Category Archives: shorter posts – like a Sockeye

“2010 was the year of the sockeye”

Stellaquo River -- Upper Fraser

So says one of the headlines in the Globe and Mail by columnist Alexandra Gill, the West coast restaurant critic.

In some ways, I suppose she might be right… If one lives in Vancouver and figures that much of the world revolves around that perceived epicentre; well… then… it could appear that maybe 2010 was the year of the sockeye in some regards.

Her column suggests:

Fishy sockeye stocks

After collapsing last year, the Fraser River sockeye stocks rebounded in record-breaking numbers. With an estimated 34 million fish returning to the river system, it was the biggest run in nearly a century – and arguably the most important Canadian food story of 2010.

The harvest was so plentiful, this former luxury ingredient is now being fried up as curbside fish and chips… Feast on this sweet, brilliant-red delicacy while you can because the still-perilous fishery isn’t out of hot water yet. The Cohen commission is studying the mystery and will present its findings later this year.

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The great thing with mainstream media and columnists is that with a careful read, one might get an inner glimpse of what the mainstream is thinking on some issue. Further glimpses when one reads commentary on articles…

As I suggested in a comment left on this particular article: SOMEBODY PLEASE let the media know that the Fraser sockeye run this year was NOT 35 million.

Current estimates suggest more like 28 million.

That’s a 20% reduction from initial in-season estimates — which are the ones that guide fishery decisions!

Also as left in the commentary: how would you feel if you were a retired individual starting to take some of the proceeds out of your various investments — e.g., Registered Retired Savings Plan (RRSP) — and your investment advisor came back to you and suggested:

“gee Clive… I’m sorry, you know that initial investment return that I quoted you… well… er… umm… we need to scale ‘er back by 20% now. We sort of messed up over there at our estimating facility…”

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Also really important for folks to know that the bulk of this ‘record’ run was comprised of one stock grouping in the Adams River (Kamloops) area. A stock that is also very susceptible to die-offs during periods of hot weather and warm water.

So, for example, four years from now when the progeny from this record run returns to the river — if it’s a hot, dry summer coupled with a low snow pack year (you know, like some of the common predictions of climate change) then the Adams stocks could get blitzed and all of a sudden were back into the same situation.

And… as continually pointed out by many folks, it was far from a record year in the upper reaches of the Fraser River. It was anything but average — which these days, ain’t that great.

As simple physics teaches us — everything upstream; flows downstream… can’t escape gravity.

Lastly… it wasn’t such a record year in the rest of BC for sockeye. Yes, decent in some areas, but far from record-breaking.

Yes, the Fraser is an important sockeye run in BC and yes, it does flow past Vancouver and yes, the returning sockeye do swim near Victoria (the capital city) — however, most certainly not the only sockeye stock in the province.

Things weren’t so rosy in other places — there are still other sockeye stocks in deep shit.

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Plus, 2010 wasn’t the year of the sockeye, it was the year of the Tiger…

And 2011 is the year of the bunny. (if one was curious)

salmon insurgency?

Baby Grizzly fishing opposite of me... mama kept a close eye on me

Seth Godin keeps some good posts coming. How fitting is this one?

And really, what are the bulk of senior managers within government departments… but incumbents? — carry the party line, don’t rock the boat, protect the pension… (with respect to those who do take a stand from time to time, and those that approach things with passion).

Insurgents and incumbents

Incumbents compromise to please the committee and bend over backwards to defend the status quo.

Insurgents have the ability to work without a committee and to destroy the status quo.

The game is stacked in favor of the insurgents, except–

They’re under pressure from boards, investors and neighbors to act like incumbents.

It takes guts to be an insurgent, and even though the asymmetrical nature of challenging the status quo is in their favor, often we find we’re short on guts. … and then the incumbents prevail.

Decline effect: “the truth wears off”… “nature often gives us different answers”

Great post at the Frontal Cortex blog:

I’ve got a new article in The New Yorker (subscription required) on a disturbing phenomenon that’s affecting the scientific process. It’s sometimes referred to as the decline effect, and it’s the tendency of scientific results (i.e., effect sizes) to shrink over time. Although the initial data might appear to be very robust – and it doesn’t matter if the data describes the therapeutic power of a drug or the strength of a biological observation or even a property of particle physics – it will often decay over time. Here is the opening of the story:

On September 18, 2007, a few dozen neuroscientists, psychiatrists, and drug company executives gathered in a hotel conference room in Brussels to hear some startling news. It had to do with a class of drugs known as atypical or second-generation antipsychotics, which came on the market in the early nineties. The drugs, sold under brand names such as Abilify, Seroquel, and Zyprexa, had been tested on schizo- phrenics in several large clinical trials, all of which had demonstrated a dramatic decrease in the subjects’ psychiatric symptoms. As a result, second-generation antipsychotics had become one of the fastest-growing and most profitable pharmaceutical classes. By 2001, Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa was generating more revenue than Prozac. It remains the company’s top-selling drug.

But the data presented at the Brussels meeting made it clear that something strange was happening: the therapeutic power of the drugs appeared to be steadily waning. A recent study showed an effect that was less than half of that documented in the first trials, in the early nineteen-nineties. Many researchers began to argue that the expensive pharmaceuticals weren’t any better than first-generation antipsychotics, which have been in use since the fifties. “In fact, sometimes they now look even worse,” John Davis, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told me.

Before the effectiveness of a drug can be confirmed, it must be tested and tested again. Different scientists in different labs need to repeat the protocols and publish their results. The test of replicability, as it’s known, is the foundation of modern research. Replicability is how the community enforces itself. It’s a safeguard for the creep of subjectivity. Most of the time, scientists know what results they want, and that can influence the results they get. The premise of replicability is that the scientific community can correct for these flaws.

But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain. It’s as if our facts were losing their truth: claims that have been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable. This phenomenon doesn’t yet have an official name, but it’s occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology. In the field of medicine, the phenomenon seems extremely widespread, affecting not only antipsychotics but also therapies ranging from cardiac stents to Vitamin E and antidepressants: Davis has a forthcoming analysis demonstrating that the efficacy of antidepressants has gone down as much as threefold in recent decades.

For many scientists, the effect is especially troubling because of what it exposes about the scientific process. If replication is what separates the rigor of science from the squishiness of pseudoscience, where do we put all these rigorously validated findings that can no longer be proved? Which results should we believe?

Francis Bacon, the early-modern philosopher and pioneer of the scientific method, once declared that experiments were essential, because they allowed us to “put nature to the question.” But it appears that nature often gives us different answers.

Very curious… and so if many scientists believe in this:

a rather odd recent presentation by DFO to First Nations reps

How are ‘precision’ and ‘accuracy’ affected by the “decline effect”?

Does this mean that consumption of antidepressants in scientists might go up?

May be the case when crazy things like this year’s large Fraser sockeye return occur…

everything is Marketing…and death by PowerPoint…

I’ve read this ‘marketing statement in a few places… the death one, I made up somewhat… and there is a lot of truth to both — including the wild salmon world.

At the beginning of this past week I sat through two days of presentations from the Department of Fisheries and Ocean on fisheries catch monitoring including: First Nation fisheries, commercial and recreational/sport. (One of my recommendations to presenters was to visit Garr Reynold’s blog Presentation Zen and some of the work of Nancy Duarte… I also recommend Edward Tufte’s work and books on how to present statistical and quantitative information)

Part of the reason for this is:

everything is marketing


marketing is everything

Seth Godin has a decent post on the issue from January this year:

In between frames

Scott McCloud’s classic book on comics explains a lot more than comics.

A key part of his thesis is that comic books work because the action takes place between the frames. Our imagination fills in the gaps between what happened in that frame and this frame, which means that we’re as much involved as the illustrator and author are in telling the story.

Marketing, it turns out, works precisely the same way.

Marketing is what happens in between the overt acts of the marketer. Yes you made a package and yes you designed a uniform and yes you ran an ad… but the consumer’s take on what you did is driven by what happened out of the corner of her eye, in the dead spaces, in the moments when you let your guard down.

Marketing is what happens when you’re not trying, when you’re being transparent and when there’s no script in place.

It’s not marketing when everything goes right on the flight to Chicago. It’s marketing when your people don’t respond after losing the guitar that got checked.

It’s not marketing when I use your product as intended. It’s marketing when my friend and I are talking about how the thing we bought from you changed us.

It’s not marketing when the smiling waitress appears with the soup. It’s marketing when we hear two waiters muttering to each other behind the serving station.

Consumers are too smart for the frames. It’s the in-between frame stuff that matters. And yet marketers spend 103% of our time on the frames.

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See, it’s not just public service workers that succumb to the “death by PowerPoint” disease; I was audience to another dreadful PowerPoint presentation on Wens this past week following two days of fisheries meetings. This presentation was on literacy in Canada. The sad part is that some of the stats within the presentation were rather stunning — the presentation itself, however… was absolutely dreadful.

It was jammed full of graphs from Microsoft Excel (about as much creativity as a block of concrete) and slides so full of ‘bullets’ they looked like beer cans dead by a fence post at a rural redneck protest against Canada’s long gun registry.

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To give you an idea of some of the stunners… over 9 million Canadians have literacy levels of Level 1 and 2 — on a 5-Level scale. Level 3 is the level suggested to be the minimum to function effectively in today’s society — and about equivalent to a high school graduate.

One of the industries with the biggest gaps between what is required for literacy skills, and what is actually present in the workforce:


(now that’s a scary thought).

Worse yet… research suggests that 98% of nurses do not have the literacy skills required for their often highly technical jobs.

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Here’s the challenge:        you  can have some of the best, most alarming, most important, statistics and information ever…     However, if you can not present them well (e.g. the “frames” as Godin calls them), or in a unique way that cuts through the buzz of today’s Information Age… you and your info will be lost in the noise of today’s society. You won’t even make it to the space in between the frames… other than folks suggesting “man… did you stay awake for that PowerPoint presentation…”

(And trust me, spending hours agonizing on the little bullet point animation tricks — e.g. “checkerboard from right”, “flash from left” and so on and so on — only make it worse.

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How does this fit in the salmon world?

Well… everyone is so busy trying to prove their own statistics (see post on salmon science and Ikea effect for dangers of this), or arguments, or “best practices”, or “strategic frameworks” or “statistical models” for saving salmon — and thus many seem to have forgotten the: “in-between frames stuff.”

An other big part of the “in-between stuff” (you know, it’s like how coffee breaks and lunch time are always the most productive components of workshops or conferences) is that the frames that corral the “in-between” should be seriously innovative, seriously different, and just plain… less serious.

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The combination of PowerPoint — or overhead slides in general — and a speaker to provide narrative, is an excellent tool; it’s an opportunity. However, like the great yin and yang, it’s also a frigging crutch.

Some PowerPoint presentations are so bad these days that i’d almost prefer if people put their entire presentation in tiny print and asked me to read it and ask questions when I was done.

PowerPoint hell by N. American leading salmon scientist

Case in point from a keynote speaker, who is also a leading North American salmon scientist, at a conference this past March with delegates from all around the Pacific Rim.

Death by PowerPoint… double ‘p’ homicide…

Pacific salmon: death of a thousand cuts…?

In relation to posts this past week and the plea from lawyers at the Cohen Commission into the decline of Fraser sockeye for a ‘conference’ to discuss the paper load…

salmon threats

I looked around online and came up with some potential solutions:

simplify 101?

I'm tired of clutter...

aka: garbage bags








Hey… maybe that could be the name of the conference —

Cohen Commission: Clutter free & Clearly organized

(Alliteration at its finest…)

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On a separate note… I appreciated this post from Godin’s blog:

The bright line of small differences

Is there a schism between the folks who love color tattoos and those that like black & white ones? Or the fans of the original Star Trek who hate the folks who like the far inferior newer Star Trek models?

Freud noticed it too.

Here’s why it happens:

First, you have to care. When people care about a brand or a cause or an idea, it’s likely that have other things in common. And the caring causes them to invest attention. Once they’ve done that, they can’t help but notice that others don’t see things the way they do. We ignore the great unwashed and reserve our disdain for those like us, that care like us, but don’t see things as we do.

The really good news is that the tribe cares. If you don’t have that, you’ve got nothing of value. In fact, the squabbling among people who care is the first sign you’re on to something.

Hmmm… squabbling and salmon… those don’t go hand in hand – do they?

commending the Commission

Last night the Cohen Commission (Commission of inquiry into the decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River) made its debut in Prince George to hear submissions from the public.

I must commend the Commission on how they conducted business. I was impressed from the moment I arrived at the Cranbrook South room at the Ramada Hotel. I was warmly greeted at the door by Commission staff, given clear instructions on how to pass along my P.Point presentation to other staff, and simply treated with warmth and respect through the process.

No stern looks about arriving at 6:35 for a 6:30 start, no look over the top of the glasses for not sending my presentation earlier (which wouldn’t have been possible as I had just finished putting the presentation together 20 minutes earlier), and — most impressively — the set up of the room.

I have far too many experiences of government hearings (BC Aquaculture review, Priddle Panel of a decade ago on B.C. Offshore oil & gas activities, Kemess North mine expansion Environmental Review, recent Enbridge Northern Gateway National Energy Board hearings, and so on, and so on) — whereby the great “listeners” (Panel members, MLAs, etc) sit at their head table at the front of the room facing the audience and presenters sit at a table, backs to the audience and other presenters.

It’s an absolutely ridiculous, foreign, and disrespectful way of carrying out important business.

Last night, the Cohen Commission had the room set up in a circle, presenters facing the audience and standing beside Justice Cohen’s table. There was even the option to speak from the centre of the circle with a wireless microphone.

A welcome was given by a member of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation — appropriate for the setting and the topic.

Presenters were asked to try and keep within the 10-minute limit — however, there was no oppressive overbearing presence if one went over the limit. Respect was shown for a small ceremony during presentations. And a gift was given at the end of the night for the Lheidli member who opened the evening.

It was a really nice change from what seems to be standard protocol for these types of processes — and for that I commend the Commission. It is one heck of a schedule of events for Commission staff over the next 8-months — with the final report due in May 2011.

As many folks continue to point out — this is the fifth “commission” of sorts into salmon and Fraser sockeye in the last two decades.

With the change in approaches demonstrated… maybe, just maybe, this will be the Commission that can institute real change in how Pacific salmon and specifically Fraser sockeye are cared for and looked after.

salmon “over-escapement” and the Flat Earth Society

Please, please, please… someone put the over-escapement theory of salmon to rest. Take it out to the back-40 and put it to rest with that thing registered in the long-gun registry…

It is popping up this year in regards to Fraser sockeye, more than seal heads at the mouth of the Fraser or Skeena Rivers. Nature returning with bounty — for example this year’s many salmon runs — means everything benefits. I’m sure there is no shortage of grizzly or black bears that faced near starvation last year faced with the bleak 2009 sockeye run. Maybe it even shows in the health and number of cubs that were born during the hibernating months?

This year, many animals can fatten up their winter layers before being faced with several years of potential bleak runs again.

If we want to talk over-escapement:

this year's late run Fraser sockeye prepare to head upstream...

Selective fisheries, protecting endangered stocks… what a concept

The Province is reporting today a 3-day fishery for First Nations in the lower river.

First Nations will fish more sockeye

The First Nations fishery has been given another chance to catch its quota of Fraser River sockeye.

On Wednesday, natives from the mouth of the Fraser at Musqueam as far up the river as Hope were enjoying a three-day fishery, but had to promise to use only gear that won’t harm scarce migrating coho stocks.

“We’re using beach seines which gather up the salmon and make it easy for our fishermen to reach in and release the coho in the catch,” explained Sto: lo fisheries adviser Ernie Crey.

Crey said an anticipated 75,000 sockeye will be caught from Wednesday to Friday, bringing First Nations closer to their already-allocated 915,000 fish.

“Beach seines are regarded as a highly selective way of fishing,” said Crey, “Sockeye will be caught and kept, but both coho and steelhead . . . will be released back to the river.”

Conservative MP John Cummins a commercial fisherman, is of course, up in arms. There are some things I can agree with him on, such as some of the comments about the Cohen Commission and some of the choices of scientific advisers, and the focus on “science”. However, the comments in this article… could be a bit more productive if the media would just ignore them.

What’s the point? Yet the writer of this article gets a good dig in.

But that has Delta MP John Cummins fuming. “The commercial fleet hasn’t fished above Mission for 100 years and DFO [Department of Fisheries and Oceans] knows that. They’re just trying to find a way to let the natives catch fish that they will catch and sell illegally any way.”

The commercial fishing fleets have caught an estimated 11 million of the unexpected bounty of close to 35 million sockeye this year.

“But our guys haven’t fished well for years, I predict they won’t fish next year and may never get another fishery like this one again, and they’re just ordinary working people who depend on fishing for a living,” said Cummins. “There should be one law for all Canadians and instead, the Government of Canada seems determined to put the commercial fisherman out of business.”

I’m not sure if Mr. Cummins remembers this… ummm… you are a member of the Government of Canada…

Plus, come one, let’s compare the numbers. The commercial fleet is over 11 million, the First Nation fisheries are approaching 1 million. Historically, the First Nation fishery in B.C. is far less than 5% of the total catch — so let’s just try and keep those ginch from getting in a knot.

“one law”… well that’s not necessarily how the Constitution works for one — there is this thing called Sec. 35 rights.

Two, it’s a conservation issue (with great irony, the same word that sits at the route of Conservative). If the commercial fleet could utilize more selective gear that didn’t impact coho and steelhead then there would probably be more opportunities.

Simple really.

If we want to carry on about “One Law” then maybe Cummins should take that up with the commercial dragging and trawl fleet that operates off the coast catching anything and everything as well as destroying the sea floor — all under the support of DFO. What about conservation concerns out there?

will the great 2010 Fraser sockeye forecast start to downgrade?

The latest reports coming out of the Pacific Salmon Commission are showing that marine migrations are largely over for this year. Marine test fisheries have either completely stopped, or simply not catching much.

Catch to date suggests that about 12.7  million Fraser sockeye have been caught in a variety of First Nation (1.5 million), Recreational (200,000 — a number pulled from someone’s hat essentially), Commercial (over 9 million – majority to purse seine fleet ~5.5 million) and then just about 1.9 million caught in Washington tribal and commercial fisheries.

Estimates past counting stations on the lower Fraser (hydroacoustic estimates) suggest approximately 11.8 million gone by upriver.

Combine the catch with fish heading upriver and the total run size sits at approximately 24 million. Total run size estimates suggest over 34 million.

10 million are apparently somewhere between the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia) and Mission…

There are some big counts estimated past Mission, lower Fraser, on a daily basis. Some of the biggest of the year the other day 544,000, with averages more into the 200,000 – 300,000 range. Even at those big numbers, it will still take many days of sustained migration to reach the 34 million in-season estimated total run size. (And a far, far, far cry from the pre-season estimate of ~11 million).

Might we reach one of those mysterious disappearances again…  Total in-season estimate minus marine migration minus catch minus escapement estimated past lower Fraser counting stations = hey… missing fish…

Maybe the past missing sockeye moved into some of those new housing developments moving up the side of the Fraser Valley?

We’ll see, what happens this year.  Still about 30% of the in-season predicted run to actually materialize in the River…

The latest episode of “Lost” … lost sockeye that is…

In the spirit of ridiculous media articles (see posts from this weekend) and rants of pre-eminent scientists suggesting we should be hammering the crap out of the large and surprising Fraser sockeye run this year (e.g. harvest 80-90%)– I had to return to the drawing board.

This is the quote from Gary Mason’s Globe and Mail article that has me so inpsired:

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.

Rather then send out a search party to find the “lost” sockeye maybe this will assist.

First we need a map… here’s a sketch map of the Fraser watershed:

Fraser watershed sketch map

Hilighted in blue is the community of Williams Lake roughly the half-way point of the Fraser River between source and sea.

And just last week, 1 of Mason’s 10 million lost sockeye was sighted:

"Lost" sockeye finding its way


The whole suggestion is absurd — here’s the new view of “ecosystem-based management” purported by the “over-escapement” pundits…

by the way that's a racoon and a bird of prey...

Apologies… as mentioned in caption… that’s supposed to be a racoon, or martin, or mink, or ermine, or rat, or lynx, or other small critter. And, initially that was supposed to be an eagle… I think you know what the big fella is… (at least I hope).

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Now come on folks, this is utterly ridiculous. About as ridiculous as my ability to draw a small critter or bear or bird for that fact…

Salmon that swim upstream are not “lost”… get a grip.

I can see it now at the next Cohen Commission public session; someone will ask DFO to give this presentation:

in someone's silly dream world...