Monthly Archives: February 2011

Why count salmon? Getting the numbers straight — going back to 1933

Contributions to the Life History of the Sockeye Salmon by Wilbert Clemens 1933

As mentioned last week, I had the good fortune of coming across some pretty old reports on British Columbia Sockeye at a used book store.

This is the cover from the “British Columbia Fisheries Department 1933″ report titled “Contributions to the Life History of the Sockeye Salmon. (Paper 19)” by William A. Clemens. It’s reprinted from the:

Report of the British Columbia Commissioner of Fisheries, 1933

These reports review the runs of sockeye on four of BC’s large sockeye-producing systems: the Skeena, the Nass, Rivers Inlet, and the Fraser.

The “Introduction” to this 1933 report seems to point to a common issue. In the fifth paragraph it states:

"Introduction" to Report of the Commissioner of Fisheries 1933

The history of the sockeye-fishery on the Fraser River is illustrated in Fig. 1 [below]. The enormous packs of the years 1897, 1901, 1905, 1909, and 1913 are conspicuous. While the calamitous rock-slide in the canyon at and above Hell’s Gate in 1913 was a factor in the elimination of this extraordinary cyclic run, it is evident that there has been a steady decline in the runs of the other three cyclic-years, and there is no reason to doubt that overfishing has been a most important factor in the decline of Fraser as a sockeye-producing area in all cycle-years. [my emphasis]

And here’s the part of this report I find quite interesting: Figure 1. “Packs of sockeye salmon on the Fraser River from 1895 to 1933, in thousands of cases. The continuous line represents the actual packs and the broken line the trend.

Figure 1. Packs of sockeye salmon on the Fraser River from 1895 to 1933

What this graph shows is that in 1913 there were almost 2.4 million cases of canned sockeye salmon. Approximately 1.7 million of these were done in Washington but still based on Fraser River sockeye.

If you haven’t had a chance to read earlier posts on this topic — I recommend: Once upon a salmon… and Somebody get the Fraser sockeye story straight, please…

Those two posts point to a serious discrepancy in the Fraser sockeye story.

The Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser sockeye presented in its earliest material a chart like this one below (i’ve added the numbers and question marks):

This graph, originally printed in a publication on the Mekong River in Asia, suggests that Fraser Sockeye only numbered about 25 million total run size in 1901 and about 37 million in 1913.

And if you’ve read all the various news stories from this past summer — many pundits were comparing this past year’s Fraser sockeye run to the 1913 run.

But there seems to be a problem…

See a 1902 Fisheries report  “Thirty-fifth Annual Report: Department of Marine and Fisheries 1902” states:

… the total pack of Fraser river sockeye for this year [1901] reaches a total of 2,081,554 cases. [as demonstrated in Figure 1 graph from 1933 report above]

Large as this amount is, representing a total of 30,000,000 fish, it could have been largely increased, possibly doubled, had the canneries had capacity enough to have handled all the fish available during the run.

On Fraser river, the canners placed 200 as the maximum number of fish they would guarantee to take from each boat and for 12 days, from 6th to 17th August this limit was enforced.  The fishermen could consequently during this period fish only for a short time each day. During the height of the run they dare not put more thati a small length of their net in the water.  In some cases nets were sunk and lost from the weight of fish.

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And so… if just under 2.1 million cases represent approximately 30,000,000 sockeye canned (a case is 48 lb) and reports suggest another 30 million were available to be canned what does this suggest about total run size? –

And… what does the 2.4 million cases of 1913 represent?

Well… the math would suggest approximately 36 million sockeye were canned in 1913. And, so what was the total run size?

The graph that the Cohen Commission is working with, suggests that we’re estimating the 1913 sockeye run solely by what ended out in cans.

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And then, even despite the devastating rock slide, there were still over 500,000 cases of sockeye canned in 1917 [see Fig. 1 graph above from 1933 report] — the next big year of this cycle (1897, 1901, 1905, 1909, 1913…2010). That’s still approximately 7,500,000 sockeye: canned.

But I thought that the 1913 run was decimated by the rock slide? — apparently fish still got through, because there was still enough sockeye four years later to can over 7 million — 500,000 48-lb cases.

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Could it not maybe be that the main problem is as exactly pointed out in the 1933 report above:

there is no reason to doubt that overfishing has been a most important factor in the decline of Fraser as a sockeye-producing area in all cycle-years.

And so if we were being warned of overfishing in the first half of the 1900s, is it all that advisable that we were taking 80% of the total sockeye runs in commercial fisheries from the 1950s on?

Salmon Think Tank

Do we not learn lessons from the past?

How is it that you spell “cod” again?

Oh right… “E” … “X” …”T” … “I” … “N” … “C” … “T” …

(at least commercially, and largely ‘functionally’ — why?

overfishing and mismanagement and lack of political will and too much bickering).

Why count salmon? trying to get the salmon story straight…

Dr. Suess wisdom

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish…

There’s some wisdom in this great old rhyme. And for some reason it is also a very popular search term to find this website which leads folks to this post from last year — Why count salmon?. (Whether folks stick around or not is another story…)

As mentioned in that post:

I haven’t seen the book in awhile; however, I don’t think there were any rhymes about “mark-recapture” sonar hydroacoustical  split-beam single-beam DIDSON data capturing salmon counting wonder tools.

See if Suess’ fish on the right were captured by one of these techno-gizmos utilized for counting salmon they’d show up as some grainy fuzzy blob resembling a baby ultrasound image.

See that silver streak in the image on the right… that’s a sockeye… red and green fish… can’t you tell?

If you go to this site (Using Sound Images to Count Salmon in the Fraser River, 2004) you can watch a little movie of this blip going by.

That paper also explains: Why would a fish biologist use an imaging sonar system to count fish?:

…Fisheries managers first allocate a portion of returning sockeye salmon to meet annual escapement goals (the number of fish returning to their home stream to spawn to sustain each stock) and then the remaining fish are allocated to harvesting by First Nations, commercial and recreational fisheries.

Reliable escapement data is a key requirement for effective management of sockeye salmon. Historically, the escapement of sockeye salmon stocks for which pre-season forecasts predict more than 25,000 fish will be returning is measured using a mark-recapture program (MRP).

These programs involve capturing and marking returning salmon below their spawning grounds and then constant monitoring of the spawning grounds to determine the ratio of marked to unmarked fish. Knowing the ratio of marked to unmarked fish recaptured and the total number of fish that were marked downstream, the number of fish that return can be estimated.

As a result of stock-rebuilding efforts that were initiated in 1987, the number of stocks exceeding the 25,000 fish criterion (changed to 75,000 fish in 2004) has increased, placing considerable pressure on the resources available for assessing sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River. A mark-recapture estimate requires a large field crew and since sockeye salmon begin returning to their streams in July and may not finish spawning until late November or early December, these programs are both labour-intensive and costly to operate. [my emphasis]

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Hmmm. So let’s recap:

Reliable data is a key requirement of effective management… mark recapture studies are labour intensive… we are still “estimating” regardless of method… AND we have changed the threshold of what runs are considered important enough to try and enumerate — it was 25,000 but now it’s 75,000.

Does this then mean that we are only concerned about the larger runs and are focusing less and less on the smaller runs — those smaller runs which are the key components of biodiversity?

And… now our data is actually less reliable because between 1987 and 2004 we were trying to collect data on all runs larger than 25,000. After 2004, it’s now only runs greater than 75,000.

What happened to all of those runs that were less than 25,000? And all the runs that are between 25,001 and 74,999?

And what’s going to happen to runs that were greater than 75,000 after 2004, but have now dwindled to less than 75,000 — do we stop counting?

What happens, for example, if all the Fraser sockeye runs become less than 75,000? Do we stop enumerating?

At that point, the status-quo measurement of ‘economic values’ of the sockeye fishery would be next to nil — and so why would a Department of “Fisheries” and Oceans be concerned about these fish if there were limited “fisheries” focusing on them?

Say for example… like North Atlantic Cod… what is the comparison of resources spent on enumerating and counting cod stocks when there were intensive industrial fisheries — as compared to now after they were “managed” into oblivion?

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One of the main questions I might ask here is: WHY?

For data to be “reliable” it needs to be collected in some form of similarity or compatibility… doesn’t it?

As one meaning of “reliable” suggests: “Yielding the same or compatible results in different clinical experiments or statistical trials.”

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In the same paper, the authors suggest:

What are we doing? We are investigating the dual-frequency identification sonar (DIDSON) technology as alternative method for counting fish in sockeye salmon stocks that are assessed with mark-recapture programs, i.e., large returning stocks. Sonar is a non-invasive, non-destructive technique for monitoring the abundance of fish populations and this is an important advantage given the high esteem for sockeye salmon in British Columbia.

And so… as stated, the DIDSON technology is meant to replace those pesky labour-intensive mark-recapture programs — on large returning stocks.

So what are we doing for the small stocks — vital to biodiversity, and bears, and birds, and bees, and so on?

As the article points out… there are only a few rivers on the entire Fraser (of the 150 or so in the Fraser that support sockeye) that are conducive to utilizing DIDSON technology.

Based on a combination of in-stream testing and site visits in 2004, we found that the physical characteristics and fish behaviour at 9 sites on 6 rivers in the Fraser River watershed permitted effective use of the DIDSON system for counting sockeye salmon…

…We identified six river systems in the Fraser River on which the DIDSON imaging system can be effectively used to count returning adult salmon. All six rivers (Chilko, Horsefly, Mitchell, Scotch, Seymour and the lower Adams River) support large and important sockeye salmon stocks.

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This isn’t to take away from the potential value of utilizing technology like DIDSON in some systems… the fundamental problem here is this automatic focus on “large and important” stocks.

Who is making these assessments on what stocks are “important”?

And based on what criteria?

“Large and important” seems to automatically assume that stocks which are the focus of commercial fisheries — are the “important” ones; simply because they are “large” runs.

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What is the fundamental conclusion of the paper?

Using the DIDSON system to estimate the escapement of some of the major sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River is likely to improve data quality in terms of its accuracy and precision and this improvement may be achieved at lower cost to existing stock assessment programs because the labour and operating costs of a DIDSON system are lower than similar costs for a mark-recapture study on the same stock.

So was there a time when the people of BC and Canada suggested to the federal government that certain departments better find a ‘cheaper’ way to enumerate salmon?

Was there a time when folks said: “hey Department of Fisheries and Oceans, could you please just focus on the large and important stocks only please”?

Could one safely assume then, that if we are only doing enumeration programs on “large and important stocks” that we’ve largely given up on the small and vital stocks? That habitat for all stocks is not really all that important? That when ‘economic’ commercial fisheries have largely disappeared that there will be little purpose in counting salmon?

What would the 100,000 or so strong Gumboot Army in BC — folks dedicated to local streams, streamkeeper groups, volunteer NGOs, etc. — have to say about this?

The trend of counting salmon in BC — is brutal — cuts, after cuts, after cuts have meant enumeration programs up and down the coast of BC, all through the interior, and so on have disappeared.

Often meaning we have little year-over-year comparisons to see just how bad the salmon collapses really are — especially in the millions upon millions of small streams in B.C. The small streams that collectively may represent more salmon than any of the big systems, e.g. “large and important”.

 

Starving eagles, starving streams, hurting communities… disappearing salmon

Seems like almost every group involved in salmon — in some form or another — is not happy with how the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is operating. There is a significant pissing match going on surrounding halibut allocations these days with many folks calling foul.

And there is the building pressure for another season of salmon returns to BC streams — and the pre-season forecasts don’t paint a pretty picture.

Is this not a classic scenario — dwindling resource; bickering user groups?

The bottom line is that — even with the big return of sockeye last year — wild salmon have disappeared coastwide in BC. The Cohen Commission is solely focused on sockeye in the Fraser.

But what about the utter collapse of the sockeye in Rivers Inlet, or the collapse of sockeye in Vancouver Island streams, or the fact that 90% of the sockeye in the Skeena River come from “enhanced” stocks?

Mark Hume writing in the Globe and Mail the other day:

Salmon-catch system ‘broken,’ commercial fisherman say

A panel of veteran commercial fishermen, some from families that trace their fishing heritage back to 1918, has urged a federal judicial inquiry to change the way salmon catches are allocated on the West Coast.

“The system is broken,” Ryan McEachern, a fourth-generation fisherman, told the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.

Mr. McEachern, treasurer of the Area D Salmon Gillnetters Association, said the system for allocating the salmon catch was designed when fishermen could go anywhere they wanted off British Columbia’s coast.

But starting in the early 1990s, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans switched from a coast-wide to an area licensing system, restricting boats to designated areas, regardless of how strong the runs are in that area. The result, Mr. McEachern said, is that a fair distribution of the catch across the entire fleet is almost impossible because, from season to season, some boats are restricted to areas with few fish, while others are in areas where fish are plentiful.

“You cannot make what you’ve got work,” agreed Peter Sakich, president of the Gulf Trollers Association, whose family has been fishing for salmon in B.C. for more than 90 years.

Dennis Brown, a former organizer for the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union, said another problem is that the allocation process has become “politicized.”

He said the salmon catch is being allocated more to achieve policy goals, handed down from Ottawa, than by a desire to properly manage the resource.

Mr. Brown argued that DFO is allocating fish away from commercial fishermen, in order to redistribute the catch to First Nations, so as to promote its aboriginal fishing strategy.

The aboriginal fishing strategy has encouraged the development of a controversial, commercial, native-only fishery on the Fraser.

Mr. Brown said DFO is also allocating fish away from the commercial fleet because of a poorly thought out weak stock policy, which has been blamed in recent years for closing the sockeye fishery on the Fraser, when big runs of fish were coming in.

In order to protect weak stocks, which often intermingle with much larger runs of salmon, DFO shuts the fishery down when the weak runs enter the river.

But Mr. Brown said DFO has been overzealous in pursuing that goal, and over the past several years millions of sockeye that could have been harvested have been allowed to swim upstream, in order to protect a few weak runs.

“There is no fair allocation now … because of a whole number of political policies that have been introduced since the 90s,” he said.

“In recent years, allocation of the resource … has become almost dysfunctional,” Mr. Brown said. “There are all kinds of nice sounding formulas [for allocating the catch]. . .but the end result . . . is an absolute catastrophe.”

In allocating the catch, DFO first estimates the number of salmon returning to key rivers, such as the Fraser, then calculates how many need to be allowed upstream to spawn, in order to hit conservation targets. The remaining number of fish constitutes the total allowable catch, which is then divided among First Nations, commercial fishermen and sports anglers. Every year each group asks for a larger share, while conservationists argue that more fish should be allowed upstream to spawn.

The commission, which is under the direction of B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen, was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in late 2009 after the sockeye run in the Fraser River collapsed.

Hearings are currently under way in Vancouver. A final report is due by June 30, 2012.

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There is some irony in Mr. McEachern’s comments surrounding the move from coast-wide licensing to area-licensing — As the sport fishery in BC has coast-wide freedom, and some sport fishing lodge operators take full advantage of this by having fully-mobile lodges (e.g. large boats that act as mother ships essentially).

On another note… there appears to be a common misunderstanding suggested in Mr. Hume’s writing (or maybe it’s just semantics?):

In allocating the catch, DFO first estimates the number of salmon returning to key rivers, such as the Fraser, then calculates how many need to be allowed upstream to spawn, in order to hit conservation targets. The remaining number of fish constitutes the total allowable catch, which is then divided among First Nations, commercial fishermen and sports anglers. Every year each group asks for a larger share, while conservationists argue that more fish should be allowed upstream to spawn.

The problem with “dividing” the ‘total available catch’ (which is determined through a process of voodoo science — the Fraser River Spawning Sockeye Initiative for sockeye) — is that this seems to miss the point of Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution and court cases such as the Sparrow decision.

The way the systems is supposed to operate is that DFO must ensure that:

  • Conservation is met first;
  • First Nations food, social and ceremonial (FSC) needs are met second; and then, and not until then,
  • allocate catch to commercial and sport fisheries.

So of course every year, every group is going to ask for a larger share (of a dwindling resource) — however, it seems that the point that is missed here is that First Nation communities are the fastest growing segment of the Canadian population, by far. The ‘formulas’ originally used to allocate FSC catch are significantly outdated; they have not been changed to reflect a growing First Nation population in the Fraser watershed and other areas.

And now… with absolute wild salmon declines across the Province, who is ensuring that the Conservation needs are met — The Conservatives? (hmmm).

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Mr Brown asks:

“In recent years, allocation of the resource … has become almost dysfunctional,”… “There are all kinds of nice sounding formulas [for allocating the catch]. . .but the end result . . . is an absolute catastrophe.”

Exactly right — it is an absolute catastrophe. I would suggest it has not become “almost dysfunctional”… it is dysfunctional.

Why?

Because we’re playing catch-up.

For 50 years we harvested between 70-80% of the Fraser sockeye run — and probably even more than that in the 50 years before that.

And now we wonder why the red line on the bottom graph (productivity) looks like the EKG line of a dying heart attack victim.

Some estimates suggest that pre-contact the Fraser sockeye run was probably well over 100 million and maybe even as high as 150 million.

Archaeological evidence suggests that many First Nation communities and individuals got over 90% of their protein intake from salmon.

Research in the 1930s found the same thing with grizzly bears over 1000 km up the Columbia River.

If you read Mr. Hume’s Globe article from yesterday on starving eagles (yesterday’s post on this site — read it below) or the CBC article on the same issue (Starving eagles swarm to dumps)– the impacts of broken fisheries policies for the last 100 years are showing themselves more and more.

Where has the breakdown been in allocating the resource?

To the place that needs it more than humans — the ecosystem.

The evidence has been their in plain sight for years — starving bears showing up in communities and at garbage dumps and thus shot, similarly with eagles, collapsing productivity in rivers all over the place as a key nutrient source (salmon carcasses) dwindle — and a key indicator in the human system: many folks bickering for more allocation (tragedy of the commons).

And yet… we actually do have policies in place that could potentially rebuild the resource, or at least stabilize the declines. It’s right there starting with “C” and and ending in “N”… it’s called “conservation”.

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With absolute respect to the long time settler fishing families quoted in the article — they have vital knowledge that is important to this whole discussion. However, this same story has been repeated the world over… go ask the long-time settler fisher families in Newfoundland as they watched their livelihoods disappear. Or the Baltic Sea… Or, coastlines around the world that have seen inshore fisheries disappear…

This issue is certainly not unique to the BC coast — nor is it unique to the history of Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Unfortunately, how we all collectively deal with it… is not that unique. It follows a common pattern… dwindling resource and bickering about shares.

How does the analogy go…? it’s like arguing over the best deck chair on the Titanic as it’s going under…

Is it possible to write a different story about BC’s wild salmon?

Sockeye boom… chum collapse

This past salmon season, a booming sockeye run — largely to just a few rivers in the Fraser — dominated headlines. Adding to the enigma of the whole thing was that the Cohen Commission into declines of sockeye on the Fraser River was really just getting rolling.

And now with the one year extension of the Cohen Commission we might see the Commission team work through another brutal year of returns. Pre-season forecasts are suggesting a couple of runs might do alright, but all in all, it might be another year of starving streams — especially in the upper reaches of the Fraser River, west and east of Prince George.

Is this story by Mark Hume in yesterday’s Globe and Mail indicative of more to come?:

Starving eagles ‘falling out of the sky’

When David Hancock saw the bald-eagle count on the Chehalis River drop from more than 7,000 to fewer than 400 over a few days in December, he knew a crisis was coming.

Earlier this week, news reports that starving eagles were “falling out of the sky” in the Comox Valley, on Vancouver Island, confirmed his fears.

Wildlife rescue centres on the Island have reported birds growing so weak from hunger that they fall out of trees, or fly so clumsily they hit things. One crashed into a roof.

Mr. Hancock said a collapse of chum salmon runs has left British Columbia’s bald-eagle population without enough food to make it through the winter, leaving them weak from hunger and forcing thousands of birds to scavenge at garbage dumps.

Reports of starving eagles have been coming in from all over the Lower Mainland but seem concentrated in the Comox Valley, he said.

“This is what I said would be happening,” said Mr. Hancock, a biologist, publisher and author of The Bald Eagle of Alaska, BC and Washington.

Mr. Hancock said about 25,000 eagles flock to salmon rivers in the Pacific Northwest in the fall, to feed on the carcasses of spawning salmon. One of the biggest gatherings is on the Chehalis River, about 100 kilometres east of Vancouver, where as many as 9,000 eagles gather in November and December, drawn by what is usually a large run of chum salmon. The big fish, which average about 6 kilograms, are among the last salmon to spawn and their carcasses are usually available on gravel bars well into the winter.

But Mr. Hancock said the chum didn’t arrive in any numbers on the Chehalis this year, reflecting a coast-wide collapse of the species, and then heavy rains washed away what carcasses there were. The birds were forced to disperse, to look for food where they could find it.

“It was absolutely incredible. Within 10 days, we had gone from 7,200 eagles to 345 … So I knew it was going to be a pretty desperate winter,” said Mr. Hancock, who has been studying eagles for 50 years.

“So where did they go? I have a count of 1,387 one day at the Vancouver dump … that was in the week following the Chehalis dispersal,” he said.

Mr. Hancock said many birds have probably left the B.C.’s southern coast, perhaps flying far into the United States, but thousands have remained, and can be seen scattered across farm fields in the Fraser Valley and on Vancouver Island.

Others have flocked to the east coast of Vancouver Island, in the area between Qualicum Beach and Campbell River, which usually has a large herring spawn in early March.

The eagles feed on the fish, which spawn in the shallows, and hunt flocks of gulls and ducks that gather to eat herring eggs.

But the eagles are weak right now, and with heavy snow falling in the area, scrounging road kill or finding other dead animals can be difficult, said Robin Campbell, of North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre, in Errington, near Parksville.

Mr. Campbell said he has nine bald eagles under care, and most of them are recovering from poisoning they got while feeding at the Campbell River landfill.

“We had 1,300 eagles sitting there at the dump the other day,” Mr. Campbell said. “People dump poisoned animals in there and the eagles feed on them … the birds are starving, but a large percentage are poisoned, too.”

Maj Birch, manager of the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society in Courtenay said she usually handles 40 eagles a year, but in the first two months of this year alone she has taken in 20 birds.

She said most of the birds she is called out to care for are so weak from hunger that “basically you just walk over and pick them up.”

Ms. Birch said many birds are found sitting on the ground.

“One young bird was perched in a tree and it just fell out. One was flying and hit a roof. They are falling, collapsing, losing their ability to fly,” she said.

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There have been folks warning of this for years. A significant portion of the bald eagles in North America migrate along thermal updrafts to reach the BC coast to feast on salmon. Very similar to Alaska — ever been to Haines, AK? Still some half decent salmon runs up there, and still some somewhat healthy eagle populations?

With across the board declines of salmon… a lot of other critters are feeling the pain.

Eagles have to resort to garbage dumps… grizzly bears have to resort to garbage dumps.

Might there be a problem?

salmon farming: raising and eating lions, rather than antelope?

Province newspaper image

Here are two thoughts — articles — to ponder together:

Bankruptcy

“Declaring Chapter 11″

What a poetic phrase, starting with ‘declaring’. Not sighing or announcing or admitting, but Declaring!

Chapter 11 refers to part of the bankruptcy code that covers reorganizations. In Chapter 11, you don’t shut down your business. Instead, faced with failure, you suspend certain agreements and debts and negotiate in a way that permits you to continue.

Chapter 7 is very different. It means “I give up.” You shut down, it’s over.

Metaphorically, we have the chance to declare either kind of bankruptcy whenever we work on a project or consider a habit, a social media addiction or even a job. Teetering on the edge of bankruptcy is painful. Declaring is often a relief.

Acknowledging that you’re stuck is the very first step in getting unstuck…

Perhaps it’s time to stop fighting a losing fight and start creating value doing something else instead. Bankruptcy is never fun, but when you give up something that wasn’t getting you where you needed to go, sometimes you discover a future better than you ever expected.

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From the Province newspaper the other day:

Wild’ oceans at risk from overfishing, B.C. scientists say

The overfishing of cod, tuna and other predatory fish has led to a sizable increase in smaller fish — potentially threatening marine ecosystems and the very existence of “wild” oceans as we know them, a team of British Columbia scientists is warning.

The world’s predatory fish population has dropped by about two-thirds over the past century, says the group from the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Centre.

Meanwhile, the stocks of “forage” fish, such as capelin, sardine and anchovy, have increased by more than 100 per cent.

The researchers call the process “fishing down the food-web” and say it could change the face of the world’s oceans, in short order.

“There are still a lot of fish in the sea, but they’re just smaller,” lead researcher Prof. Villy Christensen said from Washington, where the findings were being presented Friday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“It means we are removing the fish that control the (marine) ecosystems and we’re moving toward an unhealthy situation.”

Led by Christensen, a team of scientists examined more than 200 marine ecosystem models from around the world, dating back to 1880.

Christensen said the revealed trend could threaten marine ecosystems with more disease and other problems.

“Take the Serengeti, for example. What would happen there if we removed all the predators — no lions or leopards? The antelopes and other plant eaters would grow in number and there would be no one to remove the sick, old and injured animals, and that could lead to widespread problems with diseases.”

With a shift to smaller species, Christensen said the oceans’ uses could also drastically change.

“Currently, forage fish are turned into fish meal and fish oil and used as feeds for the aquaculture industry. . . . If the fishing-down-the-food-web trend continues, our oceans may one day become a farm to produce feeds for the aquaculture industry,” he said.

Christensen discussed the issue in a panel in Washington that explored what the world’s oceans would look like by 2050. The panel said the majority of fish will be forage species. The scientists also found that the bulk of the predatory fish decline — 54 per cent — has occurred in the past 40 years.

Although the smaller fish are able to thrive in this situation, Christensen warned environmental changes could result in further population fluctuations. “And that’s a scary outlook,” he said.

Christensen said overfishing creates a “when cats are away, the mice will play” situation that allows forage species to thrive with reduced threats.

To curb this, he said changes to global fishing practices are needed.

“It’s very clear what we need to do,” Christensen said. “The capacity of the world’s fishing fleets is too big and it keeps increasing. We are now getting less fish and seafood from the ocean than we were 20 years ago, and yet we have more boats out there. We need to turn that around.”

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There is a further podcast with Christensen available at the Science Journal: Podcast: Will There Be Fish by 2050?

Dr. Christensen explains in his analogy comparing our fishing and fish eating habits with the Serengeti — how humans are eating the lions, rather than the antelopes.

Our focus on eating the predators of the ocean as opposed to the foragers, means we are eating the lions as opposed to the antelopes or gazelles.

Following this analogy, one might suggest we are grinding up the antelopes and gazelle (forage fish) to raise lions (farmed salmon) — and worse yet, it’s not like the farmed lions are being fed to the poor…

As such is salmon farming part of the ‘solution’ ? — (as purported on certain salmon farming websites?)

Or is it part of a bankruptcy scenario?

Is Godin on to something here: “Perhaps it’s time to stop fighting a losing fight and start creating value doing something else instead.

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Another item to ponder: Is it also time for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for institutions such as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?

Time for a fundamental restructuring in how “fisheries” are conducted?

As Godin suggests: “In Chapter 11, you don’t shut down your business. Instead, faced with failure, you suspend certain agreements and debts and negotiate in a way that permits you to continue…

…Perhaps it’s time to stop fighting a losing fight and start creating value doing something else instead. Bankruptcy is never fun, but when you give up something that wasn’t getting you where you needed to go, sometimes you discover a future better than you ever expected.”

Because… really… what is the purpose of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?

Well… first… it is supposed to be conservation of fish and fish habitat —- isn’t it?

Is the Department achieving that?

From the sounds of things, it doesn’t sound like fisheries departments around the world are doing all that well on this front…

“Contributions to the life history of the sockeye salmon”

Contributions to the life history of the sockeye salmon” … that is the name of two papers I found in a used book store in Nanaimo, BC today and quickly purchased. There were about 10 more, but at $15 a pop, I didn’t really want to grab them all. One is from 1932 and one from 1933.

Pretty darn interesting (for fish-interested folks anyways… those pondering how bureaucracies and scientists and fishy individuals have looked at these things, and how certain cultures have cropped up around these issues).

I’ll post more on these once I am back home and have more time to ponder.

In the meantime, more good tidings from Godin to consider on these twisted and forked paths:

Make big plans

…that’s the best way to make big things happen.

Write down your plans. Share them with trusted colleagues. Seek out team members and accomplices.

Shun the non-believers. They won’t be easily convinced, but they can be ignored.

Is there any doubt that making big plans increases the chances that something great will happen?

Is there any doubt that we need your art and your contribution?

Why then, are you hesitating to make big plans?

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An acre of attitudes

Anne Lamott relates an image from a friend in her great book on writing, Bird by Bird. My version:

Everyone is given an acre of attitudes at birth. It’s yours to tend and garden and weed and live with. You can plant bitterness or good humor. Feel free to fertilize and tend the feelings and approaches that you want to spend time with. Unless you hurt someone, this acre is all yours.

Probably worth putting up a decent fence, so that only the attitudes that you choose will have a chance to put down seeds, but it’s certainly a bad idea to put up a wall, because a walled garden is no good to anyone passing by. You get to decide what comes through your fence gate, right?

Watching out for invasive species—spending sufficient time on weeding and pruning and staking seem to be incredibly powerful tools for accomplishing the life you want. I refuse to accept that an attitude is an accident of birth or an unchangeable constant. That would be truly horrible to contemplate.

_ _ _ _ _ _

You see, in the fisheries world… as in many other worlds (corporate, government, etc.) there are many folks that sow some rather interesting acres and plant some curious crops. And sometimes when the neighbors start peering over the fence and asking some hard questions about what sort of seeds might start blowing their way… well… some folks start getting very protective of their acres…

…they build higher walls, thinking that will keep the questions from coming, and keep curious minds from prying.

… and then when the neighbors start asking about what sort of financial transactions are involved in the neighbors acres… oh well… things start getting a little dicey.

Many folks don’t like hard questions… don’t like their acres that they’ve tread well-worn paths into… and in fact, what is actually the case is that they never owned that acre in the first place. They just have such a righteous, protective attitude and figure since they wore the trails into those acres that this gives ownership… and screw the tough questions.

But the thing with questions… and neighbors… is they never really go away.

And meanwhile, the sockeye continue to make their contributions to life history… and people — not the fish… or the seals… or the squid… or the ocean currents… or climate change… or… or… — continue to be the problem.. and continue to avoid tough questions.

gee… why so much voter skepticism, and government bureaucracy burnout?

Another day, another government spending scandal.

The Globe and Mail ran an article today on the recent spending scandal within the Nova Scotia government legislature:

Dozens of charges laid in Nova Scotia legislature expenses scandal

An expenses scandal that laid bare a backroom culture of privilege in Nova Scotia politics has escalated into dozens of criminal charges against one sitting and three former politicians.

The charges announced on Monday came after provincial Auditor-General Jacques Lapointe blew the lid off years of inappropriate spending by politicians, sparking a nine-month RCMP investigation.

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To an article in Macleans magazine in Sept. 2010:

Quebec: The most corrupt province

…In the past two years, the government has lurched from one scandal to the next, from political financing to favouritism in the provincial daycare system to the matter of Charest’s own (long undisclosed) $75,000 stipend, paid to him by his own party, to corruption in the construction industry. Charest has stymied repeated opposition calls for an investigation into the latter, prompting many to wonder whether the Liberals, who have long-standing ties to Quebec’s construction companies, have something to hide. (Regardless, this much is true: it costs Quebec taxpayers roughly 30 per cent more to build a stretch of road than anywhere else in the country, according to Transport Canada figures.) Quebecers want to believe Bellemare, it seems, because what he says is closest to what they themselves believe about their government.

This slew of dodgy business is only the most recent in a long line of made-in-Quebec corruption that has affected the province’s political culture at every level. We all recall the sponsorship scandal, in which businessmen associated with the Liberal Party of Canada siphoned off roughly $100 million from a fund effectively designed to stamp the Canadian flag on all things Québécois, cost (or oversight) be damned. “I am deeply disturbed that such practices were allowed to happen,” wrote Auditor General Sheila Fraser in 2004. Fraser’s report and the subsequent commission by Justice John Gomery, which saw the testimony of Liberal prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, wreaked havoc on Canada’s natural governing party from which it has yet to recover.

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This was being reported right around the same time as the BC Rail scandal in BC (Sept 2010) from CTV News:

Government corruption trial resumes in B.C. today

The political corruption trial of three B.C. government employees resumes today in Vancouver and political observers say the timing could not be worse for Premier Gordon Campbell.

He is already under fire for breaking an election promise to keep the harmonized sales tax out of the province.

Now, as lawyers argue who’s to blame for leaked documents linked to the sale of BC Rail, critics believe the trial will highlight Campbell’s broken pledge not to sell the former Crown corporation.

This trial, of course, ending out in a multi-million dollar settlement out of court that won’t allow the truth of this matter to see the BC public.

_ _ _ _ _ _

This accompanied by the fuss today over Conservative MP Bev Oda potentially being found in contempt of Parliament:

Accusations against Oda tied up in a ‘not’

A Conservative cabinet minister risks being found in contempt of Parliament over accusations she lied to MPs and doctored a document to hide the fact that she was overruling her department.

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Ministerial discretionary decision-making…

In the fisheries world, and surrounding wild salmon, there is incredible “discretionary decision-making” granted the Minister of Fisheries — as there is with any Minister.

What happens when citizens start losing faith in the ability of politicians to make good “discretionary” decisions?

Should the potential future of wild salmon be left to the discretionary decision-making ability of politicians — often politicians with little knowledge of fisheries issues and a view to just a few years of election cycles, or the tenuous balance between minority and majority governments, or the constant shuffling between ministerial portfolios?

Does this not highlight the importance of the variety of special interest groups, non-profit or otherwise, that attempt to hold politicians and corporations accountable to decisions and actions?

Or does it highlight the importance of knowing who the senior bureaucrats are that have the ear of the Minister who is making discretionary decisions?

_ _ _ _ _

Add in another complexity. In most of British Columbia, treaties have never been signed with the majority of First Nations. This means that Crown Lands, is in fact disputed territory — until such time as treaties are settled, or other agreements reached.

Here’s an interesting opinion piece from the Vancouver Sun today:

Community serves notice to politicians, corporations that promises must give way to actual benefits

…We hope there is talk -talk amongst the companies, talk amongst government ministries and agencies, talk amongst the companies and government -because a little talk and genuine consultation with us will go a long, long way to setting everyone on the right path toward mutual benefit. Because at the end of the day, the Skeetchestn community is like any B.C. community. We honour the past, we deal with today, and we want to be able to look forward to a future that includes having a say in what happens to us, to our homes, to our traditional lands, and to our culture and community life.

It’s time we all treated each other fairly. The Secwepemc phrase Es tsellts’ílle es westwécw-kt means just that: To treat others fairly, and to be fairly treated in return. It is not a phrase that can be found in the long experience of the Skeetchestn with these companies and government agencies. In the days ahead, our efforts will test the commitment to fairness held by those living off and benefiting from our land. It’s unfortunate, but when the issue boils down to simple survival, a community -any community -has to stand up.

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There is much discussion on this issue — things like “certainty” for all involved: business, government, and citizens of BC (First Nation, non, settler, and so on). There is the cost of lost business and such — much cited by corporations. There is the loss of resources on First Nation lands as treaties drag on, the avalanche of referrals as more businesses look to profit from resource removal, and mounting debt as Nations continue to try and negotiate honorably.

Get frustrated with a process or entity, and the courts become one of the only options. More often than not… the courts say: ‘get back to the negotiating table and work this out in good faith negotiations.’

“Good faith” negotiations…?

Is that still possible with the perfectly legitimate concerns about honest politicians?

There are lots out there… honest politicians that is… they just seem to be overshadowed by the not-so-honest ones.

Then throw in some bureaucracy burnout… and where to we go from here?

Citizen’s Assembly on Wild Salmon in BC?

Search “BC salmon” on google or otherwise and one can get a list of media articles. As usual, there is much debate from all sides of the issue — many of which are explored on this site.

Some curious comparisons this week…

The release of another peer-reviewed scientific study (Public Library of Science ONE — PLOS):

Sea Louse Infection of Juvenile Sockeye Salmon in Relation to Marine Salmon Farms on Canada’s West Coast

Background

Pathogens are growing threats to wildlife. The rapid growth of marine salmon farms over the past two decades has increased host abundance for pathogenic sea lice in coastal waters, and wild juvenile salmon swimming past farms are frequently infected with lice. Here we report the first investigation of the potential role of salmon farms in transmitting sea lice to juvenile sockeye salmon.

Conclusion

This is the first study to demonstrate a potential role of salmon farms in sea lice transmission to juvenile sockeye salmon during their critical early marine migration [spring time]. Moreover, it demonstrates a major migration corridor past farms for sockeye that originated in the Fraser River, a complex of populations that are the subject of conservation concern.

Now to be fair, if one looks at the authors of this paper there are some organizations involved that may fairly be suggested to have some bias in their perspective. However, there is a rather significant difference between profit-based bias and non-profit-based bias; between satisfying-shareholder-make-profit-bias and special-interest-group-protect-wild salmon bias.

And really this whole bias thing is rather complex isn’t it?

Major universities get millions and millions of dollars of funding from industrial companies — say for example close to home here in Prince George: Canfor the major forestry company has invested a lot of money in the University of Northern BC (UNBC) campus. Go to a public presentation and you will most likely sit in the “Canfor Theatre”.

Do you think major research is going to come out of these institutions that might affect those donations?

Hard to say…?

The important point is that information gets out into the public realm for people to make up their own minds — that’s democracy isn’t it? People power?

_ _ _ _ _ _

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has invested probably over $100 million (or more) in aquaculture over the last decade or so — think it’s going to start releasing research or policies that have potential to make those investments obsolete?

Probably not.

_ _ _ _ _ _

And so what does the BC Salmon Farmers Assoc. (BCSFA) have to say about this recently released research paper?

More research needed into sea lice

The British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association [BCSFA] has stated that additional research into sea lice and its effect on wild salmon stocks is both important and necessary in response to the findings of a new study [above] that ties salmon farms to wild salmon infected with sea lice.

… the study recorded the highest lice levels on juvenile sockeye in the Georgia Strait near a farmed salmon processing plant, which intensifies existing concerns regarding the full potential consequences of the salmon farming sector on wild salmon in BC.

The aquaculture industry agrees with the researchers that more work is needed.

“Our farmers take very seriously the responsibility of managing sea lice on our fish to ensure they are not putting additional stress on wild salmon,” said BCSFA Executive Director Mary Ellen Walling. “Both sea lice and the challenges faced by BC’s wild salmon are complicated, multi-layered issues and there is more work to be done.”

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But hold on a second…

The “fact” reported at the Salmon Farmers site suggest: “farmers work to protect wild salmon from sea lice” and the added commentary from the site moderators suggest:

…the precautionary approach is a very interesting topic. Many would suggest that aquaculture (growing fish and shellfish that help take pressure off wild stocks) is one step in the precautionary principle. But you are correct that, like all forms of food production, farming seafood also has some inherent risks

Hmmm…

If you’ve read other posts on this site; I’m not one to buy this: “salmon farming takes pressure off wild stocks” argument… that’s the good old apples and oranges thing… it’s like saying goose farms take the pressure of wild geese… and so on.

Furthermore, you can watch the little Youtube video at the site:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-RqHyCxDEc

There’s kind of an important piece of “fact” left out in this little video…

It’s all fine and dandy that the adult Atlantic salmon are checked for lice — and you can see one pulled of an adult salmon in the video — and it’s fine and dandy that the farmed salmon pick up the lice “naturally”, and so on and so on.

That’s not really the problem.

The problem is that the farms accentuate a naturally existing parasite.

Sort of like the pine beetle infestation.

Pine beetles have been around about as long as trees. The two co-existed with ups and downs… however when intensive logging, fire suppression to protect the logging industry, a beetle break out in a Provincial Park and lack of interventions, and a list of other interventions occurred — a “naturally” occurring parasite became a devastating infestation.

The farmed salmon are in southern B.C. bays largely all year round, this means the parasitic lice have hosts all year round. Whereas wild salmon are not around all year round and thus lice don’t exist at the same densities as migration time.

When southern salmon fry migrate through salmon farming areas (many of which are directly on wild salmon migration routes — esp. Fraser salmon fry) they pick up the sea lice that wouldn’t be there in the same numbers if the salmon farms weren’t there. The sea lice are there on adult farmed salmon — adult salmon which wouldn’t be there, and haven’t been there since time immemorial.

(think head lice and elementary schools… the lice wouldn’t be there in the same numbers if there weren’t a concentration of close proximity kids heads to infest)

It only takes a few lice to knock down a baby salmon. (And if you read the study quoted above, there is a big difference in sea lice densities on salmon in areas like the Skeena River: no salmon farming — and the Georgia Strait: lots of salmon farming, plus salmon farm processing plants with guts, lice, and such pumped directly into the Strait.

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So let’s take the comment from “bcsalmonfacts” at their site:

…the precautionary approach is a very interesting topic. Many would suggest that aquaculture… is one step in the precautionary principle. But you are correct that, like all forms of food production, farming seafood also has some inherent risks

And combine it with Ms. Walling’s recent comment:

“Both sea lice and the challenges faced by BC’s wild salmon are complicated, multi-layered issues and there is more work to be done.”

And the comments from the above article:

[this] intensifies existing concerns regarding the full potential consequences of the salmon farming sector on wild salmon in BC… The aquaculture industry agrees with the researchers that more work is needed.

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Well… the European Union, and European Environmental Bureau (1999) has some interesting definitions and considerations of “the Precautionary Principle” :

2.2 Precaution places the burden of proof on the proponents of the activity.

The reversal of the burden of proof is a fundamental principle of precautionary action. The reversal of burden of proof creates incentives for the proponents of an activity to prove that their product or activity is safe. The traditional burden of proof, which lies with legislators [think DFO's new legislation and the Province of BC before that], may cause considerable delays before action is initiated [considerable delays when government bureaucracies handle things... no... I don't believe it].

Furthermore, in the case of ‘uncertainty’ the traditional burden of proof may not work. Yet failure to act may in some cases impose considerable costs upon society and health

2.3 Precaution applies the substitution principle, seeking safer alternatives to potentially harmful activities, including the assessment of needs.

Where safer alternatives are available or may be marketed in the forthcoming future, these should be promoted as a substitute to the activity giving rise to ‘reasonable suspicion’. The substitution principle allows for technology driven changes (best environmental option) instead of waiting for the proof of harm. [think closed containment salmon farming, and no salmon farms on wild salmon migration routes]

The principle should be applied in a wide sense including the consideration of alternative products or services to serve the same function in addition to alternative materials for the same product…

2.4 Precaution requires public participation in decision-making.

Risk perception has a cultural dimension.

There is a considerable degree of subjectivism in choosing for a risk averse or a risk friendly approach, different within and between different societies. Decisions on the acceptability of technologies and activities, as well as on the intensity of their control cannot be defined by ‘sound science’ alone, but requires a mechanism to identify the preferences of the society. [this is where non-profits come into play]

Therefore, accountable, transparent public and democratic decision-making within Community institutions is a prerequisite to intelligent decision-making that will serve all citizens…

_ _ _ _ _

A mechanism to identify the preferences of society.

Great point.

This isn’t just about science. This isn’t just about peer-reviewed journal articles. This isn’t just about esteemed fisheries scientists and their viewpoints and research. And this most certainly isn’t just about economics and agricultural exports and even just about jobs.

This is about the relationship between people and salmon; people and their surrounding environments; and people and their desired futures.

Maybe a Citizen’s Assembly on Wild Salmon in BC… Rather than a quasi-legal, Dr. science-heavy, multi-million dollar Commission? (but I will wait to read the final report next year on this… Maybe Justice Cohen has and will hear the voices of common BC’ers and otherwise).

Maybe a Citizen’s Assembly on Wild Salmon in BC… rather than just an under-financed, sometimes overworked, heavy on the B bureaucracy that is fundamentally broken in so many way.

What do you think?

What’s your salmon story?

“Who, in their right mind, would use our most valuable resource – sockeye salmon – as fertilizer, deliberately?”

I had some time this morning to stop by the Cohen Commission hearings in downtown Vancouver… This is the wisdom imparted upon the Cohen Commission today by Dr. Carl Walters:

“Who, in their right mind, would use our most valuable resource – sockeye salmon – as fertilizer, deliberately?”

Maybe it’s a long career studying fish… maybe it’s the dominant view of colonial economics… maybe it’s… actually… I don’t know what?

Dr. Walters recommendations to the Cohen Commission today include returning to a time of killing more fish… harvesting more “pieces”… reaching “maximum sustainable yield” (determined by modeling populations; not actual reality).

We should return to the those higher fishing rates, so that we can also manipulate nature so that there is cyclic dominance of sockeye runs — basically meaning, we need to mess with nature so that every four years there is a larger run than the other three.

Well this makes sense doesn’t it?

It’s all based on theory, hypothesis, modeling, and spreadsheet wet dreams… and the best part is it’s based on about 50 years of data. Much of it collected in various forms… various forms of reliability, various forms of actual collection, and so on and so on.

Hmmm.

Sockeye salmon have been around a million years or so and we humans (well…er… doctors) feel that after looking at information from about 10 to 15 life cycles, 20 tops (sockeye generally have a 4-year life cycle) — that we have enough knowledge to fundamentally alter a natural cycle that has gone on for eons.

Much of the entire Pacific Rim is fundamentally built on the backs of salmon, and a collection of (largely) white fellows get together and feel that through the hallowed halls of academia — that we “have it figured out”…  that we know nature well enough that we should catch more fish.

Because really: “Who, in their right mind, would use our most valuable resource – sockeye salmon – as fertilizer, deliberately?”

Well… what the hell were sockeye and other salmon before humans came in to the picture and started f*#@ing things up?

Or to be more accurate, in the last 150 years or so when the theories of Francis Bacon and the Bible dictated that man has dominion over nature, and that nature is simply there for the convenience of colonial powers…

_ _ _ _ _ _

The absolute absurdity, audacity, and plain silliness of this idea had me shaking my head today as if I was having a grand mal seizure. And almost sadly, laughing out loud… (but that would not be appropriate federal court room behavior).

As the lawyer — representing the commercial fishers granted “standing” at the Commission — carried on his rather obvious and leading line of questions — the absurdity grew.

The esteemed Dr. Walters then suggested that he had detailed spreadsheets and analysis that demonstrate how much ‘potential revenue’ commercial fishers have lost due to an apparent “experiment” by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to reduce harvest rates on sockeye salmon over the last 10 years or so.

(spreadsheets and analysis that no one at the Commission was yet privy to… just casually brought up today…)

See, in a remarkably brilliant thought process a few years back, DFO decided that if sockeye runs are dwindling at alarming rates — maybe, just maybe… harvest rates should be reduced.

Say from the neighborhood of 80% of total run size (e.g. Maximum Sustained Yield — MSY) to approximately 50% of total runs. Harvesting less fish might mean more baby fish could be produced because more adults reached the spawning grounds…

Wow, as many folks suggest: ‘this is not rocket science’.

_ _ _ _ _ _

However… no… there is this other theory that floated out of the academic world: “over-escapement”.

This bright-light idea suggests that too many fish on the spawning grounds actually reduces productivity — meaning less babies produced. “Density-dependent productivity” they call it.

And so if we kill off 80% (primarily in commercial fisheries) we will actually create more babies… and thus more fish into the future… (Less is more essentially, is where this theory is running)

Is anyone following the flawed logic here…?

_ _ _ _ _

Now here’s where even more flawed economic theories start creeping into the equation. Let’s call this ‘economic creep theory’…  (I just made that up).

‘Economic creep theory’, as observed today at the Cohen Commission, suggest that if we pull out our handy dandy spreadsheets and computer models, we can in fact start to prove how much “lost revenue” commercial fishers have been hit with due to this “experiment” by DFO to reduce harvest rates on sockeye from 80% to 50%.

Seems like simple math doesn’t it… take the approximate run sizes of the last however many years when the 50% “experiment” kicked in, figure out how many more “pieces” could have been harvested. (see we don’t call them salmon anymore when they enter the economic realm…  they are pieces — it’s like the term “collateral damage” to refer to real, actual people blown to bits in bombing campaigns by Western forces in various countries)

Multiply by the market price and presto… look at all that “lost” revenue. Or “lost yield” as it was referred to today.

Because really: “Who, in their right mind, would use our most valuable resource – sockeye salmon – as fertilizer, deliberately?”

That’s just wasteful… think of how much more money Jimmy Pattison could have made through his Canfisco company if we just kept hammering the sockeye runs?

_ _ _ _ _ _

I’m not an academic per se… but where do we start breaking down the flaws in this logic and my new ‘economic creep theory’…

Even if we use economic arguments… let’s say we put 30% more wild sockeye on the market in those years when harvests were reduced from 80% to 50% — what impact would that have on sockeye prices? (i think this is called “supply and demand”… maybe more fisheries scientists should look this up).

Does this mean that we might have past that magical margin where more product on the market doesn’t necessarily equate to more revenue…?

_ _ _ _ _ _

Now let’s take a slightly different angle on this economic argument that commercial fishers are out of pocket because of DFO’s apparent “experiment” to reduce harvest rates…

Who are some of the other ‘players’ here — even just on the human side of the equation…

Oh right… First Nations.

Those folks with rights enshrined within the Canadian Constitution.

Before contact, 150 years or so ago, an entire economy, culture, and ecosystem ran on wild salmon returns. In the 1880s (or thereabouts) some colonial folks realized that the salmon were quite a bounty — a significant economic resource.

Canneries blossomed faster than the spread of H1N1 virus and salmon runs were blitzed for the next 40 years and onwards.

And what happened to the hundred of individual Nations that were forced off of fishing sites and cordoned off in “reserves”, outlawed from hiring lawyers, outlawed from holding ceremonies that had been in place for eons, outlawed from voting, had children hauled off to foreign places to learn English and God…?

There’s some pretty decent books on these issues.

_ _ _ _ _ _

And so… here runs the Cohen Commission… a $25 million (or so) exercise in talking all things BC sockeye… rambling on in legalese and Dr.-ese and ‘economic creep theories’ — and in the meantime discussion of fisheries and all things salmon in the BC Treaty process — are hauled off the table (even though some of these have been ongoing since 1992). With the extension of the Commission, comes another year of delays for those Nations engaged in Treaty negotiations — meaning more debt, loans, and expenses related to this process (millions of $$).

And so, I ask Dr. Walters, where are his calculations on lost ‘revenue’ for First Nations communities…? the lost ‘yields’ suffered by First Nations over the last 150 years…? the ‘cost-benefit’ analysis on the impacts to cultures, to communities, and to families as fishing rights held for eons were ripped from First Nation hands.

With all due respect to the commercial fisher folks… some of whom were/are First Nations themselves… if we want to start using the Cohen Commission to talk “lost revenues” due to ‘conservation’ measures, then lets put all the cards on the table.

Because really:”Who, in their right mind, would use our most valuable resource – sockeye salmon – as fertilizer, deliberately?”

Well… actually… Carl, there are many cultures around the Pacific Rim that realized, and still recognize, that salmon feed more than just humans (and more than just the eagles and bears you alluded to today in testimony).

Salmon, our “most valuable resource”?

Maybe salmon is considered that for some… but I often suggest it’s our brains, which can be used for logic and living in reality rather than computer models and spreadsheets.

one sea louse, two sea lice, bled fish, dead fish…?

How does one discern between the two arguments?

Here are two headlines from the last two months on CBC’s website regarding open-pen salmon farms, sea lice and wild salmon:

Wild salmon sea lice linked to B.C. fish farms (Feb. 9, 2011)

Young sockeye salmon from B.C.’s Fraser watershed are infected with higher levels of sea lice after swimming past salmon farms, a new study has found.

And those salmon carry an “order of magnitude more” of the parasites than salmon that don’t swim past salmon farms, said a study published in PloS One this week.

Pacific salmon not affected by lice: study (Dec. 13, 2010)

The decline in wild Pacific salmon populations is not likely caused by sea lice acquired from farmed salmon, a study released Monday suggests.

The findings of the study headed by Gary Marty, a professor at the University of California, suggest that the number of wild salmon that return to spawn in the fall can predict the number of sea lice that will be found on farmed salmon the following spring, which, in turn, predicts the extent of sea lice infestations in young wild salmon.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Is the general public to believe then that between Dec. 2010 and Feb. 2011 that sea lice have gone from largely benign little critters to voracious consumers and salmon killers?

Whose “science” is more right?

Or, should the general public believe a $1.5 million industry-funded campaign by salmon farmers looking to protect their industry from public backlash?

Or, should the public believe the apparent conspiracy theorists that suggest most U.S.-based philanthropic organizations have an organized campaign of US-protectionism?

Will the quasi-legal Cohen Commission solve this issue once and for all — the Commission to end all salmon Commissions? (I do wonder when that’s all over if Justice Cohen will just shudder at the word “salmon”?)

Could the real story please stand up and reveal itself…