Category Archives: Theory Parade

Propaganda?

The clever propagandist doesn’t tell outright lies. These are relatively easy to disprove. Instead they provide half truths in the knowledge that a considerable part of the distortion will stick…

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Almost 100 Years of Maximum Sustainable Yield?!

 Maximum Sustainable Yield

take, take, take --- 80% take

 End of an era?

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What happens when you put a rapidly growing city of over 2 million people at the mouth of the ‘world’s greatest salmon river’?

quality urban salmon habitat?

In the salmon world of propaganda it’s called: Over-escapement.

What do they call it when too many people show up for a flight?

Over-subscribed.

 

“Why Ocean Acidification Matters to You”

A pretty decent article at the Tyee on ocean acidification

I’m not always a big fan of constantly reporting on the bad news… but then… when talking about wild Pacific salmon it’s pretty tough sometimes to report good news.

The ocean acidification discussion is a nasty one. In essence, as we continue to pump carbon into the atmosphere the ocean absorbs it and as more is absorbed, we get acidification… not good for coral reefs, shelled critters, and otherwise. (about the only thing it might be good for… jelly fish)

When baby salmon swim out of their home streams and start migrating up the Pacific coast towards the North Pacific they rely a lot on small shelled critters as one of their main food sources. Slight rises in acidification have drastic consequences on the small shelled critters — and thus a major wild salmon food source at key times of their lives.

There’s another article at the American Fisheries Society: Ocean acidification causes negative effects on fisheries

…highlights how some changes may be coming for some of the starts of one of the only T.V. shows I tend to watch: Deadliest Catch.

…the acidification process in the Arctic, Bering Sea, and Gulf of Alaska is developing faster than expected. Some predictions made for the acid levels said corrosive effects shouldn’t become evident until 2050 or 2100.

As well as the Gulf of Alaska being a pretty key part of most BC wild salmon migrations…

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Search the term online and there is a mass of articles dating back several years on this issue.

One key similarity between all the articles…?

Almost all of them suggest that any ‘computer modelling’ on this issue… has been wrong. Various scientists suggest that ocean acidification is occurring at a rate anywhere between 10 time to 50 times faster than any ‘models’ predicted

Wonder if any of the salmon “scientists” are working these into their computer modelling programs?

Bears don’t sell salmon for profit.

culprits? predators?

Published at the Globe & Mail today — another article by Mark Hume, reporting from the Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser Sockeye:

The mystery of the disappearing salmon

The disappearance of millions of sockeye salmon from the Fraser River has been compared to Murder on the Orient Express by two scientists helping a federal inquiry solve an environmental mystery.

Andrew Trites and Villy Christensen, both professors at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre, made the comparison to the Agatha Christie whodunit as they testified Wednesday at the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.

Led by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen, the commission has been given more than two years and a $25-million budget to figure out why sockeye salmon stocks have been in decline for the past two decades, and why only about one million fish returned to spawn in 2009, when 10 million were expected.

Let me ask the simple question — in 2009 was it disappearing fish, or simply a blown forecast?

Maybe, it’s kind of like the weather – we have thousands more tools, expertise and ‘science’ for forecasting weather – yet forecasters blow it all the time…

(“today we can expect cloudy periods with a chance of salmon…”)

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As part of the inquiry, Judge Cohen has assigned teams of scientists to look at 12 different issues, examining everything from climate change to sport fishing to determine the impact on salmon.

Curiously, I don’t remember reading anything in the Commission’s terms of reference about sport fishing — or in the 12 ‘scientific’ reports… However, I suppose maybe one can assume that sport fishing is covered in “policies and practices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans” .

(I haven’t seen this particular report yet, as Commission transcripts and “evidence” are not posted on the site until weeks after the date; however, the reports I’ve reviewed thus far are more like literature reviews then scientific studies. I wonder if the Commission could have saved some of its $25 million budget by having Masters’ students do the same literature reviews?)

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The article continues:

In a report on predation, Dr. Trites and Dr. Christensen tried to find which, among the myriad predators that feast on salmon, could have been responsible for killing so many sockeye as to decimate the population.

They came up with a long list of suspects and then narrowed it down to the six most fearsome killers: salmon sharks (220 kilograms and so aggressive they sometimes bump fishing boats), blue sharks (triangular teeth with finely serrated edges), daggertooths (the name says it all), sablefish (black cod with gaping mouths), lamprey (jawless fish that suck blood) and the common murre (a bird that dives 60 metres deep and can swim faster than a fish).

“It’s six,” Dr. Christensen said of the top suspect list. “We could have made it eight or 10. … It’s subjective. Salmon shark is at the top of the list. For the rest, it’s hard to say [how to rank them]. We found evidence for all of these six, that they might have considerable impact.”

In their report, the two science investigators say they are unable to point the finger at any one suspect, because so many factors are at work. They compared their dilemma to the one faced by the detective Hercule Poirot, who finds a passenger has been murdered while the Orient Express is speeding across Europe.

So let me ask this then?

Where were “the myriad predators that feast on salmon” last year — 2010 when somewhere around 30 million Fraser sockeye made the journey home?

I guess they must have hopped onto the Siberian Express as opposed to the Orient Express…??

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“The murderer had to be on board,” states the report. “M. Poirot interviewed everyone on the train, but there was no ‘usual suspect,’ no smoking gun and no butler. Rather, it seemed that all of the passengers (save M. Poirot) had a motive and an opportunity. That made for a difficult case – who did it?”

The scientists concluded the mysteries on the Fraser River and on the Orient Express had the same answer: “All the suspects played a role and all are guilty.”

They state that while all the predators feed on sockeye salmon, none of them does so exclusively, and none to such an extent that it could explain the population collapse. And predation alone, even by all the suspects combined, cannot fully explain the long downward trend of the sockeye population or the sudden collapse in 2009, they say.

Yes — brilliant deduction Wats…errr… Poirot.

An excellent point, and about dead on.

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“For the Fraser River sockeye, it may well be that the declining survival trend over the last decades was caused by a combination of effects, and not by any single one,” they write. “If predation had been the smoking gun in the disappearance of Fraser River sockeye salmon, it should have been smelled by now.”

Dr. Trites and Dr. Christensen said the study was hampered by a shortage of up-to-date data and they called for more research on what happens to Fraser River sockeye after they leave fresh water and enter the ocean.

Well… there is one predator that Drs. Trites and Christensen forgot in their investigation — a key suspect:

US.

No, not the United States — but us… humans.

And… well… better yet — Mother Nature… which includes us humans, and… well… predators… and prey… and so on…

And, what to our wonder… there’s that great “not enough data” must “have more research” thing… again.

Dr. Christensen said the last major ocean research projects on salmon were undertaken in the 1950s and 1970s, and a new effort, using modern technology, is warranted.

Perhaps it might even solve the mystery of what killed all the salmon.

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Let’s ponder this for a moment…

danger...danger!

Even if this particular study concluded that salmon sharks, or black cod, or lamprey, or even the vicious yellow-bellied sapsucker were implicated in the deaths of so many sockeye — a veritable sockeye massacre — what we do about it?

Try those “predators” in the Hague? Bring them to justice at the International Criminal Court? Start a lamprey massacre in return?

(certainly has been done in the past when sea lion rookeries were strafed with machine guns from patrol boats…)

Or what if we find that ocean conditions are the #1 problem — the great sockeye salmon killer?

Are we then going to try and seed the North Pacific with ash mimicking a giant volcano? Are we going to try misguided fertilization attempts similar to freshwater environments? Are we going to pull icebergs down from the Arctic to try and cool North Pacific ocean temperatures resulting in more phytoplankton?

…Put giant underwater shopvacs on ‘blow’ mode under the North Pacific to create more upwelling? … get the entire Canadian Navy (all five boats) to line up and drive around in circles to improve the current circulation around the North Pacific?… Tell the Pacific decadal oscillation it’s not welcome?…

Well… NO. We’re probably going to realize that we need to be a heck of a lot more “PRECAUTIONARY” in how many fish we harvest.

At this point in time we have no control over the rate of climate change impacts or ocean acidification or El Nino events… We’re simply along for the ride.

We have to learn RESILIENCY & ADAPTABILITY in a hurry — unfortunately (and fortunately) wild salmon are incredibly resilient and adaptable. They survived the last Ice Age quite well. However, they don’t do well at adapting to the wall of nets they face when they return to spawn — and they don’t survive the canning process very well… and if a big hunk of water that they need to spawn in is sucked up to irrigate fields, or roads, or natural gas drilling processes… well… they don’t do well.

Maybe we just need to catch less for awhile, and look after the things that we can have an effect on…? … like… freshwater habitat.

And maybe we need to remember what we learned in Grade 2 about food chains… predators are not culprits, they’re simply part of the system — everything plays its part.

(unless they’re human and taking more than they need).

See… Bears don’t sell salmon, nor do salmon sharks, or blue sharks, or seals. They just take what they need and leave the rest for other critters in need…

(and Bears certainly don’t set up Exchange Traded Funds on the New York Stock Exchange to capitalize on common property resources…)

Invest in fishing companies and fish farms? Bursting bubble to come…

I don’t know what else to say other than… I think I see a bubble ready to burst…

Today there was an “Exchange Traded Fund” (ETF) launched today by a company in New York — Global X. An ETF is sort of like a mutual fund, however it is traded on stock exchanges like a company.

The ETF launched today is the Global X Fishing Industry ETF (Ticker: FISN on the New York Stock Exchange NYSE).

Apparently:

This is the first ETF globally targeting the fishing industry. The fishing industry is comprised of two main components: commercial fishing and aquaculture. Commercial fishing represents those companies directly involved in the capture of fish from wild fisheries, while aquaculture represents those companies that supply fish through fish farming operations.

Want to know two of the top three holdings?

Cermaq and Marine Harvest — companies both with open pen salmon farms on the BC Coast.

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Here’s the theory lying behind this investment scheme…

Wow, sounds like a great investment opportunity…?!?!

Expansion of the middle class around the world… the drop of trade barriers and more bilateral agreements (e.g. another set of phrases for “colonization”)…

Global fishery trade has increased combined with more distant water fleets?

Hmmm… I wonder why?

Maybe because fish stocks subject to commercial fisheries around the world are in deep shit and folks are having to go further and wider to find fish… or simply fishing further and further down the food chain?

Sure wouldn’t mind seeing the rate of subsidies on this either?

In the 1990s, the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) suggested:

…that the operating costs of fisheries around the world exceeded commercial revenues by over $50 billion each year. Without subsidies, the world’s fishing industry would be bankrupt.

The World Wildlife Fund suggests:

Even as fish stocks dwindle, some of the world’s richest nations are paying billions of dollars to keep flagging fishing industries afloat through fishing subsidies. The result: a growing series of economic, social, and environmental crises around the world.

Estimated at tens of billions of dollars per year, these subsidies are equivalent to roughly 20% to 25% of the value of the landed fish catch worldwide. This scale of subsidization is a huge incentive to expand fishing fleets and overfish.

Hmmmm…. sounds like a great investment to me. It’s sort of like the auto industry or the oil industry — some of the most subsidized businesses on the planet.

It’s a negative sum game… the bubble will burst. And it won’t be individual’s investments and retirement plans that implode —- it will be entire nations, and citizens will go down with it…

(Anyone see the current debt of the United States?)

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Here’s the comforting graph that accompanies this little marketing brief on the Global X website…

 

Bubble?

It seems that this investment scheme has been launched because it appears that this trend can continue forever…

Well… Global X and investors… I have news for you… world catch of fish plateaued at the end of the 1990s and may actually be on a downward trend now. We’d have a better idea if some countries didn’t lie about their catch data — e.g. falsely inflated…

Global X response: ‘but there’s aquaculture…’

 

bubble II?

Well… at this point in time much of that graph – the blues and green portions – require other fish to feed the farmed fish…

I think that’s also known as a “negative sum” gain…

Maybe the wisest thing I see on the marketing material for this ETF:

 

Risk?

The risk include “…the possibility of depleted fish stocks as a result of overfishing…”?!

Hmmmm… yeah. You mean like 75% of the world’s fish stocks?

 

marketing bumpf?

Yes, however, there is absolutely no way that this is sustainable though.

Especially with the continued practice of bottom trawling and by-catch thrown overboard.

Absolutely no way.

This is as twisted a scheme as Bre-X gold, or Enron… or the Marine Stewardship Council certifying Fraser sockeye fisheries as sustainable the year that the stocks experience an unprecedented collapse.

if you’re a wise investor ‘short’ this stock… just like you should ‘short’ any commercially exploited fish stocks. Or the US dollar, or US real estate…

(‘shorting’ means you make money when the stocks collapse… fish or financial)

Schemes like this will simply increase the pressure on corporation and some countries to further expand and grow fishing fleets and processing facilities on fish stocks that absolutely CAN NOT support more FISHING pressure. (or increase the scale of fish farming — like open-pen salmon farming — in sensitive coastal areas worldwide).

As I’ve suggested multiple times on this site, and will continue to — show me where companies like Cermaq and Marine Harvest are providing farmed salmon to needy and hungry people and countries. There sure as hell aren’t many folks in the “growing middle class” buying salmon at $15/lb to feed their families…

What a bizarrely short-sighted world we live in…

What happened to Rivers Inlet sockeye?

So let me ask you this: What happened to Rivers Inlet sockeye?

Rivers Inlet is a large inlet located on mainland BC a little ways north of Port Hardy off the northern end of Vancouver Island.

do you see the irony in this map?

Here’s a slide from a presentation by Rick Routledge at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver:

Rivers Inlet — once #2 in BC sockeye catch

Yeah, Rivers Inlet used to be #2 in BC sockeye catch. Although there was a time in the early 1900s when the Skeena was higher… but those runs zonked sooner than Rivers and Smith Inlets.

In the same presentation, Routledge has this slide:

Rivers Inlet

I do find it curious that since there was no data for “escapement” (potential spawners that reach the river) prior to 1951 — and as such we still call this a sockeye “returns” graph. But then, I suppose, a sockeye caught at the mouth of the inlet is still a “return”…

Key message here… a lot of fish were caught in Rivers Inlet in the early 1900s.

A similar slide to a DFO report in 1998 by McKinnell and company: The collapse of the Rivers Inlet Sockeye Fishery – The Case against a freshwater cause. (here we are looking for a “cause” again… separate from ourselves)

The numbers don’t really seem to match up between the slides… For example, the big catch year in 1926 shows almost 2 million fish caught in Routledge’s graph and maybe about 1.7 million in the DFO produced graph…

Graph comparison

But gee whiz… what’s 200,000 to 300,000 fish caught in the heyday anyways…?

(or maybe it’s just the skewing due to scale…)

But why was there never a judicial inquiry into the collapse of Rivers Inlet sockeye — once the #2 commercial sockeye producing area?

And might those two huge years of catch in the 1970s have anything to do with the crash?

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Hmmm…

so what do we have here?

Well… let’s consider a couple of things…

Firstly, if we take both of these graphs back far enough into the 1800s we would see a trend like this:

familiar trend?

And I think this may look familiar to many people.

It’s sort of a similar trend to many industrial fisheries around the world over the last 100-years or so…

For the economists out there it also sort of resembles the tax curve…

e.g. taxes are good for awhile but eventually they start to have negative returns and we  see this classic mound shape…

Or for the cooks out there: the salt curve… A bit of salt is good, better to a point, then there are quickly dwindling returns on the taste front…

Or salmon cannery production… one cannery is decent, production goes up, profit goes up…

Rivers Inlet cannery (early 1900s?)

…throw in a couple more canneries

another Rivers Inlet cannery

…and eventually things plateau, populations start declining, production declines, profits decline… and CRASH!…

Was it worth it?

(and unfortunately, we can’t cut the costs of production by outsourcing to a place like China or otherwise… the classic economic solution)

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Secondly, there is a classic western-science based assumption in all of this…

The idea that no one else was harvesting fish — commercially or otherwise — prior to the mid-1800s.

The common colonial concept of: Terra nullius the Latin expression for “no man’s land”; nobody here – nobody there.

Terra nullius & Mare nullius

Mare nullius is the ocean equivalent — “nobody was using the ocean…”

Almost every graph one looks at in the ‘science’ world shows this bizarre assumption that no salmon were being harvested prior to contact.

Why is that?

We know that entire cultures harvested millions upon millions of salmon. The bulk of First Nation cultures of BC are basically built upon the backs of salmon.

Some research suggests that the First Nation harvests of salmon pre-contact may actually have been higher than average commercial catches in previous decades.

So, why is there no big research agenda directed at finding just how many salmon were being harvested pre-contact? (appears it was done sustainably as the cultures thrived…)

Or how many salmon were being harvested by First Nation communities at the same time as the cannery boom? (granted most communities were forced from their fishing grounds and through this process basically formed the present landscape of the First Nation reserve system…)

Why is this not on the Cohen Commission research agenda?

Oh right… because we’re only looking at the 2009 Fraser River sockeye crash and nobody wants to admit that overfishing is one of the biggest culprits… because that would mean it’s our fault, us humans… much easier to blame ocean conditions, climate change, and so on and so on.

Sort of like the insurance industry that has outs with ‘acts of god’… for things like building on the floodplain of huge rivers and having dikes fail that were built to withstand the 1 in 100 flood year. (certainly wasn’t our fault for building in the floodplain in the first place… because really, how much comfort is there building in a place called “delta”?)

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A key point here is that people are an intimate component of the salmon cycle — pretty much always have been; always will be.

And yet, when it comes to research agendas… judicial inquiries… salmon think tanks… and otherwise — we so often want to focus on the other ‘reasons’ for declines: ocean conditions, marine survival, juvenile migration, gravel condition, nursery lakes, etc.

(oddly enough though, we often don’t even focus on some of these basic components…e.g. DFO only really looks at 2 sockeye nursery lakes in the entire Fraser system)

Seems, we just don’t want to look in a mirror… and look back.

Might a look in the mirror clearly demonstrate the reason why Rivers Inlet sockeye have gone the way of the North Atlantic Cod?

Or why so many other BC sockeye and other salmon populations are on a similar path, or already well down that path…?

(Pretty much the only reason the Skeena River has sockeye anymore is because of massive enhancement and human-made spawning channels in the Babine system — which accounts for approximately 90% of the total Skeena return)

Is there an example of any wild animal population anywhere that is subject to industrial economic models over the last 100 years that has survived to tell a tell of plenitude and plenty and true long-term sustainability?

If we know that the decaying carcasses of spawned out adult salmon are key food for future generations of salmon; are key ingredients for the health of the surrounding environment (e.g. forest); and are key to the health of us-humans — then why do we continue to follow the route that we do?

Rivers Inlet canned salmon

All the fish in these cans means that consumption of nutrients is largely limited to humans in places a long ways away from the salmon’s natal stream… and what percentage of the sockeye runs to Rivers Inlet are represented in these cans — 80%, 90%, 98.5%…?

This means less nutrients for everything around and in the stream… which in turn means a dwindling cycle…

Why are we so damn blind to the impacts of the last 125 years (approx. 30 salmon life cycles)?

Doesn’t really matter where you look, the population trends of wild fish and humans over the last 150 years or so… tend to be on disparate angles.

humans and fish

I’m just not so sure the mystery is all that great…

Yet we continue to spend small fortunes on “research agendas” and “action plans” and “inquiries” to prove something we probably already know… e.g., we took far too many fish in the heyday, and now we’re paying the price.

The cod story is not a mystery… so why is the sockeye story expected to be much different?

And now the question is how many ‘interventions’ are we going to continue to muddle with? (stay tuned for next post)

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Update from April 14th.

Related… came across this in one of Raincoast’s reports:

Salmon in the Great Bear Rainforest

page 15

what mystery?

So we’ve only known this for how long?

the Great Cycles

Salmon are a cycle.

They come and go like seasons;

like tides;

like the weather.

Or… as is happening in the north right now — like birds.

The other day I saw the first few robins starting to brave the several feet of snow still in our yard in BC’s central interior. I also saw the first hawk of the year a few days ago.

Yesterday afternoon, in a stop at the grocery story my daughter spotted something like this, way above us:

the cycles of spring

Canada Geese on their way north.

And so what else comes with spring?

salmonberry bush in the spring

Well… on the coast, salmonberry bushes will start to blossom.

Some folks suggest the bush got its name because First Nations folks ate salmon with the berries… others suggest its because the berries look like small clusters of eggs.

salmonberry

Growing up on Haida Gwaii, I had it suggested to me that the link was that when the berries started to ripen it meant it was time to go fishing for sockeye…

(I also learned — the hard way (on several occasions) — that gorging on salmonberries can lead to some gastric distress… kind of like some of the debates surrounding salmon…)

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And then last week the media jumped on the story about scientists “proving” the deep-reaching links of the salmon cycle… This story out of the Ottawa Citizen, of all places:

Fish nutrients fertilize soil

Salmon may live in the water, but a new study shows they help shape the forest.

A study of 50 watersheds in the Great Bear Rainforest on British Columbia’s central coast says bears, fish-catching wolves and other predators haul huge amounts of salmon into the forest that provide a potent “nutrient subsidy” that drives plant growth in the surrounding forest.

Nitrogen released by the fish favours some plants – such as the aptly named salmonberry -while pushing out other species, researchers from Simon Fraser University published in the journal Science’s Friday edition.

“Salmon are important to us not just because of their value in fisheries and for food, but they also can be having quite significant impacts on our surroundings,” says biologist John Reynolds, co-author of the four-year study.

Salmon in the Great Bear Rainforest are so plentiful that the region’s wolves have specialized to catch the fish live as they swim through shallow waters on their way to spawning streams, says Reynolds.

The wolves, like the bears, leave a lot of the fish behind.

“The wolves typically eat only the head or the brain,” he says.

Working with the Heiltsuk First Nation the researchers counted how many salmon migrated up different streams -and found “thousands” of fish spawning in some of the coastal streams, many which had not been surveyed before, says Reynolds.

Bears, wolves and other predators “can transfer more than 50 per cent of the salmon to the forest,” they report. The rest of the fish, which die after spawning, either rot along the stream banks or are washed downstream.

To assess the impact, they looked at stream chemistry and what grew in surrounding forests.

“We looked at all plants that we encountered, from lichens to shrubs,” says Reynolds.

They found species, such as salmonberry and stink currant, thriving along streams with plenty of salmon. Plants such as blueberry and false azalea prefer nutrient poor soils and were less common.

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As I pointed out in a post last week… it’s great to see some of these sorts of things hitting the mainstream media. However, it should be remembered that this sort of thing has been ‘known’ for a long, long, long time throughout the range of Pacific salmon… Not “hidden” as the article suggests… (maybe hidden to those that understand natural cycles… or those that isolate things into little categories… kind of like government departments that separate “managing” bears from “managing” salmon…)

State of the Salmon: Salmon Atlas -- Original Pacific salmon distribution

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As a more recent example, in their 1999 paper: Pacific salmon carcasses: Essential Contributions of Nutrients and Energy for Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems. Jeff Cederholm and colleagues state:

Pacific salmon also have been considered important vectors for returning significant amounts of nutrients from the northern Pacific Ocean back to land, representing a unique way to move nutrients upstream. This subject has attracted attention from scientists and economists throughout the Pacific Rim.

Consider Japan’s Edo era (1603-1867), when people believed that a streamside forest could provide fish with numerous benefits such as cover, nutrients, and food. This belief remained in the minds of people living near waterfronts or forests after the Meiji Restoration (1868).

When the first forest act of Japan was introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century, it contained an article ordering conservation of uo-tsuki-rin, literally “fish attracting forest.” Using anecdotal information, Sibatani (1996) suggested that uo-tsuki-rin may operate in the opposite direction: “The land near rivers is well fertilized by the ocean nutrients brought by ascending (spawning) salmon, which causes the forests to thrive.

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So let’s think about this for a few seconds…

the great salmon cycle

We have this great cycle that has gone on for thousands and thousands and thousands of years.

Salmon spawn then die, babies are born in the spring, head to the ocean, cycle through the North Pacific, head home, spawn, die.

The death feeds everything around — including the babies, and the cycle begins again.

And so on, and so on, and so on….

But then in the late 1800s, a new factor enters the equation… a cycle of another kind: an economic cycle with largely one sole purpose. Profit.

And so the equation is something akin to this:

Salmon equation through late 1800s and entire 1900s

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So in sticking with the analogies from the beginning… (and this isn’t very “scientific”)…

What would happen in the north if we removed 75% of the seasons?

 

Seasons captured?

Would we expect the “Fall” to keep producing the same amount of things we have come to expect? 

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What about the geese?

captured geese?

If we captured 80 – 100% would we expect the few remaining to keep producing the same numbers?

(granted some folks aren’t big fans of geese and suggest they are killing salmon…)

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So this is the part that gets me…

There’s some apparent great “mystery” out there on why salmon populations are crashing…

There’s even a $15 – $20 million judicial inquiry going on right now over one year (2009) of crashed sockeye populations in the Fraser River: the Cohen Commission.

Within the Commission is a whole ream of scientists scrambling to find the ‘smoking gun’… (made all the more bizarre with the monster return of Fraser sockeye last year — 2010).

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If we know it’s a cycle and over the last 125 years or so we’ve done our best to obliterate the cycle — not just through overfishing — then why are fish populations, with industrial fisheries focused upon them, so “mysterious” when they collapse?

What happens if I take 75% of the gas out of your car?

What happens if take 75% of the money out of your bank account?

What happens if I cut the value of interest collected on your investments by 75%?

Or, for that fact, cut your investments by 75%? (as experienced by a few folks in the last few years).

What if we interrupted the water cycle — and harvested 75% of the rain fall in the Okanagan over the next 50 years?

A cycle is a cycle is a cycle.

If we humans decide to interrupt naturally occurring cycles by “harvesting” or “consuming” for ourselves– we’re going to have an impact.

No one puzzled all that greatly on what happened to Cod… no on puzzled all that greatly on what happened to the variety of over-harvested whales… no one is puzzling all that greatly on what’s happening to the world’s tuna populations… or even BC’s Coho populations for that fact.

And the starving grizzly bear’s of Rivers Inlet on BC’s coast?

Well… if you went to a restaurant and they only served you 25% of what you ordered — what would be the impact? (And then you had to fight all the other restaurant goers for your share of what used to be enough)

What if every time you go to the grocery store and you were only able to buy 25% of what you normally do?

I think you probably get my point…. still a mystery?

 

Fish assholes?

are you kidding?

Have you ever seen such a thing?

I thought it a hoax of sorts until I searched online and found this:

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German style?

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I’m curious about how this would be as a “main dish”?

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This also seemed a fitting accompaniment… “side dish” if you will for another “once upon a salmon” tidbit.

This one comes from 1983 an “Ocean Law Memo” from the University of Oregon in 1983. Came across this randomly online.

The troubled Pacific Salmon Treaty: why it must be ratified

ocean_memo_24_1983

did we learn?.

Yup… I think this is referred to as the classic: “Tragedy of the Commons”.

If I don’t catch them, those fish assholes over there will… so why conserve?

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Next sentence?:

And so for years, Alaskans caught Canadian-bound salmon.

BC fisherfolks caught US-bound salmon.

And each side would retaliate against the other and try their best to be the biggest fish assholes, especially on trans-boundary rivers.

And who paid the worst price?

Well… the fish of course

(and the multitude of First Nation communities that depended on those annual returns).

And which fish got hammered the worst?

Well, Coho and Chinook are sure in deep trouble in a lot of places:

Chinook loss -- 1983. Do we ever learn?

And so here we are… 28 years later… and things look worse… much worse.

What are we now… 1000% below optimum?

And really, with all the threats such as urban expansion, climate change and the like… what is optimum “escapement” (spawners) now?

Is it double what it was in 1983… triple… quadruple?

And yet here we are in Canada faced with yet another multi-million dollar ‘review’ of “fisheries management”.

What possibly could have gone wrong?

Let’s search the culprits, the hypotheses, the theories, the ‘science’… what possibly could have gone wrong…?

“It just doesn’t make sense…”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Who the ffff…

fruitcake

are we trying to fool here?

We fished the shit out of them for over a hundred years, stuffed more salmon in little aluminum cans then ever thought imaginable and sold them on the cheap.

They were an “endless resource”.

Nuke this stream, then just move up the coast.

Nuke that stream, then just move down coast.

Are there not enough abandoned, empty pilings rotting in the ebb and flow of Pacific tides to remind us of “WHY”?

Why?

 

Are we really going to continue to talk about dividing salmon right up until the last two are swimming upstream?

Look around the world… the history of “fisheries management” over the last 100 years, is an absolute f-in failure.

There’s a reason why the United Nations makes declarations to go to war… alongside: stating in no uncertain terms that fisheries around the world are in dismal shape.

Why?

Because wars and collapsing fisheries result in similar outcomes… dead and dying people; dead and dying communities; rubble and ruin.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Who are the real fish assholes?

Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) muzzling scientists?

So the previous post here: marketing is everything; everything is marketing… (even at DFO) quoted a Mark Hume Globe and Mail article and his coverage of the Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser sockeye. At the Commission recently was Dr. Laura Richards, Pacific Regional Director of Science for DFO.

“Do you think it’s a role of DFO scientists to develop speeches for parliamentarians?” asked Bruce Wallace, senior commission counsel.

The role of science is really to provide factual information, and that’s what we do,” replied Dr. Richards.

_ _ _ _ _ _

I’m a fan of the power of contradictions; they are often a source of power… of tension between opposing views… however, maybe not so much in testimony in a quasi-legal process.

Mark Hume writing in yesterday’s Globe:

Researcher suggests ‘salmon leukemia’ is to blame for decline of Fraser sockeye

Of all the theories heard so far by the Cohen Commission, the most intriguing involves new research by a molecular scientist who is pointing to the possibility of an epidemic of salmon leukemia.

Kristi Miller hasn’t been called to testify on her research yet, but her work is already causing a buzz at the inquiry, in part because it seems an effort has been made to keep it under wraps.

Dr. Miller has not been available for media interviews, even though she recently published a paper in the prestigious journal Science. Usually, Fisheries and Oceans Canada promotes interviews when one of their researchers gains an international profile for groundbreaking work. But when Dr. Miller’s paper came out earlier this year, all requests for interviews were denied.

When Laura Richards, Pacific regional director of science for DFO, testified last week, he asked her about a series of e-mails that suggested Dr. Miller was being muzzled.

In a Nov. 2009 e-mail to Mark Saunders, manager of salmon and freshwater ecosystems division, Dr. Miller said she was being kept away from a science forum.

“Laura [Richards] does not want me to attend any of the sockeye salmon workshops that are not run by DFO for fear that we will not be able to control the way the disease issue could be construed in the press. I worry that this approach of saying nothing will backfire,” she wrote. “Laura also clearly does not want to indicate … that the disease research is of strategic importance.”

Dr. Richards testified that Dr. Miller had somehow misinterpreted things, and that there was no intent to silence her.

Dr. Miller won’t testify for months yet and she remains banned from giving any media interviews. But her research, which could explain why up to three million salmon a year are dying in the Fraser, is already reverberating at the Cohen Commission.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Research is suggesting that this ‘salmon leukemia’ virus is killing up to 70% of Fraser sockeye in some years. And this isn’t just any old research, it has been published in the prestigious journal Science.

The response from DFO to one of their scientists being published?

“…she remains banned from giving any media interviews.”

But don’t forget:

“The role of science is really to provide factual information, and that’s what we do,” says Dr. Richards – the Pacific Regional Director of Science for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

… except, it appears, when it really should be widely communicated and distributed.

_ _ _ _ _ _

If you’d like to read other accounts of Dr. Richards enlightening testimony visit the Cohen Inquiry Notes blog by Elena Edwards who writes frequently about testimony at the Commission:

 

Inquiry into the Art of Avoidance

In a stunning display of ‘uh’s and um’s’ Dr. Richards responses to the line of questioning by Gregory McDade for the Aquaculture Coalition was nothing short of disappointing with many heads shaking in disbelief.

An example of the mind boggling testimony ;

McDade; “[At] the conference that saw Dr. Miller present her hypothesis that the disease agent is intercellular, possibly a virus? Do you remember that?”

Richards; “Uh, there was certainly a presentation that she made at that meeting and I, uh, I can’t recall specifically exactly what she said, but I have to assume that the abstract is an accurate representation.”

McDade points out, “Well, you in fact attended that meeting as co chair of the committee on scientific co operation…”

“That’s correct.”

“…and ultimately prepared a summary of these proceedings.”

Richards; “Uh, yes. That’s correct. Well, a very short summary that was sort of based on this.”

McDade; “Dr. Hinch sent you a copy of the very document we’re looking at.”

Richards; “Well I didn’t review the…, I can’t say that I honestly read every single line in this document but I did skim it, yes.”

_ _ _ _ _

McDade asks the impossible question; “Do you not know what vertical transmission even means?”

Dr. Richards; “Uh, I’m not uh…I have a general sense of that but I’m not going to give you a specific definition. I think that really needs to be done with the experts.”

McDade; “Well, Dr Richards, I’m not looking for a highly technical definition here, I’m looking for your understanding about this.”

Silence settles over the room as everyone waits with baited breath for the intelligent response they all know is coming. And come it does as Dr. Richards replies;

Well we are talking, uh…I, I… look, I’m just, uh, I’m just, um … sorry, I’m sorry, I just, my brain has gone fuzzy on that particular point right now so I would rather not give you an answer that’s wrong.”

McDade, seeking clarity, asks; “Doesn’t it simply mean that you can transmit from the parents stock through the eggs to the next generation?”

Dr. Richards; “Uh, it, I think that’s what it is, but I would like to… as I said , this is not my area and I just want to be very careful  of to not give incorrect  evidence.”

Now imagine an entire day of such non answers to a very serious matter indeed, and perhaps we can begin to understand that if this is the type of management offered by DFO, we should be most concerned for the future of the Fraser River Sockeye Salmon!

Salmon status unknown

Recently at the Cohen Commission looking at declines of Fraser River sockeye, a backgrounder was released for one of the 12 technical reports to be completed:

Project 3 – Evaluating the Status of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon and Role of Freshwater Ecology in their Decline

Only the Executive Summary and Backgrounder is available for public consumption at this time.

This technical report was apparently meant to:

…investigate several aspects of Fraser sockeye ecology, including the status of sockeye Conservation Units, a review of industrial and urban impacts on freshwater ecology and salmon life history, and an expert assessment of potential impacts from historical industrial and urban activities on Fraser River sockeye.

This report is focused on evaluating changes in freshwater ecology and its role in recent sockeye salmon declines, including the status of sockeye salmon populations and habitats and the impacts of human activities on freshwater habitats.

Reading the Executive Summary for the report I was struck by some pretty curious statements:

This report is focused on evaluating changes in freshwater ecology and its role in recent sockeye salmon declines for the Cohen Commission. This work includes examining the status of sockeye salmon populations and habitats, as well as the impacts of human activities on freshwater habitats (i.e., logging, hydroelectricity, urbanization, agriculture, and mining).

Changes in freshwater ecology due to natural and human forces are hypothesized as having three pathways of effects. These pathways include effects on the: (1) quantity and quality of spawning habitats; (2) productivity of nursery lakes for rearing; and/or (3) habitat conditions associated with migration of smolts / adults.

To assess the current status of Fraser River sockeye salmon populations, we have been charged with three tasks:

(1) summarizing existing delineations of population diversity into Conservation Units (CUs) [a CU is defined by the Wild Salmon Policy as “a group of wild salmon sufficiently isolated from other groups that, if lost, is very unlikely to recolonize naturally within an acceptable time frame”];

(2) evaluating Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO) methods for assessing conservation status; and

(3) determining the status of Fraser River sockeye salmon CUs. Delineations of Conservation Units were necessary to quantify habitat conditions, analyze landscape level disturbances, and evaluate the relationship between changes in freshwater ecology and changes in productivity…

Back to the Backgrounder:

Status of Conservation Units

The report identified 36 sockeye Conservations Units (CUs) within the Fraser River basin, including 30 lake and six river-type CUs..

The researchers found that 17 of the 36 Fraser sockeye CUs have poor population status and are distributed across all run timing groups.

The status of 11 CUs is unknown.

_ _ _ _ _ _

So the status of at least 30% of the Conservation Units is unknown… yet, a CU is “a group of wild salmon sufficiently isolated from other groups that, if lost, is very unlikely to recolonize naturally within an acceptable time frame…”

_ _ _ _ _ _

The Executive Summary continues:

… 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.

hmmm.

…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…

uh, huh…

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

‘Measures not available’… ‘lack of information’… ‘lack of experimental design data being collected’… ‘tests for cause and effect limited’… ‘limited set of quantitative techniques and data’…

Do I sense a pattern here?

And yet…conclusion is:

…we believe that recent declines in Fraser River sockeye salmon are unlikely to be the result of changes in the freshwater environment.

_ _ _ _ _ _

And so a desktop, office exercise (one that was probably not cheap) for: “evaluating the status of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon and the role of Freshwater ecology in their Decline” concludes on “limited data” and “lack of information” that the freshwater environment for Fraser sockeye is just fine.

Is something amiss here?

But wait… a consulting firm that states its mission is: “to bring together people, science and analytical tools to sustain healthy ecosystems and human communities.” And “our dedicated and knowledgeable team of scientists fills a niche in the consulting field — we work together in interdisciplinary teams with our clients, applying quantitative methods and qualitative concepts to resolve complex natural resource and environmental management problems”

states in its recommendations:

(1) To improve our understanding about survival at critical freshwater life stages, scientists need better estimates of juvenile abundance, overwinter survival, and mortality during smolt outmigration.

(2) To improve our understanding about population status across Conservation Units, scientists need more information about the abundance and distribution of small lake and all river CUs.

(3) To improve our understanding about habitat status across Conservation Units, scientists need information on habitats monitored in a consistent manner on a regular basis across a larger number of rivers and nursery lakes.

(4) To improve our understanding about the population level effects of stressors on freshwater habitats, scientists need more precise estimates of the biological consequences of disturbance as a function of increasing stress.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Appears scientists need a lot of information on the freshwater environment, yet some scientists “in the consulting field” can still state that recent declines are not a result of the freshwater environment, yet also state “ohhh, we need more research, more research…”

Something just doesn’t sit right here…

Didn’t it state at the beginning that: “Changes in freshwater ecology due to natural and human forces are hypothesized as having three pathways of effects. These pathways include effects on the: (1) quantity and quality of spawning habitats; (2) productivity of nursery lakes for rearing; and/or (3) habitat conditions associated with migration of smolts / adults.”

But then it is stated in the recommendations that we need far more research on all of those “three pathways of effects”?

Fraser sockeye declines are not a result of freshwater habitat changes… but we better do more research?

Fraser sockeye declines are not a result of freshwater habitat changes… but there are huge data gaps?

Which one is it?

_ _ _ _ _ _

The final recommendation stated is:

(5) To improve transparency in the science and related decision making scientists, managers, and the public need information that is more accessible and collected in a way that is more integrated across federal and provincial agencies.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Couldn’t agree more… The public certainly does need information that is more accessible.

Maybe I’m making some pretty early judgments without reading the full report, but it doesn’t hurt to ask the questions…

Figure this one out… DFO at its finest.

Some interesting salmon articles over the last few days.

Carrying capacity? (Victoria, BC circa 1977)

Figure this one out… Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail yesterday:

B.C. anglers want Ottawa to charge them more to fish salmon

Sports anglers in British Columbia have asked the federal government to charge them more to go salmon fishing.

But the 300,000 anglers who annually buy salt-water licences on the West Coast just can’t get the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to agree to a fee hike, a federal commission appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper heard Monday.

“We have been enormously frustrated by the Department’s inability to charge us more money,” Gerry Kristianson told the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.

Mr. Kristianson, Chair of the Sport Fishery Advisory Board (SFAB), said salt-water-fishing licences haven’t increased in price since the mid-1990s, and anglers are prepared to pay more if the money will be returned by the government to help manage the resource.

He said his board, which advises DFO on a voluntary basis, has been told the request for higher licence fees is caught up in government red tape.

Mr. Kristianson said it seems odd any group “is unable to have the government collect more money from it,” and urged Commissioner Bruce Cohen to look into the situation.

Mr. Kwak [also from SFAB] said the province is considering hiking its fresh-water licence fees, and urged Mr. Cohen to keep that in mind should he make any recommendations concerning increases to the federal salt-water licence.

He also told the Commission “upward of 5,000 fishermen a day” can be seen on the Fraser during the sockeye run, but said it is not clear how many fish they catch, because DFO doesn’t have a comprehensive or rigorous way of collecting catch data.

Mr. Kwak questioned whether an accurate count of anglers can be made from patrol flights over the Fraser. And he said DFO workers, who ask anglers on the river how many fish they have caught, in an onsite survey, can get misleading data, because fishermen exaggerate how many fish they have caught…

_ _ _ _ _

And so sport fishers are asking DFO to charge them more for licenses… and… DFO does not get accurate information on how many fish sport fishers are catching.

Hmmmm… I think I sense one potential solution here… maybe charge sport fishers more and then use those fees to better monitor the sport fishery itself?

_ _ _ _ _ _

Two related articles. One also from Mark Hume at the Globe and Mail:

Rising temperature in Fraser River affecting Salmon population

The Fraser River is heating up because of climate change and an increasing number of salmon are dying in the warmer water from diseases or parasites or are simply dropping dead from cardiac collapse, a federal judicial inquiry has been told.

Scott Hinch, an expert witness on aquatic ecology, told the Commission of Inquiry Into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River that sometimes 50 per cent of the salmon that return to the river die before they reach the spawning beds.

Dr. Hinch said because the Fraser has increased in temperature by about 2 degrees C, salmon are changing the timing of their spawning migrations, to enter rivers weeks earlier or later, in an effort to avoid warm water. And once in the river they are seeking out cold-water refuges, sometimes going up tributaries to sink to the bottoms of lakes or schooling where cold streams enter the Fraser.

As water temperatures continue to climb (predictions suggest an increase of between 2 and 4 degrees over the next 60 to 80 years), more and more Fraser River salmon are likely to die before they have a chance to spawn, said Dr. Hinch, a fisheries researcher and professor at the University of British Columbia.

“Certainly we’re gong to see higher en route mortality [in the future],” he said. “We’re going to have to forsake more harvest on these fish.”

Dr. Hinch said the warmer water doesn’t kill fish directly, but once the temperature of the Fraser has climbed above 18 degrees C, as it does for several weeks every summer, the fish are subject to stresses which increase the chances of death.

Higher water temperatures also increase the rate of development of pathogens, exposing salmon to disease.

The research, one of 12 scientific papers being prepared at the request of Commissioner Bruce Cohen, says the phenomenon of en route loss of salmon was first reported in 1992 for three distinct runs of sockeye, which come back to the Fraser in the spring, early summer and summer. A fourth run of sockeye, which returns to the river in the fall, didn’t exhibit the problem until 1996.

The paper states that since 1996 “en route loss of at least 30 per cent has been observed for at least one run-timing group in each year,” and many stocks have had losses of 50 per cent or more.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Gee… sure makes sense to me then, that we should be harvesting upwards of 80% of these runs as one other pre-eminent scientist has suggested to the Cohen Commission and spouted off on radio, tv, and wherever else his voice could be recorded last year.

Bring back maximum sustainable yield…!

kidding.

Dr. Hinch and Dr. Martins, who synthesized decades of salmon research in their paper, said warmer water temperatures appear to be decreasing the survivability of salmon at nearly all life stages, not just when the fish are adults returning to spawn.

But Dr. Hinch said there is “shockingly little information” on the early life stages of salmon.

He also noted that one run of sockeye, which goes up the Fraser and then into the glacial-fed Chilko River, have adapted to handle dramatic temperature ranges.

He said it is important to protect a wide variety of salmon stocks, because it is not clear which fish may hold the genetic key to survive in the warmer water of the future.

I’ve noted this before… in asking DFO they really only investigate about two sockeye nursery lakes in the entire Fraser system. Some estimates suggest there hundreds of nursery lakes.

Sounds like biodiversity and protecting all runs is important — and even more important as every organism has to become more rapidly adaptive to climate change. Human communities are sure as hell having to become more adaptive — especially coastal communities. There’s only so much boulder rip-rap armoring of coastlines that can be done to protect infrastructure…

_ _ _ _ _ _

The Tyee has also ran a related article:

‘Perfect storm’ of virus and warming water threaten sockeye: scientist

An expert in aquatic ecology told the Cohen Commission that a retrovirus is having a more devastating effect on salmon smolt as rising water temperatures put stress on them.

Dr. Scott Hinch, expert in aquatic ecology and forestry professor at the University of British Columbia took the stand as a witness accompanied by Eduardo Martins, UBC population ecologist at the Federal Judicial Inquiry in to the collapse of the 2009 Sockeye Salmon runs yesterday and today.

Hinch said the optimal average temperature for salmon is around 13-15 degrees. Over the last 20 years the Fraser River has increased by about 2 degree, often causing salmon to seek thermal refuge in cold water at the bottoms of stream or lakes.

“Survival decreases as temp increases,” said Martins, whose research showed that an increase in water temperatures would likely a higher die off rate among smolts and older salmon.

“Mortality got to be a problem at about 18 degrees in the river. When things got up to about 19 degrees stocks survived very poorly,” said Hinch.

Climate change has been showed to be a major stressor for returning salmon. But far less is known about how climate change is affecting salmon while they are at sea.

“This life stage is the most poorly understood of the salmon, there is a major data gap when they are in the open ocean,” said Hinch.

“It’s possible to keep fish alive [in warmer water temperature], if the water is pathogen free,” explained Hinch.

But the water in which B.C. salmon swim isn’t pathogen free. In fact a mysterious retro-virus that has been shown to be killing off large numbers of salmon before they have spawned. Salmon showing a certain genomic predisposition were 13.5 more likely to die before spawning than their healthier counterparts.

“Warm water highly increases the mortality rate of pre-spawning salmon,” explained Hinch. “Stress hormones impede their ability to spawn, and develop eggs and sperm. And higher temperatures, are making it harder for the fish who are experiencing disease to cope.”

Also of central concern are early entry patterns of returning salmon. Some runs are not holding in the mouth of the river as long, and are spawning as early as two months earlier that their usual run time.

_ _ _ _ _ _

This is an important point:

“Climate change has been showed to be a major stressor for returning salmon. But far less is known about how climate change is affecting salmon while they are at sea.”

Well… we will never know much about what is going on out at sea… and we will never be able to accurately predict the impacts of climate change, nor rates of rapid change.

And what does this mean?

More precaution. Give the wild salmon a chance…

climate change isn’t going anywhere… it’s here to stay.