Monthly Archives: May 2010

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…(it involves more air pie)

This is my graphic representation of fish populations (e.g. wild salmon) that have been industrially exploited…

I suppose there’s one line missing on this graph, a relatively flat steady line running across the last half of the time series that represents the number of politicians responsible for these issues. (however, then we would need to graph their salaries – e.g. MP earns base salary of around $150,000 plus Ministers can earn another $70,000 or so, on top of that)

There’s an article related to this idea by Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe and Mail today —

Cod in Newfoundland: Already seen that drama

A very bad movie has returned to Newfoundland. The script is well-known; the actors have not changed; the plot never alters; and the commercial results are always disappointing. Yet the movie keeps coming back for another rendition.

The plot revolves around what used to be a mainstay industry for Newfoundland: the cod fishery. It has been in decline for decades, during which scientific advice about the precariousness of the cod stocks was usually ignored.

There were too many parties, and too many politicians, with vested interests in ignoring science, or playing it down, or claiming that the results were biased. They are still around, and vocal.

Cue the current reel of the old movie. Once again, scientists from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are providing the data on which the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada makes recommendations to the federal government. Once again, the committee has recommended that Atlantic cod be designated an endangered species. And once again, all the usual suspects are dumping on the science, discrediting the recommendation of the scientists.

Fishermen are irate. The provincial Fisheries Minister says stocks are improving, thereby justifying the existing levels of fishing. And the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union calls the committee report “political science,” “misleading,” and “nonsense.”…

We’re well along the way of writing a similar story for Pacific salmon here on the west coast…

Dalhousie University fisheries biologist Jeff Hutchings [suggests]…northern cod stocks are 4 per cent of their levels of the 1960s and 10 per cent of their 1980s levels… The replacement rate of cod is far less than half of what would be required just to maintain the stock at existing levels.

Hmmmm….

Have you seen my hand drawn graph for Fraser River sockeye? (yeah that’s over 160 million in the 1800s to about 1 million last year):

And the replacement rate (productivity) — from the “Salmon Think Tank” statement of early December 2009:

A rate of less than 2 adult returns per spawner means that runs are not even replacing themselves. Two (one male, one female ideally) per reproductive adult is the bare minimum for any population of anything to maintain itself.

Here’s my “favorite” part (as in sad) of Simpson’s article:

In the United States, legislation mandates the federal government to regulate fishing of [cod] stocks at the level of long-term renewal, rather than seeing them depleted and then perhaps built up later. In Canada, no such legislation exists. There are no targets or rebuilding strategies, just a series of one-off, yearly assessments ultimately left in the all-powerful hands of the federal minister of fisheries.

…Long-term stock recovery gives way almost every time to short-term job and profit considerations. When Ms. Shea responded to the endangered-wildlife committee’s report by saying she would “study it,” we know what will come next. Nothing.

And if you aren’t familiar with Ms. Shea, the current federal Fisheries Minister she had a long illustrious career with Revenue Canada before being elected a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for PEI.

Revenue Canada… fish science… revenue canada… fish science…. hmmm.

And let me know if you’ve seen Fisheries and Ocean’s Canada (DFO’s) long-term rebuilding plan for Fraser Sockeye… uh, yeah… it’s called air pie. (if you haven’t heard about air pie… growing up in our household, it was our least favorite answer to: “what’s for desert” —- “air pie”.)

Oh no… wait… we are “studying” that too — it’s called the $15-$20 million Cohen Commission. At least the studying has become a whole lot easier as there were only 1 million last year as opposed to well over 100 million a little over 100 years ago.

My hope is that the Cohen Commission doesn’t become “air pie” — like the $5 million British Columbia Pacific Salmon Forum for example, or, the multitude of other public inquiries into salmon that were not acted upon…

what if superman fought batman…?

If you visit the Cohen Commission (Public Inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon on the Fraser River) website you will notice the schoolyard-like reasoning has begun… you know the: “superman would beat up batman in a fight” or “my dad is stronger than your dad”.

Or, maybe more aptly it’s the parliament-like antics of our hallowed national institution… “my MP slept with your MP…” or “my MP’s husband used your MP’s office to secure government contracts…” Or, my party donor investigated my MLA’s apparent wrongdoing…

Or, maybe even more aptly, another U.S. bank is under investigation by federal authorities for de-frauding investors (the public) of money through bundling up sub-prime mortgages selling them to investors, then betting against those investments and making billions. (Gee, I’m shocked…)

I’m referring to the list of culprits in the declines of Fraser sockeye salmon. Today visiting the Commission website, I notice it’s been re-formatted and the latest public submissions can be seen summarized along the right-hand side. Here’s the summaries I see today:

“The decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon is due to predation by harbour seals, which are growing rampant in the Gulf of Georgia and the…”

“The shortfall witnessed in the 2009 Fraser sockeye salmon run was a localized issue caused by open pen fish farms…”

“The disappearance of salmon stocks may be due to the illegal sale of salmon by First Nations…”

(many of these opinions sounding rather similar to various news headlines over the last decade…)

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If you read my post from the other day — Salmon culture, culturing salmon, and enculturation — you can see that around the North Pacific Rim there are completely different opinions (scientific included) and national practices surrounding the use of salmon hatcheries.

Some say good, some say bad, some say we don’t know, some say it’s all we got…

In that same post, I mention Alexandra Morton’s walk along the length of Vancouver Island to protest open-net salmon farming in British Columbia. Now a hot debate has erupted about whether there were 1000, or 4000, or 10 000 people in Victoria this past Saturday on the lawn of the BC Legislature. Letters are being written to editors, conspiracy theorists about corporately controlled media are flying fast and furious and so on.

(It doesn’t really matter; the event was a success in getting the word out that change is needed…)

And that, I suppose, is my fundamental point here.

Kids in the schoolyard will launch into the most in-depth research of Marvel Comics over the last 50 years gathering their evidence on Superman and how he defeated Octopus Man, or whatever other evil do-no-gooder; how he did it with a pulled groin in the 1963 Issue 6 Volume 4; how he did it under the influence of kryptonite in the 1986 Issue 3…

Some really bright kid might start graphing his evidence in Excel spreadsheets, coming back to the school yard with pie charts, regression analysis, Bayesian statistical comparisons, and so on… Or better yet, create complicated modeling programs that try to predict 69 times out of 70 with 95% accuracy 9 times out of 10 whether Superman beats up Batman.

Some other kid just states the common sense point: Poor lowly batman just defeated a glorified clown, and drove a fancy car… Superman Wins!

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Out of curiosity I recently ordered two online courses: Principles of Microeconomics and Principles of Macroeconomics.  (yes a sick curiosity, some might suggest…)

The early chapters of Microeconomics have been rather revealing though:

… an economy is just a group of people interacting with one another as they go about their lives… the behavior of an economy reflects the behavior of the individuals who make up the economy…

Apparently there are ten principles to economics; here’s a key one:

Principle #1: People face tradeoffs.

“There is no such thing as a free lunch.” To get one thing that we like, we usually have to give up another thing that we like. Making decisions requires trading off one goal against another.

Principle #2: The cost of something is what you give up to get it

Because people face tradeoffs, making decisions requires comparing the costs and benefits of alternative courses of action…

Thus, if an economy is just us interacting with us, making tradeoffs and looking for free lunches — and that the cost of things is what we give up to get those things…

well then, doesn’t everything then come down to individual choices?

This “my science” vs. “your science” is about as productive and effective as the “superman” vs. “batman” schoolyard debate, or my politician is more ethical than your politician, or my bank is more reputable and honest than yours…

No matter which way “we” approach any issues there are going to be multiple opinions from all sides… and in the end tradeoffs need to be made. (and sadly, these tradeoffs are often made by the legal profession in courts of law…)

Which tradeoffs are appropriate? —  is the key question.

Most importantly — what tradeoffs are we all willing to make individually for wild salmon…?

finding good ideas… preventing good ideas

Over the last couple of months I have found myself back in a place that I managed to avoid quite effectively for the last several years — windowless meeting rooms (granted the Simon Fraser University hosted Fraser Sockeye salmon summit was in the Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver with lots of windows), conference centres, strictly adhered to agendas, task master meeting chairs or panel chairs or facilitators, and imposed limits for questions (Sir, you are only allowed one question… so make it good), and so on and so on…

The irony with the root of the word conference is that it comes from medieval Latin and means to “bring together” . And, I suppose, Yes… conferences do bring people together. People sit in the same rows as other attendees, breathing the same recirculated air, watching PowerPoint presentation after presentation, swilling mediocre conference centre coffee during breaks to try and stay alert, then wiggling in place not wanting to be rude by walking out on a speaker to drain a diuretic filled bladder.

(i’ve determined — through intensive scientific rigor — that the wiggling is far more effective for alertness then the caffeine kick…)

Or, as I observed in Portland last week at the State of the Salmon conference on Ecological Interactions between Wild & Hatchery Salmon… almost everyone left in the third period (my hockey analogy).

At the start of the conference, the Hilton Hotel staff were running around bringing more chairs into the stuffed Ballroom with well over 300 people in attendance.

By the last day, a scheduled half day, and the day when things actually became a bit more  interesting; when some emotion entered the equation; where people actually talked about how they felt about salmon; when there was some feeling; when some folks actually talked about “action” as opposed to talking for the sake of talking… or graphing for the sense of graphing… or charting for the sense of charting…

…there were only about 50 people left in the room at the end of the conference.

Puzzling….

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Seth Godin — marketing guru and mr. change agent — has a great post from the other day:

Where do you find good ideas?

Do you often find ideas that change everything in a windowless conference room, with bottled water on the side table and a circle of critics and skeptics wearing suits looking at you as the clock ticks down to the 60 minutes allocated for this meeting?

If not, then why do you keep looking for them there?

The best ideas come out of the corner of our eye, the edge of our consciousness, in a flash. They are the result of misdirection and random collisions, not a grinding corporate onslaught. And yet we waste billions of dollars in time looking for them where they’re not.

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And this is pretty much what I continually observe at various meetings and conferences… ghad forbid we take a side road, a side trail that we didn’t even see on the map, or didn’t show up on our dashboard GPS, or Google Maps. Or… maybe even leave PowerPoint off, or maybe host a conference in a big field… rent a big tent, or just tell everyone to bring an umbrella… or hire actors to act out our talks… or sing a presentation…

No… this is crazy talk.

Consultation, conferences, “dialogue” (as a noun, or verb — as in “dialoguing”), discussion must be run by tight agendas, task master Chairs or facilitators that limit questions or real conversation because the next panel is ready to begin…

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Preventing good ideas? Three attitudes that prevent us from receiving continual flow of blessings… the three “pots”: a full pot, a pot with poison in it, and a pot with a hole in the bottom.

The pot that’s filled to the brim is like a mind full opinions and preconceptions. We already know it all. We have so many fixed ideas that nothing new can affect us or cause us to question our assumptions.

The pot containing poison is like a mind that’s so cynical, critical and judgemental that everything is poisoned by this harshness. It allows for no openness and no willingness to explore the teachings or anything else that challenges our righteous stance.

The pot with a hole is like a distracted mind: our body is present but we’re lost in thought. We’re so busy thinking about our dream vacation or what’s for dinner that we’re completely deaf to what’s being said.

… Nothing will improve, unless we become more intelligent about cause and effect.

— from Pema Chödrön’s book “No Time to Lose“.   (from the Buddhist tradition).

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I certainly observed all of these “pots” at this last conference… and maybe even had one or two of those pots on my head myself.

How do we go about finding better ideas?

How do we become a lot more intelligent about cause and effect?

How do we forge some new “pots” that aren’t so limiting?

Salmon culture, culturing salmon, and enculturation.

In some ways we can see the power of salmon culture in the conclusion to Alexandra Morton’s “Get out Migration” walk along Vancouver Island to protest open-net salmon farming. On Saturday the walk concluded in Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. Estimates suggest about 4,000 people attended the conclusion to the 500-km walk, with over 8,000 signatures collected on a petition to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to move salmon farming to land-based closed contained systems to protect wild salmon from sea lice and various diseases.

With some irony, it is the ability to culture salmon that has led to salmon farming practices. Furthermore, culturing salmon in hatcheries has been done in North America since the 1800s; and it has now become huge business with over 5-billion baby salmon pumped into the North Pacific every year from hatchery operations around the Pacific Rim. Almost all of these started with the goal of increasing harvests…

This past week at the State of the Salmon 2010 Conference: Ecological Interactions of between Wild & Hatchery Salmon in Portland, Oregon — culturing salmon in hatcheries was the topic of discussion.

The purpose of the conference was to bring an international crowd together to discuss potential interactions, and as suggested in the welcome letter in the conference program:

…step back and critically review what we know about the scale and magnitude of interactions between  wild and hatchery salmon…

Curiously though, an article came out in the Seattle Times on May 5th, the second day of the conference, discussing the gathering.

Oregon conference discusses protecting wild salmon

An international conference of scientists and fisheries managers meeting in Portland this week is looking at less-studied impacts of hatchery fish on wild salmon — disease, predation and competition for food — and how to overhaul a hatchery system that may hurt wild salmon more than it helps.

The article has a “hatcheries-are-bad” slant, which was certainly not the consensus at the conference. Here are some competing messages that I heard sitting in on various sessions:

  1. A Japanese scientist pointed out that hatchery salmon are a very important source of healthy seafood. (Somewhere between 90-95% of Japanese commercially caught salmon are from hatchery and salmon ranching efforts).
  2. The Russian government is sitting on over $2 billion ready to invest in substantially expanding hatchery operations in Russian portions of the North Pacific coast.
  3. Alaska takes a lot of pride in their over 2 billion baby salmon pumped into the North Pacific and places like Prince William Sound where 90-95% of the commercial catch is salmon ranching efforts. In Southeast Alaska, goals for spawning salmon are easily reached in most streams and yet large salmon hatchery and ranching operations continue.
  4. Canada is ramping down hatchery operations in many areas. (however, I know of several sport fishing proponents that would like to see hatchery operations ramped up significantly).
  5. Western U.S. states — Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California — are having raging debates about ramping down or ramping up. “Conservation” hatcheries are apparently important components of trying to protect salmon runs listed under the Endangered Species Act. Representatives of tribal organizations highlighted the importance of hatchery operations to keeping salmon returning to their areas.

And, thus, some rather interesting discussions in various sessions. One principle hard at work was enculturation from the variety of cultures represented at the conference — from various countries’ cultures to regional cultures and differences (e.g. Alaska compared to lower 48).

Enculturation is defined as:

the process by which an individual learns the traditional content of a culture and assimilates its practices and values.

Jonah Lehrer is a Rhodes scholar, contributing editor for Wired magazine, wrote the book Proust was a Neuroscientist, has a blog — Frontal Cortex — as part of scienceblogs.com (thanks for the forward Simon). He has a great post: Enculturation and Wall Street — the post starts:

The process of enculturation doesn’t just afflict middle-aged scientists, struggling to appreciate a new anomaly. It’s a problem for any collection of experts, from CIA analysts to Wall Street bankers.

Renaming PowerPoint and which way for wild salmon?

downtown Portland

I walked out of the hotel in downtown Portland on the first day of the conference — see post from day one — sitting in a dim ballroom watching endless PowerPoint presentations with charts, graphs and models (and not the ones from Victoria Secret). Cursing PowerPoint, bullet points, and lamenting the “cut and paste” function… I looked up and saw this “sign” (photo above).

The red lights are very fitting, and the question is which way are the salmon only permitted to go?

In my marathon 15 hours of driving yesterday — leaving the Oregon coast at 9 a.m. and getting home to Prince George at midnight (I almost turned into a pumpkin) — I came up with a new name for PowerPoint:

Missing-the-Point

See with the fun of alliteration; Microsoft could get really creative with this… about as creative as their really awful “Windows 7… my idea” commercials.

Something like: “Microsoft… (majorly) Missing-the-Point…” (everyone’s using it… so it must be great).

I’ve got an idea… send PowerPoint down the same road as movie bombs like Ishtar… see, they share some similarities millions and millions of dollars to make and market; absolutely terrible to watch and endure.

Or… maybe just disable the bullet-making capabilities… tell people they can only use pictures, and they’re not allowed to look at the screen, while presenting… every time a presenter begins to read a giant block of text from a “slide” on the screen, they get zapped with an electrical shock. Maybe we could use those “hands-free” headsets for cell phones that have become the latest rage. Then the shock is delivered directly to the cranium…

I find some irony in academics using their slides as cheat sheets for their presentation… would they allow their students to do this in their classrooms?

Or the academics that have their allotted 15 minutes for the presentation and end out only making it half way through their presentation before time is up… again would this be permitted in their classrooms with students?

Here is an example from the conference… and apologies for the fuzzy picture, see even a camera can’t focus on this:

Slide hell

To be somewhat fair to the presenter I’ve cut him out. However, he did read most of this slide… (with a little paraphrasing…)

Now, I don’t raise these points to be cruel — and I recognize it is difficult and challenging to get up and speak in front of a room of 300 or so people.

But please for the love of ghad… along with hours upon hours of developing modeling equations, puzzling over graphs, and Bayesian, Freudian, Einstenien analysis; try and put some thoughts into representing your thoughts in a dynamic, interesting, and engaging fashion for as much of a cross section of an audience as possible. [Especially when they have paid to attend]

Sure the band AC/DC, or U2, or Michael Flatley (Lord of the Dance) only appeal to a certain cross section of folks — however they spend countless, countless hours puzzling over how to present their performances to appeal to as many people as possible.

Here is a cartoon from Hugh Macleod that highlights this nicely (albeit with some crudity thrown in to emphasize the point…)

www.gapingvoid.com

Ok, maybe scientists and Bono is not an overly fair comparison… but when it comes to salmon; folks get excited. I think I can safely say that a big reason people work with, for, and around salmon is because of love… fascination… curiosity… and sheer engagement with the subject matter — with this sleek, silver, slimy critter. With this fish that connects the power of the North Pacific with the heaven-reaching heights of the Rocky Mountains.

It is a truly remarkable species and the connection we humans have with it is dotted everywhere I drove on this trip…

Raymond, WA

Raymond, WA (salmon into thin air)

South Bend, WA

Dorymen's Association -- Pacific City, Oregon

a dwindling scene... Pacific City dories going out after salmon

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And you see the reason “everything is marketing” is — as recognized in the welcoming letter to this particular conference:

…Much of this debate has been limited to a small group of experts and practitioners. While public perception might be changing, I would hazard a guess that most of the public would not recognize a hatchery program as a potential risk to wild salmon.

Mr. Pete Rand, Senior Conservation Biologist and Conference Chair, State of the Salmon Program

I agree entirely with Pete on the limited nature of some of the discussion — e.g. limited to experts — however, I’m not sure I agree with the fact that the public doesn’t recognize the risks.

along the Salmon River, coastal Oregon

Here’s a photo on a tiny shop, ironically on the “Salmon River” in central Oregon just inland from Otis, on the way to Portland and Salem:

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What it comes down to is exactly as Macleod suggests: everything is marketing….

even the charts and graphs, modeling equations, and dimly lit ballroms with ‘experts’ debating the risks and/or benefits of salmon hatcheries…

Politicians enact legislation, the public elects politicians (in theory), politicians act on public will.

Public will comes from clever, clear, and compelling marketing…  there is already a deep set relationship with salmon — with settler and indigenous people alike — the marketing doesn’t even need to be that clever or compelling — but certainly clear.

Unfortunately, PowerPoint (aka Missing-the-Point) is not an important piece of that puzzle – at least not in utilizing it in the traditional sense.

Day three… work creation project…?

Today is day three, the last day, of the conference on Ecological Interactions between Wild & Hatchery Salmon in Portland, Oregon. As the web page suggests:

We hope that this conference will inspire collaboration among the 300+ expected attendees, including scientific, management, conservation, indigenous, industry, and political communities.

Many of these attendees have traveled a long ways to attend — from Russia, Japan, and even New Zealand.

I suppose if I read the web page a little more carefully before registering I might not be as disillusioned as I am at the moment.

The meeting will culminate in a panel discussion to develop a vision of working together to contain and manage ecological risk. Outcomes will include a comprehensive annotated bibliography on the subject of ecological interactions between wild and hatchery salmon, peer-reviewed proceedings including the latest research, identification of critical research gaps, and next steps for developing practical management tools.

For one who likes to explore meaning behind language and words — this statement above is basically suggesting that we are going to keep talking, ruminating, and pondering – resulting in a list of things we might do.

And… thus… we are writing the job description for the variety of scientists out there researching these things. Look we got all these experts together and here’s the gaps we need to fill.

The problem with gaps in science is that it’s like the worse bridge building project ever…. every time a new bridge span is put in place the gap widens… rather than closes.

That’s the thing with ‘questions’ and ‘gaps in knowledge’ — answer one, and two more pop up, answer those two and four more pop-up.

like battling the Greek monster Hydra…

Is there a better way?

somebody please kill PowerPoint…

It is now after 4 p.m on the first day of the Ecological Interactions between Wild & Hatchery Salmon in Portland, Oregon. The current presentation is: “Reproductive behavior of wild and hatchery spring Chinook Salmon spawning in an artificial stream

Yeah, that’s “artificial stream”… at least the presenter has a sense of humour about this.

I have seen more charts and graphs, ridiculous equations, and covariant-variant factors today then a highschool kid will see in a year of calculus. Now the worst part about this is that every one of these has been in a dreadful PowerPoint presentation. And I mean dreadful… worse yet… the room is dimmed to make those PPoint presentations even worse.

In the spirit of presentations today, I have graphed my “temporal” and “spatial” frustration to the right (using PowerPoint) — these two quoted words being terms I have heard often, today… too often.

Every time I glance around the 300 people or so I see at least two yawners at any moment. Sitting in a dimly lit room reading bullet points (along with the presenter who is also reading them out – some who know how to speak into a microphone and some that don’t). Actually I just looked around and I count five people sleeping – yup, head bobbing, drool soon to follow… (I’m not lying).

No offense intended to many of these well-meaning individuals presenting here (or at other scientific conferences); however, someone has got to kill PowerPoint — or give scientists a course in using PowerPoint and presenting effectively. I suggest Garr Reynolds and his book Presentation Zen and check out his blog — he’s got a great post on Visualizing the consequences of sugary drinks. (talk about effective)

Just because you have graphs and charts — DOES NOT mean you have to show all of them.

“Now in this graph you’ll see… Interestingly, now in this graph you’ll see… and here in this graph you can see…”

At several points I’ve been ready to yell out “hey, I didn’t see that… could you show me again.”

Maybe there should be a catch-limit on graphs per presentation?

Or, a “no graphs and charts after 1 p.m.” rule?

Just because you know how to use PowerPoint does not mean you have to use it. Just because the lights have a dimmer does not mean they have to be down all day…  dark means sleep! (especially after lunch).

Would these types of conferences be that much more exciting — or bad — if presenters had to sing their presentations?

I met a professor (in the school of mining) from the University of BC a few years ago that makes his Masters students sing their presentations. Yeah, that’s in the school of mining….

Seth Godin, marketing Guru, has a post on his site explaining an upcoming road tour.

My favorite concerts have always been the acoustic tours. Instead of fancy production, dancing rabbits and lip syncing, it’s one person, one microphone and a human-scaled interaction. (Or sometimes five people plus Jerry).

So that’s the way I’m approaching this tour. No slides, not so many carefully rehearsed bits, just me and a focused audience, talking through issues that matter. The goal isn’t to deliver twitter-sized sound bites, but instead to immerse participants in a different way of thinking about the work we do and how we spread our ideas. I want to urgently and persistently change the way you do your work.

… Talking through issues that matter…. Yes. This cannot, should not, and must not… be done by PowerPoint. Especially when it comes to salmon. These discussions should be done on rivers, lakes, streams and beside the ocean where salmon live. Please.

Opening day thoughts…

Today is the opening day of the conference: Ecological Interactions between Wild & Hatchery Salmon in Portland, OR. There’s approximately 300 or so attendees including an international contingent from Russia and Japan.

The opening and first two keynote speakers have just finished. The first keynote speaker — Ray Hilborn — is a professor at the University of Washington. The second keynote speaker — Rob Walton — is a policy analyst with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

Professor Hilborn highlighted some of the older science on this issue such as a paper from the late 1970s that suggested that the long-term consequence of heavy fisheries is that small stocks are sacrificed.

Uh-huh… Guess we haven’t learned that yet — can you say Fraser River sockeye?

One of the other key points I picked up from Professor Hilborn was the idea of “goal displacement” — which occurs when an activity becomes the objective. One of the examples he used was the  practice of using Coded Wire Tags (CWTs) — which are put in the noses of hatchery salmon — and then relying on the recovery of salmon heads with CWTs to actually manage a fishery.

On Fraser Chinook, for example, the recovery of CWTs and utilizing the data is mandated by the Pacific Salmon Commission. Thus, if hatcheries aren’t pumping out baby salmon with CWTs up their noses; it makes it much more difficult to ‘manage’ the fishery. In theory anyways… (my editorializing might suggest there are some serious shortfalls in this system)

And thus keeping the hatchery going has become the objective — and therefore goal displacement.

(It should be noted that the original goal of the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Salmon Enhancement Program in British Columbia was to double commercial catches… Another dismal failure).

If we failed on that goal, and continue to fail on that, and continue to sink millions of dollars into hatcheries… why?

The second keynote speaker, Mr. Walton, unfortunately depressed me to great end. He started his presentation by suggesting (and I’m paraphrasing):

Here in the United States, we draft legislation, Congress passes it,  and then we get sued.

He ran through the history of creating policies around the Endangered Species legislation here in the U.S.  and how wild salmon and hatchery salmon have played a key role. Initially, the NMFS developed policy surrounding Endangered Species protection for salmon with various pieces of legislation that explained the role of hatchery salmon in the Evolutionary Significant Units (ESUs) of the western states– sound similar to the Conservation Units of Canada?

In March of last year, NMFS was sued regarding their policy. Not only were they sued from one side – a coalition of environmental groups; they were sued from the opposite side — a coalition of businesses including water user groups, construction companies, developers, etc.

This case is built on several other court cases involving salmon and protection. What started in a District Court decision overturning earlier legislation, then went up the U.S. court systems. At each juncture NMFS would return to the office draft new policies, present them, pass them, then get sued again. Another set of lawsuits over ridiculous language, then a decision by judges, then more policy drafting, then more lawsuits, then more judges decisions, then more policy drafting, and so on, and so on….

So in the U.S. — salmon are managed by lawyers, judges and the legal system (in essence) — with a bunch of policy wonks sandwiched in between.

During the question period a representative from the Squamish Nation told a story about how  elders in his community scratch their heads: “science and technology screwed this all up in the first place — and now science and technology is going to fix it?”

Another question was telling: a rep from Washington State who “works in the trenches” asked (paraphrasing again):

when’s the talking about action going to stop… and actual action begin?

A tough question, especially to start a conference… and this was evident in the lack of meaningful answers given by panel members and keynote speakers.

Onwards with the day…

On the road: Washington and Oregon coasts

Over the last few days I have been driving south from Prince George to attend a conference in Portland Oregon — Ecological Interactions between Wild and Hatchery salmon.

Last night I camped on the coast at Grayland, Washington. The night before that I camped at Lac la Hache in BC — in the snow.

Today I drove south along the coast to Cannon Beach, Oregon and then east inland to Portland. It’s quite remarkable how many “salmon hatcheries” I’ve driven by. Yet… looking up to the hillsides it’s not that difficult to see one of the big reasons why so many hatcheries may be required.

I drove by several signs beside forests saying “third growth forest planted…” As I turned east and drove Hwy 26 in to Portland, it was not suprising to look at the hillsides and then look into streams running the color of silt.

The number of clearcuts was truly remarkable. Clearcut on top of clearcut on top of clearcut. I have my own pictures that I will post later.

I also hope to complete some posts from within the conference over the next few days.