Category Archives: longer posts – like a Chinook

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

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


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

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

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

Hush, Hush

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

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Coming from the National Post newspaper:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

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…)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

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

For example:

AstraZeneca Chair in Cardiovascular Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

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

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

Oh that’s just GlaxoSmithKline Inc.:

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

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

Oh just this little company that:

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


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

Just asking the ‘fair question’…

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

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

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

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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

Who has the mission to:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Conclusions on the Environment 

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

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

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

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

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

Oh wait… there is the ancient Code of Hammurabi…



But don’t worry say the authors:

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

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

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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

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

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

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

the National Post newspaper opinion piece:

Vivian Krause: Oil sands money trail

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

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

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

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

_ _ _ _ _ _

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

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

Vivian Krause’s conspiracy theory — you decide

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

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

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

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

The article goes on to quote some of her testimony…

_ _ _ _ _ _

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some curious components:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _

So What?

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

I ask the same: SOOO what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PetroChina to invest $5.4 billion Canada gas

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

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

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


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

I think we’re far below 0.1%…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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).

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

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

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

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

Come-on… let’s get a grip here folks.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

No frigging way!!

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

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

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

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

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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…)

Eureka: It was Colonel Mustard in the ocean with a net… practicing mixed stock fisheries.

Cohen Commisson: new winter clothing line


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…


_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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).

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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’…)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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?)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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).

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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.


_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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…

“POTENTIAL” impacts.

ghad forbid, we say there’s actually been an impact of humans on salmon…

(that wouldn’t be objectively peer-reviewed…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

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

_ _ _ _ _

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.

Why count salmon? trying to get the salmon story straight…

Dr. Suess wisdom

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish…

There’s some wisdom in this great old rhyme. And for some reason it is also a very popular search term to find this website which leads folks to this post from last year — Why count salmon?. (Whether folks stick around or not is another story…)

As mentioned in that post:

I haven’t seen the book in awhile; however, I don’t think there were any rhymes about “mark-recapture” sonar hydroacoustical  split-beam single-beam DIDSON data capturing salmon counting wonder tools.

See if Suess’ fish on the right were captured by one of these techno-gizmos utilized for counting salmon they’d show up as some grainy fuzzy blob resembling a baby ultrasound image.

See that silver streak in the image on the right… that’s a sockeye… red and green fish… can’t you tell?

If you go to this site (Using Sound Images to Count Salmon in the Fraser River, 2004) you can watch a little movie of this blip going by.

That paper also explains: Why would a fish biologist use an imaging sonar system to count fish?:

…Fisheries managers first allocate a portion of returning sockeye salmon to meet annual escapement goals (the number of fish returning to their home stream to spawn to sustain each stock) and then the remaining fish are allocated to harvesting by First Nations, commercial and recreational fisheries.

Reliable escapement data is a key requirement for effective management of sockeye salmon. Historically, the escapement of sockeye salmon stocks for which pre-season forecasts predict more than 25,000 fish will be returning is measured using a mark-recapture program (MRP).

These programs involve capturing and marking returning salmon below their spawning grounds and then constant monitoring of the spawning grounds to determine the ratio of marked to unmarked fish. Knowing the ratio of marked to unmarked fish recaptured and the total number of fish that were marked downstream, the number of fish that return can be estimated.

As a result of stock-rebuilding efforts that were initiated in 1987, the number of stocks exceeding the 25,000 fish criterion (changed to 75,000 fish in 2004) has increased, placing considerable pressure on the resources available for assessing sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River. A mark-recapture estimate requires a large field crew and since sockeye salmon begin returning to their streams in July and may not finish spawning until late November or early December, these programs are both labour-intensive and costly to operate. [my emphasis]

_ _ _ _ _

Hmmm. So let’s recap:

Reliable data is a key requirement of effective management… mark recapture studies are labour intensive… we are still “estimating” regardless of method… AND we have changed the threshold of what runs are considered important enough to try and enumerate — it was 25,000 but now it’s 75,000.

Does this then mean that we are only concerned about the larger runs and are focusing less and less on the smaller runs — those smaller runs which are the key components of biodiversity?

And… now our data is actually less reliable because between 1987 and 2004 we were trying to collect data on all runs larger than 25,000. After 2004, it’s now only runs greater than 75,000.

What happened to all of those runs that were less than 25,000? And all the runs that are between 25,001 and 74,999?

And what’s going to happen to runs that were greater than 75,000 after 2004, but have now dwindled to less than 75,000 — do we stop counting?

What happens, for example, if all the Fraser sockeye runs become less than 75,000? Do we stop enumerating?

At that point, the status-quo measurement of ‘economic values’ of the sockeye fishery would be next to nil — and so why would a Department of “Fisheries” and Oceans be concerned about these fish if there were limited “fisheries” focusing on them?

Say for example… like North Atlantic Cod… what is the comparison of resources spent on enumerating and counting cod stocks when there were intensive industrial fisheries — as compared to now after they were “managed” into oblivion?

_ _ _ _ _ _

One of the main questions I might ask here is: WHY?

For data to be “reliable” it needs to be collected in some form of similarity or compatibility… doesn’t it?

As one meaning of “reliable” suggests: “Yielding the same or compatible results in different clinical experiments or statistical trials.”

_ _ _ _ _

In the same paper, the authors suggest:

What are we doing? We are investigating the dual-frequency identification sonar (DIDSON) technology as alternative method for counting fish in sockeye salmon stocks that are assessed with mark-recapture programs, i.e., large returning stocks. Sonar is a non-invasive, non-destructive technique for monitoring the abundance of fish populations and this is an important advantage given the high esteem for sockeye salmon in British Columbia.

And so… as stated, the DIDSON technology is meant to replace those pesky labour-intensive mark-recapture programs — on large returning stocks.

So what are we doing for the small stocks — vital to biodiversity, and bears, and birds, and bees, and so on?

As the article points out… there are only a few rivers on the entire Fraser (of the 150 or so in the Fraser that support sockeye) that are conducive to utilizing DIDSON technology.

Based on a combination of in-stream testing and site visits in 2004, we found that the physical characteristics and fish behaviour at 9 sites on 6 rivers in the Fraser River watershed permitted effective use of the DIDSON system for counting sockeye salmon…

…We identified six river systems in the Fraser River on which the DIDSON imaging system can be effectively used to count returning adult salmon. All six rivers (Chilko, Horsefly, Mitchell, Scotch, Seymour and the lower Adams River) support large and important sockeye salmon stocks.

_ _ _ _ _ _

This isn’t to take away from the potential value of utilizing technology like DIDSON in some systems… the fundamental problem here is this automatic focus on “large and important” stocks.

Who is making these assessments on what stocks are “important”?

And based on what criteria?

“Large and important” seems to automatically assume that stocks which are the focus of commercial fisheries — are the “important” ones; simply because they are “large” runs.

_ _ _ _ _ _

What is the fundamental conclusion of the paper?

Using the DIDSON system to estimate the escapement of some of the major sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River is likely to improve data quality in terms of its accuracy and precision and this improvement may be achieved at lower cost to existing stock assessment programs because the labour and operating costs of a DIDSON system are lower than similar costs for a mark-recapture study on the same stock.

So was there a time when the people of BC and Canada suggested to the federal government that certain departments better find a ‘cheaper’ way to enumerate salmon?

Was there a time when folks said: “hey Department of Fisheries and Oceans, could you please just focus on the large and important stocks only please”?

Could one safely assume then, that if we are only doing enumeration programs on “large and important stocks” that we’ve largely given up on the small and vital stocks? That habitat for all stocks is not really all that important? That when ‘economic’ commercial fisheries have largely disappeared that there will be little purpose in counting salmon?

What would the 100,000 or so strong Gumboot Army in BC — folks dedicated to local streams, streamkeeper groups, volunteer NGOs, etc. — have to say about this?

The trend of counting salmon in BC — is brutal — cuts, after cuts, after cuts have meant enumeration programs up and down the coast of BC, all through the interior, and so on have disappeared.

Often meaning we have little year-over-year comparisons to see just how bad the salmon collapses really are — especially in the millions upon millions of small streams in B.C. The small streams that collectively may represent more salmon than any of the big systems, e.g. “large and important”.


“Who, in their right mind, would use our most valuable resource – sockeye salmon – as fertilizer, deliberately?”

I had some time this morning to stop by the Cohen Commission hearings in downtown Vancouver… This is the wisdom imparted upon the Cohen Commission today by Dr. Carl Walters:

“Who, in their right mind, would use our most valuable resource – sockeye salmon – as fertilizer, deliberately?”

Maybe it’s a long career studying fish… maybe it’s the dominant view of colonial economics… maybe it’s… actually… I don’t know what?

Dr. Walters recommendations to the Cohen Commission today include returning to a time of killing more fish… harvesting more “pieces”… reaching “maximum sustainable yield” (determined by modeling populations; not actual reality).

We should return to the those higher fishing rates, so that we can also manipulate nature so that there is cyclic dominance of sockeye runs — basically meaning, we need to mess with nature so that every four years there is a larger run than the other three.

Well this makes sense doesn’t it?

It’s all based on theory, hypothesis, modeling, and spreadsheet wet dreams… and the best part is it’s based on about 50 years of data. Much of it collected in various forms… various forms of reliability, various forms of actual collection, and so on and so on.


Sockeye salmon have been around a million years or so and we humans (well…er… doctors) feel that after looking at information from about 10 to 15 life cycles, 20 tops (sockeye generally have a 4-year life cycle) — that we have enough knowledge to fundamentally alter a natural cycle that has gone on for eons.

Much of the entire Pacific Rim is fundamentally built on the backs of salmon, and a collection of (largely) white fellows get together and feel that through the hallowed halls of academia — that we “have it figured out”…  that we know nature well enough that we should catch more fish.

Because really: “Who, in their right mind, would use our most valuable resource – sockeye salmon – as fertilizer, deliberately?”

Well… what the hell were sockeye and other salmon before humans came in to the picture and started f*#@ing things up?

Or to be more accurate, in the last 150 years or so when the theories of Francis Bacon and the Bible dictated that man has dominion over nature, and that nature is simply there for the convenience of colonial powers…

_ _ _ _ _ _

The absolute absurdity, audacity, and plain silliness of this idea had me shaking my head today as if I was having a grand mal seizure. And almost sadly, laughing out loud… (but that would not be appropriate federal court room behavior).

As the lawyer — representing the commercial fishers granted “standing” at the Commission — carried on his rather obvious and leading line of questions — the absurdity grew.

The esteemed Dr. Walters then suggested that he had detailed spreadsheets and analysis that demonstrate how much ‘potential revenue’ commercial fishers have lost due to an apparent “experiment” by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to reduce harvest rates on sockeye salmon over the last 10 years or so.

(spreadsheets and analysis that no one at the Commission was yet privy to… just casually brought up today…)

See, in a remarkably brilliant thought process a few years back, DFO decided that if sockeye runs are dwindling at alarming rates — maybe, just maybe… harvest rates should be reduced.

Say from the neighborhood of 80% of total run size (e.g. Maximum Sustained Yield — MSY) to approximately 50% of total runs. Harvesting less fish might mean more baby fish could be produced because more adults reached the spawning grounds…

Wow, as many folks suggest: ‘this is not rocket science’.

_ _ _ _ _ _

However… no… there is this other theory that floated out of the academic world: “over-escapement”.

This bright-light idea suggests that too many fish on the spawning grounds actually reduces productivity — meaning less babies produced. “Density-dependent productivity” they call it.

And so if we kill off 80% (primarily in commercial fisheries) we will actually create more babies… and thus more fish into the future… (Less is more essentially, is where this theory is running)

Is anyone following the flawed logic here…?

_ _ _ _ _

Now here’s where even more flawed economic theories start creeping into the equation. Let’s call this ‘economic creep theory’…  (I just made that up).

‘Economic creep theory’, as observed today at the Cohen Commission, suggest that if we pull out our handy dandy spreadsheets and computer models, we can in fact start to prove how much “lost revenue” commercial fishers have been hit with due to this “experiment” by DFO to reduce harvest rates on sockeye from 80% to 50%.

Seems like simple math doesn’t it… take the approximate run sizes of the last however many years when the 50% “experiment” kicked in, figure out how many more “pieces” could have been harvested. (see we don’t call them salmon anymore when they enter the economic realm…  they are pieces — it’s like the term “collateral damage” to refer to real, actual people blown to bits in bombing campaigns by Western forces in various countries)

Multiply by the market price and presto… look at all that “lost” revenue. Or “lost yield” as it was referred to today.

Because really: “Who, in their right mind, would use our most valuable resource – sockeye salmon – as fertilizer, deliberately?”

That’s just wasteful… think of how much more money Jimmy Pattison could have made through his Canfisco company if we just kept hammering the sockeye runs?

_ _ _ _ _ _

I’m not an academic per se… but where do we start breaking down the flaws in this logic and my new ‘economic creep theory’…

Even if we use economic arguments… let’s say we put 30% more wild sockeye on the market in those years when harvests were reduced from 80% to 50% — what impact would that have on sockeye prices? (i think this is called “supply and demand”… maybe more fisheries scientists should look this up).

Does this mean that we might have past that magical margin where more product on the market doesn’t necessarily equate to more revenue…?

_ _ _ _ _ _

Now let’s take a slightly different angle on this economic argument that commercial fishers are out of pocket because of DFO’s apparent “experiment” to reduce harvest rates…

Who are some of the other ‘players’ here — even just on the human side of the equation…

Oh right… First Nations.

Those folks with rights enshrined within the Canadian Constitution.

Before contact, 150 years or so ago, an entire economy, culture, and ecosystem ran on wild salmon returns. In the 1880s (or thereabouts) some colonial folks realized that the salmon were quite a bounty — a significant economic resource.

Canneries blossomed faster than the spread of H1N1 virus and salmon runs were blitzed for the next 40 years and onwards.

And what happened to the hundred of individual Nations that were forced off of fishing sites and cordoned off in “reserves”, outlawed from hiring lawyers, outlawed from holding ceremonies that had been in place for eons, outlawed from voting, had children hauled off to foreign places to learn English and God…?

There’s some pretty decent books on these issues.

_ _ _ _ _ _

And so… here runs the Cohen Commission… a $25 million (or so) exercise in talking all things BC sockeye… rambling on in legalese and Dr.-ese and ‘economic creep theories’ — and in the meantime discussion of fisheries and all things salmon in the BC Treaty process — are hauled off the table (even though some of these have been ongoing since 1992). With the extension of the Commission, comes another year of delays for those Nations engaged in Treaty negotiations — meaning more debt, loans, and expenses related to this process (millions of $$).

And so, I ask Dr. Walters, where are his calculations on lost ‘revenue’ for First Nations communities…? the lost ‘yields’ suffered by First Nations over the last 150 years…? the ‘cost-benefit’ analysis on the impacts to cultures, to communities, and to families as fishing rights held for eons were ripped from First Nation hands.

With all due respect to the commercial fisher folks… some of whom were/are First Nations themselves… if we want to start using the Cohen Commission to talk “lost revenues” due to ‘conservation’ measures, then lets put all the cards on the table.

Because really:”Who, in their right mind, would use our most valuable resource – sockeye salmon – as fertilizer, deliberately?”

Well… actually… Carl, there are many cultures around the Pacific Rim that realized, and still recognize, that salmon feed more than just humans (and more than just the eagles and bears you alluded to today in testimony).

Salmon, our “most valuable resource”?

Maybe salmon is considered that for some… but I often suggest it’s our brains, which can be used for logic and living in reality rather than computer models and spreadsheets.

BC Salmon Farmers, more responses… will I eat farmed crow?

If you have not had a chance to follow all the comments, or are new to the site; here’s a sampling of an exchange that portrays some properties of the BC salmon farming debate and where there may very well continue to be dissonance on this hot ticket issue.

A manager from one of the larger BC salmon farming companies (a very large company, where the salmon farmer is but one tiny cog in a much larger globalized multinational — not to suggest this as a “ohhh, watch out for the bogeyman”… more a reality of the business environment), respectively left some comments in response to my comments on the new PR campaign largely led by the website

You raise a range of interesting points in your response to my posting on your blog. I do want to address these as best I can. I hope that ultimately you will come and see for yourself what we do and how we do it.

You comment that … in BC there are large populations of wild salmon stocks and the history of wild and farmed interactions is not a very good one.

This is an interesting point – but this is one of the myths that I’d like to see the wider public understand better. The farmers in BC have actually got a great record of living in harmony with wild salmon runs. In the Broughton – increasing pink runs and coho runs. In the Fraser a record sockeye run. Coordinated and effectively managed sealice levels to specifically protect wild stocks (not to protect the farmed fish)…

… Salmon farming is a good economic activity that should be seen as part of the solution to the world’s sustainability problems – it is not, in my view, part of the problem.

You then discuss more generally regarding what are acceptable impacts and how do we determine what is acceptable. You also comment on the role of PR. I’m glad to say that I agree with you here! All human activities have impacts. We do need to debate what is acceptable to the community here in BC.

But the community deserves to hear both sides of the story – PR works both ways and the people who advocate for the elimination of salmon farming (that is what would effectively happen if the industry was legislated out of the natural waterways) are very good at communicating their ideas and concerns. Salmon farmers have a responsibility to explain why we believe that our activities are part of the solution and not part of the problem.

_ _ _ _ _

It is not the entire comment, and I haven’t shortened it to try and take things out of context; more to shorten reading time (and try and keep post length down).

In response, I had a post-length comment, of which I have added a few more thoughts:

thanks for taking the time in continuing this chat. I certainly have to respectfully take issue with a few comments about the ‘myths’ you allude to… like anything, and especially this hot button issue of salmon farming on the BC coast… it is multifaceted with more sides, angles and faces then a polar bear embossed diamond from Nunavut.

I don’t quite buy the ‘fish farms living in harmony with wild salmon runs’ argument… it’s a pretty weak causal connection. If I might use the analogy, it’s like saying clearcut logging had a harmonious relationship with salmon because look at the record Fraser sockeye run this year. “All those years of industrial clearcuts ‘obviously’ didn’t do any damage, look at this record 2010 run. What’s everyone complaining about?”

The jury is most certainly still out on this apparent harmonious relationship between salmon farms and wild salmon. And quite frankly, I agree with the newspaper article posted on the website today regarding this PR campaign [Vancouver Sun: BC salmon farmers fight back]. Some of the statements made in the salmon farmers press release, and some of the statements on the website, just inflame the situation more than seek resolution.

If the intention truly was to ‘get the real story out’ then why use the “email from Nigerian refugee” analogy — that’s simply inciting. Not that i’m not prone to the same approach from time to time… but this is a PR campaign by big, ‘responsible, companies with many brains at the table (I hope). I would hope the PR firm launching this could come up with something a little more clever than that. (but then, sometimes folks tune me up on my communication tactics too…)

I think I’d have to beg to differ that the runs [Broughton pink and coho] are “increasing”… as compared to what? Late 1990 numbers when there was a zero mortality coho policy? (I have the same issue with DFO and their salmon numbers too… see older posts… colonial cultures tend to have a rather narrow timeframe when they start talking about “historical populations”)

I also struggle with the: ‘farmed salmon is part of a sustainable food supply issue.’

If feed conversion levels are still above 1:1 as in the 1.2 to 1 as claimed on the PR site… that’s still a negative gain — and negative gains are not “sustainable”. If it takes me $1.20 to make $1.00, I don’t think any financial adviser would recommend this investment scheme [as sustainable]?

Furthermore, last time I checked at the local Prince George supermarket, farmed Atlantic salmon prices weren’t all that different then wild salmon prices. I don’t imagine that’s much different in the U.S. where the bulk of BC farmed salmon gets exported too. And thus, as I’ve mentioned in past posts, I don’t think inner city kids in the U.S. are eating poached or baked salmon at any meal they might secure.

I also don’t imagine that BC salmon farmers are making huge strides to get their product to West Africa in its time of ethnic strife and starvation.

It’s not to suggest that they necessarily should… it’s more that this argument that farmed salmon are a solution to food shortages is seriously flawed. Frankly, salmon is a luxury food that some middle class families can afford — however, cheaper beef, pork and poultry are going to be the meat alternatives to folks on the lower income scale.

[furthermore, there are many studies that suggest there are not food shortages in the world, there are serious issues with distribution… not to mention, food now being used to produce biofuels…]

And thus, I have doubts about the “good economic activity” that you suggest. As far as I can see (which sometimes isn’t that far, depends on how hard its raining), salmon in the marketplace is about supplying higher income folks, and thus, this is why it makes “economic” sense to some. Especially publicly-traded companies that have shareholders to satisfy [and analyst expectations to meet]. I respectfully suggest that this is one of those half truths, half facts that I have mentioned.

You are fair in your comments on PR and yes, I agree in turn — PR is certainly used by all sides. If you’d like, search “Canadian Boreal Forest Initiative Agreement” on this site (or Marine Stewardship Council) and you’ll see I don’t only have issues with corporate PR, there is certainly enviro-NGOs PR campaigns that also drive me batty.

I’m not so sure I agree with the assertion that the salmon farming industry would be “eliminated” if it was taken out of natural waterways…[and I see today there is a new posting on the in this regard]. I’ve seen a few recent presentations that demonstrate the technology and financials around closed-containment systems.

Also… like so many things, industry proponents buried in certain ways of doing things, faced with imminent changes, jump up and down, scream and shout, twist and turn, and lobby the shit out of government to make sure changes are not enforced.

“we will be forced out of business”; “this industry will die”; “people will lose jobs”; and every other possible argument. And then… what to our wonder… real innovative thinking happens… new technology is created, becomes more affordable, and a whole new way of doing things all of a sudden arises.

Look at the incredible growth of organic farming: from food to cotton.

Early on, industry proponents said “no way, won’t happen” and now?… Walmart has jumped on board.
Similar arguments around alternative energy and so on.

And so, I am a bit curious about what you mean by salmon farmers are “part of the solution and not part of the problem” — what solution(s) are you referring to? And which problems?

_ _ _ _ _

A thought came to mind, in relation to yesterday’s post. In that post, I quoted a definition of public relations (PR):

1. the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.
2. the art, technique, or profession of promoting such goodwill.

If that is the case… then maybe some of the NGO campaigns opposing open-pen salmon farming on the BC coast, in relatively confined inland waterways, aren’t PR, as one could argue those campaigns are not seeking “goodwill” per se. Yet, some of those campaigns certainly employ the spin-factor or latching on to certain very negative components and communicating those in a way that over-emphasizes certain things.

Similar to various companies and corporations these days that advertise how great they are — yet will screw you over at the first opportunity. I recently looked at the back of my bill from Bell, and on the back in hard to read blue fine print it explains they will charge 3% per month interest on overdue balances. That’s 42.58% per year! (they leave that part out on their cute little TV commercials and newspaper ads). Same with the big banks and their mysterious user fees and administrative charges, etc.

This isn’t to say that I’m comparing these tactics directly — simply highlighting a point.

Marketing maven and guru Seth Godin has a fitting post on this from yesterday:

Raising expectations (and then dashing them)

Have you noticed how upbeat the ads for airlines and banks are?

Judging from the billboards and the newspaper ads, you might be led to believe that Delta is actually a better airline, one that cares. Or that your bank has flexible people eager to bend the rules to help you succeed.

At one level, this is good advertising, because it tells a story that resonates. We want Delta to be the airline it says it is, and so we give them a try.

The problem is this: ads like this actually decrease user satisfaction. If the ad leads to expect one thing and we don’t get it, we’re more disappointed than if we had gone in with no real expectations at all. Why this matters: if word of mouth is the real advertising, then what you’ve done is use old-school ad techniques to actually undercut any chance you have to generate new-school results.

So much better to invest that same money in delighting and embracing the customers you already have

_ _ _ _ _

This is the danger with the fighting tactics that the salmon farmers have chosen for this PR campaign.

This is a potentially well-funded, infinitely backed PR-spin campaign mounted by massive multinational companies (for the most part). It looks pretty sharp, it uses nice language (e.g. dispelling myths, stating facts, and telling the real story). It’s about ‘putting those evil spin-mongering NGOs in their place, uncover their naysaying, left-leaning, greeny BS.’

The reality check here is that the general BC public — the average folks that in some way or another will make the decisions on whether to get open-pen salmon farming out of BC’s inland waters — will largely see straight through this. We are bombarded daily by hundreds, thousands of ads by large, national or multinational companies spouting off about how great they are, and how it’s just so simple to do business with their ultra-responsible firms.

Yet, when you actually try to call them you’re run through an infuriating automated answering system that doesn’t get you where you need to go. You get repeated “your call is important to us, please continue to hold”, and finally, a person, yet it’s quite apparent they are certainly not in the same time zone as you are.

This particular PR campaign is employing similar tactics, trying to show pizzaz and new aged-ness by engaging social media and so on… but it’s not that much different than BP oil mounting a Facebook PR campaign to change their image… most folks will see through it, the already converted will espouse its merits and why don’t those other dolts buy what we’re selling and stop believing that evil NGO crap.

It’s simply the wrong tactic… it’s old school, it’s tired, and it will most likely be a waste of money.

And worse yet, if the salmon farming naysayers are able to dispel and communicate the other ‘facts’ and the ‘myths posing as facts’ and so of this particular campaign — the salmon farming industry could end out with even more mud on their face. Most folks cheer for the little guy, the underdog, and this is shaping up nicely as well-funded multinationals against average citizens and a handful of NGOs, who have BC citizen membership behind them.

Maybe I’ve seen this picture somewhere before…?

(but who knows, maybe i’ll be forced to eat my words… eat farmed crow… or something)

Open source salmon?

Mama Grizzly and 3 cubs - Babine River counting fence: Open Source Salmon


How about this for 2011…? The Pacific Salmon Commission opens their ‘science’ to anyone that’s interested. They put a call out for a contest to anyone to devise a better system of in-season salmon management.

They base this system on initiatives such as Proctor and Gamble’s “Connect and Develop” initiative, which is tagged as an “open innovation strategy”. Rather than relying only on internal research and development, P&G has opened up their product development to any outsider that’s interested.

Also in 2011, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) starts an initiative called: WikiSalmon.

What is it?

Well… in an incredible turn of events, DFO opens their process of “managing” salmon and in turn reduces the financial sucking noise emanating from their overly inflated ‘senior manager’ salaried workforce based in Ottawa (that real hotbed of salmon spawning and migration).

Throughout the range of Pacific salmon, impassioned folks (referred to as the Gumboot Army) are setting out across thousands of cricks, creeks, streams, and lakes looking at salmon habitat, counting salmon, evaluating inputs and outputs from salmon ecosystems — and entering all of this information onto their computer, and in turn onto the worldwide web — similar to Wikipedia (one of the more impressive open source projects online).

As opposed to a $15 million+, legal-heavy, DFO-heavy, paper-producing, ‘fisheries science’-heavy, preeminent expert-laden process of an ‘inquiry’ — the B.C. and Canadian government, the states of Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho, and the US federal government fund a: Citizen’s Assembly on Wild Salmon.

The Assembly utilizes technology as much as possible cutting down on travel (teleconference, etc.) and has dedicated teams in each state and province that travel to as many small communities as possible to let people know about the Assembly and get information from average everyday folks about salmon in their area. (citizen science at work)

This info-gathering process utilizes a ‘wiki’-like format, rarely utilizes “panel-like” processes where public speaking and presentations is a must. (did you know that public speaking ranks higher than the fear of death for the majority of folks in the western world?).

Instead, more encouraging formats such as World Cafe, or Open Space, or my absolute favorite: sitting at the kitchen table… are the most-relied upon for gathering info.

About this point, some folks reading this may be wondering what was in my Christmas shortbread cookies or holiday brownies…

_ _ _ _ _

If you haven’t heard the term “open source” or aren’t too sure what it means — it doesn’t really matter… What I can guarantee you though, is that this term will continue to become much more familiar to many in the near future.

Many already are — especially with the current fuss over WikiLeaks.

If you’ve been reading any of the multitude of books emanating from the ‘business’ section at the bookstore, or Amazon, or the library — “open source” is probably quite a familiar term, as are success stories of this approach.

Open source

Furthermore, if you’re reading this blog post you are benefiting — well… utilizing — open source software. WordPress has been an immensely successful open source project. As has Wikipedia.


If you’re using Firefox as your web browser: open source.

Pretty good chance that when you’re at work the computer servers are running on Linux: more open source. (Linux is the poster child for open source).

Or, web servers running on Apache: it’s been developed open source.

If you don’t want to get sucked into buying Microsoft crap, go with OpenOffice. It’s been out for ten years now.

_ _ _ _ _ _

mass collaboration

Think it’s just a technology thing then read about Canadian gold miner Goldcorp (or companies like Proctor & Gamble and others). These stories are told at length in the very successful book: Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything.

There’s a shorter version from a 2007 BusinessWeek article by the authors of the book:

A few years back, Toronto-based gold mining company Goldcorp was in trouble. Besieged by strikes, lingering debts, and an exceedingly high cost of production, the company had terminated mining operations.

Conditions in the marketplace were hardly favorable. The gold market was contracting, and most analysts assumed that the company’s fifty-year old mine in Red Lake, Ontario, was dying. Without evidence of substantial new gold deposits, Goldcorp was likely to fold.

Chief Executive Officer Rob McEwen needed a miracle. Frustrated that his in-house geologists couldn’t reliably estimate the value and location of the gold on his property, McEwen did something unheard of in his industry: He published his geological data on the Web for all to see and challenged the world to do the prospecting.

The “Goldcorp Challenge” made a total of $575,000 in prize money available to participants who submitted the best methods and estimates.

Every scrap of information (some 400 megabytes worth) about the 55,000 acre property was revealed on Goldcorp’s Web site. News of the contest spread quickly around the Internet and more than 1,000 virtual prospectors from 50 countries got busy crunching the data.


But Goldcorp isn’t a dot-com kind of company. Mining is one of the world’s oldest industries, and it’s governed by some pretty conventional thinking. Take Industry Rule No. 1: Don’t share your proprietary data. The fact that McEwen went open-source was a stunning gamble. And even McEwen was surprised by how handsomely the gamble paid off.


The contestants identified 110 targets on the Red Lake property, more than 80% of which yielded substantial quantities of gold. In fact, since the challenge was initiated, an astounding 8 million ounces of gold have been found—worth well over $3 billion. Not a bad return on a half million dollar investment.

Today, Goldcorp is reaping the fruits of its radical approach to exploration. McEwen’s willingness to open-source the prospecting process not only yielded copious quantities of gold, it introduced Goldcorp to state-of-the-art technologies and exploration methodologies, including new drilling techniques, and data collection procedures, and more advanced approaches to geological modeling.

This catapulted his under-performing $100 million company into a $9 billion juggernaut while transforming a backwards mining site in Northern Ontario into one of the most innovative and profitable properties in the industry.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Hmmm… open source, innovation, and citizen science fully utilized to better look after wild salmon? Quite a thought.

Thousands of people reading open scientific articles, newspaper articles, and the like and then sharing these through various open source and social media venues. (sidenote: Facebook just passed Google as the number one most visited site in the world).

These days if average joe and jill want to read scientific articles… forget it. They are protected behind their peer-reviewed electronic walls, remaining the domain of the preeminents and annual subscription paying folks with various letters behind their names.

Want to access Fisheries and Oceans science or decision-making rationale… the ‘science’ and ‘decisions’ paid for by citizens… gotta go through “Freedom of Information” legislation.

Want to look at data from salmon farmers on the BC Coast,  practices that potentially endanger wild salmon (as they have anywhere else open-pen salmon farms have been operated), and that utilize First Nations traditional territories and public lands and waters — nope, got to go through legal challenges.

_ _ _ _ _

One of the biggest barriers?

In my humble opinion… demographics.

Much of the senior civil service is occupied by… well… more ‘senior’ individuals (many approaching retirement in coming months and years)

The demographics of Canadian politicians … well… more ‘senior’, with an average age of 55.

I recognize I dance a dangerous razor edge here… I don’t mean to be ‘age-ist’; more suggestive of diversity in looking to solutions.

At a “digital economy” conference in 2009, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore (part of the more ‘senior’ contingent) comments on this issue (in regards to digital copyright laws) and is a fitting conclusion to this post:

The average age of a Member of Parliament is 55…

And you’d be surprised the number of Members of Parliament who have never held an iPhone, who couldn’t tell you, functionally, how a Blackberry works and have no idea how these things integrate.

The old way of doing things is over. These things are all now one. And it’s great and it’s never been better and we need to be enthusiastic and embrace these things.

I point out the average age of a member of parliament because don’t assume that those who are making the decisions and who are driving the debate understand all the dynamics that are at play here. Don’t assume that everybody understands the opportunities that are at play here and how great this can be for Canada.

marketing is everything… everything is marketing – Can “objectivity” and “profit” sleep in the same bed without getting naughty?

Hong Kong skyline -- Dec. 2010

This past week I was in China — hence a quiet week on the post front. This was my second time to Hong Kong, unfortunately the first time I was only 1.

The trip was a bit of a mad dash, yet fascinating to no end. I traveled with some other folks from B.C. to go look at a bioenergy facility — a small power plant that burns wood (or other biological material such as rice husks or otherwise) to produce gases which are then utilized to power large engines — which in turn produce electricity.

The facility we looked at — manufactured by a combination of B.C.-based and Chinese/Hong Kong-based company — is quite remarkable. It packages up into 15-or so shipping containers and can be set up in less than a week once on-site. It produces enough electricity for a small-ish community (approx. 250-500 residents and maybe more).

The waste from this plant is minimal — and a potential mass improvement for the over 60 communities in B.C. that burn diesel to produce power…

_ _ _ _ _

However, this post is about marketing.

First… what dominates the picture above? The large building in the centre is impressive – as is the Convention Centre on the water, however, I found the advertising on top of the other buildings more impressive. The one is so brightly lit, it’s reflecting off the water in the late afternoon. The entire skyline of Hong Kong is dominated by banners and ads — as are the main streets… and the ads… they are not subtle:

Kowloon... anyone know what time it is?

The great irony here, is I wonder how many drivers have rear-ended the bus in front of them because they were admiring “the driver’s watch”?… or reading the ads on the back of the bus, or the side of the bus, or the side of the red taxi, etc.

There’s a lot of full-building watch ads. Some people take out “full-page” ads… some take out “full-building” ads… I am also curious if maybe folks that stay in the Kowloon area of Hong Kong can’t tell time very well…

what time is it?


man... what time is it, anyway?


And you know… who better to sponsor a “swimming complex” then that good Scottish restaurant: McDonald’s:

good community corporatism


The part I really enjoyed was this excellent example of corporate-community partnerships in the Shenzen, China aiport:

"community service" (bottom of cans in yellow print)... at its best.

_ _ _ _ _

What is this “Marketing” thing anyways?

Well… here’s a decent definition found online:

Management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer.

As a philosophy, it is based on thinking about the business in terms of customer needs and their satisfaction. As a practice, it consists in coordination of four elements called the 4P’s:

(1) identification, selection, and development of a product,

(2) determination of its price,

(3) selection of a distribution channel to reach the customer’s place, and

(4) development and implementation of a promotional strategy.

Marketing differs from selling because (in the words of Harvard Business School’s emeritus professor of marketing Theodore C. Levitt) “Selling concerns itself with the tricks and techniques of getting people to exchange their cash for your product. It is not concerned with the values that the exchange is all about. And it does not, as marketing invariably does, view the entire business process as consisting of a tightly integrated effort to discover, create, arouse, and satisfy customer needs.”

“Satisfying customer needs…” hmmmm???

I wonder if emeritus Professor Levitt might have some serious confusion between “needs” and “wants”… As I am curious how McDonald’s satisfies customers “needs”?

Or, how a Rolex — as compared to a Timex from the local Canadian Superstore — satisfies customers “needs”?

Do we really “need” Nike apparel to make us: “unstoppable”?

Nike... 'be unstoppable'?


Guess... what?



















If I wear this company’s clothes, people won’t have to “Guess” how clever I am?

(Some more irony… the impressive bamboo scaffolding in the upper right of this picture is sheltering the Armani store.)









_ _ _ _ _ _

One of my favorite ironies of this trip.

Here is the tag line of the city in China where we traveled to:

City's magazine tagline...

This is the like the tourist guide to the city of Pianxiang… and one thing that struck me about much of where I traveled in China, is the complete lack of evidence of: “low carbon.” (not to say that there might not be a move that way… it just isn’t showing)

The air quality was terrible anywhere we went. However, that does make for nice sunsets… as you can see here in this photo taken from my hotel room window.

Pianxiang sunset

And, it was explained to me that this particular day was almost unheard of. We could actually see blue sky in the morning and some of the hills around the city. Sadly, about the only thing that makes the city “ecological” is that it only has a population of about 1.8 million. A very small Chinese “city”.

(This isn’t to take away from the really fantastic people I met in both Hong Kong and China. Such great hosts.)

And then there’s signs like this — from an airport bathroom:

One "r"... reduce use

I took a guess at what this sign in the bathroom meant — and it was confirmed by our hosts. Reduce use of paper in the bathroom.

Fair enough… especially when one lives in a country of over 1 billion people.

_ _ _ _ _

And the connection to salmon…? (one might ask)

Marketing is everything… everything is marketing…

_ _ _ _ _

If Chinese cities feel safe marketing themselves as “ecological and low carbon” and McDonald’s expects folks to believe their ‘honest, community service’ intentions and Nike feels that we all believe that we are more “unstoppable” in their shoes then the ‘other guys’…

Well, then maybe we are all susceptible to marketing.

And really we are… just as the definition above suggests: in business marketing is the process of getting goods and services from concept to consumer… (I mean ‘customer’)… and, for any business to survive that process must entail profit.

This means that the main focus of business is profit… and the sole focus of marketing is profit. Sure, non-profits aren’t focused on profit per-se… however, they still need to convince someone that their product is best.

Satisfaction in business… well, that is no guarantee. (Air Canada’s service is a fine example of that… customer satisfaction is somewhat of an afterthought…)

And so marketing may be about the 4 P’s: product, price, placement, and promotion… but little of that is possible without the all important fifth P… Profit.

Everything in the business process, everything through the process of the 4 P’s must focus on profit, must result in profit.

And thus… what happens to science when it becomes a business?

Can businesses involved in scientific research still remain true to the almighty “objectivity” required of science?

Can “objectivity” and “profit” sleep in the same bed without getting naughty?

decolonizing salmon management?

a rather odd recent presentation by DFO to First Nations reps

As folks that read this blog from time to time have probably noticed, I often note Globe & Mail articles in my post. I was drawn to one today:

Who will pay for the environmental mess we’re in?

The article starts:

Cancun’s white beaches and resort hotels provide a fitting setting for a global argument over the rich world’s responsibility for damaging the Earth’s environment and the extent of its “climate debt” to poorer nations.

Divisions between the rich and poor – so apparent in such sunny vacation spots – have fueled bitter debates that threaten to block progress at the United Nations climate summit under way on the Mayan Riviera…

I don’t think I am the only one that finds some irony in the idea of hundreds, if not thousands of people, flying across the globe to attend a conference on climate change.

However, what peaked my attention a little more from this article:

The recognition of differing levels of responsibility between developed and developing countries has been embedded for decades in international agreements that deal with the growing climate crisis.

Based on 160 years of fossil-fueled economic growth, the industrialized world has emitted an estimated 75 per cent of the man-made greenhouse gases that remain trapped in the atmosphere.

Globally, energy-related emissions have climbed to 29 billion tonnes a year from 200 million tonnes in 1850 as the developed world relied on coal-fired electricity and oil-fueled transportation to deliver unprecedented prosperity to its citizens.

I heard a news report the other day that 2010 is shaping up to be the third hottest year globally, ever recorded in history… curious that.

The article continues:

Bolivian President Evo Morales has been leading the case for the prosecution, calling not only for reparations but also a “people’s tribunal” to impose monetary and criminal sanctions on offending rich-world governments and corporations.

Last April, Mr. Morales played host to the People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which issued a manifesto calling on rich countries to finance the “decolonization of the atmosphere.” The Cochabamba Accord was endorsed by activist groups throughout the developed world.

_ _ _ _ _

This idea of ‘decolonization‘ is certainly not a new one; however, it seems to be surfacing more in various areas. Here in northern BC, I started hearing the term more frequently in 2007 when Northwest Community College (based in Terrace, BC) started an institution-wide initiative called “Decolonizing Education“.

Since 2007, NWCC has hosted a conference called “Challenging the Paradigm” . In the invite to this years conference the letter states:

Northwest Community College is on a transformative journey to indigenize the culture and practice of how it provides education in Northwest British Columbia. This involves learning from Aboriginal values and needs, and taking direction from the communities. We base our approach on respect, relationships and responsibility.

_ _ _ _ _

Yet, this idea is not just some small regional idea… the United Nations has had dedicated Committees for Decolonization since the 1960s and even a question and answer (Q & A) sheet. The UN also had two successive “International Decades for the eradication of Colonialism” . The second of which is just about to end in less than a month (2001-2010).

Going all the way back to 1960 the UN adopted Resolution 1514: also known as the “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” or simply “Declaration on Decolonization” .

It states that all people have a right to self-determination and proclaimed that colonialism should be brought to a speedy and unconditional end.

Now reading through this material, one might ask “hey salmonguy, the UN work is largely for countries working towards self determination in places like Africa and the Caribbean that were long under colonial rule… This isn’t really relevant in Canada…”

Maybe in parts of Canada where Treaties were negotiated with indigenous people… but, certainly not here in large sections of British Columbia where no Treaties exist — would be the response from salmonguy.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Canada and British Columbia have exerted ownership and control over the lands, rivers, and coasts (out to 200 miles) of B.C. (and the critters that inhabit those) — e.g. the common belief that most every open space is “Crown Land” . Those powers are divided up in Canada through Sections 91 and 92 of Canada’s Constitution.

Yet, this is a great misconception.

British Columbia has been engaged in a Treaty Process with First Nations for about 18 years now. This, in simple terms, means that much of B.C. remains: disputed territory.

One could draw an analogy with the many disputes around the world over territory — places like the island recently shelled by North Korea… disputed territory. Or, the ongoing disputes between Israel and Palestine.. disputed territory.

Or… closer to my own heritage: the disputes over the Alsace-Lorraine area between France and Germany. Or, Ireland and England (e.g. Northern Ireland), Wales, Scotland… disputed territory.

Or right here in Canada with the discussions surrounding Quebec.

_ _ _ _ _

Territorial disputes are complicated things… and in BC, the issue of Treaties with First Nations and the growing body of case law and policies on aboriginal rights and title  — is no exception.

Plus, in British Columbia, and the ongoing kangaroo court of a Treaty process, is stumbling, bumbling, and fumbling in reaching resolution of a complicated 150 years, or so, of history between colonial contactees and First Nations folks and communities.

The Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser River sockeye, commissioned a research paper on this issue: The Aboriginal and Treaty Rights Framework Underlying the Fraser River Sockeye Salmon Fishery. It’s a “simple” 66-page read…along with the 70 page read on International Law, and 15-page read on the Legislative Framework.

As explained at paragraph 145 of the Aboriginal and Treaty rights paper:

With relatively few historic treaties and even fewer concluded modern treaties, it appears that, in many cases, fisheries management decisions will require consideration of proven or unproven aboriginal rights and title as opposed to negotiated treaty rights.

Yet, as continued in the next paragraph… even if treaties were settled, this is not necessarily conclusive on the issue — paragraph 146:

Also, although treaties may be an important source of information in assessing the rights held by aboriginal peoples, they nevertheless cannot be taken as comprehensive. As articulated by the Court in Mikisew Cree, “[t]reaty making is an important stage in the long process of reconciliation, but it is only a stage” and as such, a treaty is “not the complete discharge of the duty arising from the honour of the Crown, but a rededication of it.”

What is central to the salmon issue from the colonial perspective — at least at this point in the history of BC and established case law,  is the “honour of the Crown” and “the Duty to consult.

Cohen Commission report, paragraph 159:

The “Crown’s assertion of sovereignty over an aboriginal people and the de facto control of land and resources that were formerly in the control of that people” is the foundation for the Crown‟s duty of honourable conduct. The honour of the Crown is always at stake in its dealings with aboriginal peoples and it is this honour that may give rise to a duty to consult aboriginal peoples in a process of fair dealing and reconciliation. (my emphasis)

_ _ _ _ _

Reconciliation — at its core, means “to become compatible or consistent” .

At its root is ‘conciliate’: To make or attempt to make compatible.

The example sentence for ‘reconciliation’ from the Free Online Dictionary is a perfect one in this case:

reconcile my way of thinking with yours. (See Synonyms at “adapt”.)

So there you have it, there is ‘adaptation’ required on all sides of the equation; from all sides of this complexity.

There is a reconciliation required, which at its roots means that all sides must seek to find some compatibility.

Unfortunately, my experiences thus far in this work of salmon; in this long-stretching discussion about how we all look after salmon… is largely governed by dictation.

And I use that term in its multiple meanings.. for example: “to read aloud” — Or, to “prescribe with authority; impose.”

More unfortunate, is that many well-meaning folks within the institution that has been given responsibility for ensuring conservation of salmon, paragraph 156 of Cohen Commission report:

Conservation, in particular, is a responsibility that the Court has stated is shouldered by the federal government alone…

may not have a very good understanding of the history of First Nations people and communities in BC and their relationship with salmon — and most likely, have very little understanding of the atrocities, challenges, and highly-unbalanced political reality of the last 150 years (or so) of history. (Some folks may, however, most… not likely).

Add in the highly unbalanced financial and technical reality of participating meaningfully in decision-making, policy-making, and fisheries decisions regarding BC’s salmon — and I ask:

How is reconciliation achieved?

If to ‘conciliate’ suggests attempts to make thinking and cultural realities ‘compatible’…. and “reconciliation” means to: reconcile my way of thinking with yours…

How do we do that in the current reality, current climate, and current governing regime?

Yes, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as part of the federal government, currently has the mandate to ensure “conservation” of salmon.

However, they also have a responsibility to act honorably and consult meaningfully with First Nations.

dominant DFO scientific paradigm

How is that done through the confines, paradigms, and mental models of the dominant colonial culture? How is that done through the overly-intense focus on science and statistics?

And how is that done through a court system that is composed of largely foreign laws in relation to indigenous communities?

Maybe, as Northwest Community College has indicated, this: “involves learning from Aboriginal values and needs, and taking direction from the communities. “?

And furthermore, maybe the key to the approach is respect, relationships and responsibility.

This is going to require some decolonizing of salmon management… so that the federal government’s way of thinking is reconciled with First Nation communities way of thinking… so that the scientific paradigm is reconciled with traditional and community knowledge… so that the understanding of settler cultures relationship with salmon is reconciled with indigenous cultures relationship with salmon.

Maybe even, so that our own human relationship is reconciled with salmon…

If… as so many people suggest… this is truly about the fish; about the salmon… then some serious reconciliation, understanding, and meeting with open hearts and minds — will be required.

Continued conflict, bickering, and narrow mental models will only make our relationship with salmon all the more strained — and thus our relationships with ourselves.

Another unfortunate, misinformed media article on Fraser sockeye.

Unfortunately, this is probably on the top ten list for worst researched, misinformed Fraser sockeye articles.

Globe and Mail,  Monday Aug. 30th by Gary Mason (who generally writes sports articles and others…)

B.C. should look to Alaska for tips on salmon management

From the opening to the close, this article is wrong on so many fronts, although he’s quite right on DFO’s worst blown forecast ever this year on Fraser sockeye.

I left a comment on the article on the G & M page, but one is limited to 2000 characters in those comments. Several others left some not-so-kind remarks — however there was a common theme of ‘more research required prior to publishing’, please.

Mason’s article:

…Worse, even as the sockeye began returning to the Fraser River in droves in late August, DFO refused to allow a fishery. It had to make sure it wasn’t seeing things. Consequently, millions of sockeye were lost while DFO dithered – money that cash-strapped fishermen desperately need.

Wrong, there were several commercial openings for Fraser sockeye as well as an open sport fishery on the river. I’m curious where the salmon were “lost” to?

Oh no, wait… you don’t mean “lost” Mr. Mason… you mean they swam upstream to spawn… Now that’s a novel thing for salmon to do.

I don’t disagree that fishermen are most likely cash-strapped… however, there is no shortage in history of groups of workers dependent on natural resources having to move on to new careers and livelihoods. It’s not pleasant… however, rather common in B.C. and Canada — often as a result of mis-management of the natural resources in question in the first place.

North Atlantic cod is the first that comes to mind.

Or how about the B.C. endangered logger? The forest industry is still a disaster in BC and many folks have had to move on to new livelihoods. Or how about entire communities: Cassiar (once a great asbestos mining town), or Tasu (once a thriving mining town on the west coast of Haida Gwaii) — or Rose Harbor (once a thriving whaling community now within Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site) — or Kitsault an old mining town (molybdenum) north of Prince Rupert listed for sale in 2004 for $7 million.

These are unfortunate occurrences — however, do happen. All too often with commercial fisheries, and have occurred in commercial salmon fishing fleets across B.C. Maybe the finger can be pointed to mis-management; however, we have all played a part.

_ _ _ _

Mason’s article:

Alaska harvested more than 170 million salmon in 2009, compared to the near-complete disappearance of the species in B.C. in the same year.

No… not all BC salmon species “disappeared” — mainly just Fraser sockeye — one BC salmon species. Other BC salmon are showing long-term declines, but have not “disappeared”. There were still 10 million salmon harvested in BC last year. Plus, didn’t the Marine Stewardship Council just “eco-certify” all BC sockeye salmon fisheries? And close to ‘eco-certifying’ a bunch of the chum and pink fisheries?

That doesn’t sounds like “near-complete disappearance”… the MSC is apparently “world-leading” in “eco-certifying sustainable fisheries”…

What was thought to be evidence of a complete collapse of the West Coast salmon fishery prompted the federal government to set up a commission to investigate. Then, a year later, 30 million turn up at the door of the Fraser. What gives?

Wrong… there was not a complete collapse of the West Coast salmon fishery (see above); nor, did that prompt government to set up a public inquiry (Cohen “commission”).

There was a significantly blown forecast for Fraser sockeye in 2009 (one species comprising the entire West Coast salmon fishery) and this was the third year in a row there was no Fraser sockeye commercial openings. This is clearly laid out in the preamble to the Cohen Commission.

“What gives?”

Well… Fraser sockeye are cyclical. Just because 35 million+ is now the total 2010 forecast run size for Fraser sockeye does not suggest that all is good in the hood. One of the suggested reasons for a big run this year is favorable ocean conditions (La Nina) coupled with reduced harvests in the four year cycle previously (e.g. 2006 and 2002). Those two years also saw decent returns and some very high effective female spawner estimates.

In three years we are still going to see the return from last year’s run which was suggested to be just over 1 million total — which does not equate to 1 million effective spawners.

_ _ _ _

That, to me, sounds like the commission will be examining how the DFO conducts business and sets policies and whether those policies are working.

As a point of reference, Mr. Cohen may want to look at how Alaska baits its hooks.

Yes, I agree with this point. Justice Cohen is mandated to look at how DFO conducts business. Of course, this is the fifth time in the last two decades that this has occurred and changes are slower than mice running in molasses (in the fridge).

Of course the great challenge for Justice Cohen is that policies written on paper are about worth as much as the sheets of paper. Where the mice can run free and clear is in how those policies are actually implemented on the ground. For example, the Wild Salmon Policy, which is full of great words and ideas… but in reality, on the ground, in the real world — poorly implemented, underfunded, bumpf-filled, and near-impossible to actually achieve

For example, true “ecosystem-based management” (EBM)… if we used and implemented EBM, then we wouldn’t be talking about “lost” or “wasted” salmon, when they are simply swimming upstream to do whatever it was that the creator/universe intended for them to do: be food for bears, eagles, racoons, etc. or maybe even spawn… not because “cash-strapped fishers” didn’t catch them and sell them to Wal-Mart at bargain basement prices.

Because the oft-admired Alaskan sockeye fishery occurs well before the BC sockeye fishery… BC fisherfolks are pumping sockeye into an already flooded market. This means lower prices; this means un-economic returns; this means little relief of the “cash-strapped”.

Like anything, selling more doesn’t necessarily mean making more… it’s those wonderfully dry terms of economics called “supply and demand”. Throw in some capacity of the marketplace to deal with an influx of fish, and “houston, we have a problem”. Right now in Vancouver and suburbs, fisherfolks may be catching lots of fish but are being forced to sell them dockside off their boats, as there just isn’t the capacity (or demand) at canneries and fish markets (they’re already aflood with sockeye from other places).

So… if we want to talk “wasted” or “lost” fish — what happens when BC fisherfolks on the Fraser are left with a surplus of sockeye that they can’t sell? I might have some proposed recipes.

(by the way Mr. Mason, I don’t think Alaska does much baiting of hooks, most of their fisheries are net-based)

_ _ _ _

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Salmon Management Model is one of the most successful in the world when it comes to sustaining a sometimes temperamental species of fish…

Not so fast; as I recommend in my comments to the article Mr. Mason may want to do a web search on the Yukon River Chinook fishery disaster declared on last year’s fishery. See earlier posts on this site: Fishery disasters and brave, brave decisions… and Alaskan fishery disasters and Marine Stewardship Council – don’t worry… it’s sustainable.

Or the fact that Alaska has one of the world’s biggest salmon ocean ranching programs. See earlier post: how do we define “wild”? or search it online. 2.5 billion salmon fry pumped out into the North Pacific every year from Alaska, all of which will never know a river. 95% of Prince William Sound commercial salmon fishery is ocean-ranched salmon.

So, really, how do we measure or define “most successful in the world”?

Enbridge purports to have “world-leading” safety standards — yet, as their pipeline rupture and resultant spill in Michigan is proving… maybe those “world-leading standards” are simply self-defined on paper…

Plus, it’s not that difficult to be “sustainable” when you have a sparsely populated state, fish that migrate in northern sections of the North Pacific, and wonderful intact habitat… (bit of an apples and oranges comparison… both fruits; but rather different)

_ _ _ _

B.C. fishermen probably should have harvested about 80 to 90 per cent of the current 30-million-plus salmon run. Yet, because of the DFO’s reluctance to open the fishery until it could verify the run size, 10 million fish are estimated to have been lost.

That wouldn’t have happened in Alaska. We should find out why.

As I ask in my comment to the article — show me where Alaska has successfully harvested 80-90% of their sockeye runs for many cycle years and been succesful. Their harvest yields are closer to 50% of total run and have been for decades. DFO’s have been in the 80% range since the 1950s; and we can see what that got us.

I think maybe Mr. Mason has bought a little too much into the fishery suggestions of Dr. Carl Walters who has been quoted in numerous articles and has stated in several radio interviews that we should be harvesting closer to 80% of this year’s Fraser sockeye run.

As I also point out in my comments to the article and in other posts on this site. Over 70% of the Fraser sockeye run this year is comprised of one stock — the Adams/Weaver run is predicted to be over 24 million of a total run size of about 35 million.

There are estimated to be over 200 separate stocks of sockeye in the Fraser River. Many of which are teetering on extirpation or extinction and several smaller stocks that no one even knows their status. And thus, if we run out and harvest 80-90% of the total run… (at the time of Mason’s article the total run size was hovering around 30 million; it’s now upwards of 35 million.)

Therefore, we harvest 80-90% of the run (as suggested by Mason in the article and Dr. Walters in other forums) which leaves 3.5 million (90% harvested) to 7 million (80% harvested) total run size. Subtract off the “management adjustments”, a percentage attached to total predicted marine run size to account for in-river mortality due to water levels and temperatures — that number has hovered around 15% for the Summer Group and 35% for the Late Summer Group (which incl. the Adams run).

Oh… well if we took 80-90% in commercial fisheries and then had to subtract 35% to account for in-river mortality. Well… we’d be at a negative run size: -15% if we harvested 80% and -25% if we harvested 90% (negative run sizes might have BC implementing ocean-ranching tout de suite…)

So let’s say we’re not that stupid. Let’s say we take the total run size, then subtract off the management adjustment (MA), then suggest a 80-90% exploitation rate. Or let’s just pretend there is no in-river mortality (i.e. MA).

Well… with the estimates of overall Fraser productivity over the last decade (remember this graph):

Salmon Think Tank graph produced by Pacific Salmon Commission Chief Biologist

Let’s give it a healthier than shown productivity rate of 2 adult returns per spawner.

Total run size forecast in marine areas at 35 million: 35 million – 80% exploitation = 7 million fish with potential to reach spawning grounds.


35 million – 90% exploitation = 4.5 million potentially reaching spawning grounds.

Ok, 4.5 million to 7 million spawners multiplied by an overly optimistic productivity of 2 adults returning per spawner leaves us with a potential total run size in 4 years of 9 to 14 million. That’s about 2.5 to 4 times less than the total run size this year.

If we repeat the same practice in 4 years (2014) we’d have an even smaller run four years after that (2018) —  if productivity levels remain low, as many predict them to do so.

This sounds brilliant.

Maybe Mr. Mason should stick to sports and real estate articles.

Fraser Sockeye: responding to commentary

One individual has left some long though-out comments in recent days on this weblog, and I figured I’d post one of my responses today as a post (sometimes the comments don’t see the same traffic).

The comment trail for this is in the previous post to this one: “Duh! Killing more fish isn’t the way to get more fish”. You can follow some of the discussion there. Here’s my comment from today:

Some thoughts on your shared thoughts and questions:

Interesting to hear that the record spawners of 2002 was not necessarily the case in 06 in Quesnel Lakes. The estimated run sizes for this year reflect that. The Adams/Weaver has now ballooned to an estimated 25,000,000 total return this year. From an initial pre-season forecast of about 8,000,000 we can see where the huge missed forecast largely stems from. The increase of 17,000,000 on the Adams/Weaver alone is a big piece of the total Fraser pre-season growing from about 11 million to now close to 35 million.

From a biodiversity perspective, this is quite worrisome. Many, many folks are ‘celebrating’ the huge return this year, yet it is only one stock (Adams/Weaver) that is comprising over 70% of the total Fraser run this year. Great that there’s more numbers… however the stock complexes that really need to see better returns may very well not see increased run sizes. For example, the Early Stuart group is still in dismal shape. Bowron is still looking dismal. Nadina fish (far upper Fraser) are apparently experiencing heavy pre-spawn mortality.

It’s the small runs, the diverse runs, that really need to see some recovery. One of the huge worries of mine about the Adams/Weaver comprising so much of the run — is that they are so susceptible to high pre-spawn mortality due to high water temps. We may have dodged a bit of a bullet this year with a cooler last half of Aug. and early Sept. but four years from now, or eight?

Added to this concern, is that one run comprising 70% of the total run, and at the huge numbers of this year, precipitates huge pressures to get fishing — see MP John Cummins most recent press release… Yet, chasing one run through terminal marine fisheries always means mixed stock impacts (less healthy sockeye runs, steelhead, in-big-trouble interior coho and so on — as you probably well know).

The comparison can be drawn to the Skeena River where the enhanced, spawning channel Babine sockeye run comprises about 90% of the total Skeena sockeye population. When it returns in good numbers — commercial marine fisheries are opened and this means all sorts of impacts on other less healthy stocks — e.g. Sustut and Bear Lake sockeye, Morice Lake sockeye, Skeena steelhead and so on. It’s a dangerous game.

This leads me to the comments on the Fraser “groups”, “stocks”, Conservation Units, etc.
That is a disaster from a management perspective.

You’re exactly right; the Early Stuart ‘group’ is comprised of well over 19 separate stocks — however DFO ‘manages’ it to only the ‘Group’ level — i.e. Early Stuarts. And as far as I know Early Stuarts are only one conservation unit (CU). This is evident in the fine piece of junk: the Fraser River spawning sockeye initiative (FRSSI). Early Stuarts are only looked at as one entity — not the multiple stocks, that you rightly point out, it is comprised of.

And in fact, the Fraser sockeye CUs change as fast as the Pacific Salmon Commission’s in-season run estimates. Last I heard, Fraser sockeye CUs are now down to about 38 from the 44 you mention. At a pre-season meeting this spring, absolutely no one from DFO could definitively say how many Fraser sockeye CUs there are – and what they are… and these were some of the most senior DFO staff members going on the salmon front — including the lead Wild Salmon Policy ‘implementer’.

(you know the old: “who’s on first? where’s second?” jingle… or as I’ve heard other much-more-experienced-than-me individuals suggest: who the hell is in charge around there?)

And so here’s my point in a nutshell… see earlier post Free Money-Part II as well…

200 distinct Fraser sockeye stocks — yes, it may be difficult to manage to every distinct stock. However, there’s only enough information on about 19 distinct stocks to inform management models and fishing decisions (see any DFO publications on the FRSSI model; it’s only working with 19 stocks within the four run timing “Groups”). And worse yet, there is no connection between the 19 stocks used in modeling and the proposed Fraser sockeye conservation units (CUs). It’s a complete shemozzle.

And thus, when various harvest models and “integrated fisheries management plans” start “kicking out” percentages of proposed harvest based on only four run-timing “Groups” — I think there is huge cause for concern. For example, this year DFO proposed to limit harvest on the Early Summer run-timing group to 25% of the total run (as opposed to the 60% proposed harvest on Summers and Late Summers) — apparently to protect some of the particular stocks that are becoming conservation concerns. But, how can anyone distinguish — with the 25% harvested — if the fish are from healthy stocks within the Early Summer group (e.g. Scotch, Seymour) from endangered stocks within that group (Bowron, Nadina)?

Again, this is the problem with mixed stock terminal marine fisheries.

If one sits in on meetings with DFO and listen to them spout about the accuracy of their “science” and the excuses they make to anyone concerned about specific Fraser sockeye stocks — it generally circulates around how ‘exact’ their science is and that they know best. The ongoing defence of the FRSSI computer simulation model is a scary, scary thing.

These sorts of tools start to make someone such as yourself out there in the field — rather obsolete. Why have field workers, when we can just computer model the whole thing based on past records…? The FRSSI model takes data from the last 48-50 years (spotty at best) on 19 stocks and pushes that data out 50 years and then designs harvesting strategies from the numbers “kicked out” by the models.

You’re exactly right on the cut-backs to things like juvenile enumeration work. If we start to look outside of the major watersheds (e.g. Skeena, Fraser, Nass) the level of DFO cutbacks to people actually in the field with their feet and hands in the water actually interacting with the salmon and the critters that depend on them — is atrocious.

Salmon management — from the government view — is becoming, largely, an exercise of academics, scientists and computer modelers — not folks with waders and gumboots on.

With my final questions being — with so much uncertainty in fisheries management (esp. Fraser sockeye and other salmon) should we be “managing” the fish populations — according to the dominant big runs, or according to only the 19 stocks of over 200 that we have information on…?

Or… should we maybe act much more precautionary and manage Fraser sockeye and other salmon to the small, endangered, extinct stocks that are most likely only growing in number?

This is the great conundrum… if endangered species legislation was enacted on some upper Fraser sockeye stocks; then management would have to manage fishing pressure according to what the endangered runs could support — NOT what the 17 million+ Adams/Weaver run can apparently support. Or what Fraser steelhead populations, or interior Fraser coho, or early-timed Chinook can handle.

What the heck are management institutions and commercial fishing proponents going to do when the big runs are in just as much trouble as the small, going extinct runs are…?
oh wait, we’ve seen that over the last three years… no fishing.

“No fishing” starts to make a department of “Fisheries” somewhat obsolete… Added to the mix, prices of less than $1 per pound for sockeye starts to make commercial fishing somewhat obsolete; and a commercial salmon fishing fleet with a landed value of only $20 million last year starts to make justification for a 10,000 full-time equivalent employees federal Ministry start looking akin to a stuffed pig at Christmas… (with the apple in the mouth and all…)

(and we know what happens to that pig)