Monthly Archives: October 2010

let the great reductions begin… Fraser sockeye in-season estimates to be downgraded

Headline in the Cowichan News Leader:

Record sockeye run to shrink due to overestimate

It’s still likely to stand as the biggest return of Fraser River sockeye salmon in living memory.

But scientists now expect to chop their estimate of this year’s immense run by as much as 20 per cent.

That could take the final count of fish from 34.5 million sockeye down to around 29 million, according to Pacific Salmon Commission chief biologist Mike Lapointe.

Where’s all the big media outlets now?

Why is this story only running in a smaller local paper?

Sure, it’s still a record run, but if your financial advisor was off by 20 per cent in predictions would you keep ’em?

What does this mean for groups of stocks such as the Early Summers which has lots of stocks in trouble? DFO was to target 25% of these for fisheries — if run-size estimates are off by 20% does this mean fishing rates could start approaching 40-50% on the Early Summers? This is bad news for runs like the Bowron and others…

time for serious change, wouldn’t you say?

Yeah… your right, it’s “too complicated” let’s just ignore it… it’s only 150 years of history or so…

What other sort of ridiculous suggestions does the Province of BC have?

Yesterday’s Globe and Mail article by Mark Hume:

Issue of native fishing rights contentious for Cohen commission

The Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River was urged by federal and provincial government lawyers Tuesday not to wade too deeply into the complex and controversial issue of native fishing rights.

But British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen, who is heading the judicial inquiry ordered last year by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was also told by aboriginal groups that he can’t ignore the topic, even though an examination of native rights falls outside his mandate.

On the second paragraph, I take issue with Hume’s assertion that the ‘examination of native rights falls outside of Cohen’s mandate’. And certainly take issue with the suggestions of the Province of BC reps.

The ‘terms of reference’ for the Commission state, for example:

B. to consider the policies and practices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (the “Department”) with respect to the sockeye salmon fishery in the Fraser River – including the Department’s scientific advice, its fisheries policies and programs, its risk management strategies, its allocation of Departmental resources and its fisheries management practices and procedures, including monitoring, counting of stocks, forecasting and enforcement…

At every juncture of this term of reference — lies aboriginal fishing rights, not to mention aboriginal rights and title. Basically, through every aspect of the Commission’s work as well as how DFO manages salmon fisheries lie the rights of First Nation people through Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution for example.

35. (1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.

Aboriginal rights refer to the activities, practice, and traditions of the aboriginal peoples in Canada that are integral to the distinctive culture of aboriginal peoples.

I am certainly not a lawyer, however, last time I checked… wild salmon were rather “integral to the distinctive culture of aboriginal peoples” throughout British Columbia and especially throughout the Fraser River, and most especially in relation to Fraser sockeye.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Let’s look a little more specifically at term “B” of Cohen’s terms of reference — for example, “consider the policies and practices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with respect to the sockeye salmon fishery in the Fraser River“…

uh, ok… well at the simplest level, the salmon fishery on the Fraser River is guided by: (1) conservation, then (2) First Nation food, social and ceremonial fisheries, then (3) commercial and sport fisheries. Add in things like the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy, which largely flowed out of court cases surrounding aboriginal fishing rights, the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative (PICFI) which is looking at various ‘opportunities’ (aka, bureaucratic bafflegab and bumpf), and so on and so on.

Then add in further complexities such as the recent Ahousaht decision which suggests there is an economic component that must be considered over and above food, social and ceremonial (FSC). For some reason, some folks (esp. federal ministry folks) think that FSC fisheries are some sort of static thing that don’t shift and meld with time. For example, didn’t Statistics Canada find recently that aboriginal people are, by far, the fastest growing segment of the Canadian population?

_ _ _ _ _

Cohen’s term of reference “B”: “…including the Department’s scientific advice…”

Hmmm… ummm… wait doesn’t Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy state:

Principle 3 Sustainable Use.

Resource management decisions will consider biological, social, and economic consequences, reflect best science including Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK), and maintain the potential for future generations to meet their needs and aspirations.

… reflect best science including aboriginal traditional knowledge… hmmm.

How many initiatives does DFO have right now that are actively and successfully incorporating ATK? I think the answer starts with “z” and ends with “o”…

_ _ _ _ _ _

“…its fisheries policies and programs…”

Oh right… there’s the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy. And let me quote from DFO’s website:

In 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark ruling in the Sparrow decision. This decision found that the Musqueam First Nation has an Aboriginal right to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes. The Supreme Court found that where an Aboriginal group has a right to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes, it takes priority, after conservation, over other uses of the resource. The Supreme Court also indicated the importance of consulting with Aboriginal groups when their fishing rights might be affected.

In response to this decision, and to provide stable fishery management, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) launched the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy (AFS) in 1992. The AFS is applicable where DFO manages the fishery and where land claims settlements have not already put a fisheries management regime in place.

Ohhh… so the AFS is applicable where DFO manages the fishery and where land claim settlements (i.e. Treaties) have not be completed?

Gee… last time I checked that’s basically the entire Fraser River watershed with the exception of Tsawwassen.

Oh, and DFO’s fisheries policies and programs are largely guided by case law and court decisions — and many of those policies and programs are most likely to come under more court challenges and case law?

_ _ _ _ _

“…its risk management strategies…”

Ummm… the large avoidance of dealing meaningfully with the significant outstanding issues — like a B.C. Treaty Process that is so flawed and failing… Thus, what does the Department do in the meantime in regards to aboriginal rights and title and fishing rights… it’s called risk management.

How much can we get away with without more First Nations taking us to court.

_ _ _ _ _ _

“…its allocation of Departmental resources and its fisheries management practices and procedures…”

Well… for this 10,000 full time equivalents strong Ministry, and the 100 or so people listed on Salmon Management Plans — maybe the allocation is not so efficient. Add in the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy and PICFI and there is over $50 million being allocated to various First Nation organizations for a variety of purposes — with significant inequalities in which organizations receive funding and how much.

Fisheries management practices and procedures? We’ve been there, aboriginal rights and title are vital in this analysis.

_ _ _ _ _ _

“…including monitoring, counting of stocks, forecasting and enforcement…”

AFS funding is basically only handed out for First Nations to count fish.

Forecasting? One would hope that aboriginal traditional knowledge (ATK) would be a key component of this. How much is involved?


_ _ _ _ _ _

From the Globe article:

“This commission has no mandate to inquire into aboriginal rights . . .[and it is] not advisable for you as a commission to make any rulings [on the issue],” said Boris Tyzuk, speaking for the provincial government.

Well Province, and Mr. Tyzuk…  I suppose this demonstrates the Province’s knowledge of aboriginal rights surrounding Fraser salmon (and other related issues surrounding aboriginal rights and title).

Mr. Tyzuk said he has been involved in negotiations on several treaties in B.C. and the fishing components of those treaties “were always the toughest” things to resolve.

Gee, do you think… it’s only 150 years of oppressive history.

And yeah… maybe you folks are right… let’s just avoid those “complex and controversial issues”…

Give me a freaking break… the entire issue is complex and controversial. That’s why the timelines from the beginning were absurd, and why the previous 5 inquiries on the same issue have produced little change…

Inspector Clouseau is on the case…

I am tiring somewhat of the constant: “Eureaka… I’ve got it…” theories of the great salmon disappearance and reappearance.

I don’t intend disrespect to the researchers involved; it simply seems that maybe many folks have a bit of a bias perspective that their research is the research. Not to mention that implicit in any research these days is a certain marketing factor — especially when research is being done within the confines of a for-profit organization.

Another Globe and Mail headline from yesterday:

Tagging solves part of sockeye mystery

When researchers fitted 200 young salmon with acoustic tags in the spring of 2007, they had no idea those fish would later help pinpoint the “crime scene” for one of the biggest environmental disasters ever to strike the West Coast.

Nothing like a propensity for the dramatic. Gotta love media article openers. Let’s just stop for a second and consider ‘environmental disaster’…

A ‘disaster’ is:

1. an occurrence that causes great distress or destruction
2. a thing, project, etc., that fails or has been ruined

Calling it ‘environmental’ does a nice job of shifting the blame away from the real culprits here. It’s along the same lines as the insurance industry use of: “Act of God”. If folks would start first with looking in a mirror, we could identify the culprits in the salmon situation:


The article continues explaining the research of the Kintama Research Corporation and Dr. Welch:

“It’s a world first,” David Welch, president and CEO of Kintama Research Corporation, said of the study, which he described briefly on Monday in giving expert testimony on the opening day of the Cohen Commission of Inquiry.

“Our contribution has been to narrow down the likely location for the mortality, but not demonstrate the cause,” he said.

Again, I’m not intending disrespect… however, I’m not so sure that tagging 200 baby sockeye from basically one sub-population (Cultus Lake, which is near the mouth of the Fraser) and tracking those baby salmon (200 out of absolutely millions of baby salmon from throughout the Fraser watershed) through incredibly expensive radio receiver installations installed on the ocean floor is necessarily “narrowing down the likely location for the mortality” of all Fraser sockeye.

To be fair though, I haven’t read the entire study — I’ve just seen the presentation and animation of the 200 baby sockeye and 2 returning adults at the SFU Sockeye Summit this past March. I had also seen presentation on some of this research in it’s early days — my initial conclusion was: sounded very, very expensive: e.g. not a lot of bang for the buck.

For example, Kintama is involved in the $160 million+ Ocean Tracking Network, which is involved in climate change related work. From their website at Dalhousie University:

Our climate is changing — of this we are sure. Marine life survival is becoming uncertain due to overfishing and changing migration patterns. Animals such as polar bears are becoming visibly anxious as their habitats begin to melt. Oceans are becoming warmer; the polar ice caps are melting.

The alarming thing is that we don’t really know why. Information from beneath the sea’s surface is very limited, despite the fact that continued human survival is directly linked to stable oceanic life.

The Ocean Tracking Network (OTN), a $168-million conservation project, will put an end to this knowledge void. With it, thousands of marine animals around the world — from fish to birds to polar bears — will be tracked using acoustic telemetry technology. At the same time, we will be building a record of climate change — data that can be analyzed and then applied.

Again, no disrespect intended… I’m just not so sure that the 95% unexplored ocean is going to have the unknown void filled in by a multi-million dollar human technological tool — especially one that is largely limited to coastlines.

Could the data and information be useful?

For sure.

Is “building a record of climate change data” and analyzing that data going to shift Stephen Harper and the Conservatives’ approach on global climate change?


If some of the predictions on climate change are correct, or even under-predicting the changes we will be experiencing in coming decades — for example, even if we stopped all greenhouse gas emissions right now, that drastic changes will continue to occur over coming decades.

_ _ _ _ _

Back to the Globe article:

He [Dr. Welch] said researchers were delighted when two inbound signals were detected in July, 2009. The fish, returning from a migration circuit that covered thousands of kilometers of ocean, arrived back at the southern end of Vancouver Island on the same day.

Dr. Welch said none of the other 200 fish survived, reflecting the collapse of the broader Fraser run.

This is one heck of a conclusion to make — again — based on 200 tagged baby sockeye of the hundreds of millions that leave. The rough calculation is generally that of all the baby salmon that migrate out, 2-3% return as adults — At least, this is what the nice little 9 minute video on the Cohen Commission website suggests.

Thus, 2 returning of 200 tagged… that’s what? 1% survival.

hmmm… does this draw big conclusions.

Or what about my theory of where the fish went:

Solving salmon mysteries

This seems to fit with the quote from the article:

But the tagged fish moved rapidly past the north end of Vancouver Island before their signals were lost. The fish never reached the next monitoring post, in Alaska.

the theories continue…

A Globe and Mail article today by Mark Hume:

Is B.C.’s sockeye boom a one-off?

More mention of the new latest and greatest theory on why this year’s Fraser sockeye run is so fantastic — a volcano.

It’s a curious one, but who really knows…

One of the questions I have is whether this theory that ash from the volcano settling on the North Pacific created a phytoplankton bloom and thus a sockeye boom — is whether other critters all the way up and down the food chain experienced the same sort of boom?

It also seems that this volcano theory leaves out other pieces of the puzzle. For example, if it’s just that simple — e.g. fertilize the North Pacific — I can only imagine what some folks are thinking now…  but what about the issues of juveniles in freshwater, out-migration, etc.

Are we suggesting with this volcano theory that everything must be fine in the early life cycle stages — and that all the issues are simply at sea?

I’m not quite buying it yet — however, I also haven’t read the research reports yet — so will reserve full opinion.

Any thoughts out there?

Salmon articles

Times Colonist

Two articles in the Victoria Times Colonist yesterday:

Save some salmon for the bears and whales, study says

Entire ecosystems on the Pacific coast rely on salmon and humans are taking more than their share, a new scientific study concludes.

The paper calls for a shift in fishing plans to protect other species, from insects and seagulls to grizzly bears and killer whales.

Some salmon would be worth more alive than dead — especially when runs are headed for rivers and streams in parks and protected areas…

Lots folks been pointing this out for a long time.

_ _ _ _ _

A volcano blows and Fraser sockeye come back in record numbers. Is there a connection? There could well be. Roberta Hamme, at University of Victoria, and colleagues have just had a new paper published in the Geophysical Research Letters that studies the issue. In 2008, volcano, Kasatochi, in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands, blew its top and ash drifted out over a large area of the North Pacific Ocean.

Within a few days, the largest bloom of phytoplankton ever observed spread across more than 1,000 kilometres of surface water. The connection with sockeye is that they eat plankton. Their food is stimulated by the addition of iron, in this case from the volcanic ash, and plankton begin fixing carbon dioxide from the air and growing and doubling in rapid order.

The continued search for a “smoking gun” of sorts… pretty curious theory.

like salmon, like horses…

salmon "management"?

Related to a post the other day: Fisheries management is not about “managing” the fish… it’s about managing us.

“Management” means: “The act, manner, or practice of managing; handling, supervision, or control.”

Now if we look at the roots of this word it comes from Italian maneggiare “to control, train (especially horses)”. This evolved from Latin manus: hand.

The cartoon isn’t to suggest that horse trainers necessarily treat horses this way… however, some might.

I have always found the term “management” in relation to ‘natural resource management’ or ‘fisheries management’ or ‘ecosystem-based management’ — the most bizarre of terms.

Humans are simply part of the system; not over and above it.

Even in human systems, such as businesses, government, or otherwise — terms like ‘strategic management’ or ‘human resources management’ are still rather bizarre.

bizarre, bizarre…

Something fishy: The salmon are back

The National Post ran this story on Friday:

Something fishy: The salmon are back

…confounding expectations and mocking the experts, some 34,546,000 wild sockeye returned to the Fraser River this summer.

It was the largest such return in at least 97 years.

Some 13 million of the sockeye were caught as they swam into and up the Fraser, most of them taken by commercial fishermen. Another 15 million likely perished in the turbulent river runs, either in the fast-flowing Fraser, or later in the Thompson. A lot of fish died after reaching Shuswap Lake, so close to home.

Firstly, it’s unfortunate that the media continues to use this: “35 million sockeye returned”… No, it’s 35 million sockeye were estimated to have been heading to the mouth of the Fraser River. This was an in-season run size estimate based on test fisheries, scale samples, hydroacoustic counts, and whatever other science and quasi-science goes into run size estimates.

We won’t really have a better idea until all of the escapement and spawner counts are in somewhere around the time snow if flying and rivers are freezing (and the Cohen Commission hearings are in full swing).

Secondly, no “the salmon” are not back. One species, of a couple stocks of Fraser sockeye – “are back.” Sure there were some decent returns of other salmon in other areas; however, interior coho, early run Chinook, steelhead, and a myriad of other salmon stocks and species are still in deep trouble.

Thirdly, don’t get me wrong — it’s fantastic that the sockeye returned in numbers this year. However, I really hope folks remember the ‘power in diversity’ maxim.

The Adams River is but one run on the Fraser River. It’s comprised of a few stocks; however there was once over 200 separate and distinct sockeye stocks on the Fraser River.

don't count; it's just to get the idea across - from my Cohen Commission presentation

As pointed out in several previous posts, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans can only manage to 19 stocks, as that’s all there is enough information on.

I certainly don’t want to rain on the parade of this year’s “historic” return of Fraser sockeye; however, anywhere between 70-90% of the total run will be comprised of just the Adams run. That percentage could keep getting higher as the actual stream counts start coming in and the in-season forecast of 35.4 million is scaled back.

If you started celebrating the great return on the mutual fund within your RRSP and then realized that the fund was comprised of 70-90% of one company – one stock (Say Research in Motion, or other company) — would you be feeling very safe? Would you be celebrating?

Or, would you think maybe diversity is a better strategy? Maybe that mutual fund would be a little more balanced and safe if it was comprised of 200 separate stocks, or maybe 100…

Here’s a map of the historic stocks of sockeye (including kokanee) all across BC.

from "Freshwater Fishes of British Columbia" J.D. McPhail

And as far as I know, the picture ain’t all that rosy for all those black dots that represent sockeye stocks on Vancouver Island. Plus there were no record breaker runs on the Skeena this year; decent return but not “historic”.

Fisheries management is not about “managing” the fish… it’s about managing us.

Vancouver Sun image

Yesterday, Dr. Brian Riddell had an article printed in the Vancouver Sun.

A ‘sea change’ for wild Pacific salmon

As Dr. Riddell suggests:

This historic sockeye run is providing a wonderful “teachable moment” that should restore hope in the face of what has been a growing sense of disillusion about the future for wild salmon in British Columbia.

It could also usher in a much-needed “sea change” in our appreciation of wild salmon and our willingness to invest in a better understanding of this resource.

He continues:

…If nothing else, these past two years should be cause for humility about our understanding and management of wild salmon…

…Our immediate response must be to investigate the causes of this extreme change. If we don’t respond and simply monitor next year’s return, then we are only watching salmon and not managing them.

It is this phraseology, this paradigm, this giant assumption — that causes things to go off the rail for me.

_ _ _ _ _

To “manage” means: “To direct or control the use of; handle.”

“Management” means: “The act, manner, or practice of managing; handling, supervision, or control.”

Now if we look at the roots of this word it comes from Italian maneggiare “to control, train (especially horses)”. This evolved from Latin manus: hand.

See…now, my wife is a horse trainer by profession. She has spent a good part of her life with horses; her adult life ‘training’ horses. And thus she has a good understanding of the Italian roots of the word “management” — in relation to training horses.

And I think I can safely say that she would be one of the first people to say that ‘training’ of a horse does not in turn give one outright “control” or “management” of a horse. As the old rhyme goes: a horse is still a horse of course… (or something to that effect).

I can tell you quite honestly that horses scare the crap out of me. They are damn big animals, they could squash me like nothing, and the whole idea of getting on their back, many feet off the ground, and thus at the whim of their instincts and temperament… it’s not my first choice for adrenaline kicks. My “management” of horses sucks.

My wife’s “management” is much, much better. Yet… yet, these are still beasts of the animal kingdom with wild instincts and she’d probably be the first to suggest this.

The whole reason for “managing” them  — e.g. ‘handle’; ‘control’; ‘supervise’; (in my humble, non horse trainer opinion) is simply for the simple reason that we (humans) would like horses to operate to our (human) benefit. Be it work, kids pets, transportation, racing, entertainment, and so on.

And thus, I can see where the roots of the word “management” make sense in this case — and that the ultimate Latin roots of “hand” also make sense. We have a “hand” in dictating the relationship between humans and horses…

Wild salmon, though…?

_ _ _ _ _

Returning to one of Dr. Riddell’s comments: “If we don’t respond and simply monitor next year’s return, then we are only watching salmon and not managing them.”

It’s an odd statement really… truthful on one side; in that, yes, if we mean ‘manage’ as in the definition of the word, then watching is not: “controlling”, “supervising”, or “handling”… it’s simply watching — or observing, pondering, seeing patterns, and so on.

Well, gee, that kind of sounds like how salmon were cared for well before “fisheries management” and its good buddy “fisheries science” came around. Traditional and community knowledge all around the Pacific Rim — throughout the historic range of Pacific salmon — had an amazing amount to do with watching and observing.

Actually, that’s the fundamental base of all biology, or even science isn’t it?

_ _ _ _ _


“1. a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws…”
But, what is “study”?
1. a. The act or process of studying.
b. The pursuit of knowledge, as by reading, observation, or research.
2. Attentive scrutiny.

Curious… that sounds like “watching” or “observing”…

And oddly enough, a second definition of “science” suggests:

“2. systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation

However, this doesn’t seem to fit with fisheries scientist Dr. Riddell’s view:

Watching and waiting isn’t management, ignoring issues won’t resolve them, and not investing in science simply generates new costs down the road.

But ‘watching and waiting’ are an integral part of salmon science — aren’t they? And isn’t investing in ‘salmon science’, simply mean, investing $$ to watch and observe?

And isn’t watching and waiting an essential component of salmon management?

We watch, and/or count, salmon through a wide variety of means. Eggs go into the gravel, we watch and wait… baby salmon come out of the gravel… we watch, and count… they go to sea… we wait… we watch… we count as they come back… We wait… we count… we watch…

It seems that maybe “fisheries science” and its practitioners is making this a heck of a lot more complicated then it needs to be.

As — in between all the watching and waiting… there’s computer modeling, and conferences, and Commissions, and lawyers, and managers, and meetings, and Ministers, and more meetings, and lobbying, and forecasting, and modeling, and a whole heck of a lot of paper pushing, paper filing, paper copying, papering in general, and jet flights, and per diems, day rates, and hotels, and conference centres, and pre-season forecasting, and jet flights, and waiting, and managing, and spending, and in-season modeling and forecasting, and, and, and, and…

_ _ _ _

And… SO… after all this.

What is “fisheries management”? What is “salmon management”?

Couldn’t say it any better than a definition on Wikipedia:

Managing fisheries is about managing people and businesses, and not about managing fish.

Fish populations are managed by regulating the actions of people.

herring seiners

If fisheries management is to be successful, then associated human factors, such as the reactions of fishermen, bureaucrats, scientists, and government officials are of key importance, and need to be better understood.

Well phrased.

_ _ _ _ _

And as such, I could not agree with Dr. Riddell’s comment more:

…more time and energy must be invested in the volunteer organizations that do the hands-on work of wild salmon conservation and habitat restoration in British Columbia.
Exactly right!

Included in there is the thousands of people around the Pacific Rim that have intimate traditional, local and community knowledge about salmon — brought about by generations of watching.

We can not, and never will, “manage” salmon. We can simply observe, study, and watch… and marvel at how much we just don’t know.

It’s the managing people that is the toughest piece of this puzzle. Investing more and more money into science is not the solution. And curiously enough… the culprits out there for the dire situation in the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia) are pretty darn well known.

It’ us… again.

6.5 billion cubic metres of waste water every year out of Vancouver alone might have something to do with it. Over 100 small streams lost due to urbanization. Over half the population of BC flushing their toilets into outdated, underfunded waste water treatment plants, in turn dumped into the Salish Sea.

Fisheries management is not about “managing” the fish… it’s about managing us.

where the hell is the 35 million Fraser sockeye? Seems about 6 million might be missing.

Stellaquo River -- Upper Fraser River

How many other places — other than the Adams River — does this sign apply?

As mentioned in posts last week — the Stellaquo River in the upper Fraser — sure as hell isn’t breaking any records this year.

Nor is the Early Stuart group of Fraser sockeye, or many other stocks, groups, or conservation units as some like to call these “groupings”. (the only reason for the grouping is for fisheries management purposes).

Emails are beginning to fly around now from local folks who know these runs: Where the hell are these apparent 35 million Fraser sockeye?

And meanwhile not a peep out of mass media…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The upper Fraser is experiencing far from any “historic records” — however, this could be seen in the pre-season predictions, and even the daily adjusting in-season forecasts. The in-season compared to pre-season predictions on the Early Summer run was a difference of about 4.7 times or so. On the Summers, about 2.5 times more predicted by in-season forecasts as compared to pre-season forecasts (the 50 percent probability forecasts).

It is these two “Groups” of Fraser sockeye that saw the early commercial fishing bonanza. Then the Late Summer in-season forecasts starting coming in and folks went nuts.

And some went so far as to recommend harvesting 80% of the run — otherwise fish would be “wasted.”

_ _ _ _ _ _

By the end of the Pacific Salmon Commission teleconference calls in mid-September the total Fraser sockeye run was predicted to be 35.4 million. The media headlines and stories painted the picture of a bonanza “not seen in 100 years.”

(I don’t quite buy that story, but so be it… see earlier posts on estimated historic Fraser sockeye runs)

On the Commission’s last distribution the approximate number of Fraser sockeye past Mission in the lower Fraser (11.5 million) or caught in commercial (approx. 10 million) and First Nation (approx. 1.2 million) fisheries was a little under 24 million — suggesting another 10 million were still due to swim upstream and were most likely holding in the Strait of Georgia.

Well… we’re now approaching one month since that last report. If you go to the Commission website and download the latest Excel spreadsheet showing the latest In-Season Fraser River Escapement Reports — there’s a problem (at least to my eyes).

Total estimates past Mission are now 16.3 million (as of Oct. 4th). This is only a 5 million increase from mid-Sept. Added that the first few days of October saw ZERO sockeye past the hydroacoustic equipment.

The last big day was 100,000 on September 27th, then 67,000 the next day, then 12,000 and then 4,000 and then big fat zero.

Latest cumulative total past Mission = approx. 16.3 million.

Add this to the total estimated catch of 12.7 million and we have a potential total run size of 29 million.

Where are the other predicted 5 – 6 million Fraser sockeye?

Let me guess… the seals ate them.

_ _ _ _ _

Some folks might ponder: “what does it matter, with a run this big… 5-6 million sockeye missing, don’t sweat it dude.”

Well… first, 5 to 6 million is about half the total run size that was originally predicted in pre-season forecasts (at least the 50 percent probability forecast). We know what happens when far less fish then forecast show up: public inquiries, and judicial appointments, and millions of dollars and lengthy reports, and big lawyers bills…

The other problem is when pre-eminent fisheries scientists are in numerous media stories and outlets advocating for a 80% of total run size harvest.

If we take the in-season estimate of 34.5 million and hypothetically take off an 80% harvest — what are we left with?

Well… that suggests a harvest of almost 28 million fish.

Hmmm… at current run size numbers, if we had gone with that scenario this year we’d have about as many sockeye as last year heading towards the spawning grounds: in the neighborhood of 1 million.

Brilliant plan…

_ _ _ _

Regardless… could someone please tell me where the other 5 to 6 million fish are?

And remember, this is all just forecasting, estimating, and guesstimating… we still need the on-the-ground actual counts and estimates of spawners on the spawning grounds.

_ _ _ _ _

Dear Justice Cohen,

Is it not time for a fundamental re-structuring of how this game works?

And could you please ask DFO and the Pacific Salmon Commission where the other 5 -6 million sockeye are this year?

Where are the 35 million sockeye? — Upper Fraser salmon rally and prayer

Stellaquo Sockeye: returning to where it came from...

Yesterday, my family and I drove to the Stellaquo River — Fraser Lake area — to attend a salmon rally and prayer organized by the Stellat’en and Nadleh Whut’en First Nations. Also attending was Alexandra Morton and her team, who are traveling the many tributaries of the upper and mid-Fraser, as part of the Salmon are Sacred campaign.

Salmon are Sacred















Stellaquo in sockeye fall colors






















salmon people


nice work Sharolise!























It was great to see sockeye in the river…

Stellaquo sockeye


And on the banks…
















But this sign says it all:

where’s the millions?

At the fish fence run by the Stellat’en First Nation, estimates suggest about 200,000 sockeye have gone by this year (and about 4 Chinook).

This is only a percentage of the 800,000 sockeye that have been seen in past years, and millions in years gone by.

This year is comparable to the 180,000 or so counted two years ago — which was a ‘down’ year for Fraser sockeye. A year when there were basically no Fraser sockeye-focussed commercial fisheries.

Historic Fraser sockeye run this year?

Maybe at the mouth, maybe up the Adams River way, maybe in some ocean-based gill nets… sure as hell not in the upper Fraser.

Downstream folks… remember… everything flows downstream.


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After the riverside ceremony a community dinner was hosted at the Stellat’en Hall. The Nadleh Whut’en youth dancers performed:

Nadleh Whut'en youth dancers


Fantastic, really fantastic.



These youth were such a pleasure to watch perform.

Sadly, unless some tough choices are made in coming years, these youth will see a “historic” year of sockeye, like this year (which – sadly – is far from historic in the upper Fraser) — dwindle away to historic losses.

Many of the salmon runs will only become stories told, names remembered like mythological characters of bygone years, and ghosts dancing in rivers and on riverbanks.

I say  — tough choices — because we can continue to pay top $$ for researchers to find the “smoking gun”, or explain why this year was a good year, or blame dwindling runs on squid, or blame it on El Nino… or we can start making tough choices on the things we can actually do something about — us.

In the Fraser River there’s this really nasty critter that impacts salmon. Generally it has two legs and two arms and apparently the most developed brain in the animal kingdom. It has a great propensity for compassion, forethought, and action. I think you know who I am referring to — you and me.

Why don’t we put some top $$ into the things we can actually do something about.

Ourselves and our impacts.

We can keep spending top $$ on environmental reviews and assessments and preeminent scientific panels and conferences and forums and commissions and public inquiries — and we can blame the dwindling salmon runs between Los Angeles, California and Inuvik, Northwest Territories on ocean currents, seals, orcas, squid, mackerel, trout, Dolly Varden, bears, eagles, and whatever else — or maybe, just maybe, …slow down… take stock… and simply focus in on ourselves and our actions?

And talk to the hundreds of thousands of people around the North Pacific coast and inland areas that have knowledge of salmon, that have knowledge of salmon habitat, and have a lot of ideas about a few things we might need to consider.

For example, I recently heard — and was told again last night — about a wooden stake that was recently extracted from the river bed at the Nadleh Whut’en community. It was part of an ancient salmon fishing weir. The stake was carbon dated to at least 1200 A.D.

This is about the same time the Vikings were charging around the coasts of Europe.

Seems the Vikings get a whole lot of attention and research… what about the salmon people of the upper Fraser?

They were around a lot longer as distinct cultures and people than the Vikings were…

Just a thought.