
We can keep looking for our keys under the streetlight because that’s where the light is, or we can look for them near where we dropped them… in the dark alley.
The lights are on folks, and just like a good Shakespearean drama, the spotlight is on us.
We did it. It was Colonel Mustard in the ocean with a net… practicing mixed stock fisheries.