Monthly Archives: January 2011

Warning: skewed graphic content?

Fitting quote…

Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery.

~Mark Amidon

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Hence, why it is pretty important to make best efforts to: mean what you say, and say what you mean.

As famous writer E.B. White suggested:

No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing.

Or as Edward Tufte, professor emeritus at Yale University and design expert, suggests in one of his fantastic books Envisioning Information:

Lurking behind chartjunk is contempt for both information and for the audience. Chartjunk promoters imagine that numbers and details are boring, dull and tedious, requiring ornament to enliven. Cosmetic decoration, which frequently distorts the data, will never salvage an underlying lack of content…

Worse is contempt for our audience, designing as if readers were obtuse and uncaring. In fact, consumers of graphics are often more intelligent about the information at hand than those who fabricate the data decoration. And, no matter what, the operating moral premise of information design should be that our readers are alert and caring; they may be busy, eager to get on with it, but they are not stupid.

Clarity and simplicity are completely opposite simple-mindedness. Disrespect for the audience will leak through, damaging communication.

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Fitting post from Mr. Godin today as well — especially surrounding this highly contentious BC salmon farming issue:

Self-destructive instructions

If you ever have to say ‘lighten up’ to someone, you’ve failed twice. The first time, when you misjudged an interaction and the other person reacted in a way you’re unhappy with, and the second time, when you issue this instruction, one that is guaranteed to evoke precisely the opposite reaction you’re intending.

I’ll add “I was joking,” to this list, because it’s an incredibly lame excuse for a failed interaction.

One more: Raising your voice while you say, “You’re just going to have to calm down!” (And I’ll add librarians yelling at kids to be quiet…)

It’s completely valid to come to the conclusion that someone else can’t be a worthy audience, conversation partner or otherwise interact with you. You can quietly say to yourself, “this guy is a stiff, I’m never going to be able to please him.” But the minute you throw back instructions designed to ‘cure’ the other person, I fear you’re going to get precisely the opposite of what you were hoping for.

(Generally speaking, the word “oh” is so neutral, it’s a helpful go to pause while you wait for things to calm down.)

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Oh…?

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Might something akin to this occur with the current PR-campaign by the BC Salmon Farmers Association, or tar sands PR campaigns, or otherwise?

For example, the “bcsalmonfacts” TV commercials that ask the question along the lines of: “do you believe everything you’re told?”

Doesn’t seem to be all that different than TV commercials these days advertising cars as good “environmental choices” and promoting the fact that fewer greenhouse gases were released in the making of the commercial because they put the car on a treadmill of sorts and sprayed it with a hose to make it look like it was raining.

Well, sure, producing the commercial might have saved a few ounces of greenhouse gases, but what about the amount that that same car is going to produce over its lifetime?

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Advertising and PR (and the prime time nightly news and campaigning politicians) that market to folks as if they are the lowest common denominator will (most likely) eventually have things blow up in their face.

All the more complicated… throw in a pile of finger pointing, stabbing and jabbing — attacks on the other sides “science”, credibility, “facts”, and just simple attacks; and… well… many folks just zone out. At least the folks in the middle or maybe even on the fence.

For others that have an impassioned opinion on either side, fires are simply fueled, logs are thrown on the blaze, and the inferno of “who’s more right?” burns through the night. (just like a marriage or family member argument that burns for years because one person is sooo much more right than the other person… and vice versa).

Calm, measured, listening, middle-road approaches — with questions of clarification, attempts at balancing and limiting assumptions, and conversations that seek clarity and understanding (and maybe even agreeing to disagree on some things)… might garner much stronger, lasting results?

Or, is that just pie-in-the-sky idealism?

BC Salmon Farmers PR campaign: continuing the discussion…

I left some more comments today on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website — the Public Relations (PR) spin campaign of the BC Salmon Farmers Association and related companies involved in open-pen salmon farming on the BC coast. I have found it quite an interesting process — from a variety of angles…

As a few of my posts have alluded to this week, looking at the strategy, tactics and approach of this PR campaign has been an interesting process. Launching PR campaigns can be akin to freeing — or trying to cage — a schizophrenic, unpredictable critter.

These sorts of things can be a great success, or an absolute bomb… just like a Hollywood movie.

Backlash can hurt just as much as watching the old movie Backdraft multiple times.

And, thus, these sorts of things must be well-though out and very well managed — even more so when the purpose is “getting the real story out” and espousing “facts”. Think of how many politicians have had campaigns ended or careers ended because they weren’t forthright about certain actions, activities,  from the past.

No matter how many clever commercials they put on TV or social media.

A glaring difference here is that a politician has clear objectives with their PR-campaigns… get elected. When it comes to this ‘salmonfacts’ campaign… well, I’m a little unsure. Some of this relates to, for example, why cannibalize your own businesses.

One of the comments left today on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website in regards to the “fact” that “salmon are incredibly efficient eaters”. Yes, this is a fact, but what isn’t an “efficient eater”…?

And why cannibalize your own business in this process:

some might suggest that this ‘fact’ could be referred to as cannibalism…

And no, I don’t mean in the standard food consumption meaning of the word; more the business meaning of the word.

“Cannibalization refers to the business process whereby engaging in one activity or practice necessarily eats into another activity or practice. Cannibalization can take place within a firm, between businesses, or across industries.”

Last time I checked (and maybe it has changed recently?) Marine Harvest and Marine Harvest Canada [I stand corrected, it’s Skretting not Marine Harvest as Nutreco sold Marine Harvest a few years back] are subsidiaries of Nutreco:
http://www.nutreco.com/

Their website suggests: “Nutreco is a global leader in animal nutrition and fish feed.”

one of their specialties is “Compound Feeds”:

“Compound feeds are complete, industrially blended or compounded feeds which fully match the nutritional requirements of the specified animal (poultry, pigs, ruminants, fish, rabbits, goats, sheep and other species).”

So it seems like this graphic and this concentration on salmon feed conversion rates is a little contradictory when compared to overall business practices of companies listed on this site.

Yes, maybe salmon food conversion rates are lower and this can serve as a front to suggest: look how “sustainable” this business of salmon farming is…

But isn’t it a little hypocritical for a company to sell its “sustainability” practices, by focusing on this specific ad, when the parent company (Nutreco) of this company [Skretting] is actually heavily involved as a majority of its business in developing feed for the poultry, cattle and pig industry, and is in fact invested heavily in poultry and other meats:

“Nutreco’s subsidiary Sada is the Spanish market leader in chicken production and is well known in Spain for its Sada and Cuk brands. Sada also produces a range of chicken products and meal solutions.”

If not hypocritical, its certainly cannibalizing the parent companies businesses.

BC Salmon Farmers, more responses… will I eat farmed crow?

If you have not had a chance to follow all the comments, or are new to the site; here’s a sampling of an exchange that portrays some properties of the BC salmon farming debate and where there may very well continue to be dissonance on this hot ticket issue.

A manager from one of the larger BC salmon farming companies (a very large company, where the salmon farmer is but one tiny cog in a much larger globalized multinational — not to suggest this as a “ohhh, watch out for the bogeyman”… more a reality of the business environment), respectively left some comments in response to my comments on the new PR campaign largely led by the website bcsalmonfacts.ca:

You raise a range of interesting points in your response to my posting on your blog. I do want to address these as best I can. I hope that ultimately you will come and see for yourself what we do and how we do it.

You comment that … in BC there are large populations of wild salmon stocks and the history of wild and farmed interactions is not a very good one.

This is an interesting point – but this is one of the myths that I’d like to see the wider public understand better. The farmers in BC have actually got a great record of living in harmony with wild salmon runs. In the Broughton – increasing pink runs and coho runs. In the Fraser a record sockeye run. Coordinated and effectively managed sealice levels to specifically protect wild stocks (not to protect the farmed fish)…

… Salmon farming is a good economic activity that should be seen as part of the solution to the world’s sustainability problems – it is not, in my view, part of the problem.

You then discuss more generally regarding what are acceptable impacts and how do we determine what is acceptable. You also comment on the role of PR. I’m glad to say that I agree with you here! All human activities have impacts. We do need to debate what is acceptable to the community here in BC.

But the community deserves to hear both sides of the story – PR works both ways and the people who advocate for the elimination of salmon farming (that is what would effectively happen if the industry was legislated out of the natural waterways) are very good at communicating their ideas and concerns. Salmon farmers have a responsibility to explain why we believe that our activities are part of the solution and not part of the problem.

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It is not the entire comment, and I haven’t shortened it to try and take things out of context; more to shorten reading time (and try and keep post length down).

In response, I had a post-length comment, of which I have added a few more thoughts:

thanks for taking the time in continuing this chat. I certainly have to respectfully take issue with a few comments about the ‘myths’ you allude to… like anything, and especially this hot button issue of salmon farming on the BC coast… it is multifaceted with more sides, angles and faces then a polar bear embossed diamond from Nunavut.

I don’t quite buy the ‘fish farms living in harmony with wild salmon runs’ argument… it’s a pretty weak causal connection. If I might use the analogy, it’s like saying clearcut logging had a harmonious relationship with salmon because look at the record Fraser sockeye run this year. “All those years of industrial clearcuts ‘obviously’ didn’t do any damage, look at this record 2010 run. What’s everyone complaining about?”

The jury is most certainly still out on this apparent harmonious relationship between salmon farms and wild salmon. And quite frankly, I agree with the newspaper article posted on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website today regarding this PR campaign [Vancouver Sun: BC salmon farmers fight back]. Some of the statements made in the salmon farmers press release, and some of the statements on the website, just inflame the situation more than seek resolution.

If the intention truly was to ‘get the real story out’ then why use the “email from Nigerian refugee” analogy — that’s simply inciting. Not that i’m not prone to the same approach from time to time… but this is a PR campaign by big, ‘responsible, companies with many brains at the table (I hope). I would hope the PR firm launching this could come up with something a little more clever than that. (but then, sometimes folks tune me up on my communication tactics too…)

I think I’d have to beg to differ that the runs [Broughton pink and coho] are “increasing”… as compared to what? Late 1990 numbers when there was a zero mortality coho policy? (I have the same issue with DFO and their salmon numbers too… see older posts… colonial cultures tend to have a rather narrow timeframe when they start talking about “historical populations”)

I also struggle with the: ‘farmed salmon is part of a sustainable food supply issue.’

If feed conversion levels are still above 1:1 as in the 1.2 to 1 as claimed on the PR site… that’s still a negative gain — and negative gains are not “sustainable”. If it takes me $1.20 to make $1.00, I don’t think any financial adviser would recommend this investment scheme [as sustainable]?

Furthermore, last time I checked at the local Prince George supermarket, farmed Atlantic salmon prices weren’t all that different then wild salmon prices. I don’t imagine that’s much different in the U.S. where the bulk of BC farmed salmon gets exported too. And thus, as I’ve mentioned in past posts, I don’t think inner city kids in the U.S. are eating poached or baked salmon at any meal they might secure.

I also don’t imagine that BC salmon farmers are making huge strides to get their product to West Africa in its time of ethnic strife and starvation.

It’s not to suggest that they necessarily should… it’s more that this argument that farmed salmon are a solution to food shortages is seriously flawed. Frankly, salmon is a luxury food that some middle class families can afford — however, cheaper beef, pork and poultry are going to be the meat alternatives to folks on the lower income scale.

[furthermore, there are many studies that suggest there are not food shortages in the world, there are serious issues with distribution… not to mention, food now being used to produce biofuels…]

And thus, I have doubts about the “good economic activity” that you suggest. As far as I can see (which sometimes isn’t that far, depends on how hard its raining), salmon in the marketplace is about supplying higher income folks, and thus, this is why it makes “economic” sense to some. Especially publicly-traded companies that have shareholders to satisfy [and analyst expectations to meet]. I respectfully suggest that this is one of those half truths, half facts that I have mentioned.

You are fair in your comments on PR and yes, I agree in turn — PR is certainly used by all sides. If you’d like, search “Canadian Boreal Forest Initiative Agreement” on this site (or Marine Stewardship Council) and you’ll see I don’t only have issues with corporate PR, there is certainly enviro-NGOs PR campaigns that also drive me batty.

I’m not so sure I agree with the assertion that the salmon farming industry would be “eliminated” if it was taken out of natural waterways…[and I see today there is a new posting on the bcsalmonfacts.ca in this regard]. I’ve seen a few recent presentations that demonstrate the technology and financials around closed-containment systems.

Also… like so many things, industry proponents buried in certain ways of doing things, faced with imminent changes, jump up and down, scream and shout, twist and turn, and lobby the shit out of government to make sure changes are not enforced.

“we will be forced out of business”; “this industry will die”; “people will lose jobs”; and every other possible argument. And then… what to our wonder… real innovative thinking happens… new technology is created, becomes more affordable, and a whole new way of doing things all of a sudden arises.

Look at the incredible growth of organic farming: from food to cotton.

Early on, industry proponents said “no way, won’t happen” and now?… Walmart has jumped on board.
Similar arguments around alternative energy and so on.

And so, I am a bit curious about what you mean by salmon farmers are “part of the solution and not part of the problem” — what solution(s) are you referring to? And which problems?

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A thought came to mind, in relation to yesterday’s post. In that post, I quoted a definition of public relations (PR):

1. the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.
2. the art, technique, or profession of promoting such goodwill.

If that is the case… then maybe some of the NGO campaigns opposing open-pen salmon farming on the BC coast, in relatively confined inland waterways, aren’t PR, as one could argue those campaigns are not seeking “goodwill” per se. Yet, some of those campaigns certainly employ the spin-factor or latching on to certain very negative components and communicating those in a way that over-emphasizes certain things.

Similar to various companies and corporations these days that advertise how great they are — yet will screw you over at the first opportunity. I recently looked at the back of my bill from Bell, and on the back in hard to read blue fine print it explains they will charge 3% per month interest on overdue balances. That’s 42.58% per year! (they leave that part out on their cute little TV commercials and newspaper ads). Same with the big banks and their mysterious user fees and administrative charges, etc.

This isn’t to say that I’m comparing these tactics directly — simply highlighting a point.

Marketing maven and guru Seth Godin has a fitting post on this from yesterday:

Raising expectations (and then dashing them)

Have you noticed how upbeat the ads for airlines and banks are?

Judging from the billboards and the newspaper ads, you might be led to believe that Delta is actually a better airline, one that cares. Or that your bank has flexible people eager to bend the rules to help you succeed.

At one level, this is good advertising, because it tells a story that resonates. We want Delta to be the airline it says it is, and so we give them a try.

The problem is this: ads like this actually decrease user satisfaction. If the ad leads to expect one thing and we don’t get it, we’re more disappointed than if we had gone in with no real expectations at all. Why this matters: if word of mouth is the real advertising, then what you’ve done is use old-school ad techniques to actually undercut any chance you have to generate new-school results.

So much better to invest that same money in delighting and embracing the customers you already have

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This is the danger with the fighting tactics that the salmon farmers have chosen for this PR campaign.

This is a potentially well-funded, infinitely backed PR-spin campaign mounted by massive multinational companies (for the most part). It looks pretty sharp, it uses nice language (e.g. dispelling myths, stating facts, and telling the real story). It’s about ‘putting those evil spin-mongering NGOs in their place, uncover their naysaying, left-leaning, greeny BS.’

The reality check here is that the general BC public — the average folks that in some way or another will make the decisions on whether to get open-pen salmon farming out of BC’s inland waters — will largely see straight through this. We are bombarded daily by hundreds, thousands of ads by large, national or multinational companies spouting off about how great they are, and how it’s just so simple to do business with their ultra-responsible firms.

Yet, when you actually try to call them you’re run through an infuriating automated answering system that doesn’t get you where you need to go. You get repeated “your call is important to us, please continue to hold”, and finally, a person, yet it’s quite apparent they are certainly not in the same time zone as you are.

This particular PR campaign is employing similar tactics, trying to show pizzaz and new aged-ness by engaging social media and so on… but it’s not that much different than BP oil mounting a Facebook PR campaign to change their image… most folks will see through it, the already converted will espouse its merits and why don’t those other dolts buy what we’re selling and stop believing that evil NGO crap.

It’s simply the wrong tactic… it’s old school, it’s tired, and it will most likely be a waste of money.

And worse yet, if the salmon farming naysayers are able to dispel and communicate the other ‘facts’ and the ‘myths posing as facts’ and so of this particular campaign — the salmon farming industry could end out with even more mud on their face. Most folks cheer for the little guy, the underdog, and this is shaping up nicely as well-funded multinationals against average citizens and a handful of NGOs, who have BC citizen membership behind them.

Maybe I’ve seen this picture somewhere before…?

(but who knows, maybe i’ll be forced to eat my words… eat farmed crow… or something)

BC Salmon Farmers continue to engage and respond…

Over this last week, there has been quite a jump in visitors to this blog — it appears largely due to my comments on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website established by the BC Salmon Farmers Association, and a few of the companies involved in this conflict-ridden, hot button industry.

Folks visiting this blog, may or may not follow the comments section. This week there have been comments from a few sides of the issue, including engagement from companies involved in the PR campaign.

It’s certainly an interesting process, discussion, conversation — and some pretty good examples of cognitive dissonance from all sides. As Wikipedia defines it:

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying. It is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

There’s certainly no shortage of blaming and denying when it comes to the salmon farm debate on the BC coast… there’s also a certain amount of justifying. Well… in fact… it seems the entire bcsalmonfacts.ca PR-campaign is about justifying how great this particular industry is. If you are involved in the industry, it probably looks like roses — if you are an individual who holds the believe that salmon farms may be responsible for reducing wild salmon runs or polluting local clam beds… well, then, it probably smells like a steaming brown pile.

I’m certainly curious to hear the results of this PR-spin campaign and whether it is successful in changing any attitudes, beliefs, and/or actions — and thus, reducing cognitive dissonance… and dissonance (lack of agreement, consistency, or harmony; conflict) in general on this issue.

I would have to imagine that this is the intention of the campaign — otherwise why spend the money?

This is not ‘marketing’ per se… as marketing is suggested to be: “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services.”

I’m not so sure this is about selling, as reading the material on the website and otherwise — the industry supplies “fresh salmon” to all sorts of customers. It doesn’t seem to have a problem with securing customers for its product.

And, as suggested in various related material, this is simply about ‘getting the real story out’ and about ‘dispelling myths and expounding facts’.

So let’s slow down for a second here… if marketing is suggested to be about selling products; what is public relations?

Well… public relations (PR) is:

1. the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.
2. the art, technique, or profession of promoting such goodwill.

Curious that. Because as I understand it, “goodwill” is also something that can be sold as part of a company’s balance sheet:

An intangible asset which provides a competitive advantage, such as a strong brand, reputation, or high employee morale. In an acquisition, goodwill appears on the balance sheet of the acquirer in the amount by which the purchase price exceeds the net tangible assets of the acquired company.

I’m not so sure this is what bcsalmonfacts.ca PR spin campaign is up to — although it wouldn’t hurt, would it?

This PR campaign is about securing goodwill from the public, community, and politicians.

This is somewhat evident in some of the comments coming from industry — including on this site. One salmon farm rep (of which it’s been a respectful discussion) pointed out that if moved out of natural waterways (e.g. to closed containment systems on land) the industry would suffer a calamitous collapse (I’m paraphrasing).

I don’t quite buy this story… and I haven’t yet seen the financial analysis on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website or otherwise that shows the cold, hard numbers on this (e.g. the “facts”). I have though, seen financial analysis on the potential to move to closed containment systems, and it appears profitable.

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And so, what is this really about.

This is about the BC salmon farming industry pooping their pants, and potentially recognizing a little too late that their PR work to date has not been very good, and that they may very well be in danger of getting kicked out the natural waterways; or having their exponential BC growth seriously curtailed, or even shrunk.

That’s not good press for shareholders; and that’s not good press for marketing campaigns.

Growth is marketing; marketing is growth. Good PR helps fuel growth, and good growth is good marketing…

As some of their own team have pointed out in various commentary: ‘this is about fighting back’, ‘this is about correcting misinformation’, and so on, and so on.

I’m not sure I have ever seen or heard of anyone ‘securing goodwill’ by “fighting”. Or by simply employing the same tactics that got them into this particular position in the first place. (Look what happened to the BC coastal logging industry when it was hit by well-run, well-thought out PR and marketplace campaigns… not to necessarily suggest they were ‘right’, simply well run, focused.)

And, thus, strictly from a strategy and tone perspective… I’m not so sure this is the most well thought out campaign. With respect to those that planned it and are implementing it. Simply trying to flip the argument back at say — those nasty NGO misinformation campaigns — is akin to shouting: “no, you’re stupid”… “no, you’re stupid” on the schoolyard.

But then maybe I’m completely wrong on this one… but then a comment that came in while I was typing this post, highlights similar thinking as mine:

You cant blame the fish farm industry for finally adopting PR techniques like the enviros have been using for years….But, this doesnt really help any ‘neutral’ person really make informed decisions.

I want more frankness and openness from fish farmers. Show me the bottom underneath a fish farm on video and prove it is not a dead zone of fish fecal matter etc. Prove, as best you can, that the densities of lice around your farms do not overload juvenile salmon.
And to be precautionary, voluntarily shut down operations during smolt outmigrations or sensitive times.
In other words be more proactive, but not with PR spin which this debate is overloaded with.  The old ‘actions speak louder than words’ type thing.

So, overall for this discussion fish farmers employing the same spin tactics as enviros leaves alot to be desired. If farming isnt bad…prove it openly and clearly. If certain facets of farming are doing some harm admit it and find ways to fix it….then maybe joe average can have some faith in what is said on websites.

For better or worse, any industry will always be looked at skeptically when it comes to its environmental record… It’s basic human nature to think corners will be cut when it comes down to the bottom line vs nature.
This extra burden of proof required to come clean has hit the fish farming really hard… and you are nowhere close to satisfying the public’s belief threshold right now that you are what you claim you are.

…bcsalmonfacts.ca begins the slippery slide down, down, down: Zombie facts, half truths, and connecting some dots.

Sadly, the bcsalmonfacts.ca off with a bang of “open transparency” and balanced discussion… may quickly be slipping down a fish-slimed slide of zombie facts succumbing to gravity, infested with blurry vision, landing head first in the sand.

(please stick with this longish post to see curious connections of PR-campaigns at end)

I suppose if we could all just ignore some realities out there in the ocean and bury our collective heads in the fish meal bag we would publish half-fact articles such as this:

Why You Need to Eat More Fish

Submitted by BC Salmon Facts

Why you need to eat more fish
January 11, 2011
BY THERESA ALBERT

We need to eat more fish. That’s the bottom line. Fish doesn’t just protect our hearts. Studies have shown other health benefits, such as lowered risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancers as well as eye, brain, and joint health improvements.

Fish contain oil that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have also shown improved symptoms in people suffering with mental and depressive disorders when they supplement with omega-3 from fish oil.

[bla, bla, bla, healthy, great fish…]

If you are like most people who do not live on a seacoast, you are likely getting only one serving per week, if that, so how should you get two more? And which seafood should you consume? The top three consumed in North America are tuna, salmon, and shrimp, so that’s a good place to start.

TUNA: The first, cheapest, and most convenient way of eating fish: canned tuna, is a moderate source of omega-3. Consuming one can per week of skipjack (sometimes called light, or flaked, tuna) will net less mercury than eating the larger, darker albacore (sometimes called chunk, or solid). Skipjack tuna is also cheaper. The other two servings should come from different oceans and different types of fish, to lower the risk of one toxin accumulating.

SALMON: Most people love salmon and it is an excellent source of omega-3. But which type should you choose? Remember that big exposé a few years back saying that farmed salmon had way more mercury than wild? There’s more to the story. The “wild” salmon that was chosen for comparison was a type that isn’t normally sold at the grocery store. It was so wild that most of us can’t buy it. It also turns out that the feed was skewing the mercury numbers. Since then the farmed salmon industry has made careful strides to monitor the fish feed more closely and measure the contaminants better.

But it’s farmed fish! Isn’t that bad? Think of it this way: this planet has way too many people on it and we are all going to need to be fed. It would be utopia if we could all move to the farm, grow our own food, and fish in ponds that are spring-fed with pollutant-free crystal waters. The dilemma is that we know we need to consume more fish for our health, but the oceans are having trouble keeping up with our relentless demand.

What are we to do? We need to count on farmers as we always have, and urge them to do their most conscientious job of getting food on our tables. All of our tables. If there is enough wild fish to go around without annihilating the species and/or habitat and you can find as well as afford it, go ahead. But don’t avoid salmon simply because you are afraid of the mercury bogey man.

SHRIMP: This popular shellfish has a moderate omega-3 rating but it is the number one seafood on the market. Some fear that it has too much cholesterol for weekly consumption but a serving of shrimp per week has little or no negative impact upon our cholesterol levels and it is an otherwise lean, omega-3 containing protein.

The World Wildlife Fund is currently working with the shrimp-farming industry to create better practices; so if you are going to buy shrimp, buy American for now until the rest of the world gets on board. The healthiest fish for us (and for the planet) are the smaller fish. Sadly these are used as bait or “chum” and include delicious species like herring and sardines. Both weigh in with as much, if not more, omega-3 as salmon and are cheap and plentiful. The bonus of eating these fish is that it helps to create a more sustainable fishing industry and healthier oceans for us and the planet.

From: http://bit.ly/dHg9hQ

How much fish do you eat a week?

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Reading this, garnered this response from my fingers on keyboard, of which I have posted on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website and is currently being moderated:

ummm, yeah, seafood is important folks — but maybe we need a gentle review of the reality of fish stocks around the world.

Here’s a link to the United Nations FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture website:

What does it suggest there?:

“75% of the major marine fish stocks are either depleted, overexploited or being fished at their biological limit”

Yes, tuna is cheap… at the supermarket. However, the true cost of making tuna cheap… not cheap. Tuna stocks around the world are in deep shit.

What does the UN FAO say about aquaculture?:

“Aquaculture is rapidly increasing its annual global harvest and seems to offer hope for increased food production. However, for some of the more than 210 farmed aquatic animal and plant species, 8 particularly salmon and shrimp, the methods currently used require high energy inputs and can cause environmental degradation similar to industrial/chemical agriculture or factory farming of livestock.”

Hmmmmm

what else?

“The high protein feed for farmed salmon is largely composed of ocean caught fish meal and meat offal from poultry and hog processing. Because of bio-accumulation of toxins in their feed, consumption of farmed salmon even at relatively low frequencies results in elevated exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like compounds with commensurate elevation in estimates of health risk.”

Interesting.

what about those shrimp sources?

“Farming of shrimp in Asia has lead to significant destruction of natural mangrove ecosystems.

Genetically engineered fish are being readied for commercial production in open net pens.”

Sorry, but it’s not a pretty picture out there. We can’t simply continue to bury our head in the fish feed and pretend everything is alright out there.

The fact that folks don’t want to heed the warnings that have been coming for years on the state of the ocean and world’s fisheries is the “silly and not helpful” part. (sorry to say).

Please state all the “facts” if you really want to be transparent on this website.

thanks,
www.salmonguy.org

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And, to be somewhat fair, there is some mention of some of the issues out there in the ocean… I did get a chuckle out of the “buy American in the meantime comment”… right, because if it’s made in America it means it’s more enviro responsible? (in some cases it may very well… however it still reeks of PR-speak)

And: “We need to count on farmers as we always have, and urge them to do their most conscientious job of getting food on our tables.” Come on…

Sorry, this is called an ethnocentric view, meaning: “the tendency to believe that one’s ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one’s own. The ethnocentric individual will judge other groups relative to his or her own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion.” (Wikipedia)

To Ms. Albert the original writer of this article: there is in the world, even today, a few folks that could be referred to as “hunter-gatherers”… they didn’t really ‘count on farmers as we always have.’

I’m not suggesting that the world’s population where it stands now could necessarily continue in a hunting-gatherer lifestyle… however, if we’re all about stating “facts” in an “open and transparent” manner then lets try our best to not simplify everything to the lowest common denominator and forget half the facts.

That’s like trying to make bread or cake with only half the flour… and we know what the result of that is… wet, sloppy, glop that we end out having to flush down the toilet.

(oh right, and let’s not forget the fact that there is this huge movement afoot in North America surrounding food security including: community gardens, 100-mile diets, organic farming, self gardening and so on, as opposed to chemical intense, industrial, genetically modified factory farming.)

_ _ _ _ _

Curiously, if you follow the link to the article that “bcsalmonfacts.ca” decided to post, there’s a curious thing on the bottom:

Excerpted from Ace Your Health by Theresa Albert, Copyright © 2010 by Ezra Levant

[Jan. 23 update, quite curious to find out where blog posts travel to and who might be reading them… the joys of social media. I received this email Sunday Jan. 23 in relation to the information in this blog post below:

Hello Mr. Loewen,

I am writing from McClelland & Stewart, the publisher of Theresa Albert. You posted a blog entry on January 12, 2010 in response to an article Albert contributed to the Toronto Star’s Best Health website titled “Why  You Need to Eat More Fish.” The piece was syndicated by other media outlets but was initially published here http://www.healthzone.ca/health/dietfitness/diet/article/919804–why-you-need-to-eat-more-fish

Upon publication, the credit information for the source material of the excerpt contained a major typo – listing Ezra Levant as the author of Ace Your Health instead of Theresa Albert. This was a simple cut-and-paste error on the part of the Toronto Star. They pulled the format of the credit tag from a past excerpt (by Ezra Levant) to attach to this piece and substituted Theresa’s name and the title of the book in the appropriate places. Unfortunately, they missed one substitution and published the piece with “Ezra Levant” included. This was quickly corrected.

Ezra Levant had absolutely no involvement with this book. It is only fair to your readers to remove the portion of your article associating him with Theresa Albert’s opinions and research.

Thank you,
Josh Glover
Publicity Manager
McClelland & Stewart

Keep this in mind as you read the material below. However, also keep in mind the comment that the point here is not to make direct connections… it’s more to compare the PR tactics, as mentioned below. Simply seemed like a bit of a stretch of a coincidence… and sure enough it was. ]

Who is Ezra Levant?

Well… this is curious… he is “a is a Canadian lawyer, conservative political activist and media figure” and has a blog that he suggests is: “Opinions and articles by a conservative activist.”

And, well, if you read some of Mr. Levant’s posts, or his books, he’s on the same campaign, if not maybe assisting, PM Harper and “Environment” Minister Kent to sell “ethical” properties of the Canadian Tar Sands — (as opposed to the environmental merits… or lack of). As one of his blog posts asks, do we want oil from Saudi Arabia or Alberta?

Well… there is a part of me that asks: oil from Saudi Arabia has been fine for the last few decades, why not now? This is certainly not to suggest where my preferences lie on this issue — it’s more the whole: good for the goose, good for the gander thing. Nobody makes much of a stink about oil from the Middle East when oil reserves in this part of the world were less developed (not that I noticed anyways, I might be wrong…); now that we have increasingly developing oil reserves (e.g, tar sands and potential in the Arctic), let’s start riding the “ethical” train and painting those other sources with the bad, boogey-man brush.

Where were those ‘ethics’ a decade or so ago when that apparently ‘unethical’ oil was fueling much of North America’s ‘growth’?

_ _ _ _

Even more curiously, Wikipedia lists Mr. Levant’s recent work:

From 2009 until 2010, Levant worked as a lobbyist for Rothman’s Incorporated, a manufacturer and distributor of tobacco products.

Well, that is curious isn’t it? (maybe to some folks anyways…)

Everyone’s free to choose whatever career they like, and have opinions on whatever they like, and lobby for whatever they like (if they’re registered, that is).

For those folks out there that didn’t like my mentioning salmon farming, tar sands, and cigarettes in the same post — the connecting of the dots in this particular case starts to make those sorts of comparisons… not such a stretch. (and really, as mentioned in some comments, it’s not to meant to suggest a comparison of those actual industries… it’s more to compare the PR tactics).

This PR-spin mobile continues… and not one I plan to hang over my toddler’s crib.

BC Salmon Farmers engage and respond

It’s a flurry of activity on the salmon guy blog. I have a post yesterday commenting on the BC Salmon Farmers Association newest website: bcsalmonfacts.ca and the accompanying press release and coming onslaught of PR spin. I think it’s safe to say that I am somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to suggestions of the environmental inertness of open-pen salmon farming on the BC coast.

However, I do — and I did — express my appreciation that folks running the website just dove right into their ‘transparency’ efforts by posting my blog efforts as one of their first discussion pieces – with a response. You can visit their site, or read the reproduction here:

bcsalmonfacts.ca response to my post:

BC Salmon Facts says:

Jan 10 2011 5:49 PM

Hi David;

Thanks for visiting our website at www.bcsalmonfacts.ca. We appreciate your skepticism and believe that any subject should be open to challenge. We also believe that the source of the information be transparent – just like you have identified who you are on your blog. Because of this, The BC Salmon Facts campaign does not hide the fact that it is salmon farmers speaking up.

To our knowledge, BC salmon farmers have never thought our facts to be beyond challenge. But, shouldn’t the same be expected of critics? If salmon farmers feel that there is incorrect information about our business (fish meal use is one example, “dyes” another), then wouldn’t you expect us to speak up? Our goal with BC Salmon Facts is simply to assist salmon farmers in communicating.

You’re absolutely correct, motives should be clear, and then we can get down to discussing concerns, and the facts.

There is no arguing that all food production has some sort of impact, which has to be managed. We feel that we have listened to concerns, made important changes to our business, and are quite proud of the product we produce and how we produce it. Today, BC salmon farming is an important, viable business, producing a healthy product. Improvements will always continue.

As you probably know, salmon farms are open up for tours during the summer months. During the tour farmers often hear, “There are things I didn’t know about salmon farming until seeing it for myself – you need to get more people out here to see for themselves”. Well, it’s not easy getting 4.4 million BC residents out to a farm, so this campaign attempts to bring the farm to them.

We would encourage people to visit www.bcsalmonfacts.ca to discuss their concerns and, where they feel needed, challenge the content of the website. As you have said, “discussion…can be constructive…that’s why I started the blog in the first place.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Your opinion is important, so we have posted a link to your blog on our site, along with this response. Please feel free to provide your comments at www.bcsalmonfacts.ca

Sincerely,
www.bcsalmonfacts.ca

I have since posted a response on bcsalmonfacts.ca and will have to see if the moderator chooses to publish my response and if the discussion continues.

I do hand it to them. It’s not an easy place to be in for them, and they just jumped into the fire with it. Maybe it’s a bit late? Maybe not?

I’m also skeptical of comments such as the alluding to the poor-lowly salmon farmers needing some help communicating. Come one… the bulk of these are multi-national corporations with deep pockets… And, as with every publicly traded corporations, they have quarterly targets and analyst expectations to meet.

Yet, the invite to visit and learn more is a good one. Launching into the social media world is also a dangerous venture, yet can pay dividends (sorry for the pun).

One thing that is not going away any time soon… the hot nature of this subject, and I’m pretty sure it will continue to be a hot spring as the Cohen Commission scrambles for their May 2011 deadline (which doesn’t actually exist anymore).

bcsalmonfacts I applaud your efforts and, yes, I’m sure I would learn things with a visit to the farms and appreciate the invite. I  paid a visit to cattle feedlots in California some years ago and also learned a lot too, however, not necessarily things I wanted to learn. I can’t say I’m fully buying the farm yet.

One of the big challenges with understanding the impacts of salmon farming is that it’s all underwater — literally. It’s also potential migratory impacts, in that they might be coming and going impacts. And thus, the general public is left having to read battling science on the issue to try and draw their own conclusions.

Or, trusting that government agencies have the general public’s best interests at heart… of which the recent court case slamming the federal government for handing aquaculture to the Province proved was not the case. And now the cost of that court case, and the cost of developing all new regs, and then implementing.

Or, paying for things like the $5 million BC Pacific Salmon Forum (read B.C. “Pacific Salmon Forum” – $5 million air pie? on this site) which didn’t conclude much specific and then disappeared to gather dust on Ikea shelving units and soon on some internet server – and now funding another $15 million public inquiry.

Gets a bit tiresome.

As I’ve mentioned on various posts on this site and in a public session or two… maybe part of the answer lies in a Citizen’s Assembly similar to the BC Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform? Sort of similar to an impartial jury that explores all sides of an issue.

I also say “part of the solution”, because another fundamental aspect of this issue is the unsettled treaty environment with First Nations on much of the BC coast. That is not something that can be swept under the rug.

The discussion goes on…

Salmon farmers hire PR firms: “It’s about time the real story was told,” says the industry..

Small little press release running in the media yesterday:

Sure, your cheque is in the mail. Really.

An Initiative of the BC Salmon Farmers Association Invites the Public to Get the Straight Facts on Salmon Farming at their New web site, www.BCSalmonFacts.ca

“If it wasn’t so sad, it would almost be funny,” says Mary Ellen Walling, Executive Director of the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association. “Many people are being fed a diet of misinformation and that’s exactly why our members have launched www.BCSalmonFacts.ca, a new web site where we will separate myths from fact and set the record straight.”

In addition to the new website, members of the BC Salmon Farmers Association are also launching a television and print media advertising campaign urging viewers and readers not to believe everything they hear about farmed salmon without first checking the facts.

“At BCSalmonFacts.ca people will be able to separate fact from fiction,” says Clare Backman, Director of Environmental Compliance and Community Relations at Marine Harvest Canada, a member of the BCSFA. “It’s about time the real story was told.”

There are video clips and forums on the site with links to articles of interest. On the forums people can post questions and get straight answers. There is also a Facebook page and a Twitter feed.

So I suppose Backman figures that the general public won’t catch the bias involved in this initiative? Or the peculiar coincidence that the salmon farmers are under considerable pressure in the current Cohen Commission?

I tend to get a little chuckle out when I hear some company or industry association carry on about how they’re going to: “set the record straight.”

It’s a downward spiral. You are basically saying, hey general public you’re stupid, you’ve been duped, you don’t know how to do your own research and come to your own beliefs. You need to be spoon fed our farmed spin to really understand the issues.

BCSalmonFacts.ca is an initiative of three major salmon farming companies and two feed suppliers: Marine Harvest Canada, Mainstream Canada, Grieg Seafood, EWOS and Skretting, all members of the BC Salmon Farmers Association.

This isn’t all that different then say… the non-stick cookware folks launching a campaign to explain how “healthy” using their products is…

Or, those toy manufacturers that use lead paint on their products launching a PR campaign.

It’s called: SPIN. How can we spin this issue so people get muddled up on the truth…

Other case in point: Prime Minister Harper and new Environment Minister Peter Kent setting out on a campaign to “clean-up” the image of the tar sands. (coincidence, I suppose that Mr. Kent is a former TV anchor and reporter…?)

Peter Kent’s green agenda: Clean up oil sands’ dirty reputation

The oil sands have a new defender: freshly minted Environment Minister Peter Kent, who calls Canada’s tarry resource an “ethical” source of energy that should take priority in the U.S over foreign producers with poor democratic track records.

OK, great.

Rather than concentrate on actual environmental consequences: water use, incredible amounts of natural gas being burnt, greenhouse gas release coming out the ying yang,  immense pipelines, and so on and so on…

Let’s concentrate on the “ethical” component, on the “perception” and “reputation” of the tar sands… instead of the actual frigging impacts.

That’s right the “ethics”.

Hmmmm.

_ _ _ _ _ _

The BCSFA is the voice of British Columbia’s environmentally sustainable farmed salmon industry.

Farmed salmon is the province’s largest agricultural export and is recognized around the world as a naturally healthy and environmentally responsible product.

Ok, this is spin at its finest. Any of you out there who teach media communications, or Public Relations (PR), or professional spin mongering… this is good.

“Naturally healthy”… yeah, like McDonald’s Big Mac made from naturally healthy beef.

“Environmentally responsible”… yeah, I’m sure that catching food/forage fish off the coast of South America, grinding it into fish meal and shipping it to the BC coast is about as “enviro responsible” as it comes.

_ _ _ _ _

I suppose the one positive about this slick PR initiative launched largely by publicly traded corporations — its that it mirrors the great old cigarette company campaigns. Rumour has it that the Salmon Farmers Association and its associated companies have hired PR firms that have actually launched some of those old campaigns.

They are pulling out all the stops on this one: a slick website, newspaper articles and social media. It’s almost out of a textbook.

Oh right, it is.

Companies take huge PR hit due to poor product, or industrial accident, or other negative company consequence (BP anyone? and I don’t mean Boston Pizza — listeria (hysteria) meat — Mad Cow — avian flu — etc. ) … what to do?

(p.s. did you see a pattern there… industrial feedlots, not good)

Launch counter-spin PR campaign, hire slick spokespeople and get the word out that your product is “fine”, “responsible” and “ethical”… and even “environmentally responsible”. (yeah, well shitting in the woods is also environmentally responsible… as long as you bury it… just becomes a problem when a couple million folks start shitting in the woods)

Why are those pesky, panicky, illogical naysayers attacking our products, shouting their ills, and simply putting good blue collar folks out of work?

It just doesn’t make sense folks… look how ethical we are, look how responsible we are, look we put $$ into this local kids park… our practices are responsible, why can’t you just understand this…

“oh I know,” says CEO, President, top cheese… “let’s launch a PR campaign to clean up our reputation… Somebody get on the blower and find me a PR expert.”

_ _ _ _ _

My analogy: why is it that the companies and it’s PR-spin Association have to undertake these spin campaigns?

Would it be all that different than most folks resumes? …because I’m sure that everyone’s resume is exactly true.

Customer service as a teenager becomes: “customer experience engineer.”

Mens wear associate becomes: “Product line supervisor.”

Cashier at a grocery store, becomes “Financial exchange controller.”

Is it lying? No, it’s SPIN.

If “it’s time the real story is told” or spun, you know, like a good yarn — then what about the peer-reviewed scientific articles worldwide, coming from areas where salmon are farmed, that suggest: if you’re going to farm salmon, don’t do in open-pen feedlots — Or, absolutely do not farm salmon in areas where wild salmon populations might interact. What are those stories? Fairy tales, Dr. Seuss rhymes…

When an industry goes into full spin mode; it generally means a downward spiral of despair and insecure feelings that they are seriously threatened (if not, then why launch?). Once you have to go public, selling how great you are — as a person, or as a company — you’re on a very slippery, well-waxed, downward slope that is subject to one of the other things that is certain on this planet like death and taxes… and that’s gravity.

You can try and fight it… like plastic surgery or ‘augmentation’ for example… but it’s inevitable.

Kill the geese! Kill the geese! save a salmon…?

The east coast Vancouver Island goose plot thickens. First those pesky critters cause planes to crash in the U.S. … now they’re destroying a neighborhood near you. Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail:

Bird lover advocates eradication of Canada geese

As a leading bird expert and a lifetime bird lover, Neil Dawe is the most unlikely advocate of a radical new idea that is calling for “the eradication” of virtually every Canada goose on the east coast of Vancouver Island.

“I don’t like doing it. They are beautiful birds. But what I am saying is we messed up and it’s urgent that we take action,” said the retired Canadian Wildlife Service biologist, who thinks wiping out the Island’s 15,000 resident geese can’t happen soon enough.

“You can cull the population, but that takes time, or you can eradicate the population … rounding them up during the summer molt,” he said. “Nobody likes talking about it, but it has to be addressed. They have exceeded the carrying capacity of the ecosystem.”

Hmmm. Geese exceeding the carrying capacity of the ecosystem…?

I recognize they can be a nuisance… many farmers get excited about them eating fresh seed in the spring and so on. But really… could we not have a bit more measured discussion about this. Such as, how did the geese get there in the first place?

Oh right, we humans introduced a non-migrating form of these geese earlier in the 1900s. Brilliant.

_ _ _ _ _ _

For 31 years, Mr. Dawe managed national migratory bird sanctuaries on Vancouver Island, publishing more than 80 scientific papers and co-authoring the encyclopedic, four-volume tome, The Birds of British Columbia.

He noticed the estuaries he’d first seen in the 1970s were radically changed by the 1990s and a few years ago set out to find out why. Working with Andy Stewart, a biologist in Victoria, and Ron Buechert, a Qualicum Beach biologist, the researchers have confirmed, in two papers that are not yet published, that Canada geese are the prime cause of widespread habitat degradation.

Before the great goose kill of 2011 begins… maybe we should look at a few other factors in the estuary degradation. Like, maybe, what was the human population of Vancouver Is. in 1970 as compared to the 1990s, and now?

Or… maybe look at some of the efforts of eel grass planting in other areas. Or… Or…

_ _ _ _ _ _

Mr. Buechert, who examined the Englishman River estuary, said his findings of habitat damage mirror those of Mr. Dawe’s on the Little Qualicum. “We are talking huge changes in the vegetation; massive areas; many hectares,” he said.

Mr. Buechert said he’d like to see hunting encouraged, but it might not be possible in some estuaries, because of nearby housing.

Hmmm, I don’t imagine all those folks in nearby housing have had any impact on the estuaries?

Is there any ‘eradication’ proposed for those growing suburban multiple thousands of square footage, breadbox neighborhoods? (which in turn flush their toilets, and wash their cars, and the occasional spillage at the gas station that ends out in nearby estuaries, or the increased run-off due to the local WalMart parking lot…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

“many hectares” is considered “massive areas”?

What does that, then, make all the clearcuts on the upper slopes of these watersheds? (which might very well be the cause of increased silting of the estuaries).

Or, maybe increased acidification of the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait) might be playing a part too?

Or, increased pollution levels?

That’s not the geese’s fault, is it?

_ _ _ _ _

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a position similar to folks that flip out about the proposed rabbit kill at the University of Victoria. I’m not a contributing member of PETA, or even the local enviro organization.

It’s the somewhat ridiculous-ness (with respect to the researchers quoted here) of simply proposing another narrow-viewed human intervention to a problem we created in the first place.

Narrow-viewed folks introduced geese in the first place — just like the deer, raccoon, squirrel, rats, and other species introduced to places like Haida Gwaii (formerly referred to as: Queen Charlotte Is.) — for narrow-viewed reasons e.g., increase hunting opps, or to be predators of previously introduced species…

It’s not all that different than the raging debate over wild salmon vs. use of hatcheries to augment wild runs.

Or re-introducing species like wolves to an area, then, a few years later proposing culls or sterilization because wolves are killing cattle, or too many moose, etc.

Or building communities in prime cougar habitat then flipping out when they kill the family dog in the wooded backyard.

There must be some other ideas out there that take into account the wider impacts?

_ _ _ _

It’s a mirror image of the great search these days for the great salmon killer — must have been the seals… must have been he squid… must have been the mackerel… must have been the ocean currents.

Well, sure, all of those probably play a part — but are they THE reason? No.

We are – for the most part.

It’s like some biblical prophecy gone wrong.

Man has dominion over the earth. Thou shalt introduce animal species wherever thou pleases… Oh wait… (a few decades later) thou shalt cull thous’ introduced animal species because they are a scourge upon the estuary.

Thou shalt throw $75,000 (or so) at the issue and presto thous’ estuary is healed… and the salmon fry will prosper and, thus, thou will prosper.

There’s a reason why nature is often referred to as: The “Wild”.

You know… that word that has a variety of definitions, such as:

Lacking supervision or restrain“;

marked by extreme lack of restraint or control”;

Lacking regular order or arrangement; disarranged“;

Based on little or no evidence or probability; unfounded.

Or one of my favorites: A natural or undomesticated state.

Hmmm…. all of these seem to suggest that maybe we’re just a cog in the gears, or a little screw in the mechanics — not the one driving the bus.

_ _ _ _ _

Maybe a little wider camera angle on this would prove more fruitful? Or, as the saying goes, maybe we should stand on the balcony and look at this issue from a little further back… as opposed to up to our knees in mud and goose shit.

This continued interventionist view, as if we humans can really “fix” the issues we are largely responsible for in the first place, is akin to sending the population of Prince George to pee on summer wildfires burning pine beetle killed forests.

Or, introducing policies through the United Nations to stop all cattle on the planet from farting and thus reduce greenhouse gases.

Or, telling all the latest leadership candidates in BC politics to stop blowing so much hot air and thus reducing coastal erosion due to increased storm events and climate change. (or maybe suggesting they actually talk about things that matter)

_ _ _ _ _

When it comes to living in “the wild”, maybe a little more adaptation and a little less useless mitigation efforts might be the way to go?

Just a thought… or did I get your goose?

Cull those damn geese… save the salmon.

Salmon Killer!!

I’m somewhat speechless… but maybe not fully speechless. Unfortunately, this headline is a bit disconnected from the actual story. It’s a Mark Hume story from the Globe and Mail a little earlier this week:

B.C. plan aims to bring back the salmon by driving away the geese

“The restoration project, which has been planned in detail but which is still awaiting some funding, hopes to restore the Englishman and Little Qualicum River estuaries “to full productivity” for coho and Chinook salmon.

But to restore a balance to nature they have to drive out the geese, an introduced species that has done extensive damage.

The B.C. Conservation Foundation project does not propose to cull the geese, but rather seeks to exclude the birds from large areas of marshlands by creating habitat that provides cover for predators.”

With full respect to the many folks and organizations involved in this project and to Mr. Hume the writer of the article… but really, are geese the problem?!

“Restore a balance to nature” … by driving out geese?

maybe we need to look up definition of “restore”?

“Provide cover for predators”?

Which predators are those? The rare red-necked Vancouver Island sharp shooter or the less common four legged feline house dweller that favors Purina?

In my humble opinion, I don’t think geese are the problem — but then I’m not in on full details, other than being well aware of a few other impacts some years before geese became a “problem”… (and to be fair some of those impacts are mentioned in the article.)

Sure maybe the geese are munching on eel grass and what not; however, I think the problem just might be a different two-legged critter. One without wings (other than those good Halloween costumes).

The kind that logged off upslope areas of the Englishman and Little Qualicum watersheds, then built a powerline across bench areas where Chinook and coho used to spawn, then a pipeline, then a four-lane divided highway, then add in some of the most sought after retirement property and climate in the country.

Oh right, then throw in a commercial fishery gone wild (buy the video online for ($9.99), sport fisheries (now a dwindling species on East Coast Vancouver Island), maybe a little dose of well-intentioned salmon hatcheries — oh right, throw in a gauntlet of salmon farms a little further north, a polluting mine or two on migration routes… and shit… by the townload…

And… well… shit… we have a problem.

(and don’t forget those ghad-forsaken seals, oh and those pesky orcas, and who can forget those not-so-cuddly bears… why can’t nature just leave those damn salmon alone…?) (now there’s: “restoration”)

The list of organizations involved in this project is quite impressive… maybe if all of those organizations were able to attack much larger issues, then all East Coast Vancouver Island salmon might stand a chance at avoiding extinction, rather than simply existing as hatchery supported populations.

But then how would that differ from farmed Pacific salmon… or the already existing self supporting Atlantic salmon populations in B.C. streams?

This seems like one of those “feel good” projects that some organizations love to attach their name to — but then that’s the more cynical side of me, which will probably take some flack for the comments.

Who knows? Maybe all the “social capital” built on a feel good project like this will lead to real solutions sometime in the future?

And something that actually has the smallest semblance of real “restoration”…

Just a bit disappointing that the Globe and Mail editorial staff chose to attach such a disconnected headline to this article. Disappointing that even ‘nature’ stories get pasted with drama-inducing, gasping, fake headlines like the breast-augmented, plastic surgery induced “news” of primetime TV…

(Maybe it’s just a slow salmon news time with the Cohen Comish on hiatus for the time being?)

Really… though… I’m not so sure how dropping big pieces of wood in an estuary is “driving away the geese”…  Unless of course they’re throwing that wood at the geese… Or dropping those wood chunks from the air to land on those pesky grass-eating geese… maybe they need some stumps from those trees in Lord of the Rings… the Ents? (was that their name?)

Ent

Geese eating, rock throwing Ents save the salmon… (more fitting… and maybe more realistic).

“open & transparent”… yeah, like my a#*… please stop the blather bumpf!

This is one of the emptiest of empty statements. I ask: why even bother?

This is what I call “democracy bumpf” — meaning, saying something without really saying anything at all, with some false pretense that you actually mean what you say.

I hear this phrase and groan every time, comfortable in my coming cynicism.

It’s right there with folks who half way through a conversation say: “I have to be honest with you…”

Oh great, what the hell have you been for the first half of this conversation… half honest, untruthful?

Here’s a fine example from the world superpower:

Transparency and Open Government

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

SUBJECT:      Transparency and Open Government

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing.  Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset…

Bla, Bla, Bla

Signed by, yup you guessed it…

This memorandum shall be published in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

_ _ _ _ _ _

I was as excited as the next person about the hope and change that Obama represented… but come on… if things were so damn “open and transparent” then why are some American politicians calling for the ‘assassination’ of Julian Assange the founder of Wikileaks.

If things are so damn “open and transparent” then why even the need for Wikileaks?

And what the hell is a “system of transparency”?

(oh right… it’s called Saran Wrap… or a window…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

Or, there’s this fine piece of Canadian democracy-bumpf from April, 2006:

Through the Federal Accountability Act and Action Plan, the Government of Canada is bringing forward specific measures to help strengthen accountability and increase transparency and oversight in government operations.

This was introduced by Chuck Strahl, Conservative MP in Parliament in early April, 2006:

Canadians expect a government that will spend their money wisely and properly, Strahl said.  They also expect a clear set of rules that is fair, open and transparent.  The FAA [Federal Accountability Act] will deliver on all of these objectives to once again restore trust in government.

Uh, huh… how’s your trust in government these days? And fair to whom?

I tell ya… things sure feel more “open and transparent” since April 2006…

(yeah, whatever…)

And how does one “increase transparency”?  Open the window, I suppose, or take that frosting off the bathroom window…or take off the layers of saran wrap (but then we’d smell the truth of what lies underneath… moldy, smelly leftovers from a bygone era rotting at the back of the fridge…)

_ _ _ _ _

And, the democracy-bumpf blather continues:

In December — a few weeks ago — the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced its new Aquaculture regulations. (After, of course, their decision to hand over aquaculture regulation to the Province of BC a decade or so ago — had to be overturned in a legal court case):

As of December 18, 2010, the management and regulation of aquaculture in B.C. has transferred from provincial to federal jurisdiction.

DFO is committed to being open and transparent in its regulation and management of aquaculture in B.C.  In the coming months, information and data on sea lice levels, fish health and disease, production levels, antibiotic use, and other aspects of aquaculture production will be available on this website.

This must be some sort of mantra for senior government officials, as this was repeated in a press release captured in the Province newspaper in July:

Trevor Swerdfager, DFO’s director general of fisheries and aquaculture management, said the department will create a new section with about 50 new staff — including 10 to 15 new fisheries officers whose sole job will be aquaculture enforcement.

He said the new regulations will “substantially enhance the transparency of the industry” and that Ottawa estimates the cost of the proposed regulatory regime to between $8-million and $8.5-million a year, part of which will be recouped through “expected” licensing fees.

The new Pacific aquaculture regulations, which will be implemented on Dec. 18 when DFO takes official control, are to “ensure the proper management of aquaculture, particularly with respect to protection and conservation of fish and fish habitat, in an open and transparent manner.”

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Sadly, I say horseshit… (a substance certainly not open and transparent)

Of course, language can be a curious thing. Read the wording again carefully: “committed to being open and transparent.”

Yeah… and you know those over 50% of marriages that end these days… those folks also “committed” to not ending their marriages and being “open and transparent” with each other. (you know… the old “in good and bad, sickness and in health, etc. etc…”).

There’s a pretty big difference between committing to be open and transparent and actually being open and transparent.

Just like the next sentence says “information and data…” — it certainly does not say “all information”…

But then someone might rightfully argue that maybe I’m a bit too cynical… maybe change will actually occur.

I just can’t help myself. With folks from all sorts of organizations running around touting “open and transparent” this; “open and transparent” that — I just keep asking: “well what were you before then?… closed and opaque? slightly ajar and foggy? open a smidgen, hazy and blurry?”

If you’ve got to spell it out like that, it simply begs questions of your past practices.

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So, Puulease!

Next time you find yourself plopping “open and transparent” in any document, email, policy, best practice, benchmarking conversation, etc.: STOP!

Instead: say what you mean and mean what you say.

This bumpfy, empty, fluffy phrase has entered so many documents, so many organizations, so many folks day-to-day conversation — including the salmon world of enviros, small regional fisheries organizations, and so on.

If you find yourself saying it, or putting it in your latest PPoint slide, stop… then ask yourself: “as opposed to what?” and “if I’m saying this now, what does this say about how I/we used to do things?”

It’s no different than someone telling you near the end of your conversation that they now will be honest with you…