Category Archives: Salmon in the headlines

“The case of the missing fish”… why don’t we just look in a mirror…?

dave's North Pacific salmon "mysteries"

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The Globe and Mail is running another article by Mark Hume on the apparent “disappearing sockeye salmon”…

The case of the missing fish

What is killing British Columbia’s salmon? And just where is the crime scene?

Like Agatha Christie’s fictional detective, Hercule Poirot, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen is faced with a mass of conflicting evidence as his federal inquiry tries to answer those questions and explain what happened to millions of salmon that have vanished at sea…

The article goes on to explain the ‘great mystery’ of declining sockeye populations on the Fraser River… and compares all the various “suspects” that may (or may not) play a part in the great decline of Fraser sockeye.

There is so much rhetoric and babble and apparent ‘complexity’ to this issue… so say the “experts” anyways…

However, let’s slow down for a second and explore a couple key pieces that Mr. Hume suggests in his article… starting with the second paragraph… “tries to… explain what happened to millions of salmon that have vanished at sea.

Well, that’s an interesting statement… as… we don’t know — in the first place — how many baby sockeye went to sea. We have no frigging clue. The “experts” extrapolate from a variety of estimates of how many adults successfully spawned in the 4-6 years previous, and how many of those eggs in the gravel survived to become little tiny baby salmon (alevin).

little baby salmon - alevin - fresh from the gravel

As one might imagine, these little gaffers are pretty sensitive… not to mention that no shortage of other critters living in creeks, lakes and rivers have evolved to feast on the timing of these little things arriving out of the gravel — no different then any fly fisher who tries to time the various hatches of bugs and such to trick fish into biting their hooks wrapped in varieties of fuzz and other paraphernalia.

Then how many of those little alevin survived to either head to sea or hang out in a freshwater lake for one or two years — dodging any other complete system of predators and other threats.

salmon smolts, migrating out

Then how many of those youngster sockeye ‘smolts’ migrated out to sea, dodging a whole other slew of threats and predators and in the Fraser, then have to spend some time adjusting from fresh water critters to salt water critters — in amongst no shortage of sewage, tugs & barges, urban run-off, endocrine disruptors, periodic oil and fuel spills, and so on.

Then its run the gauntlet of the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait) — including salmon farms, walls of sea lice, and whatever else.

Then its the BC and Alaska coastlines, then “the sea”.

How many?

We have no frigging clue.

So essentially, we sort of have a mystery… of a mystery…of a mystery…

If we start talking about the mystery of “disappearing salmon”… or as referred to in the article as “vanishing salmon”… we don’t even know if they were there in the first place.

baby salmon… now you see ’em… now you don’t…. (oh wait, maybe this wasn’t a game of salmon peek-a-boo… they were just never there in the first place?).

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I drew the image at the beginning of this post the other day as a suggestion of how we will never understand these apparent salmon “mysteries”… or “vanishing” or “disappearing acts”…

And nor should the load be put on Justice Cohen to ‘figure it out’… this isn’t a case of legal precedent, or evolution of the Code of Hammurabi, or Roman Law, or common law, or civil law, or stare decisis… not that our judges are not capable of dealing with all sorts of phenomenal complexities…

however to understand the great mysteries of nature, the North Pacific, and so on… I don’t think so, nor do I expect so… (even law is a great philosophical gray area of all sorts of complexities…)

As it says in my chicken scratch writing in the illustration: “try and disprove that this was the reason for the 2009 ‘disappearance’ of Fraser sockeye…

Well… you can’t. Nobody can conclusively disprove my ‘theory’ for Fraser salmon disappearance. Just as I can’t ‘prove’ my theory…

Just as no one will be able to prove or disprove the apparent Fraser sockeye ‘vanishing’ or ‘disappearance’…

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See here’s the thing…

to vanish” means to: “disappear suddenly and completely.” And, for something to “disappear” it had to be there in the first place. Because disappear means:

1. To pass out of sight; vanish.
2. To cease to exist.

See, “dis” means: “do the opposite of” — and so the opposite of disappear is… “appear

And the Latin roots of the word appear suggest it means: “to appear, come in sight, make an appearance.” Starting way back in the 13th century, the current meaning arose from: “to come into view.”

Thus there needed to be fish (e.g. Fraser sockeye) there in the first place — to come into view —  for them to in turn: “disappear” or “vanish”.

But… well… ummmm… we don’t know if they were there in the first place (for example, appeared out of the gravel as alevins) for them to in turn…

dis    appear.

We’re simply hypothesizing… (and sometimes, the thing with hypothesizing, is that the hypothesis might be wrong…)

Therefore… if this is a great mystery… and we’re looking for something that may not have existed in the first place… and we’re looking for a “culprit” that made something “vanish” that never may have in fact existed… is there a “mystery”?

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As one of the over 100 comments to Mr. Hume’s articles suggests, something to the effect of: “ummm… wild salmon have been ‘disappearing’ across the BC coast for decades… is it any surprise that there are dwindling salmon populations in the Fraser…?”

See now this would be a more appropriate use of the term “disappear” because this refers specifically to the view that most coastal folks know intimately, that in recent memory there were thousands upon thousands upon thousands of wild salmon runs in every little trickle of water that hits the Pacific Ocean.

And that these thousands upon thousands of runs produced hundreds of thousands upon millions of adult salmon that returned year after year after year…

those runs have now largely… DISAPPEARED, VANISHED, NADA, ZILCH… EXTINCT…

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wait a second…

there used to be close to 200 distinct Fraser sockeye stocks spread all over the Fraser watershed…?

now the number of stocks is a mere shadow of itself… the stocks have disappeared, as they were once certainly there before… (e.g. made an appearance)

When did that disappearance start…? hmmm… about 1880 or so… when mass salmon canneries opened up and down the Pacific Coast — from California to Alaska.

And then for the next 120 years, mass mixed stock fisheries continued to hammer and hammer and hammer away on wild salmon stocks all along the Pacific coast. Throw in a massive rock slide in the Fraser River in the lower reaches in 1913 and we have a recipe for disaster…

this isn’t meant to blame the fishers, they were simply doing what the regulations said they could… no different then people that get in deadly crashes while driving the speed limit of 100 km/hr… (e.g. speed kills…)

Fortunately, the incredible power of diversity (e.g. over 200 distinct evolutionary-evolved stocks) allowed the overall Fraser sockeye run to continue to return in big numbers (but still a shadow of the over 100 million Fraser sockeye of earlier years — pre-canneries — as Mr. Hume suggests in the article).

And then the 2000s (and maybe earlier) a vastly depleted resource — just as every other river and creek from California to BC will attest to — began to show signs of exhaustion, collapse, depletion…

Ever been at the finish line of a marathon or an Ironman triathlon — i’ve been to many — the look on the faces, and the condition of the bodies crossing the finishing line, is essentially what we’ve seen happen to Fraser sockeye in recent years.

Exhaustion and now extinction (e.g. like a ‘retired’ triathlete)…     why?

Because we’ve subjected the runs and populations to a litany of abuses… they’re exhausted, depleted, and in need of serious recuperation and recovery. (which unfortunately, like after a triathlon is simply rest along with a few beer and a big steak…)

You know recuperation as in: “gradual healing (through rest) after sickness or injury

For close to a century — 100 years — we humans have subjected the Fraser sockeye runs to close to 80% depletion, by injury (aka mixed stock fisheries) every single year, year after year, after year. And meanwhile, in the places where they have an opportunity to ‘regenerate’, we’ve been making a mess through habitat destruction, pollution, water draw-down, and conveniently warming up the water…

Added, the moment there is any sign of recovery… BWAMMO! hit them again with fisheries, get the nets in the water, “oh… we’re cautious now, we only take 60%…” says DFO official policy…  the conservation-based, ecosystem-based… WILD SALMON POLICY

then add in the potential of foreign-imported diseases such as Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) — just one more European-rooted disease introduced to the BC Coast, or more sewage, or more Prozac, Cialis, and other not-good-enough-treated-sewage, add in a couple degrees of warming… and… and…

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Unfortunately, it just seems that maybe we’re opening up the wrong doors and using the wrong language in this apparent “investigation” for finding “perpetrators” for something that may not have existed in the first place… (at least in the short-term view)

Just as I heard a discussion the other day on the radio… look at the worn out, cliche phrase: “war on drugs.”

Apparently, police forces, governments (e.g. G. Dubya Bush and his pa before), and policy and so on and so on… is engaged in this “WAR ON DRUGS“… yet since this phrase started circulating in the 1980s and so on, drugs and drug-related issues have only become more common, drugs are available cheaper, way more prevalent, way more common, and in way more places, and over 50% of the US prison population is made up of people in on drug-related charges… (a massive drain on government and public resources…)

(or how about the investigation and invasion of countries in the search of WMD’s…?)

Just like any ‘crime’ or ‘moral wrong’ or otherwise — what’s the best strategy for prevention in the first place…?

well… education, good parenting, good social institutions, and so on. (e.g. good ‘systems’)

Does telling our kids not to do drugs because there’s a: “WAR ON DRUGS !!” — going to be all that effective?

Probably not. Maybe looking at our language would allow for much more proactive, positive, and effective prevention strategies in the first place….?

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See… when it comes to wild salmon the “perpetrator” in this apparent CRIME… this apparent MURDER MYSTERY  is walking around in plain sight, free to do as s/he pleases, no day pass, no ankle bracelet for monitoring, no parole officer… all you have to do is… look in a mirror…

…and then sit down with others in the community to facilitate and develop a suitable prescription for healing and recuperation…

hmmm… like a CITIZEN’S ASSEMBLY… as opposed to a quasi-court-of-law approach with judges and lawyers and yellow “DO NOT CROSS” ticker tape parades, and salmon chalk lines, and confidentiality agreements and RED TAPE bureaucracy celebrations, and “I’m sorry sir, I cannot recall…”, and adversarial cross-examination, and character assassination, and… and… and…

Time for a new approach?

what say you…?

“More European ISA virus detected in wild BC salmon” — 3rd and 4th case

Alex Morton is reporting on her blog results from a lab in Norway. Two more Fraser salmon tested positive for ISA (Infectious Salmon Anemia) — an adult chum and an adult Chinook.

“More European ISA virus detected in wild BC salmon”

Today I received reports from two laboratories.

Dr. Are Nylund at the University of Bergen, Norway confirmed the ISA virus detection by Canadian lab, Dr. Fred Kibenge, in Rivers Inlet sockeye smolts. Dr. Nylund reports he only got a positive in one of the fish and this result was close to the detection limit for the test that he used. In the report below, the higher the value, the lower the amount of virus. He said the sample was poor quality. We are on a steep learning curve here, having never dealt with viruses, keeping the samples in a home-type freezer was not optimal.

Download Report 021111.pdf (22.0K)

I also received the report from Dr. Kibenge, of the World Animal Health reference lab for ISA virus in Province Edward Island, on salmon a small group of us collected in the Fraser River on October 12. Late last week results from this group of tests was leaked to the New York Times and we heard that a Coho salmon tested positive for ISAv. Now that I have the complete report we learn that, similar to the sockeye from River’s Inlet, the Coho in the Fraser River was infected with the European strain of ISA virus. But we see from this report that a chinook salmon and a chum salmon also tested positive.

Download Alexandra Morton Samples (SOCKEYE CHINOOK and COHO)_VT10142001_OCTOBER20 2011.pdf (45.9K)

What does this mean?

While this continues to raise the level of concern that ISA virus is going to cause significant problems in wild salmon in the eastern Pacific, a lot more work is required. Someone has to culture the virus. Once that happens we can learn how long it has been here, and exactly where it came from.

The good news is that the levels of ISA virus detected in all these salmon has been low. While the salmon in my latest collection died before spawning, it is possible that ISA virus was not the cause of their death. Because ISA virus was only detected in the gills of the chum and chinook, it is possible they were only recently infected. The chum was silver-bright and likely just arrived in the river. The Chinook was severely jaundice. Did these two fish just become infected and is that why it was only detected in their gills? Two possible sources would be salmon farms off Campbell River that they had just been exposed to on their in-migration into the river, or did they become infected by sharing the river with the Coho which had ISA virus in her heart suggesting a more system-wide longer infection period – I don’t know. The Segment 6 probe is less sensitive than the segment 8 probe, so while we learned the Chinook and Chum were infected with ISA virus, we don’t know what strain.

If the virus is this contagious that it infected other salmon that had just arrived into the river this does present concerns.

I am not presenting myself as an expert in ISA virus, but I feel strongly there should be no secrecy when it comes to European strain ISA virus in wild salmon. I am on a steep learning curve and feel it is essential that we move forward to:

1 – establish an international board to make sure testing is done in a highly and scientifically defensible manner
2 – establish a BC lab that can culture and test for ISA virus and report publicly
3 – test widely for the virus in the ocean, rivers and lakes and include other possible species such as herring
4 – mandate tests on every Atlantic salmon facility, especially the lake-rearing facilities by more than one lab so that no one lab bears the brunt of this and so the public can take full confidence in the tests

There has been an incredible response from many of you. So many of you have provided funds in small donations that we are able to move forward with revealing where ISA virus is hiding despite the complete lack of response by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Thank you. Thank you also for the people reporting back as to what is happening in your rivers and lakes. I am not at all interested in handing this over to Fisheries and Oceans, nor the Province of BC. I have asked the provincial salmon farm vet, Dr. Gary Marty several times what ISA virus test he did on all the Atlantic salmon he found ISAv lesions in. He had the province of BC’s lawyer answer, providing me with no information. I was hoping I could send samples to him, but I wont without knowing what test he is doing.

I will keep you posted.

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Seems like a pretty reasonable request considering the threat that this virus poses. And from the response coming out of the U.S. — both Alaska and Washington and even down to Oregon and otherwise. It may not be long until there’s an international response.

And I agree with the notion suggested here — neither the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, nor the Province of BC should ‘head’ any sort of committee. They’ve proven their meddle here (as in “To handle something idly or ignorantly; tamper”). This should involve something like the Auditor General or some other arms length third party.

And salmon farmers that are raising — foreign to Pacific waters, Atlantic salmon — should be put on notice that they will be flipping the bill, if they are found to be responsible for importing this virus…

 

2nd case of ISA found in Fraser River coho fry.

the denial train

The New York Times is on to the story in no time:

Virus in Pacific Salmon Raises Worries About Industry

Advocates for wild salmon said Friday that a deadly virus had been detected again in a Pacific salmon in British Columbia, but it was not clear if it would prove lethal to the fish population.

The finding, like one involving two juvenile wild sockeye salmon in British Columbia, poses questions for the viability of salmon fisheries in Canada and the United States. Scientists have expressed concern about the emergence of the virus while raising questions about complications, including scientific doubts about the quality of the tests.

In its active state, the virus, infectious salmon anemia, has devastated Atlantic salmon populations in fish farms in Chile and elsewhere. Salmon advocates have long worried that the virus could spread to wild populations, but it not clear whether Pacific salmon are equally susceptible.

In documents released Friday, an adult coho salmon supplied by salmon advocates to a prominent laboratory showed signs of carrying the disease. That fish was reported to have been found in a tributary of the Fraser River, a critical salmon run for fishermen in Canada and the United States.

Last week, researchers from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and elsewhere said that they had discovered the virus in 2 of 48 juvenile fish collected as part of a study of sockeye salmon in Rivers Inlet, on the central coast of British Columbia. The study was undertaken after scientists observed a decline in the number of young sockeye.

Such a virus could have a deep impact on the survival of salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Some scientists have suggested that the virus had spread from British Columbia’s aquaculture industry, which has imported millions of Atlantic salmon eggs over the last 25 years.

Salmon farms and wild fish are separated only by a net, many have noted. No treatment exists for the virus, which does not spread to humans, scientists say.

The crowded conditions of salmon farms are thought to abet the spread of the virus.

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Ivan reports on it over at his blog:

ISA pandemic in BC

 

Alexandra Morton speaking at a press conference at SFU last week.

The New York Times reports on a second case of ISA – this time in coho salmon in the Fraser River system.

Brace, people. We have an ISA pandemic in BC.

In rivers, streams, and coastlines, people are collecting salmon samples and sending them for virus testing – because the government won’t do it.

And every time we test, we will find more positives of that virus. And more. And more.

Until the structure collapses under the weight of its own incompetence and corruption. We will see the end of a mode of governance.

DFO as an institution is finished. Large transnational fish farm corporations will flee the country in shame, leaving ecosystems in ruin. And the Province of BC will lose whatever may be left of its legitimacy.

It’s called the salmon revolution.

May the wild salmon survive this terrible, yet necessary, crisis.

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Quite impressive, that Alex suggests in her presentation (photo above) that there have been over 1000 reports of “classic” ISA-type lesions reported in BC since 2006.

And yet salmon farming advocates, the industry, and government officials (including some that comment on this blog) continue on the denial train. Or, question legitimacy of results, or people involved, and so on and so on.

Although there are some in the industry that have certainly said: ‘if ISA is here, then we’re in deep, deep shit’

See the thing is that I can’t figure out… if there’s any hint that ISA is here, why wouldn’t the industry (and the governments that continue to provide it immense amount of funding under the guise of ‘research & development’) jump into code RED.

One could draw an analogy to the ‘codes’ that the US government and others use to suggest ‘terrorist’ threats.

And these are just ‘threats’… not actual positive tests per se…

See, like ISA outbreaks in the business of farming salmon (e.g. just read about the 70%-80% losses suffered in Chile in 2008), ‘terrorist outbreaks’ can be rather devastating to economies (and psyches). Thus, many governments at the mere ‘threat’ of something like terrorist activity, issues various warnings and takes immediate action — and warns everyday average folks of potential threats.

I don’t want to go too far down this analogy, however, I think one can pick up my gist…

Now, sure, this is where government and industry folks will start quoting how many farmed salmon have been tested in the last few years for ISA and how those tests were “negative”.

Like anything though… ‘negative’ test results, does not imply “absence”. (look at the fuss over drugs and blood doping in the sport of bicycling, for example… negative tests, do not necessarily mean ‘absence’).

I would think for the sheer protection of investment that shareholders of Marine Harvest and others would be demanding much more intense ISA testing following the issues in Chile. I would think that government officials, both Provincial and Federal, would be doing everything possible to ensure that ISA is not in salmon farms or in wild populations — if anything, to also protect their hundred(s) of millions of dollars in investment.

(but also maybe to do what they’re supposed to… protect natural ecosystems).

There are still many ‘shoes’ to fall on this issue… but it could get real ugly yet. Or… maybe like many of the ‘terrorist’ warnings issued in recent years in North America, caution might just seem pragmatic.

Yet the official line from the federal government? question the messenger, and delay, delay, delay.

 

 

Somewhat good news: Spawning salmon levels rise Birkenhead River sees highest sockeye return in five years… yet co-opted “co-management”

A somewhat good news story about sockeye coming out of the Pemberton area near Whistler.

However, maybe mis-guided comments about “co-management”?

Spawning salmon levels rise Birkenhead River sees highest sockeye return in five years

The numbers are in from the Lil’wat Nation’s annual sockeye salmon stock assessment for the Birkenhead River. From the time the sockeye entered the river in late August to shortly after the counting fence was blown out by high water levels towards the end of the run in late September, a total of 193,547 sockeye were counted.

“It would certainly be the largest escapement (population) in the last five years,” said Mike Lapointe, head biologist of the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC). “The previous largest escapement is 2006, which is 266,000, and since then we had 93,000 in ’07, 19,000 in ’08, 54,000 in ’09 and last year, 128,000.”

Typically, 90 per cent of Fraser River salmon have a four-year lifecycle, but the Birkenhead is different in that there can be significant numbers of five- and six-year-olds as well. This is partly related to the fact that it’s a coastal stream and subject to high flash flooding. Because of these fluctuations in the spawning habitat, the populations have evolved to produce more than one age class.

What this means, said Lapointe, is potentially this year’s higher rate of return is because some of the salmon are from 2006.

“With Fraser sockeye, we talk of parent years as being important since they have a four-year lifecycle, then we’d be looking at the escapement four years ago, which was ’07 and that number was 93,000,” he said. “And so for the Birkenhead, it looks like this parent year has produced fairly well.”

But he won’t know how many have returned in 2011 as five-year-olds from the abundant 2006 brood until he examines the samples, said Lapointe.

The Mount Currie Fisheries Program works closely with the PSC throughout the year, closely monitoring conditions of the fish and river.

“Because this is the territory we’ve grown up in and we’re very responsible for, we also document environmental information like temperatures, differences we see in the river and things that catch our eye,” said Maxine Joseph-Bruce, fisheries program manager for the Mount Currie Band.

The collected data is sent to the PSC along with samples — a combination of scales and otolith, the ear bone in the fish. Both have rings on them for determining age, very much like rings that you could see on a tree, said Lapointe.

The annual sockeye count requires the installation of a counting fence across the Birkenhead to create a four-foot wide opening the salmon can pass through. Narrowing the river in this manner facilitates tracking the number of fish swimming upstream.

“We situate a working platform just up-river, about eight feet from the opening, and we count every single fish that swims through that gate,” said Joseph-Bruce.

This year, the counting bench was staffed by two people 24 hours a day, seven days a week — in eight hour shifts — from Aug. 31 through to Sept. 23, when the fence had to be removed due to heavy rain and clogging caused by fallen leaves.

“Kids visit from the local schools, Signal Hill and Xit’olacw, a number of tourists stop in, plus it’s a really positive approach to education and awareness about salmon in our valley,” said Joseph-Bruce. “Some people don’t have a clue that sockeye are returning to the Birkenhead.”

Lapointe added, “The program that Maxine is running is just such a terrific example of the co-management that can occur with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in terms of having folks that live in the area do the assessments.”

Joseph-Bruce recently attended a salmon ceremony at Pemberton Secondary School and said she would like to see such appreciation for the Birkenhead salmon spread to all local communities.

“They’re aware of this beautiful animal that comes back here… I’m really proud of our youth who are paying attention, and how we in this valley are pretty lucky our land gets fed by these wonderful salmon that return back,” said Joseph-Bruce.

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Some great things in this article, and yet some gaping voids…

For example, as Mike Lapointe from the Pacific Salmon Commission mentions, this year’s return of just under 200,000 (to the river) is one of the better returns in several years — e.g, 2006 when the return (to the river) was a little over 250,000 sockeye.

The thing that is so rarely mentioned in any of these numbers…. what was the total run size estimate, before it got hammered by marine, mixed-stock fisheries opened by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Pacific Salmon Commission?

In 2006, for example, the marine exploitation rate (captured in ocean and Fraser mouth fisheries) was almost 30% of the total run size. The total estimated run size for 2006 was almost 600,000 sockeye — before fisheries in Canada’s waters opened on them.

In 2006, just over 175,000 Birkenhead sockeye were caught in fisheries, and a further almost 150,000 were “lost” en route.

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For further comparison, the biggest run prior to that was in 1993 when the total Birkenhead run size estimate was over 1.7 million sockeye.

That year the marine exploitation rate was estimated at 85%: over 1.3 million Birkenhead sockeye caught in marine fisheries on the BC coast in 1993.

Only 245,000 sockeye made it back to the river that year.

So one must gather that the esteemed fisheries science of the last several decades suggests that we can take 85% of a population and expect it to produce the same size run at the conclusion of its life cycle? (4-6 years when it comes to Birkenhead sockeye)

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Similar story in 1986.

Total run size for Birkenhead sockeye estimated at over 1.6 million.

Marine exploitation that year = 78% or almost 1.3 million Birkenhead sockeye killed in marine fisheries.

Number of sockeye that actually made it up river to spawnjust over 330,000.

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Want to see some real dismal numbers, look at some other years of Birkenhead sockeye. Go back one year further…

1985

Total estimated run size: 144,000

Marine exploitation: 89% which equals, almost 130,000 sockeye caught.

How many made it to the river to spawn?

11,000.

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In the year 2000 (after how many public inquires into sockeye issues? 3, 4, 5?)

Total Birkenhead run size estimate: 63,000

Marine exploitation: 65%, almost 43,000 Birkenhead sockeye caught in fisheries.

Total return to spawning grounds: 14,470.

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The newspaper story says it well.

Typically, 90 per cent of Fraser River salmon have a four-year lifecycle, but the Birkenhead is different in that there can be significant numbers of five- and six-year-olds as well. This is partly related to the fact that it’s a coastal stream and subject to high flash flooding. Because of these fluctuations in the spawning habitat, the populations have evolved to produce more than one age class.

So sockeye populations of various rivers have ‘evolved’ (over eons and changing conditions) to deal with wide-ranging environmental conditions.

Did they evolve to deal with having upwards of 80% of their total returning runs caught in mixed-stock fisheries in the ocean?

No.

They have enough challenges with mud slides (for example in the Pemberton area),

from Times Colonist

weather events, glacial run-off, spring and fall downpours, and the like, to contend with for simple survival. Let alone misguided fisheries management policies for upwards of 100 years that say, “yeah, go catch 80, 90% of those runs… they’ll be fine.”

The Birkenhead is one of only 19 Fraser sockeye stocks that has sufficient info to track in a year-after-year basis. And like so many other runs, this data is very time limited, the Birkenhead data only goes back into the 1980s.

What about many of the over 200 distinct Fraser sockeye stocks that once existed prior to the beginnings of cannery row in the late 1800s? The many 100s of stocks that had also ‘evolved’ various life strategies and characteristics to deal with local challenges and opportunities.

R.I.P.

… that’s what.

The mixed-stock, Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY — see free e-book on this site), fishery practices of the last 100+ years sent those runs the way of the passenger pigeon, dodo bird, and wooly mammoth… victims of ‘market sustainability & ecological prioritization.’

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And thus… is counting fish at fish fences and recording river and environmental data: “co-management“?

As in Mr. Lapointe’s: “The program… is just such a terrific example of the co-management that can occur with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in terms of having folks that live in the area do the assessments.”

Now, I do want to be respectful, as my interactions with Mr. Lapointe have been good ones. He seemed to me, quite a nice fellow. However in attempting to be ‘hard on the problem, not the person’ — last I checked, co-management is about power relations, not “participating in assessments”… (not to take away from the fact that there is participation permitted in this case).

For example, some suggest co-management means:

A political claim by users or community to share management power and responsibility within the state.

Or,

The sharing of power and responsibility between the government and local resource users.

Or,

Power sharing in the exercise of resource management between government agency and a community organization…

Or,

A partnership in which government agencies, local communities and resources users, NGOs and other stakeholders share… the authority and responsibility for the management of a specific territory or a set of resources.

These all come from the book: Adaptive Co-management: Collaboration, Learning, and Multi-level Governance by Armitage, Berkes and Doubleday put out by UBC Press in 2007. (pg. 3)

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When it comes to looking after wild salmon in Canada — I’m not sure that I’m aware of many (or any) effective “co-management” regimes, as in real sharing of “power” and “responsibility”… with First Nation or local settler communities.

Sure there’s funding handed out to count fish and record river temperatures… but true power-sharing? true partnership?

Hmmmm…

And how do we “co-manage” extinct wild salmon runs — such as the many that have disappeared on the Fraser system or up and down the BC coast?

What I am aware of is governments that insist, every time a case of aboriginal rights and title go to the highest courts in the land, vehemently deny that aboriginal rights and title exist.

And there’s one of the main problems… first people’s fishing rights keep having to be wrung through the adversarial and colonially-based legal system.

And the highest courts in the land repeatedly suggest: ‘yes, they do exist [the rights and the title] and everyone return to the negotiating table to figure it out’…

…that ‘power’ and ‘sharing’ thing… figure it out…

It’s not to say there aren’t efforts on these fronts (some of which that evolved from court cases)… just frustrating to see when terms get co-opted and watered down as if thrown into a muddied river in full fall freshet.

“Salmon-Killing Virus Seen for First Time in the Wild on the Pacific Coast” & PR tactic #4: cover-your-ass-in-case-its-right Rule

And the story goes global.

“Salmon-killing virus… on Pacific coast”

Can you say Public Relations nightmare for salmon farmers of the world…?

Was listening to CBC Radio this morning and the second story on “World Report” was this one. Even the New York Times is in on the story:

Salmon-Killing Virus Seen for First Time in the Wild on the Pacific Coast

A lethal and highly contagious marine virus has been detected for the first time in wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest, researchers in British Columbia said on Monday, stirring concern that it could spread there, as it has in Chile, Scotland and elsewhere.

Farms hit by the virus, infectious salmon anemia, have lost 70 percent or more of their fish in recent decades. But until now, the virus, which does not affect humans, had never been confirmed on the West Coast of North America.

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This isn’t only a problem in Canada. Check out the BBC and other news outlets in Scotland and the UK.

Fish farm ban on cards for [Scottish] coasts

Published on Monday 17 October 2011

THE Scottish Government may introduce laws banning fish farms from operating in some coastal areas.

It could follow Norway, where the law has restricted the spread of farms after growing concerns over the depletion of wild stocks.

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Now you know what all of this means, don’t you?

Some serious PR-tactics, campaigns, and speech writing (e.g., “marketing is everything, everything is marketing”) due to come out of salmon farmers — especially the BC Salmon Farmers Association.

First rule of any PR campaign — DENY, DENY, DENY.

Second rule: question veracity of results.

Third rule: question credibility of researchers (that’s already started in comments on this site)

Fourth rule: state how well you have things under control — this is the: cover-your-ass-in-case-its-right rule)

Yesterday was a quick press release from the salmon farmers:

Suspect findings of ISA of concern to BC’s salmon farmers

A press release today from Simon Fraser University regarding reports that two wild Pacific salmon have tested positive for Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) is of concern to BC’s salmon farmers.

Our members are actively following up with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The CFIA is reviewing the validity of these publicized but as yet unconfirmed results. The BC Salmon Farmers Association has not yet been able to review the findings.

“Farm-raised Atlantic salmon, unlike their Pacific cousins, are susceptible to ISA, so this is a concern for our operations, but much less likely to be an issue for the different Pacific species,” said Stewart Hawthorn, Managing Director for Grieg Seafood. “If these results are valid, this could be a threat to our business and the communities that rely on our productive industry.”

The results were reportedly found in juvenile Sockeye smolts in Rivers Inlet – an area north of most salmon farms. These fish would not have passed aquaculture operations, but our farmers remain concerned about what this means, and how the disease, which is not native to British Columbia, may have been introduced.

“Samples from BC’s salmon farms are tested regularly for ISA by our regulator’s fish health departments and have never found a positive case on a farm. Over 4,700 individual fish samples have been assessed and proven to be negative.  These unconfirmed findings certainly are unexpected, unusual and warrant further investigation,” said Clare Backman, Sustainability Director for Marine Harvest Canada.

Extensive egg importation regulations were implemented years ago to ensure that disease is not imported to BC waters. Experts testified at the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon that these regulations were strong and proactive in reducing the risk of disease. Testing done by third party researchers in the past on wild Sockeye have returned negative results for ISA as well. Biosecurity protocols both within each company and across the industry also protect the health of wild and farmed fish.

“Our fish remain healthy and we are seeing no indication of the presence of ISA,” said Hawthorn. “It is very important that our fish remain healthy – to support our ongoing commitment to our businesses, our communities and our environment.”

The BCSFA represents salmon farm companies and those who supply services and supplies to the industry. Salmon-farming provides for 6,000 direct and indirect jobs while contributing $800-million to the provincial economy each year.

-30-

Stewart Hawthorn
Managing Director, Grieg Seafood
(250) 202-8588

Clare Backman
Director of Sustainability, Marine Harvest Canada [and former DFO employee]
(250) 850-9554

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Well done, I think all rules were covered.

Make sure to put in language that places a little seed of doubt “suspect findings” “apparent” “reportedly” and so on.

Stay tuned as this story will most likely get more interesting.

 

 

More diseases in farmed salmon in Chile… here we go all over again…

Chile’s salmon farming industry is in trouble again… or not… say the ‘experts’

New virus detected in salmon farms

CHILE
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The National Marine Fisheries Service (Sernapesca) confirmed the discovery of a new virus – HSMI — in freshwater fish of 10 sea centres in the country.

According to the analysis that was performed, salmon do not have the disease or the virus-associated mortality.

This agent that causes an inflammation of the skeletal and heart muscles was also identified in Norway, Diario Financiero reported.

According to Sernapesca director, Juan Luis Ansoleaga, this viral disease “does not produce major economic and production impacts, given the mortality when it occurs ranges between 1 per cent and 3 per cent.”

This disease is considered to have emerged in Norway, where no control actions are taken even though the virus is widely distributed in both sea and freshwater centres,” the official added.

However, he admitted that “there are aspects of its epidemiology that have not yet been clarified, so there is still uncertainty about the disease and the agent.

After its detection, Sernapesca will expand the sampling of the sea centres to assess its distribution in the country “in order to obtain more background information on the agent’s situation and eventually on the disease in the national salmon industry.”

It is expected that such data “would allow health authorities to assess the appropriateness of establishing specific measures and to determine the extension of the performance of the sampling,” added Ansoleaga.

Sernapesca established a training programme so that its inspectors are updated as to this viral condition.

The Chilean salmon industry had to face a health, economic and employment crisis in 2007 with the spread of the infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus.

Due to the high mortality and to the significant economic loss faced by the sector businesses, the central government began to implement a change in regulatory matters in order to have greater disease control.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Remember the “data gaps” issue…

See, it’s not so worrisome in Chile because they have no wild populations of salmon that interact with farmed salmon.

A 1% to 3% mortality in wild Pacific salmon populations, could potentially decimate the last remnants of dieing populations — for example, the Rivers Inlet sockeye runs where ISA (infectious salmon anemia) was reported in the media earlier today.

_ _ _ _ _ _

This disease is considered to have emerged in Norway…” seems to be a rather common message these days in the salmon farming industry.

_ _ _ _ _ _

There’s another Chilean farmed salmon article at the same website, with curious viewpoints.

Government and fishing industry ruled out emergency situation due to ISA

CHILE
Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Association of Salmon Industry in Chile AG (SalmonChile) ruled out the idea that the Chilean salmon industry is threatened by the appearance of traces of infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus.

Last week, the company Camanchaca SA detected the presence of the agent in the farm called Chonos, in Chiloé, but the firm made it clear that the strain found is neither fatal nor it causes alterations in the salmon growth process.

Although it has been found that the strain is HPR0, the stock market did not react positively.

The salmon stock index in Santiago Stock Exchange was the one that fell the most with a drop of 10 per cent during the week.

Multiexport Foods shares went back 13 per cent, Invertec Pesquera Mar de Chiloé (Invermar) ones went back 9.6 per cent, those of AquaChile went back 10 per cent, Camanchaca shares went back 8 per cent and Australis Mar went back 6 per cent.

_ _ _ _ _ _

And so diseases & viruses introduced onto the world’s coastlines due to aquaculture are now just simple “market” issues…

(No need to worry folks, your pension plan is doing OK, but your wild salmon stocks in your backyard… not so good…

no need to worry though…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

The article continues:

In Norway it [ISA] has been detected in more than 50 per cent of the farms and their health status is optimal. This is not an issue in other salmon producing countries,” he added.

Maybe today’s headlines of ISA being found in wild Pacific salmon might change that bold pronouncement?

Or the fact that anywhere salmon farming has gone, it has pretty much coincided with the last of the last wild salmon runs hitting functional extinction. (i’m sure it’s just mere coincidence…)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Here’s the telling part of the article:

“In 2008 we were exposed to a huge health crisis, all the outbreaks were caused by ISA HPR 7B and now the cases of strains are those that do not cause the disease or mortality. There is a health plan and mitigation measures in case we face an ISA strain causing the illness and mortality. Control is focused on strains different from HPR0, which are infectious,” said Odebret.

However, he admitted that it is impossible to eradicate the disease.

“We must bear in mind the fact that the eradication of a virus is impossible, but the plans taken by the industry and the authority support the control. An example is that this year we have not had outbreaks of the disease.”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

“…it is impossible to eradicate the disease”

“…We must bear in mind the fact that the eradication of a virus is impossible…”

have we not learned these lessons yet about the chaos that unpredictable viruses can inflict?

.

Guess not…

(no need to worry though say government ministries worldwide… and the corporations doing the farming… closely watching their market caps…no need to worry…)

Rivers Inlet sockeye salmon “test positive for ‘lethal’ virus linked to fish farms”

Hayward, former BP CEO

Remember this guy?

Tony Hayward, former CEO of BP (British Petroleum).

When the BP oil spill first began in the Gulf of Mexico and he suggested:

It’s relatively tiny compared to the very big ocean…

“We will fix it. I guarantee it. The only question is we do not know when,” Hayward told the Guardian [British newspaper]. “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.”

Gulf of Mexico oil spill map... "just little"

 

can BC sportfishers relate?

Mouth of the Fraser someday? or Skeena?

 

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The point here is that CEO’s of large corporations just say the darndest things sometimes…

(the darndest stupidest things… albeit…)

Word out today in the Vancouver Sun that the ISA virus has been found in some Rivers Inlet sockeye salmon.

ISA — otherwise known in its non-acronym (onius) verbage as: Infectious Salmon Anemia. You can read about it at Wikipedia, for example, or search for more “scientific” sources. (Maybe my professional colleagues that comment on this site will pass along some good links.)

Bottom line on ISA, it can be real nasty, real fast. Just ask the salmon farming industry in Chile from their experiences over the last few years. (nasty…).

Here’s the Sun article:

Wild sockeye salmon from B.C.’s Rivers Inlet have tested positive for a potentially devastating virus that has never been found before in the North Pacific.

Infectious Salmon Anemia is a flu-like virus affecting Atlantic salmon that spreads very quickly and mutates easily, according to Simon Fraser University fisheries statistician Rick Routledge. The virus detected in sockeye smolts by the Atlantic Veterinary College in P.E.I. — Canada’s ISA reference lab — is the European strain of ISA.

“The only plausible source of this virus is fish farms,” said Routledge.

B.C.’s aquaculture industry has imported more than 30 million Atlantic salmon eggs over the past 25 years, mainly from Iceland, the United States and Ireland, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

No, no, I’m sure the ISA virus now ‘discovered’ in the North Pacific came through the waterways of Canada, like other viruses that came from Europe…

The article continues with reassuring information from the transnational corporation that dominates the BC coast (and Chile’s for that fact):

B.C. salmon farms conducted 4,726 tissue tests for ISA over the past eight years and every one has come back negative, according to Ian Roberts, a spokesman for B.C.’s largest salmon farming company, Marine Harvest. Another 65 tests conducted in the past quarter were also negative.

“As far as we know [Marine Harvest] is clean of this disease and we want to keep it that way,” said environmental officer Clare Backman. “Just because it is present in these Pacific salmon doesn’t mean it’s a health issue … Pacific salmon are not as affected by ISA as Atlantic salmon.” [my emphasis]

_ _ _ _ _ _

Hmmmmm…

The article also states:

B.C.’s aquaculture industry has imported more than 30 million Atlantic salmon eggs over the past 25 years, mainly from Iceland, the United States and Ireland, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

My math often struggles… but a little over 4,000 tissue samples over 8 years, against over 30 million imported eggs, and against how many farmed salmon raised on the BC Coast in the last decade?

What sort of percentage is that?

Let’s just say small… very small. miniscule. You know, ‘a drop of oil in a big ocean…’ kind of small.

Isn’t this sort of like saying I don’t believe in molecules because I can’t see them…

_ _ _ _ _

Read the history of ISA at Wikipedia. It’s sort of like flu season (and ISA is compared to influenza). It starts with one small, little piddly cough, in one person (amongst millions) and then within weeks it has spread through a population of millions, by planes, trains, and automobiles… and whatever other vectors.

Kind of like Chile experienced with ISA, which was not just ‘Atlantic salmon’ that they were raising. There were also Pacifics.

In its path, influenza often kills the more weak and infirm… (hmmm… like many of BC’s unique salmon populations…)

And so, we’re to take comfort from (former DFO employee) Clare Backman in the new corporate role in suggesting: “hey we don’t see it… so it’s not a problem for us…”

(kinda like tsunamis… not really a problem until they hit land)

_ _ _ _ _ _

Maybe this will be all for not and we really should just relax and not be shouting about epidemics, and the like — like avian flu, or SARS, and so on and so on…

Unfortunately, I tend to be one that questions a lot… especially multinational corporations and their representatives when they start saying: “nothing to see here… move along… nothing to see here” and complicit governments that parrot the same lines.

Maybe there is nothing to see here and this is just a few salmon with a little niggly cough hanging out in Rivers Inlet…

Any thoughts out there?

 

 

Cohen Commission into Fraser sockeye declines: nothing will change?

Ahh, the joy of cartoons to say much while saying little…

from the Georgia Straight

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Here’s the future for wild salmon if diseases or otherwise clear them out:

future salmon?

Along the same line as:

salmon of the future

Maybe they’re “test tube babies”… maybe the tubes protect the last few wild stocks from pollution, endocrine disruptors, disease, etc.

Conflicting mandates at DFO?

no conflicts...

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On Sept. 19th or so, the Cohen Commission has two days of hearings on cumulative impacts. Two days… to discuss cumulative impacts…

There’s also several days of DFO largely defending itself, etc. …

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final hearings at Cohen Commission

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This following the release of a DFO ‘Communications Plan‘ entered as evidence last week at the Commission… suggesting that the public is dull, and all these slanted journalists… and so on.

There’s an interesting editorial at the Times Colonist from the other day:

DFO in conflict on fish farms

Many British Columbians will likely be mildly insulted to find the Department of Fisheries and Oceans considers opposition to salmon farming the result of a confused and unaware public, manipulated by environmental groups and poorly served by biased reporters.

That’s the conclusion in a DFO communications plan filed as an exhibit at the Cohen Commission investigating the decline of Fraser River sockeye runs.

The National Aquaculture Communications and Outreach Approach report, by a New Brunswick communications consultant, is revealing.

The DFO is assumed to be the champion of the industry. Critics – or reporters – are presumed to be self-serving. Environmental groups raising concerns are seeking “to further their agenda and fundraising efforts.”

News coverage often draws those sorts of comments. In the case of salmon farming, both supporters and critics routinely accuse the news media of favouring the other side. That’s one of the things that is troubling about the report. The industry can be expected to have an agenda.

So can communities and environmental groups.

But the DFO should be a neutral, science-based regulator, ensuring that the best evidence is used to set standards for fisheries, farmed and wild, that protect the environment and the public interest. That role is undermined, even corrupted, if the government department becomes an advocate for a particular industry segment. Its impartiality and willingness to enforce standards is cast in doubt. Its pronouncements can no longer be trusted.

Actions like forbidding scientists from discussing their research are taken as evidence of pro-aquaculture bias.

The report highlights a fundamental conflict. The DFO, or at least senior management, believes it should be promoting aquaculture. At the same time, it is charged with regulating the industry. The two roles create, at the least, the perception of conflicts of interest.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _
The issue with DFO in general is that its one huge institutional conflict. The number one mandate is supposed to be “Conservation” — however, it’s institutional focus for the last hundred years has been to support commercial and sport fisheries.

On one hand it hands out money to various groups for fisheries related work… and then on the other hand shows up with big truck and guns demanding to know what folks are doing in a creek.

On one hand, its supposed to ‘conserve’ fish habitat, and then on the other hand approve major hydro dams and mining projects, which in turn are supposed to ensure “no net-loss of habitat”…

On the one hand, its supposed to ‘conserve’ fish habitat, and then takes on ‘economic development’ with aquaculture…and hands out over $100 million in ‘research & development’…

_ _ _ _ _ _

Is this not akin to the RCMP arresting and investigating crimes… and then having an economic interest in building more jails, or recovering funds from the sale of goods seized in crimes…?

(there’s enough fuss as it is — with the RCMP investigating itself…)

shouldn’t maybe the ‘conservation’ of wild salmon get handed over to Environment Canada, or some ministry with an actual mandate to ‘conserve’…

there’s significant irony in a government ministry having the central mandate of “conserving” something so that people can catch and kill it…

and ‘conserve’ for whom? why?

“Fisheries plan alleges confusion and bias in B.C”… who butters your toast?…

public dollars...

public funded communications strategies?

Fisheries [DFO communications] plan alleges confusion and bias in B.C

A Department of Fisheries and Oceans communications plan, filed as an exhibit at the Cohen Commission, portrays the B.C. public as confused, West Coast newspaper reporters as biased and environmental groups as self-serving.

The National Aquaculture Communications and Outreach Approach, prepared for DFO by a New Brunswick consultant, sets out a three-to five-year plan for convincing both DFO staff and the public of the merits of fish farming.

David Black, associate professor in the School of Communication and Culture at Royal Roads University, said communication plans prepared for government ministries, with the public interest in mind, need to be held to a high standard and the DFO plan fails to meet that higher standard.

To represent the citizenry as confused and unaware raises some concerns in my view as to the underlying attitude,” he said. “It is also a strange thing to identify journalists as not effectively doing their jobs.”

The report impugns the named journalists and shows a lack of respect for the practice of journalism, Black said.

To assume bad faith and a lack of professionalism on the part of journalists is ethically and strategically dubious,” he said.

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Maybe this should be titled:

When publicly funded institutions forget who butters their toast…

Seems a bit odd that a publicly funded institution is using public dollars to tell the public how dumb they are… but then that’s also been the take by some individuals commenting on this site, defending internal practices of DFO, and explaining how ‘misinformed the public is’.

Does this harken to the North Atlantic Cod issue…?

As I’ve said before:

Marketing is everything, everything is marketing.