Monthly Archives: April 2010

Cull the endangered Orcas…?

This headline from the Seattle Times Local News the other day  (photo credit: Astrid Van Ginneken):

Local orcas’ favorite meal: B.C. chinook

The article states:

During the summers of 2004-08, scientists tracked the J, K and L pods of orcas (also known as killer whales) in the western end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands, to learn what they were eating and analyze where their food came from. No easy task, the work involved following the orcas in small boats and gathering killer-whale excrement and regurgitation, fish scales and other tissue with a fine mesh net after the whales ate.

Examination of the material, including DNA testing, revealed that the orcas select chinook salmon nearly exclusively for food, despite far more abundant numbers of pink and sockeye in the area at the same time.

“They would literally knock pink salmon out of the way to take a chinook,” said Brad Hanson, biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, and lead author of the paper, published last month in the online journal Endangered Species Research.

Scientists took their examination a step further, to learn by DNA analysis where the fish came from. Of the chinook salmon sampled, 80 to 90 percent were from British Columbia’s Fraser River, and only 6 to 14 percent from Puget Sound-area rivers.

“It certainly has raised the question of providing suitable numbers of chinook available to sustain their current needs, both in the U.S. and Canada,” Ford said.

The full study is available online from the March 2010 edition of the journal Endangered Species Research:

Species and stock identification of prey consumed by endangered southern resident killer whales in their summer range

Some pieces that stood out for me on initial reading:

… in May and June, the Fraser River stocks in the prey samples were dominated by stocks from the upper portion of the watershed. In July and August, stocks from the central portion of the watershed were most common, while in September the predominant Fraser River stocks were from the lower watershed, a pattern consistent with the seasonal distribution of the major Fraser River Chinook salmon stocks as they enter the river mouth

And here’s the telling piece:

If Chinook salmon constitute the bulk of these whales’ diet, then fish managers will need to take this information into account when managing Chinook salmon fisheries and conservation efforts (NMFS 2008a).

The NMFS is the National Marine Fisheries Service of the U.S. I’m not sure if the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans chats with the NMFS…

Currently, on the Fraser River  — and in particular the upper Fraser River stocks that endangered orcas hit in May and June — there is not only a “conservation” concern but an extinction concern. These Chinook are referred to as the Early Spring Chinook or specifically the 4 sub 2 population of Chinook. The “sub 2” referring to the time that these Chinook spend in fresh water as babies before heading to the ocean, the four referring to years old.

Last year on the Thompson River (major tributary to the Fraser), and specifically the Nicola River, were record lows:

    • 26 Chinook returned to the Coldwater River
    • 138 Chinook returned to Spius Creek (which has a hatchery)
    • 461 Chinook returned to the Nicola spawning grounds

Estimates suggest that for any fisheries to occur these populations need:

    • 2000 Chinook returning to Coldwater
    • 2000 to Spius; and
    • 6000 to the Nicola.

This year, the pre-season Integrated Fisheries Management Plan put out by Fisheries and Oceans (of which you can comment on until April 26 <jeff.grout@dfo-mpo.gc.ca>)  is forecasting “Returns of Spring 4(2) Chinook in 2010 will come primarily from a parent generation of 10,637 spawners in 2006.”

Thus, we can assume that the hope is that the spawners that return this year will be at least equal to the 10,000 that spawned in 2006.

Yet, as DFO states in their 2010 Draft Salmon Outlook (vers. 4 Jan. 18, 2010):

“2009 was the fourth successive year where recruitment failed to replace parental spawning abundance”

In the 2010 Salmon Outlook, Spring 4(2) Chinook has been classified as a “stock of concern given poor survival rates and very poor spawning escapements in recent years.” On a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being the worst — the Spring 4 (2) Chinook are a “1”:

Stock is (or is forecast to be) less than 25% of target or is declining rapidly. Directed fisheries are unlikely and there may be a requirement to avoid indirect catch of the stock.

And so this year these Early Spring Chinook are most likely going to see returns far below the 10,000 required to allow any fisheries.

And yet, sport fisheries for Chinook remain open coastwide in B.C. — including Strait of Georgia, Juan de Fuca and Johnstone Strait.

Now add in the fact that endangered Orcas in the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia) and Juan de Fuca rely heavily on Fraser Chinook and the US National Marine Fisheries Service has suggested that: “fish managers will need to take this information into account when managing Chinook salmon fisheries and conservation efforts.”

Some folks who suggest seal culling is in order (even though studies suggest salmon comprise a small portion of their diet) — may start suggesting that the orcas have got to go (with studies suggesting that salmon, specifically Fraser Chinook comprise a huge portion of their diet).

Or… Or, maybe we could do a better job of dealing with things that we can actually control… ummm, like ourselves.

Should there really be any fisheries open right now that may catch Early Spring Chinook – when populations have been unable to replace themselves (even one hatchery supported population)?

First Nations up and down the Fraser River are calling for full closures — including their own food fisheries — especially the Nicola Tribal Council as these Early Spring Chinook spawn in their Traditional Territories.

No commercial fisheries are planned that may catch these Early Spring Chinook — and yet, sport fisheries remain open.

Without even getting into the legal requirements of Fisheries and Oceans (and the federal government) to ensure First Nations food, social and ceremonial requirements are met before any fisheries are open — It still must be asked whether sport fisheries should be open?

Why is DFO refusing to close these fisheries despite all the evidence that suggests full closures are essential — not only to ensure continued existence of these Chinook runs, but also supporting endangered Orcas?

These early-timed Chinook can not afford economic and political decisions — nor, can endangered Orcas.

Public washrooms vs. Public Inquiries

This is the follow-up to my earlier post today…

There must be some confusion in the use of the term “public” when it comes to “public inquiries”. Various definitions of “public” suggest the term means: “maintained for or used by the people or community” (like a public washroom). Or, “participated in or attended by the people or community” (like a town hall public debate). Or, “open to the knowledge or judgment of all” (like the Liberal sponsorship scandal).

The root of the word comes from Latin populus or poplicus, meaning “people”.

A “public” washroom suggests that, as long as the door is unlocked, the washroom is open to anyone to use (at their own risk of course). Whereas, the same meaning is not implied in a “public” inquiry. If public washrooms were like public inquiries — e.g. the Cohen Commission into Declines of Fraser River Sockeye — one would be limited to only using the washroom if they had applied in advance.

In their application one would need to be sure to prove a: “substantial and direct interest in the subject matter”.

I’m guessing that neighborhood associations around public washrooms would be in full support of all public washroom applicants being granted standing (or sitting if need be) far in advance of there being an applicant’s “substantial and direct interest” in participating in public washrooms.

Apparently past “public inquires” have considered some of the factors in being granted “standing”, meaning ability to fully participate in a public inquiry (or public washroom with similar processes):

What does not constitute a valid reason for a participant’s standing is mere concern about the issues to be examined… (from Gomery Inquiry into Liberal sponsorship scandal)

Hmmm.

But do not fear, if you are not granted “standing” to use the public washroom, you may become involved in several ways:

…for example, by submitting written comments to the commission about any matter relevant to the Terms of Reference, submitting written comments or suggestions to the commission in response to scientific or policy reports posted on the commission’s website, and attending the formal public hearings. (from Cohen Commission Ruling on Standing released yesterday)

Thus, in the “public” washroom process, if you did not apply — or were not granted standing — you can just watch…

If you have something to add, just send a letter. (How this letter might be used by those granted standing… is up for conjecture).

Jest aside… needless to say there is a big difference between the use of the word “public” in these two processes. What might be cause for concern though, is how is “public” interest benefited in a “public” inquiry? (we know the benefit of public washrooms).

In Justice Cohen’s Ruling on Standing released yesterday, he summarizes why the twenty organizations that were granted standing were successful on their applications and why they have a “substantial and direct interest” in the subject matter of the inquiry.

A curious observation — everyone granted “standing” is an organization, coalition, association, or collective identify of some sort; only one specific individual is identified (Otto Langer a former DFO employee). I can understand Justice Cohen’s thoughts:

I am concerned that too many participants could make the process unwieldy and expensive, and impede the completion of the commission’s work.

The good old “floodgate” legal argument… “if we open this to every tom, dick, and jane; it will become onerous, costly, and administratively challenging.” (Just ask folks that do the thankless job of cleaning public washrooms — opening the washrooms to anyone means some folks leave more mess than others).

Thus, Justice Cohen has administratively (in theory) made this inquiry simpler by only granting “standing” to collective organizations that purport to represent certain constituencies within the larger BC “public”. Unfortunately, there is a parallel here in the root of some of the problems with how Fraser River sockeye are cared for.

By aggregating people into seven administrative groups (e.g. commercial, sport, and aboriginal fishers, unions, enviro, government and so on), Justice Cohen and his team — and the folks that chose to apply for “standing” as large aggregates, coalitions, etc — may have effectively applied a filter to the expertise, knowledge, and experience located throughout the Fraser River watershed in relation to sockeye.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has done the same thing with how they “manage” Fraser River sockeye stocks by aggregating over 200 separate stocks into four groups — Early Stuart, Early Summer, Summer, and Late Summer — strictly for administrative; otherwise known as management purposes.

Message filters, representation, and diversity

By grouping: each individual, or each individual community, or each member, has their perspective filtered by the “representatives” of their collective organization.

And thus, the many separate individuals points, are filtered into a couple of easier to manage points communicated by the spokespeople of collective organizations.

Some people refer to this as the “Goldilocks effect”. The diversity of messages (maybe hot, maybe cold, maybe big, maybe small) represented by separate individuals — or components of the group — are filtered down into messages that are: “just right”.

Easier to administrate; easier to provide funding for lawyers; easier to boil down to recommendations.

Hard on diversity; hard on effective representation; harder to balance varieties of perspectives.

The real question, though, is:

  • Better for Fraser River sockeye?

Are we looking to better (i.e. publicly) look after dwindling Fraser River sockeye, or are we looking to design the most ‘cost-effective’, adminstrativly simple “public” inquiry?

Is this about fish… or is it about people and politics?

See the thing with “representation” and “representatives” — is that both of these terms are inherently political terms. To be a representative suggests standing, or acting, for something or someone, or some group of things.

Thus, the general “public” that is concerned about Fraser River sockeye in BC (or elsewhere) is supposed to take comfort in the fact that the 20 groups granted “standing” within the seven further groups labeled by Justice Cohen, and the legal staff hired by the Commission are all supposed to represent the “public” interests.

And in the end, we are all supposed to take comfort in the fact that this Commission, this public inquiry — focusing on one species of salmon, on one BC river — is going to change the fate of dwindling Fraser sockeye stocks.

Personally, when I use a public washroom I prefer to represent myself; however, this is just my feeling.

Truly — is this about the fish, or is it about the politics?

Grouping, splitting, and other… Cohen Commission grants “standing” to twenty.

Yesterday the Cohen CommissionPublic Inquiry into the Decline of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River — released its Ruling on Standing. Twenty groups out of fifty applicants have been granted Standing — suggesting they have a “substantial and direct interest in the subject matter of the inquiry”. Only these twenty groups are considered “participants”, and only they can formally participate in the hearings.

Justice Cohen:

Persons who do not receive a grant of standing may become involved in several ways; for example, by submitting written comments to the commission about any matter relevant to the Terms of Reference, submitting written comments or suggestions to the commission in response to scientific or policy reports posted on the commission’s website, and attending the formal public hearings.

I, personally, applied for standing with the Cohen Commission. I was denied along with 30 other individuals and/or groups that applied. And fair enough; I wasn’t holding my breath. However, reading through Justice Cohen’s Ruling on Standing, I’m certainly left pondering particular pieces…

Apparently, this Commission ‘owns the podium’. A new Canadian Commission record has been set: 50 applicants beats the previous record of 24 applicants, which was the torture commission regarding Maher Arar. 21 was the record before that for the Air India bombing, and 15 for the Gomery Commission into the Liberal sponsorship scandal.

So, great, a new Commission record… yet somewhere around 2.5 to 3 million people live in the Fraser River watershed —- And, only 50 individuals or groups figure they have a substantial or direct interest in the declines of Fraser River sockeye? What’s that, about 0.002% of the watershed population?

Ok, so some of the “groups”/”alliances”/”coalitions”/”corporations” granted standing in the Cohen Commission are  representing a larger cross section of the population. For example, First Nation organizations represent their communities and members. And, apparently, the BC Wildlife Federation — which was granted standing — represents 38,000 individuals.

The fact that Rio Tinto Alcan, a multi-national corporation was granted Standing simply because they may have to shift their policies to better protect sockeye salmon in the Nechako watershed, as Justice Cohen suggests:

RTA [Rio Tinto Alcan] indicates that changes in DFO management practices may affect its ability to generate power and sell it, which depends on water being diverted from the Nechako Watershed.

This is a bit disturbing. A corporation granted more power than citizens strictly on economic principles…

Well, apparently poop is also going to come under inspection — as in sewage treatment plants. Should the poop processors have also applied for standing, as the poop processing practices will come under criticism? I recently heard estimates (at the Simon Fraser University Sockeye Summit) of over $1.5 billion as a bare minimum to get the City of Vancouver up to snuff on poop processing and disposal.

Apparently, baby sockeye and adult salmon are mired in a cloud of shit as they migrate through the mouth of the Fraser River…

However, moving along…

Reading Justice Cohen’s Ruling on Standing I was quite struck by the grouping of applicants granted standing:

  1. Recreational and Sport Fishers
  2. Commercial Fisher Associations and Unions
  3. Environmental Organizations
  4. Industry Organizations
  5. First Nation and aboriginal organizations; and
  6. Other.

I certainly hope this grouping was not pre-ordained — and flows more from the reality of who actually applied for standing. I tend to believe in the latter; however, this is inherently a political process — not a “public” process. About the only “public” part will be the news media reports and the seats being kept warm at actual hearings by anyone who wants to try and translate, decipher, and understand a litany of charts and graphs, my science vs. your science, and a general all out blitz of bumpf, bureaucratic bafflegab, and well… sadly in some cases… maybe even bullshit.

Justice Cohen states early in his Ruling that:

This is an inquiry, not an adversarial process with traditional parties or litigants.

I am wishing he and his staff best of luck with that statement, and certainly hope that Justice Cohen’s abilities in keeping order in an unruly courtroom are strong. The grouping that is listed above and within the ruling is largely the same grouping that has guided the all-out war between various combatants competing for rights and privileges to harvest salmon.

Personally, I think there was a poor job of communicating the fact that this is not an adversarial process — especially when there was so much legal-ese and talk of applying for funds to get lawyers, in the application material. In my discussions with many individuals, there was a strong belief that anyone wanting to participate in this “public” inquiry required lawyers.

I am trying my best to refrain from reaching conclusions on the Commission before it’s even a few months into its work. There has to be some semblance of hope in this multi-million dollar exercise largely coordinated and run by lawyers; yet, I still have various pondering in how this inquiry is shaping up.

To be continued…

“infrastructure” spending on salmon habitat?

When the economy goes into the crapper — like it has over the past couple of years — governments begin mass bail-out programs. There was the un-imaginably massive TARP program of the U.S. to bail-out big banks (who should have known better; they do employ the world’s smartest economists don’t they…?) — how much is $700 billion, really?

There have been various bail-outs of auto manufacturers (who were far past due for a crisis). And now in Europe, Greece is being bailed-out by the European Union. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men are trying to put Hump… I mean, Iceland back together again.

In Canada, we are bombarded daily with the Conservatives, whoops, I mean federal government’s various advertisements for Canada’s Economic Action Plan. (All those “shovel-ready” projects does make me wonder what we’re shoveling…).

Over $7 billion in infrastructure, over $3 billion in apparent tax relief (I do wonder though, in BC, if this apparent tax relief ends out in a net-gain with the HST kicking in?). And there’s the $2.2 billion invested in “industries and communities” — somewhat of an oxymoronic statement these days…

Regardless of my cynicism on the subject; I’m sure that some of this funding is helping some Canadians, somewhere — especially the construction companies building bridges and upgrading roads. In northern BC, the Premier recently announced it will be the busy road construction season ever — isn’t that appealing to anyone driving down to Vancouver this summer, or a tourist heading north, or an average BC family on a road trip for summer vacation? (I know I love nothing more than being stuck in a hundred car line-up, in 30-degree weather, with three kids in the back seat, with more “how-long-till-we-get-there’s?” then vehicles waiting in the line-up…)

Paradoxically… when salmon runs go into the crapper, do governments immediately jumping in with Salmon Action and Recovery Plans?

At times in the past, we have; somewhat.

The old Fisheries and Oceans Habitat Conservation and Stewardship Program (HCSP) combined with the Habitat Restoration and Salmon Enhancement Program (HRSEP) of the late 1990s. In the neighborhood of $100 million invested in salmon initiatives throughout BC and the Yukon. Sad thing, it only lasted five years, one salmon life cycle.

Presently, though, following the worst returns of Fraser River sockeye in history?

We get another $20 million “public inquiry” — Cohen Commission — that is shaping up to be about as “public” as Elizabeth Taylor’s next wedding — which is apparently upcoming, her ninth. Sure you can send Liz a letter to congratulate her, but will she actually read it?

Or, we get from the Pacific Salmon Commission the joint U.S.- Canada organization responsible for implementing the Pacific Salmon Treaty — a press release about the Restoration and Enhancement Funds:

As you are aware the continuing global financial crisis has had a significantly negative effect on Fund investments and the financial position of the Fund. Given the prolonged volatility in the stock markets, the Northern and Southern Fund Committees are not yet prepared to announce a Call for Proposals for 2010.

Like you, we are disappointed by these developments, which clearly are beyond our control. However, by applying sound investment principles and adhering to our investment policies, we are confident that we will see the present circumstances turn around.

Is it me, or does this sound suspiciously like the great movement afoot to try and blame salmon declines on changing ocean conditions and climate change — things which are “clearly beyond our control”?

Choosing to invest $75 million and $65 million in Northern and Southern Restoration and Enhancement Funds, respectively — into stock markets is inviting disaster — in other words: fully within one’s control. I could be reading a little further into the statement then need be, however, my experience with “sound investment principles” is not to put significant amounts of money only into the stock market. (but maybe that’s just me).

The Agreement for these funds apparently: “stipulates that ‘annual expenditures shall not exceed the annual earnings from the invested principal’ of the funds, a provision that essentially makes them permanent endowment funds.”

By my rough calculations, if the funds earned a respectable 3-5% annually by investing in things like GICs and other stable investments outside of the stock market, that means there could be a potential $2.3 – $3.75 million available on an annual basis (minus some admin. costs).

Hmmm?

In, my experience with the HCSP and HRSEP program of the late 1990s… I worked with a community group on Haida Gwaii utilizing simple habitat rehabilitation techniques — almost all with hand tools and hard labour — on twenty small streams, all with decent historic populations of chum and coho salmon. Almost all the streams had seen over 80% of their watershed area clearcut logged. This meant substantially more water reaching the stream course after every rain storm (Haida Gwaii is a pretty wet place — it rains over 300 days of the year on average). And all of the streams had seen substantial declines in chum and coho — some streams down to their last few pairs of genetically distinct spawning coho.

Every summer for three years, a crew of at least six of us would slog away in these creeks — pulling in old logs, building rock weirs to catch gravel for spawning platforms, stabilizing eroding stream banks, and so on. The crew was comprised of commercial fisherfolks that basically saw no fishing openings anymore, loggers out of work, and at least two students home for the summer. These folks would get at least six weeks of solid work, plus another three or four folks would keep working on other various projects through most of the year — stream assessment, counting spawners, hatchery work, etc.

Fantastic, meaningful work, that for a large part is actually making a difference in many of those streams — to this day.

What if we carved the smallest piece out of that $7 billion in infrastructure spending as part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan — and put it into salmon habitat “infrastructure”? Say $100 million? – what is that: about 1%?

Put that $100 million into coastal and inland communities intimately connected to salmon populations. How many people could that employ? And just imagine the positive “social capital” that would result as people actually felt like they’re making a difference for crashing salmon populations — hands in streams, feet in creeks… as opposed to, for example, putting faith in a $20 million “public inquiry” run by legal-advocates, in downtown Vancouver, who will simply be writing a list of recommendations, for one species of salmon, on one BC river

If we really want to “conserve” wild salmon in BC — what are we willing to pay? What are we willing to do?

Would investing in THE totemic fish species of B.C. also have a positive economic impact?

Should wild salmon be part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan?

what’s the impact?

This story from yesterday hasn’t apparently reached mainstream media — not that I can see yet anyways. The Tyee and the PEA Blog (Blogging for Professionals across BC) are reporting it though:

BC drops 300 workers from resource ministries

Employees in the ministry of forests and range, ministry of energy, mines and petroleum resources and the integrated land management were to be told today they would be lose their jobs, according to an email circulated within the government by deputy to the premier Allan Seckel.

Government emails provided later in the day show that 204 people were cut from the forest ministry, 52 from EMPR and 38 from ILMB. The cuts included 43 people in management positions, 52 members of the Professional Employees Association and 199 BCGEU members.

Sheez, nothing like losing your job by email…

Having worked with (not for) all of these ministries quite extensively in various capacities over the years — especially the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and the other stuff — I’m left wondering how much more “streamlined” various approval processes will become on exploration and full on mining projects? And how much less consultation will be done with the general public and First Nations?

For example, in 1.5 years on a contract with a northern BC First Nation with a mass of mineral exploration claims and activities in their Traditional Territory my colleagues and I dealt with at least eight different “Aboriginal Liaisons” with the Ministry of Mines in that time. I’ve heard recently that at least three more have circulated through the position. It is so bad now, that the Ministry has to fly staff from Victoria to Prince George to even attempt consultation with First Nations and local communities.

What is the cost of a flight from Victoria to the BC Interior — flying up in the morning and flying back in the afternoon — Add in meals, overtime, etc.? Do this at least once a month, or twice — 12 to 24 times a year. Does that not pay for an actual staff person in the interior, or maybe a part-time?

And what about actually meeting with community reps in their home communities?

Is this cost effective decision-making…?

On other fronts — does this present a friendly investment climate for the Province? Does this instill confidence in potential investors that government bureaucracies can process potential development applications?

Does this instill confidence in the public that appropriate balances can be found between development and conservation? Investment and long-term sustainability? [enter other buzz-words here]

Fraser Early Spring Chinook communication

Late last week I received an email from a fellow who has run a sport fishing business out of Sooke near Victoria, BC. for over a decade. This week there is a meeting in Victoria of the local Sport Fishing Advisory Board — apparently Fisheries and Oceans is looking to discuss potential changes in sport fishing regulations for this season.

Here is the email (which he suggested was fine to post) and my response:

Hello Salmon Guy,

My name is {…..}, I’ve been guiding for 11 years out of the Sooke area on Vancouver Island. I’m forwarding you this e-mail, as you are obviously very versed on the topic of Salmon conservation.

Do you have any suggestions for the sport fishermen (SFAB) on the west coast that are faced with closures, due to First Nations on the upper Fraser River wanting to put a ban on fishing the Fraser? In your opinion will the First Nations people really not fish the River?

What are your thoughts on the slot restriction that runs from March 1st to May 20th in our area, is it enough to assist the upper Fraser returns, will it help to run the restriction through the summer to July? It would be great to hear what you think.

Thanks.

……

Many thanks for the email.

This is such an important topic of conversation right now; crucial from the numbers on Fraser Chinook that I’ve seen. It’s great to see someone such as yourself seeking to find some balance and more information in the discussion. As you probably well know, it’s also pretty damn complicated — however, now that we’re nearing crisis mode on some of these issues (e.g. Fraser sockeye, Fraser Chinook, etc.) things appear to be boiling down to the basics. My hope is that folks such as yourself – hands in the water, hands on the fish – are going to play a big part in devising solutions.

I am also a long-time sport fisherman. If you may have noticed on my website; I grew up on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Is.) – and salmon have always played a huge part in my life. Generally, catching and eating them. Yet, I don’t secure my living, as you do, from taking people out to catch salmon — a career and business choice I’ve often pondered though. A big part of the reason I stay engaged in the salmon discussions is that I have three young kids and I sure as hell hope that they have a lifelong relationship with salmon.

That being said, and getting down to your questions…

Here are some numbers that I have on Fraser River Early Spring Chinook, and maybe you’ve seen these (the Spring 4 sub2 population — meaning they spent two years rearing in freshwater as smolts before heading to the ocean). Last year (2009) was the lowest return ever recorded. It was also one of the lowest recorded levels of survival – below 1%.

Since 1999, survival rates on the Spring 4-2 Chinook have been abysmal (I have some numbers and charts from a DFO presentation I recently sat through – let me know if you’d like these sent along). And yet, exploitation rates on these stocks have remained over 30%. In 2006-07 exploitation rate estimates (and I don’t think I can emphasize “estimates” enough) was 44.2%. This was cut to 35.8% in 2008. Apparently, in 2009, this was cut another 20%; however, the numbers are not out yet for last year.

These exploitation numbers are all based on the Nicola River run (mouth at Spences Bridge) on the Thompson River.

Here’s where things get dicey for folks such as yourself. There are rather rough estimates on the sport catch of Chinook 4-2s: from Northern BC, West Coast Vancouver Island, Juan de Fuca, Fraser River, etc. No on can actually say how accurate the reports on sport catch are (you and your colleagues would probably have the best knowledge of this). DFO suggests there are creel surveys; however I’ve also been informed by some jr. DFO staff that estimates suggest those get less than 10% coverage of the sport fishing sector.

There is also quite a significant catch of these Chinook 4-2s in the sport fishery at the mouth of the Nicola River (almost 20% of the total Nicola catch in 2006-07 and close to 10% in 2008).

On the First Nation side of things. There have been quite a few Fraser Chinook 4-2s caught in the net fishery on the Nicola. This year, however, the agreements that appear to be in the works could be historic. There has been a call by Bands, Nations, Tribal Councils and communities from up and down the Fraser River and along all the approach areas (i.e. West Coast Vancouver Island and Johnstone Strait) to keep their nets out of the water to ensure these Early Spring Chinook can get through. Many suggest this is the first time in recent memory where a near-consensus has been reached on this issue.

And yet, this goes directly to your very valid question: “will First Nations really not fish the river?”

My feeling is: yes. However, will every last net be pulled? – probably not.

There is not only a near crisis with these early spring Chinook — there is a crisis in many First Nation communities in the Fraser River. Many of these communities have been able to catch their winter store of salmon for a long, long time. Now, with the collapse of sockeye, the collapse of these Chinook (the most sought after due to taste, quality and size – many of the same reasons sport fishers like them so much…including me…) there are communities literally starving. However, this is one of those issues that books can be written on, let alone an email response.

The analogy I draw on this issue of everyone pulling their nets or hooks is: does everyone wear their seatbelt, even though it’s the law? Is everyone wearing a bike helmet when riding their bikes, even though it’s the law?

There is alway some dissent in any community – the fundamental principle as I see it: is that this all comes to personal choice… some really, really tough personal choices.

Here are some sobering numbers: Last year, 26 Chinook returned to the Coldwater River, 138 Chinook returned to Spius Creek, and 461 Chinook returned to the Nicola River spawning grounds. Estimates suggest that for any fishery to occur (First Nation, commercial or sport), 2000 Chinook need to return to Coldwater, 2000 to Spius, and 6000 to the Nicola. Last year barely 6% of those numbers actually returned.

Dicier yet… for me, it’s not really even a question of whether anyone should be fishing or not — it’s more about whether the early spring Chinook can even produce enough smolts and have them survive to even maintain the run. It’s in a death spiral right now.

Where this gets even more complicated is in the legal ramifications of all this (and by no means am I lawyer…). According to case law and Section 35 of the Constitution, and largely the Fisheries Act – salmon fisheries are supposed to be managed on the following clear principles of allocation:

  1. Conservation first.
  2. then, Aboriginal food, social, and ceremonial fisheries.
  3. then, commercial and sport fisheries.

One of the court cases from the 1990s – the Sparrow decision – laid it out clearly; that when there are conservation concerns the commercial and sport fishing sector must bear the brunt of the measures. That can be brutal on folks in your business, and folks in the commercial sector. Last week I sat in on a Fraser Sockeye Forum put on by Simon Fraser University and heard commercial fisherman loud and clear on how hard three years of closure have been on them – it’s basically a dieing industry – I have some posts that highlight some of the numbers over the last few years. I also watched the demise of the commercial fishing sector on Haida Gwaii as I grew up – coincidentally (or not) the same thing has happened with the logging industry over the last decade.

And thus we arrive at the present situation with the early spring Chinook (4-2s). First Nations from up and down the river, and along the approach areas are calling for a complete closure of any fisheries that may impact these populations. The numbers and survival rates on this population suggest no one should be fishing due to conservation concerns. DFO pre-season forecasts for this year even have these populations of Chinook listed as:

Status 1 [of 4]: Stock of concern. Stock is (or forecast to be) less than 25% of target or is declining rapidly. Directed fisheries are unlikely and there may be a requirement to avoid indirect catch of the stock.”

First Nations are looking at the pre-season forecasts as well as survival rates and returns over the last few years and will be closing fisheries to ensure these Chinook can get through to spawning grounds. Many First Nations have also requested that DFO do the same with other fisheries that may impact these stocks. To date, DFO has declined to do so — as coastwide Chinook sport fisheries remain open.

So, it’s probably not a very popular answer with anyone, but No, I don’t think the slot restrictions will help. The bottom-line appearing from the numbers is that no one should be fishing while these stocks migrate through. Legally, the question also has to be asked whether anyone should be fishing — there is clearly a serious conservation concern for these early spring Chinook.

I remember the complete coho closures of the late 1990s quite well. I was living on Haida Gwaii at the time and it was tough on lots of folks in the sport fishing industry — as well as my own freezer, as coho was a big part of my food fishery (that’s the joy of living on the coast). The numbers on early Fraser Chinook appear worse than the coho numbers of the 90s.

As I said at the Fraser sockeye forum last week (a room full of largely scientists), we are in a time of really tough decisions. It appears that healthy salmon runs are a big part of your personal and business interests.  And what this is boiling down to is that folks are having to seriously ponder the balance between the short-term and long-term. First Nations folks, settler cultures, DFO, commercial fishers, sport fishers, and so on. It’s not an easy discussion – and unfortunately, my experience (albeit pretty young) is that the fights over the last decade or two on dwindling salmon runs do no one any good. Protest fisheries of any kind, the fight over “rights” to fishing, and so on and so on… leave the biggest impact on the fish.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that we all have a vested interest in ensuring healthy salmon runs. We all want to know that salmon are swimming upstream, swimming out to the ocean, doing their thing. If there’s enough there that we can catch some and eat them how we see fit — fantastic. Right now though, with low survival rates, freshwater issues, predator issues, climate change, growing populations, and so on — can some of these salmon populations sustain fishing pressure of any kind?

The fact of the matter is that these decisions will be made in meeting rooms around B.C. and in Ottawa…

thanks again for the email.

I’m actually in Victoria next week for salmon-related meetings out in Saanich. I’m always keen to talk to folks with their hands or boots in the water. Would be more than happy to catch up and talk some more about these issues. As you can see, I’m able to find no shortage of words… I hope this assists in your pondering of this issue. Please feel free to contact me again.

I’m also wondering if you would mind if I used your email and my response as a posting on my website? I will keep your name, business, etc. out of it.

thanks,

David Loewen

D. Loewen & Associates

look in a mirror, please

Found this article somewhat unfortunate — however fair enough that people are looking for culprits. Plus, I can only imagine the frustration of having food fish taken off nets… yet, that’s all the seals are doing as well.

Seals, sea lions devastating West Coast salmon runs

Globe and Mail article

Mark Hume’s article in the Globe and Mail yesterday.

I posted a comment to the article, reproduced here:

The week before last, Andrew Trites a Professor at UBC in the Marine Mammal Research Unit gave a presentation at the SFU Summit on Fraser R. Sockeye. Professor Trites quoted similar numbers as this article — for example, approx 108,000 harbor seals presently in the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait). Apparently, these numbers match estimates of the seal population back in the 1870s (coincidence that this is the same time that Fraser salmon canneries started going whole hog?).

[this is the problem with limited data — such as only looking back as far as the 1970s to compare population levels. We gunned so many down through the mid-1900s that no wonder it looks like the population of seals is booming]

The seal population apparently got down as low as 3800 before the Fisheries Act was implemented – and the population seems to have hit a ceiling, leveling off at present levels around 1995. In terms of diet, Professor Trites suggested that salmon only comprise about 4 percent of the seals diet and that hake make up the bulk of the diet (43%) with herring making up about 30 percent.

He asked the question: whether seals might actually be presenting a net benefit to salmon – as hake tend to prey substantially on baby salmon? With seals hammering the hake population, there could actually be a benefit.

The study that involved lights off the bridge and seals preying on fry was mentioned — however the question was asked whether this might just be an opportunistic situation due to the lights attracting the fry (i.e. a human created problem).

I tend to ask, why would seals prey on baby salmon when there is so much more out there?

I don’t know if I can re-state it enough – seals, sea lions, orcas, bears, eagles, and the other two hundred or so critters that depend on salmon – are not the issue.

We are.

Maybe less time looking for other culprits and more time looking in a mirror would lead us to make changes — rather than looking to gun down seals… or orcas (they actually eat more: apparently those red-listed orcas in the Salish Sea feast on Fraser Chinook salmon, 90% of their diet for at least two months of the year).

There’s also some impressive YouTube videos of orcas taking salmon off the hook. I don’t hear calls to gun them down…

The interventionist approach gets a little tiring to hear. We should probably shoot all the moose and deer so that they stop posing big costs to the car insurance business — we all save this way…

We should probably shoot all the seagulls so we can save on car wash (or drycleaning) bills.

I don’t hear anyone calling for the killing of white sided dolphins because they prey on salmon and salmon fry — on some years I’ve seen Pacific white-sided dolphins in such vast numbers that there’s no way they can’t be having an impact…

And, while we’re at it, let’s shoot all the crows, because they damn well wake me up too early on Sunday mornings and they eat the eggs of the endangered yellow-bellied sapsucker….

And what about the impact of robins on worms…? devastating…

Group think

Henri Tajfel developed the “social identity theory” with his colleague John Turner in the early 1970s. The theory suggests that people have a range of identities — from personal through social. The social range often distinguishes itself through identifying with a particular group. Folks generally identify themselves with a group through four elements: categorization, identification, comparison, and psychological distinctiveness.

Using a range of pretty simple methods Tajfel and Turner were able to test how individuals attach themselves to groups and begin to react to perceived “outsiders”. For example, in one experiment they separated teenage boys through showing them paintings by two different artists and let the boys know that their choice would determine which groups they were in.

After this setup the boys were taken to a separate room and were asked to distribute money to other members of both groups. The only information they had was a code number for each boy and which group they were in. There was a clear bias towards their own group over the other. This type of experiment has been replicated in numerous settings, with even less obvious group distinctions.

“Us” vs. “Them” is a powerful, powerful motivator in human behavior. If you’re a hockey fan — look at the Olympic hockey tournament where players represented their country (a very powerful, patriotic group distinction) and played against individuals that they actually played with on their NHL team for a large portion of the year. Quickly friendships, and even roommates in some cases, were dropped in favor of group distinguishment.

We see it in schoolyards, we see it on Parliament Hill (similar forums, mind you…), and sometimes even at dinner parties, and sadly — and quite powerfully — we see it in discussions of how we look after wild salmon.

The group identity, group dynamics, and group discrimination in wild salmon politics are often debilitating and approaching discriminatory. Worse yet — government organizations continually propagate these group distinctions through holding various forums, meetings, discussions — and providing separate funding, departmental support, and sometimes even access to politicians.

I don’t think it’s necessarily always on purpose; however, in wild salmon discussions if the Departments of Fisheries and Oceans continues to host separate meetings and discussions with individual groups (and provides separate funding) — “Us” vs. “Them” will only continue to dominate.

If educational institutions continue to host salmon-related events that are largely geared towards one group (e.g. scientists and researchers) over another — “Us” vs. “Them” will only continue to dominate.

If “groups” within the salmon-related discussions continue to identify themselves with one group over another — for example: ‘we can’t meet with those a**holes, that’ll just be a fight…’ — “Us” vs. “Them”  will only continue to dominate.

The more polarized, conflict-ridden, and groups staking their position we all become in these discussions of how we look after salmon — the more the discussion become dominated by folks professing their rights.

It seems, though, that organizations and individuals that focus more on their responsibilities and less on their rights tend to outperform.

You’re responsible to your community, to your customers, to your employees and to your art. Serve them and the rights thing tends to take care of itself.

Seth Godin

What we all decide to do — i.e. action, right now — for wild salmon is a responsibility. If somehow we can all rise above the politics of group-think, above group-identity, and in many cases job-protection — maybe, just maybe, we’ll start to see a different relationship evolve; with each other, and with wild salmon.

(I attached the classic image of the three monkeys — “hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil” — as it is often associated with two quite different interpretations. In Asian cultures the image is considered three wise monkeys and is often associated with proverbs suggesting: be of good mind, speech, and action. In Western cultures it is the opposite, often associated with suggesting some individuals deal with impropriety by looking the other way, not saying anything, and pretending to see nothing).

Free money — Part II

Yesterday was a post on finding free money through my “FLIRT model” (Free Lunch/Investment Return Tool). (Note: I’ve resorted to pen and paper to start drawing some of this stuff out — computers often get kind of limiting in this sense…)

Today, I’d like to introduce my latest investment strategy model; it’s called Formulating Really Super Strategic Investments (FRSSI) – we’ll call it “frizzy”… to keep it fun.  This frizzy model is so great.  It takes information from a stock market — let’s call it the Fraser Market, for simplicity sake.

Approximately 200 separate stocks

In the Fraser Market are approximately 200 individual stocks. Some of these stocks are big; some of these stocks are medium size; some are small. However, all of these stock are individually unique; distinct; diverse.

Upon further analysis, and the introduction of some new legislation in 2005 — the Winking Stock Policy (WSP) determined that in actual fact, these 200 separate stocks are not entirely unique — there are some shared similarities and many of these stocks could be grouped together into common Conservation Units (CUs).

Some scientific analysis, several consultations,  Peer Review (PR) and countless meetings later; it is determined that these 200 stocks can actually be grouped into a little over 40 separate CUs.

Approximately 40 CUs

Some of these CUs have five or six similar stocks; some only have one or two stocks; and some stocks were left out of the mix because they just didn’t fit the mold.

However, for our FRSSI simulation Free money forecasting tool, we actually decided not to use the 40+ CUs in the investment forecasting.

We recognize that there is some other planning and consultation going on in relation to the CUs, but we’ve actually come up with a better plan — we’re only going to use information from 19 stocks in our forecasting simulations. We’re only using the 19 stocks because these are the bigger stocks — the more productive stocks that are going to ensure our annual returns (and Free Money). By concentrating on these bigger stocks we won’t waste our time on those smaller stocks that bring fewer returns — the bigger stocks are much better at guaranteeing we can harvest some of our returns every year.

We don’t have good information on the other 20 or more CUs and other 180 individual stocks — those are small stocks so we don’t worry about them in our simulations. We focus on the nineteen big fellas…

By focusing on the nineteen big returning stocks and using information from the past, we can actually extrapolate results and forecast for the entire 200 stocks anyways and thus the entire Fraser Market.

Now… to further simplify our FRSSI calculations we have further grouped our 19 stocks (some are also CUs) into four aggregates — or groups — for “management purposes”. Based on timing within the Fraser Market and when the market produces returns, we have named these four aggregates: Early Stuart, Early Summer, Summer, and Late Summer.

200+ stocks into 40+ CUs into 4 Aggregates

It’s an incredibly, forward-thinking, forecasting model for Free Money.

The computer model takes information from the past on these 19 of 200 stocks (~10%). These have then been broken down into four groups. This information then simulates returns for the future.

Based on the simulated returns for each of the 19 stocks, various options for how we want to harvest our returns are presented — these are based on forecasting out for the next 48 years and how that will impact our investments.

It’s truly remarkable. We have successfully designed a method for securing Free Money, when we only have patchy information on 19 of 200 stocks. We have then made four groups out of those 19 stocks; we then forecast your free money returns based on simulations that don’t even need to consider any outside influences.

It’s brilliant, simple, and….

………..

Screeeeech!! (sound of needle across record…)

Is this sounding a little ridiculous? It is.

However, this is how Fisheries and Oceans Canada has designed a computer simulation forecasting model for managing Fraser River sockeye. The acronym is FRSSI — frizzy — the Fraser River Sockeye Spawning Initiative.

This computer simulation program has been developed over the last eight years at a cost of countless million of dollars and staff time. FRSSI is supposed to be a “Pilot Study” within the Wild Salmon Policy; however it appears that it is becoming an official planning tool.

One of the fundamental principles of the computer simulation model is the theory of stock-recruitment analysis (see yesterday’s post). Stock-recruitment (S/R) analysis is built upon some fundamental assumptions. One being, that it only considers the relationship between number of spawners (stock) that reach spawning grounds and the number of returns four years later to the same spawning grounds (recruits).

It does not consider productivity of the freshwater environment, the ocean, predators, and so on, and so on.

Just “STOCK”……….. and……….”RECRUITS”.

A further problem, beyond it’s very narrow considerations, is that it takes over four years to get one data point to then put on a graph. For example, this many spawners (stock) this year….. four years later this many spawners (recruits) = one data point. Fisheries and Oceans has only really been keeping track of some stocks (generally the bigger returns) since 1948, or so. If it takes two separate years to get one data point to graph – this means in the last 60 years of collecting information, we only have 30 data points to graph.

Is this enough points on a graph to determine trends?

Let’s add another serious hiccup into this strategy…

Counting fish is hard stuff. Sockeye swim in schools, they swim deep in a river, shallow, middle, side and so on. They also spawn in rivers where it can be tough to see anything in the water (every visited the Chilcotin River in the Interior — it runs glacial blue-green with huge loads of silt).

Thus, various methods have been devised to count fish. On smaller runs, it’s often simple visual counts. Sometimes this is done on foot, sometimes this is done from a helicopter, sometimes its done by counting carcasses on gravel bars. On larger runs, there’s sonar counts, DIDSON, catch-per-unit of effort in test fisheries, and mark-recapture methods.

Numerous studies have been done to test the accuracy of all these methods. Visual methods generally estimate salmon runs too small. Mark-recapture — utilized to count bigger runs — often over-estimate salmon run sizes. Bottom line is that getting an accurate count on the size of a spawning run (i.e. the number of returns) is a highly variable exercise — nothing more than guesstimates.

Thus, our stock-recruit graphs, with limited data, can have margins of error anywhere between 1% to say 80%. Fisheries scientists are then using this wide margin of error data, with limited data points, to put on a graph and then determine “trends”.

Worse yet — FRSSI is built upon the assumption of the dome-shaped relationship (yesterday’s post) on stock-recruit graphs. For example, the Chilko (tributary to Chilcotin River in BC Interior) run shows a classic dome-shaped relationship in the number of recruits per spawner from four years previous. So does the Quesnel River run that migrates into Quesnel Lake.

from DFO "Fraser Sockeye Escapment Strategy 2010"

This dome-shaped relationship suggests that the number of recruits produced by each spawner declines as spawner abundance increases. The theory is too many eggs and too many baby salmon reduces productivity. Thus to ensure maximum productivity in the ecosystem, humans have to harvest a bunch of salmon.

However, the Early Stuart sockeye run in the Fraser does not have this “dome-shaped relationship” in its stock-recruit graphs. That graph almost displays the complete opposite — an increase in “recruits” with an increase in spawners.

Early Stuart sockeye S/R plot

A colleague of mine the other day used the term “voodoo science”.

This computer simulation model for forecasting Fraser River sockeye returns is little more than voodoo science.

It is based upon data that are best-guesses (i.e. spawner counts and recruits). It only uses data from 19 sockeye stocks out of over 200. Then determines fisheries catch-levels for the entire Fraser River based on four aggregates of the 19 stocks.

The information on the 19 stocks is patchy and inconsistent and only goes as far back as the late 1940s. Worse yet, the 19 stocks don’t fit within the actual Conservation Units (CUs) that DFO has determined as part of the Wild Salmon Policy. Some of the individual stocks comprising the 19 are actual CUs, but some of the others are just stocks within a CU. It’s a patchwork quilt.

The forecasting model does not account for a train-wreck in productivity, climate change, high river temperatures, changing ocean conditions and so on.

If we wouldn’t trust an investment scheme designed this way (oh wait, we did, it’s called subprime mortgages and financial derivatives…) — then why should we “manage” an iconic species this way?

Yes, this is a somewhat simplified explanation of the tool — however, it does not take away from the fact that this forecasting model is built upon estimates; not exact science.

Would we construct a building this way, or a bridge? Would we sail along the west coast of Vancouver Island in a boat built upon simulated estimates? Would we put our kids on a plane built this way?

What if we took the money that was, and is continuing to be spent on this voodoo-science tool and put it into things we actually know we are having an impact on — like habitat damage, urban effluent issues at the mouth of the Fraser, water extraction from critical rivers, and so on?

What if we took the money that is being spent trying to “consult” on this tool that barely anybody understands — including a large portion of DFO staff, the Minister of Fisheries, and so on — and put it into community stewardship programs?

What if we took this colossal waste of money and put it into actually getting better counts of the number of spawners — rather than trying to simulate them in an office in Vancouver?

Aren’t we trying to get our kids off the Gameboys and computer simulation games and sending them outside to use their imagination and play in streams — why are we then wasting money, time and resources on designing computer simulation, voodoo-science tools to apparently do a better job of looking after wild salmon?

Instead of moving a mouse across a table, and our eyes across a computer screen, why not move our eyes across a stretch of river?

That’s exactly what I’m going to do right now…. off the computer and outside.

Free money – Part I

I have a proposition for you. I have a fail-proof investment scheme that is guaranteed free money. And trust me… some folks suggest there is no such thing as a “free lunch”. Yet, I’ve got it right here.

It’s called my: Free Lunch/Investment Return Tool (FLIRT). Here’s the concept:

You have some money; principal, let’s call it… say $1000. This FLIRT is so good that I guarantee if you take 80% of your principal every year ($800), the 20% ($200) that’s left in the account will be sufficient to bring back $1000 the next year and thus financial returns large enough so that you can take 80% again the next year, and the next year, and the next year. Take 80%, and 100% of the original principal returns year after year.

This tool is so damn good — FLIRTing let’s call it — that we don’t even have to worry about all that other crap out there like: stock markets, surrounding business environment, or even what your neighbour is doing. It is so simple that we only have to ensure we grab that 80% surplus every year (this is the Free Lunch – FL). In fact, you actually have to take the 80% every year because if you take less than that — like say 60% — this will result in less return the next year.  You must be vigilant in taking your 80% – and actually if you accidentally take 90% – FLIRT will still produce; maybe even better.

The reason we must be vigilant — i.e. take our free lunch: 80% return annually —  is that if we let the remaining annual principal  ($200) get any bigger, all that extra free lunch (i.e. returns) will just get stale, moldy, and impact our future returns (i.e. free lunches). We only have so much carrying capacity in our accounts — we don’t want to use that all up, overcrowd it, and so on. Say for example, we lose our FLIRTing vigilance and we only take 60% on an annual basis — leaving $400 every year in our account — the returns the next year just won’t be as robust. Too much free lunch is a bad thing and ensures we’ll get a worse lunch the next year, and so on.

my sketching

FLIRTing ensures that every year we generate the “maximum sustainable yield”; year in and year out.

Yet, the reality is that taking 80% ever year is flirting with disaster, too many free lunches, and a downward spiral is underway for all involved.

Ok, so do you want to FLIRT? Sound ridiculous?

It is.

However, this is how salmon, and many other fisheries, have been managed for over 50 years. The concept of “maximum sustainable yield” came out of some hallowed educational institutions in the 1930s. It took over salmon management in the late 1940s and 50s and is still part of the current Wild Salmon Policy adopted in 2005.

The assumption is based on an old fisheries concept called stock recruitment. (Remember that military analogy from the other day?). Now I mean no disrespect to the individuals that created these concepts, they were cutting edge in their time — but so were PCBS, and asbestos, and atomic bombs. Just because they were cutting edge at one time does not mean blades remain razor sharp, or, even rust-free for that matter.

The stock/recruitment (S/R) relationship theory suggests a certain amount of spawning fish (stock) reproduce a certain amount of baby fish that return as adults at the end of the life cycle (recruits). The theory suggests that in a natural state, the number of babies (and eventual recruits) produced by a salmon run begins to level off and even drop as the number of spawners increase — otherwise growth would continue indefinitely.

The graph is assumed to demonstrate a “dome-like” relationship, as shown in the sketch graph above.

There are comparisons with the classic salt curve or taxes curve. A little is good and effective up to a point, once the tipping point is reached though; too much quickly becomes very bad — for our health, for society, for everyone.

Fisheries science suggests that too many spawners is actually bad — overcrowding, disease sets in, spawners dig up each others’ eggs, and so on. Thus, the theory holds that a certain amount of spawners may be harvested without necessarily having a detrimental impact on the overall population. And in fact, in most cases harvesting fish may actually make the reproduction of babies ( and eventual recruits) more productive. More recruits means a higher harvestable surplus when spawners return. The theory being that if we find that magical point on the upswing of the “dome”, we can actually make spawning that much more effective (i.e. free lunch).

The theory suggests further… we need to determine the sweet spot where free lunches grow on trees; the sweet spot at which a certain amount of spawners produces the optimal amount of recruits. Once we know that sweet-spot number of spawners (optimal escapement or benchmark) required to produce the optimal number of recruits that can be harvested and theoretically reproduce the same size run four years down the road (i.e. typical salmon life cycle) — we have then apparently determined the Maximum Sustainable Yield.

When it comes to Fraser River sockeye, for close to 50 years the Maximum Sustainable Yield has apparently been 80% of the run. Fisheries science, and the institutions that “manage” salmon, figured that catching 80% of the Fraser sockeye population and expecting 20% of the run to reproduce the same size run four years down the road was a good idea, was sustainable, and was optimal for the health of the salmon.

Here’s the graph showing harvest levels on Fraser River sockeye over the last 50 years.

Statement from Think Tank of Scientists 2009

Remember that mention of the invention of bombs… MSY has turned out to be a bomb for salmon populations — especially Fraser River sockeye.

Of course, this is my humble, un-Dr’ed. opinion.

I’ll also add that many individuals much smarter than I, look at this blue line graph and the red line graph below demonstrating levels of Fraser sockeye productivity — and suggest there isn’t really a relationship. That we need more research, we need a “smoking gun”, we need conclusive evidence, it must be out there in the ocean…

Statement from Think Tank of Scientists 2009

I guess maybe I subscribe more to the less rigorous approach of a “balance of probabilities” as opposed to “beyond a reasonable doubt” when we start considering evidence.

One of the relationships between these two graphs appears to be the sad failure of stock-recruitment analysis in considering productivity of an ecosystem. Stock-recruitment accounts for nothing more than one relationship — the relationship between recruits and spawners.

The S/R model assumes a static ecosystem. This many spawners, results in this many babies, which results in this many ‘recruits’ — end of story. Yet, the red line graph shows a disturbing trend in Fraser salmon productivity. A ‘train wreck’. As other individuals suggest, the slowest train wreck you’ll ever see… but a train wreck nonetheless.

S/R analysis has no way of recognizing train wrecks in productivity. It only looks at two things: spawners and recruits a few years later…

Still want to FLIRT for free-money?