Monthly Archives: April 2011

And salmon survey says…

Article in Globe & Mail by Mark Hume yesterday evening on a salmon survey recently conducted in B.C.

B.C. residents consider salmon a cultural touchstone, survey finds

Wild salmon are as culturally important to British Columbians “as the French language is to the people of Quebec,” according to a new poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion.

The poll, commissioned by two B.C. conservation organizations, measured the concerns of British Columbia on a broad range of environmental issues, with a focus on wild salmon, which are in decline on the West Coast.

The survey of more than 800 randomly selected adults found that 70 per cent agreed with a statement that maintaining and restoring salmon runs in B.C. is as important to British Columbians as protecting French is to Quebeckers.

That’s pretty impressive.

Now what I’m wondering is — what federal Party is campaigning on this message for the upcoming election?

About the only salmon-related info I’ve seen seems to be coming from the New Democrat Party (NDP) with folks like Finn Donnelly the NDP incumbent in the Vancouver area running a solid campaign. (but maybe there’s others…?)

…Only 52 per cent agreed that higher taxes would be justified, “if that was necessary to protect wild-salmon habitat,” but 69 per cent said the federal government should maintain its policy of no net loss of salmon habitat, even if that meant restricting growth and development…

…In some rivers, small runs of wild salmon return at the same time as much larger populations of hatchery enhanced stocks. When the Department of Fisheries and Oceans allows commercial harvests on so-called “mixed stock fisheries,” fish from the small runs can inadvertently get killed.

A large majority, 77 per cent of those polled, disagreed with the statement that “the extinction of small salmon runs is acceptable as a tradeoff to maintain the commercial fishing industry’s current practices.”

The poll also showed that the pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs (72 per cent), contamination of soil and water by toxic wastes (68 per cent), air pollution and the depletion of fish stocks (both at 66 per cent) are the top environmental concerns for British Columbians.

The Angus Reid survey was done online with 806 randomly selected British Columbians, on April 19-20, from a sample that is considered representative of the entire adult population. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 per cent. The poll was released Monday.

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Would seem this could be pretty decent market research for politicians looking to get elected. Come to BC and campaign on a salmon platform…

Alaskan salmon fisheries: is this sustainable – or a great intervention?

During a quick look around Twitter and the ‘tweets’ of some fishy folk, I came across various news articles from other geographic areas with wild salmon fisheries. It got me pondering the great Alaskan salmon fisheries experiment

Here is salmon catch in Alaska for the last century… or so… (the PNP program is the “public — non-profit program” for running salmon hatcheries – ocean ranching operations).


Are these levels sustainable into the future?

Is there any way possible that this is sustainable into the future?

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Here are two other telling graphs:


Anchovies... South America

Canada's North Atlantic cod catch


Is there a trend here?










That trend has a common shape… and curiously the Alaskan commercial salmon catch has a price trend that may be foreshadowing the catch trend…



(Remember, there was no shortage of salmon being caught prior to 1878 — especially in Alaska where Russian and other ‘explorers’ and ‘settlers’ were pillaging the coast for sea otter furs for quite some time prior to 1878 — And First Nations and Inuit had been harvesting wild salmon for eons prior to ‘contact’ — including in a commercial context for trade…

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Now, let’s add another even more worrisome trend into this Alaskan commercial salmon catch graph:


Hatchery to wild salmon commercial catch in Alaska

This graph comes compliments of “The Great Salmon Run: competition between farmed and wild salmon” (Knapp, Roheim and Anderson, 2007). It’s suggesting that the average hatchery-salmon catch is starting to approach 25% of the commercial catch in Alaska — or ocean ranching as they call it.

As the black boxes in the graph demonstrate, and as history most likely teaches us, the great intervention will need to continue to maintain catch levels that high. As we move into the second and third decades of the 2000s the hatchery-ocean ranching intervention will need to continue and the percentage of catch supplied by human intervention will continue.

The potential problem here is that this is a nasty little cycle that no one really wants to talk about…

_ _ _ _ _ _

Hatcheries/Ocean ranching operations in Alaska are run by the PNPs — the “public — non-profit partnerships” . These were formed in the 1970s and 80s when the State of Alaska took over management of wild salmon from the Feds (as shown in the graphs).

These PNPs are largely operated by commercial fishing associations and the like. This means that the hatcheries-ocean ranching operations were set up under the same auspices of Canada’s Salmon Enhancement Program (SEP) — to increase salmon production and therefore increase commercial salmon catches.

These grand industrial/ecological balance upsetting experiments began in earnest in the 1970s. A time of a different mainstream cultural mindset, and a different understanding of ecological processes (well… sort of…).

In Alaska, the key to keeping these PNP Aquaculture Associations (hatchery-ocean ranching operations) afloat is that salmon caught commercially have:

FIRST — a cost recovery component and then

SECOND — a profit motive for the commercial fishing folks.

However, as one can see in the graphs above — stupendous salmon catch levels are being maintained at over 200 million fish across Alaska; YET the price levels are falling faster than the 2008 Dow Jones stock market index. (And cracks are starting to show in whether these catch levels can be maintained — see Yukon River fishery disaster at end of post)

And just like the stock market, sure there’s been a little blip back up in price — but nothing that resembles past price levels.

What does this mean for the Alaskan Hatchery-Ocean Ranching Operations?

Here’s a sample from one of the annual reports: The Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association 2008 Annual Report.

Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association (CIAA) was created to make more salmon for all users in Cook Inlet. Our forefathers hoped to provide a home for salmon biology; to gather ideas and knowledge, and a means of broadcasting this science to fishing communities and to the general public. These founding visionaries clearly planned to have a hatchery. (my emphasis)

Quite a fascinating opening to an annual report… I’m not one to quite buy-in to the philosophy of salmon hatcheries as manifest destiny… however, each to their own…

The annual report goes on to explain:

Meanwhile, the CIAA hatchery program also continues to financially struggle. A new sockeye project at Tutka Bay was very successful in 2008. Recent high prices for early hatchery-produced sockeye at Resurrection Bay have also shown promise. I’m currently holding my breath and hoping adjustments to the cost recovery program are successful, concurrent with improvements in ocean survival for the Resurrection Bay stocking.

About 15 hatcheries across Alaska have closed and facilities at Crooked Creek, Eklutna, Port Graham, and Tutka Bay are among them. These sites continue to be used for various projects, but at a fraction of their capabilities. I believe CIAA needs to find funding to maintain operation of Trail Lakes Hatchery. Achieving escapement goals for all systems in Cook Inlet and financing a hatchery are challenging endeavors, but they are essential for the many users of today’s salmon.

We need to find a way through the financial problems we are facing and then begin to build a healthy revenue reserve. The men and women who founded CIAA were wise to do so. I am proud to join them in their effort to realize more salmon for all users.

And so now hatchery/ocean ranching operations are having to close due to financial hardship. Furthermore, some of the practices such as lake fertilization, and mass hatchery operations are starting to show some serious issues on the ecological front. Some of these are even highlighted in the good old Marine Stewardship Council audits of the Alaskan salmon fishery (however, that’s a separate post…)

In short, the mass practice of hatchery releases has huge impacts on wild, self-sustaining populations — in terms of loss of genetic diversity and in terms of giving a false sense of security in opening certain fisheries.

_ _ _ _ _ _

And so now the vicious cycle begins — something akin to this:


Alaskan PNPs... the vicious cycle

And so what is a State government to do?

It has set this mess up through its devolution from Fed responsibility.

If more hatcheries go belly up (like a salmon in an oil spill) this means less salmon going to sea and the less salmon we will see (returning).

This means lower catch, which means less $$ for commercial fishing industry… and less $$ in cost-recovery initiatives of these public — non-profit aquaculture operations.

Less fish going out, less fish coming in, less money coming in.

Interim solution?

Catch more fish to bring in more $$ to curb the debt load.

Catching more fish means less fishing spawning and producing naturally. Less fish producing naturally, and less fish being propagated by humans — means less fish to catch down the road.

What does this all set up?

Government bail-out.

Bail out of the fishing industry — like US government had to do on the Yukon River last year.

Anchorage Daily News reporting in January 2010:

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke declared a commercial fishing disaster for Yukon River king salmon Friday following two years of poor runs, fishing restrictions and bans.

“Communities in Alaska along the Yukon River depend heavily on chinook salmon for commercial fishing, jobs and food,” Locke said in a statement from the Commerce Department. “Alaska fishermen and their families are struggling with a substantial loss in income and revenues.”

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When we intervene with most anything — e.g. oil-rich dictator run countries — history suggests that these interventions can — in the long-run — become very, very expensive and sometimes counterproductive.

When it comes to wild salmon — the interventions are endless (hatcheries, fertilization schemes, fake habitat construction, and so on…).

The problem is that once the interventions start ‘working’ everyone seems to forget they were interventions in the first place. And so we return to how things used to be — before the interventions…

The result?

A worse frigging situation than prior to the intervention.

Look at the US bank and auto industry bailout packages — do you really think the ridiculous executive compensation packages have stopped?

Or, that auto executives curbed their flying around in private jets?

Are individual citizens taking the example of debt out-of-control and curbing their own household debt?


Maybe we need to look at the root of the word and put it in the right context…

intervene comes from Latin intervenire “to come between, interrupt.”

Various definitions suggest: “Come between so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events”

Or most fitting for this situation: “Occur as a delay or obstacle to something being done.”

And what were we, or are we, “delaying”?

The inevitable.

If we continue to hammer away at salmon runs and at salmon habitats and ignore the potential perils of climate change and its affect on salmon and their habitat… we will reach a time when no intervention will offset the inevitable collapse…

What are we potentially delaying in relation to “something being done”.

That’s called lack of political will… (and public pressure)

And nobody wants to make the real tough decision… e.g. intervene on the interventions… because that will cost…

And the public has a tough time exerting pressure because the world of salmon and “salmon management” has become the world of technocrats, techno-bumpf, endless hundreds of pages government documents, inaccessible meetings flooded with inaccessible PowerPoint presentations, inaccessible government bureaucrats (e.g. “sorry that’s not my department), inaccessible language, and legislation that simply is not enforced, legal teams with little interest in enforcing and the list goes on…

Is it time for a full-on public intervention?

A Citizen’s Assembly on Wild Salmon?


Once upon a salmon… in Oregon… (what we knew then…)

The other day I had a post: Once upon a salmon… in Oregon.


In that post, I highlighted some information from a 1950s report: Some Factors Influencing the Trends of Salmon Populations in Oregon.

The report focuses on coho runs in certain Oregon streams:

Oregon streams








The trend of salmon populations and specifically of salmon catches within commercial fisheries was rather familiar… dwindling fast.

The report looked at commercial fisheries catches in Oregon from the mid-1920s on to the late 1940s.

It was clear in the report that fisheries were having an impact… (seems like a bit of a no-brainer…).

The report also looked at: Other Potential causes such as:

Pollution?, Hatcheries?, Logging?, Waterflow?

Remember this report is from 1950.

Factors dismissed: Pollution and Hatcheries (most were still quite small at this point).

Factors implicated:

Negative factors

_ _ _ _ _ _

The report paints a pretty clear picture of the impacts of overfishing and logging — and in turn the impact of logging on waterflows.

Logging impacts... "disturbance of ecological balance"

“… resultant erratic flow patterns, silting, increased water temperatures, and general disturbance of the ecological balance…”

Remember this was 1950…

For those in BC who know some of the fisheries history — this was well before the Fish Forest Interaction Program (FFIP) of the 1980s… this was well before studies began in earnest in Carnation Creek on west coast Vancouver Island… that was well before the BC Forest Practices Code arrived in the 1990s. This was before Greenpeace was even ‘Green’ and the “peace” movement was not yet active.

This was when David Suzuki was probably still in grade school… and David Bower hadn’t yet started his rage against dams and facilitating growth of the Sierra Club in the U.S.

John Muir was probably about the only prevalent “conservationist” “tree-hugger”… and he’d been dead awhile…

Here is chart comparing the trends in salmon catch  to the production of lumber board feet in Coos Bay, Oregon through the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.

lumber production to salmon populations

I’m sure someone will want to argue that this is coincidence and that correlation is not causation and so on…

And well… folks did argue against this report. There is transcribed conversation at the end of the report, that really is quite revealing.


I guess Mr. A.C. Taft from California didn’t understand that part about: “… resultant erratic flow patterns, silting, increased water temperatures, and general disturbance of the ecological balance…”

Logging companies

So Mr. Riddell is fronting the age-old argument… “you can’t really tell us here that overfishing could in fact be an impact…? there must be other factors…”

Then Mr. Glover from California… “do you think changing logging practices would make a difference…?”

Ummm, gee, there’s that curious part about: “… resultant erratic flow patterns, silting, increased water temperatures, and general disturbance of the ecological balance…” again…

Hard bit of info to pick up…

Then there’s the question by Mr. H. D. Fry, Jr. “hey… could you explain that point to me again about how intensive clearcut logging and increased water flows are related…?”


Same answer many folks have provided for generations…

Trees are giant sponges. An average tree, especially an old-growth Douglas Fir absorbs and retains an incredible amount of water that falls from the sky. That water is then retained from suffering the full effects of gravity and raging down hillsides through the point of lowest resistance — stream channels. More water running down hillsides means erosion, mudslides, raging debris torrents, etc.

Trees hold hillsides up and stream channels up.

Take the trees off hillsides and very little is holding all that soil on that hillside. Add in 5-9 metres of rainfall, snow, melting snow, and the worse rain-on-snow events, and what happens?


just "natural"


west coast of Vancouver Island near Brooks Peninsula

more Seattle Times photos -- 2009 (...salmon stream...?)

I think the point is clear…

The main point of all this is that for well over 60 years we have known what impacts salmon populations.

In Oregon, folks knew in the 1950s that overfishing and logging were decimating salmon populations and in turn decimating salmon fisheries and in turn decimating coastal communities.

Unfortunately, overfishing and overlogging carried on in the Coos Bay area for quite some time after this rather clearly worded report.

Have you been to Coos Bay, Oregon lately?

It’s a nice area, however last time I was through the downtown was gutted with more “for lease” signs then business signs.

The population peaked around 15,000 people in the 1970s and hasn’t changed much since.

Is the story of Coos Bay and salmon and logging — all that different then say any Eureka, California or Port Angeles, Washington or Port Alberni, BC or Port Hardy, BC or Port Clements, BC… or Port Edward, BC… or… or… or….

And yet it doesn’t seem to matter what local knowledge says in these communities. Folks have been sitting there ringing alarm bells saying: “this is not sustainable, this pace cannot be maintained, our communities won’t survive this…”

“This is boom-and-bust…”

“We are upsetting the ecological balance…”

And the response is: “sit down and shut-up you darn tree hugger…”

“don’t rock the boat…”

“if we stop now we will impact the economy…”

and so on, and so on, and so on…

_ _ _ _ _ _

Well… where’s that booming fishing industry now…? Where’s that booming logging economy?

Where are those things that apparently “built BC…”?

And… where the heck are the salmon?

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The response… (and no offence to the hard workers involved)… in British Columbia… is another multi-million dollar public inquiry involving lawyers, scientists, and know-it-alls sitting there asking the same questions… looking for the same magic bullet that is not us… some magical coincidence of ocean conditions or climate impact…

And on the other side of the equation, a slew of panels of experts, saying the same thing… “we just can’t say for sure”… “we just don’t know”… “it’s just all so uncertain”…

And the same people and institutions that were on deck to watch the sinking of the wild salmon ship… testify, trying to prove that they didn’t know what ‘sinking’ looked like… or that they believed ramming harder into the iceberg was going to right the ship… not sink it…

No one will admit that they didn’t know how to bail… or simply didn’t want to…

And anyone that suggests: “well, look at this… we harvested the crap out of them [salmon] for close to a hundred years with no respect for small or weak stocks or other species (e.g. mixed stock fisheries)… we nuked the crap out of their freshwater habitat… we are still dumping sewage and all manner of synthetic drugs and compounds into the key areas where they make their adjustments to saltwater as juveniles and freshwater as adults…

…and we’ve systematically changed the climate within a generation, which changes water flows, speeds up glacial melt, and assists in devastating habitat impacts through beetle infestations and otherwise…

and anytime any population demonstrates any sort of population blip to the positive we insist on returning to the old habit of harvesting the shit out them…

Would we treat our households this way?

Would we treat our household finances this way? (oh wait, some do… but then there’s this thing called bankruptcy…)

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And worse yet, the institutions mandated to ensure the future of species like salmon and all of the individual runs — is basing decisions on decades old information.

For example, the numbers that guide how many Chinook should be reaching the spawning grounds in the Fraser River is based on numbers devised in the 1980s. Things have changed a little since then… there may be a few more challenges for those fish to face, so should we maybe not be getting more fish onto the spawning grounds…?

If I planned to run my household on a 1980s reality… would that make sense?

If Jack Layton of the New Democrat Party (NDP)  in the current Canadian federal election ran on the same platform of as NDP leader Ed Broadbent of the 1980s — would something not seem a little off… or fishy?

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Fundamental changes are required in our relationship with wild salmon…

And not one based on: how many can we catch?

The story that starts: Once upon a salmon

…finishes with the predictable ending of a fairy tale… its just that this one isn’t a positive fairy tale ending… and it’s not a very good fish-story… more of a grim Grimm’s tale…

It generally ends in:

when I was a kid I can remember walking across that river on the backs of salmon… there were soooo many fish, the river was alive with the sound of slapping tails and slithery, fishy movement…

And now, we’re lucky to see a pair of spawners

Fraser Chinook — “Recipe for Extinction” website

Saturday’s Globe and Mail had the following advertisement on page 2 of the B.C. section:

The accompanying website is here.

Recipe for Extinction

3 cups of Department of Fisheries & Oceans inaction.

1 cup of refusing to close marine sport fisheries impacting Fraser River early-timed Chinook.

1 cup of lowest amt of spawners since 1975 (in 2007, parents of this year’s run, less than 2000 Chinook returned).

1 cup of only 500 spawners the 2009 returns to Nicola River & tributaries (estimates suggest there needs to be 20,000 spawners to sustain any harvest).

1 cup of chasing the last fish…

Mix vigorously with lack of political will to protect habitat and enforce the Fisheries Act.

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Can’t say I disagree… this is a Recipe for Extinction. Here is a graph from a Department of Fisheries ‘death by PowerPoint’ presentation last year.

Fraser early-timed Chinook survival and exploitation rate

Chinook 4-2 refers to a group of Chinook stocks that spawn largely in the Thompson River, most in the Nicola River watershed. The “4″ means these Chinook are 4 years old when they return. The small “2″, refers to how many years these fish spend in fresh water as juveniles.

The graph above shows the estimated exploitation rate of these Chinook (% of total estimated run size — this is the percentage on the right hand side) overlaid on the estimated survival of these Chinook (% of adults returning — this is the percentage on the left).

The boxes in the graph represent the survival rate. You can see that the survival rate is decent in the mid to late 1990s and then it becomes a train-wreck

With the exception of 2004, the survival rate has generally been less than 1%.

But do you see a problem?

_ _ _ _ _ _

That dark black line is the exploitation rate of these populations. In 1998, the rate is way down, somewhere around 20% — most likely due to the heavy coho protection that year (e.g. 0% Coho exploitation — 0% mortality).

But after that, the exploitation rate more than doubles. And in fact missing from this graph is 2009 — exploitation rate: 53%.

An almost tripling of exploitation rates in just over ten years.

But wait… do you see the survival rates?

They fell by 8 – 9 times.

So survival falls by multiples of 8 to 9… and exploitation rates triple

…and this on populations that are already in deep trouble. Even DFO numbers suggest that this population needs at least 20,000 fish to sustain any exploitation… those sorts of numbers haven’t been seen in decades.

[This is also a good example of how you use graphs to skew data - the black line looks so innocuous in comparison to the boxes]

_ _ _ _ _ _

Do you see the last bullet point circled in pencil?

Sustainable exploitation rates currently estimated at 8 – 11% range for low survival period; populations declining at current exploitation rates.

Worse yet, in 2007 — the parents of this year’s returns — were some of the lowest returns seen since the mid-1970s with less than 2000 spawners…

And yet… and yet… just like last year, marine sport fisheries for Chinook have been open 24-7.

Pre-season forecasts for Chinook 4-2s this year are brutal; and there won’t even be confirmation of approximate run sizes until the Albion test fishery starts this month. Meanwhile, coastal-marine sport fisheries have been open for months while these fish arrive from their ocean migration and head up to the Thompson River.

(First Nations on the Fraser voluntarily closed Chinook fisheries last year, and are again this year — even though DFO insists on keeping those fisheries open as well…)

Hmmm… I think maybe this is why it’s called a Recipe for Extinction.

The website has a “Take Action” page…

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Once upon a salmon… in Oregon

random finds

Another random find online:

Some Factors Influencing the trends of salmon population in Oregon” from 1950








The ‘table of contents’ probably couldn’t be much simpler, nor paint such a clear picture:


Table of Contents


And here’s a summary of content:

Some factors...?

So there we are with the terra nullius assumption in the graph (e.g. Chinook catch was zero prior to 1870…) — however at least not in the text:

Explorers coming into the region… reported intensive fishing by the large Indian population at natural barriers.

(Granted, it’s odd language… were the Indian populations at the natural barriers or was that where the intensive fishing occurred?).

So we can see the trend of the population:

Around the mid-1880s over 40 million pounds of (just) Chinook salmon were landed on the Columbia River in commercial fisheries

Let’s just say a rough average of these Chinook being 15 pounds each… That’s almost 2.7 million Chinook alone landed in the Columbia by the commercial fleet!

And yet, no idea of sport catch… Or, no idea of what was captured by Native fisheries prior to that — or during that… (so all graphs suggest “0″…)

Regardless, we can see the trend… it’s a common one in fisheries catch statistics around the world — starts high on graph left and trends downwards as we move right towards the present day on the x-axis of the graph.

(At least in regards to looking at fisheries statistics on certain ‘economically’ valuable fish species… the trend in total fisheries catch trends up as human populations explode; however, the fish populations exploited are coming from further and further down the food chain).

_ _ _ _ _

Section 2: Possible Causes of Decline

This section of the report concentrates on Coho — or ‘silver salmon’.


The report focuses on Coho in the following Oregon rivers:

Oregon streams



Here is the Coho catch trends over a 26-year period:

trends of commercial Coho catch -- Oregon 1923 to 1949

Hmmm… similar trend… downwards.

The concerning thing with downward trending commercial catches is that these are not necessarily representative of populations — especially when the troll fisheries for coho were largely unrestricted until 1948.

unrestricted troll fishery

There is certainly ‘trends’ in actual fish populations that can be picked up in declining commercial catches — however they’re very worrying — as an unrestricted fishing fleet is not going to reduce efforts when they see declining catch numbers… they’re going to increase efforts, improve technology, and so on to ensure that the catches from the years previous are matched or improved upon.

(you know… no different then the standard corporate modus operandi… constant, and ever-present “growth” in revenues and profits).

And so declining commercial catches — in the face of ever-improving technology and knowledge — is a very worrisome trend for the actual fish populations (especially over a 26-year time frame… that’s not much time in fish populations — e.g. 6 – 8 life cycles).

Annual landings of Coho on Coquille 1923 - 1946


Annual landings of Coho on Stiletz 1923 - 194









Other Potential causes outlined in the report:

Pollution?, Hatcheries?, Logging?, Waterflow?

Remember this report is from 1950.

To be continued…

When salmon folk lose touch…

You can't be serious...?

Sometimes when one is doing research on wild salmon, salmon ‘management’, salmon conservation, salmon rehabilitation, and the like… one may come across things that bring pause, and an occasional head shake…

Today, I was searching around for information on Chinook salmon. My path led me to the Pacific Salmon Commission; a place I often land in my salmon searches. Specifically, my search led me to a report titled:

Development of the Technical Basis for a Chinook Salmon Total Mortality Management Regime for the PSC AABM Fisheries. February 2011

(It’s down the right hand column of the home page… and only 218 pages).

I tend to be someone who often advocates for “meaning what you say and saying what you mean“. I have varying degrees of success at this, but always looking to improve.

One of my intentions for this website/weblog is to try and present a variety of views on salmon — specifically wild salmon and our rather tenuous relationship with them.

And so when I read a title that suggests that we are looking for a ‘technical basis’ to manage Chinook based on “total mortality”… it does leave me puzzling. Did we manage based on ‘partial’ mortality before?

Well… we based on AABM… which translates to “Aggregate Abundance Based Management“. I won’t get it into it now, but in essence, the AABM means we fish less when Chinook stocks are in trouble and more when they are in good shape.

I know… rocket science.

Part of the problem is that it is done by “aggregate” meaning based on groups of Chinook stocks up and down the coast (Alaska, BC and Washington) that have potential spawners counted through various methods… various methods of accuracy…

There is also ISBM, which is “individual stock-based management” where information from individual stocks is considered when making fisheries decisions.

The move to TM based fisheries… and no that’s not “trademark” as in:

“this is our fishery management regime… TM“.

It’s “total mortality”.

From what I can see it means that Chinook catch numbers will now also include undersize Chinook or otherwise that may incidentally die in fisheries. Some types of fisheries are permitted to keep undersize or otherwise fish (e.g. some net fisheries) — other aren’t (e.g. sport fisheries) and thus undersize or oversize have to be released.

Or in the case of sport fisheries, when there is an imposed limit — say 2 Chinook a day — one person in a boat may ‘limit out’ first, yet keep fishing. If they catch a bigger fish then the two their keeping for their limit, the smaller one goes overboard “for the seals”.

(this isn’t the case with all rec fishers, however, as one myself, I’ve certainly seen it happen often enough)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

As the Commission report describes it:

The TM management regime would estimate catch and the associated incidental mortality (IM) in a fishery, and constrain the fisheries based on defined limits to TM rather than LC [Landed Catch].

… [Total mortality] is the sum of the landed catch and the associated incidental mortalities from fishing…

Hey, now that makes sense, less try and account for all the fish killed in fisheries as opposed to just what shows up at the dock (e.g. canneries or otherwise)…

In other words, it’s sort of like a full accounting for what military folks like to call “collateral damage”… or that other innocuous fisheries term “by-catch”.

Almost all fisheries have size restrictions, so one can imagine the number of undersized fish caught, for example, in commericial troll fisheries… and by the time an undersize fish has been swinging around on troll gear for a awhile, it’s probably not going to do too well when it’s “released”…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

For your pondering:

In 2009, the total commercial troll Chinook catch in Southeast Alaska alone was almost 176,000

Seine Chinook catch was over 54,000 and

Sport Chinook catch was over 69,000

With a total Chinook catch in Southeast Alaska just under 300,000

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

In northern BCover 75,000 Chinook caught in commercial troll fishing.

34,000 in sport fisheries.

On West Coast Vancouver Is. … commercial troll over 58,000 Chinook caught.

Sport fishery over 66,000 Chinook.

So throw in another 230,000 Chinook caught (or so).

_ _ _ _ _ _

Not included here is the Juan de Fuca, Salish Sea/Georgia Strait, or Fraser River mouth catch numbers. Not much going on their commercially, but lots of sports fisheries.

Total 2009 Chinook catch numbers — on what the Commission calls ISBM fisheries — was almost 205,000 with over half of those caught by sport fisheries (approx. 116,000) and First Nation (approx. 53,000) the rest was test fisheries and commercial.

_ _ _ _ _ _

The estimated “Incidental Mortality” (IM) — e.g. numbers not included in these numbers — appears to be estimated at close to 10%.  (…coincidentally, about the same approximate percentage of Chinook catch in BC, by First Nations…e.g. 12% as compared to the approximate 50% caught by sport fishers )

(And remember, much of these number are based on raging estimates)

Sport fisheries are only covered by creel surveys (e.g. interviews with fisherfolks) and estimates suggest about 10% coverage, as well as fly overs to count boats…

Ever dwindling though, due to funding cuts to Fisheries and Oceans monitoring and enforcement budgets.

So throw in another 70,000 (at least) dead Chinook into the equation.

(that’s almost the entire Fraser River Chinook run in some years…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

So some of this “Incidental Mortality” stuff begins to make sense once the glaze is peeled back from one’s eyes in trying to read mulit-hundred page documents that have an executive summary that reads like this…

Pacific Salmon Commission Chinook Tech docs

I think I spent more time scrolling back to the Acronym guide… and my new ‘techno-bumpf’ translation app.

However, here’s my favorite part:

The CTC also formed a Total Mortality Work Group (TMWG) in 2003 to develop the technical analyses and approaches necessary to implement total mortality regimes. The TMWG made substantial progress on methods for translating the relationship between nominal landed catch and the abundance indexes (AIs) for AABM fisheries into TM units, but was not able to complete the work due to lack of consensus on the interpretation of the TM language in the Agreement.

The “CTC” is the Chinook Technical Committee within the Pacific Salmon Commission… of which there are 32 people.   I’m not sure how many of those reached “total mortality” to become part of that working group…

Maybe another name might be appropriate…?

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

However, this incredible depth of scientific analysis, techncical committees of over 30 people for one species of salmon, and so on… certainly makes one start to ponder “what is being spent on total mortality working groups…” which largely guide “fisheries”?

As opposed to trying to design: “how do we get as many fish onto the spawning grounds as possible — working groups

how do we avoid having to go to capital expensive, concrete-laden, long-term expensive hatchery options… which often do more damage then good — Working Group

And… “how do we make sure those fish have healthy habitat — Working Group

Wild salmon catch — is it worth it?

sockeye catch San Juans

Commercial catch statistics for last year are posted on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans website.

Grand total in 2010 of salmon caught commercially: 6,777,763

With 5,774,694 of those being sockeye.

This is a cumulative weight of 17,757,562 kg. With a little over 15,000,000 kg of that being sockeye.

Grand total value of all salmon… $53,567,127

With sockeye making up a little over $44,000,000 of that.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Seems we’ve improved from the 2009 season (see popular post: $2 for one wild salmon… do you see a problem?). Rough averages suggest we jumped last year to an approximate value of $8 per salmon

Or, roughly, $1.30 a pound or so — on average.

_ _ _ _ _

On the sockeye front, the catch statistics suggest total sockeye landed = 5,774,694 with a landed weight of: 15,025,525 kg or approx. 33,000,000 pounds.

The total value of sockeye = $44,192,198

That’s about $1.33 per pound.

_ _ _ _ _

This fits in roughly with averages over the last few decades.

My question: Is it worth it?

_ _ _ _ _

And this is directed in so many different ways…

What does it cost these days for the operating costs of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans? What are the operating costs of the 100+ “salmon team” alone — including stock assessment, management, admin, etc.?

What does it cost to relocate, or shoot a starving bear rooting through some villages’ garbage because the local salmon runs disappeared?

What is the true value of what is required on the salmon habitat front — both protection/preservation and rehabilitation?

What does the Department of “Fisheries” & Oceans and the Department of Justice pay these days in court costs to argue that the First Nations fronting numerous challenges in relation to fishing rights — don’t actually have any rights, or had little involvement in trading fish and salmon pre-contact, and so on, and so on…? (mainly, it appears, to protect commercial and other interests — as why argue it otherwise?)

High court to consider landmark B.C. aboriginal fishing rights case

The Lax Kw’alaams band, located near Prince Rupert, claim a constitutional right to fish, not only salmon, but also halibut, herring and other species, commercially along the north coast.

The federal government maintains that aboriginal right to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes does not extend to the right to sell fish.

The case has been winding its way through the legal system for five years. In 2006, the Lax Kw’alaams sued the federal government in B.C. Supreme Court, arguing their historical reliance on fish and centuriesold trade in fish oil gave them a modern right to a commercial harvest.

_ _ _ _

The old economic vs. environment argument starts to wear pretty thin when it comes to the value of commercial salmon fisheries.

This isn’t meant to paint those who still commercially fish with a bad brush. I know many who do — or did…

It’s more to ask the hard questions.

The Department of “Fisheries” & Oceans is aptly-named. It harkens of a bygone era and so does much of the culture within the institution (the “mustache” crowd as many folks have dubbed it). There are many good folks within the organization, with good intentions.

However, maybe a parallel could be drawn with sports teams that finish last. Maybe lots of good players and management — but often have adopted a losing culture, or an outdated culture.

How many senior managers, administrators, and asst. deputy ministers and otherwise within that organization were there in the heyday of high salmon prices and catches in the 1980s and otherwise?

For over a hundred years that organization has existed — and how many complete restructuring initiatives, re-culturing, or complete overhauls have happened?

Say… compared with other older organizations like General Electric, or Bell, or CN Rail or otherwise.

Most everything about the “management” of wild salmon is structured around who is going to catch them… from the Pacific Salmon Treaty and the Pacific Salmon Commission, through DFO.

And yet… up and down the coast of BC massive changes have occurred over the last few decades in every small (once) fishing-focused villages and towns. As the fisheries closed due to dwindling runs, canneries shuttered, dock pilings rotted, trollers turned into pleasure craft, bears starved, and the like — the Department of “Fisheries” simply became more concentrated in Vancouver and Ottawa.

Less regional offices, less regional staff, less stock assessment (because the stock just aren’t there to assess…), less habitat protection and monitoring, less enforcement — yet more and more and more paper.

MORE paper then one could ever imagine.

Look at the Cohen Commission into Fraser sockeye declines — an entire year extension and multi-million dollar budget expansion — largely due to paper (reports, emails, briefing notes, meeting notes, meeting minutes, Minister’s briefings, and so on and so on).

Teams of people blasting through PAPER… and more PAPER… and still… more PAPER.

Go look at the meeting schedules of DFO staff, or look on their website, or phone one of the employees and ask.

Meeting after meeting, after meeting…



When problems occur… what’s the solution… hire more people to produce more PAPER. Or get rid of people and load up the remaining folks with more paper…

It’s like the 4 P’s of Marketing recreated… People Pushing & Producing more Paper.


For a $1.30 a pound?

_ _ _ _ _

There’s about 1.57 lbs in a litre of fuel. That means that at about $1.30 per liter of gas right now (more for diesel, but cheaper for marine fuel), that translates to roughly 87 cents a pound.

How many pounds of fuel does it take to catch a pound of salmon?

_ _ _ _ _ _

I came across a note the other day for a conference on building Resilient Communities in the face of climate change. The note suggested:

fish circle

Resilience Theory is a discussion about how communities and societies will adapt to climate change. We understand that we must mitigate climate change and adapt, or we will be in a very difficult place…

And yet, we don’t change our ways of “managing” salmon, or at least our relationship with salmon, to account for these same sorts of changes coming rapidly down the pipe.

When it comes to wild salmon in BC… we’re already in a “difficult place” and have been for years. Go ask… again… all the old fishing villages up and and down the coast. Go ask all the First Nation communities that have depended on yearly salmon returns for eons…

(or add up the costs of the fifth major ‘commission’ in less than two decades on how to better look after salmon)

If one reads through Pacific Salmon Commission and DFO documents — for example on Fraser Chinook — various ‘targets’ for ideal number of spawners (“escapement” they call it — which harkens to the time of counting spawners based on what “escaped” fisheries) are based on numbers derived in the 1980s.

I’m thinking there’s been a few changes in the habitat of Fraser Chinook since the 1980s and that they face a suite of challenges a little more dire than… say… the average water temperature in the Fraser River in the 1980s and earlier.

How has our ‘management’ of salmon changed to account for the dramatic changes occurring as a result of climate change? Some changes we won’t even know until there on top of us.

Look at ocean acidification on the Pacific coast… it has happened at a rate 50-times faster than any scientific models predicted. It’s there, and it’s getting worse.

Dead zones, etc.

Theories change, climate changes, cultures change, organizations change, nature changes… maybe it’s time for change in how we guide our relationship with wild salmon? Fundamentally change…

And what is a “department” anways…?

Free dicitonary online suggests it is: ”

A distinct, usually specialized division of a large organization, especially:

a. A principal administrative division of a government.
b. A division of a business specializing in a particular product or service. [e.g. "fisheries"]

An area of particular knowledge or responsibility; a specialty. [e.g. "fisheries"]

And see, running with this definition is exactly why salmon aquaculture was ruled by Canadian courts to revert back to the Federal government and the Federal department of fisheries and oceans from the Province of BC — because aquaculture was basically deemed a “fishery”. And under the division of powers in Canada that must be managed federally.

Thus, do we maybe need a new “Department”?

A ‘department’ of “fish and habitat conservation”.

Because it seems that the goals of keeping “fisheries” afloat can run directly in the face of conserving fish and habitat. And, therefore, we have a federal “department of conflicting mandates” (just as the anti-fish farm lobby consistently suggests…)

What would we call this specialized “department” if all salmon fisheries are curtailed?

“department of oceans”? (granted some other fisheries would still continue)

$8 per fish; $1.30 a pound… is it worth the risk?

Salmon for the Future: test tube babies — more interventionist solutions?

Salmon for the future?


Another salmon article from Mark Hume last week in the Globe and Mail:

Bold experiment hopes to boost salmon population in B.C. waters

Carol Schmitt got up early for the move because she had a lot to pack – 48,500 live salmon to be exact.

Luckily she had rented a semi-trailer tanker truck the night before, sterilizing it so the fish could safely be transported from the Omega Pacific Hatchery, near Port Alberni, to the Sarita River, on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The fish – precious not only because Chinook are endangered in many places in British Columbia, but also because they are part of a bold experiment – had to be handled with care.

Unlike millions of salmon that are being released from Department of Fisheries and Oceans hatcheries in B.C. this spring, Ms. Schmitt’s fish have been held almost one year longer and grown more slowly, to mimic conditions in nature.

“Mimic conditions in nature”… hmmmmm….

Here’s the photo that accompanies the online story:

Globe and Mail photo

So are the two people in the photo mimicking trees?

Or, are they mimicking the kingfishers in the trees that love to eat baby Chinook?

Or the multitude of other birds that love baby salmon?

from Flickr -- caspian tern


No disrespect intended towards Ms. Schmitt or others involved in the article… I can understand the excitement of the project…

However, let’s just keep things in perspective.

I’m sure many folks out there remember the time when the forest industry sold clearcuts as simply “mimicking natural disturbances”…

Like this clearcut on west coast Vancouver Island:


"mimicking nature"?

Just like nature makes it… (this isn’t all that far from the areas where these test-tube Chinook are to be released on west-coast Vancouver Island in this “bold experiment”)

Or this string of photos from a Seattle Times article a few years ago. This is the great logging empire Weyerhaueser mimicking nature…

"mimicking nature" -- Seattle Times photos

And no worries, I’m sure that’s not a salmon stream at the bottom.



more Seattle Times photos -- 2009

And this from a story out of the Everett, WA newspaper in 2008 when the Chehalis River flooded in epic proportions. (don’t worry probably not a salmon stream either… anymore…)


just "natural"

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

The Globe and Mail article continues:

DFO releases Chinook from hatcheries at eight months of age. The fish are known as S-0s, because they are smolts, with less than one year in freshwater. Ms. Schmitt’s approach, perfected over decades growing salmon for B.C. salmon farms, is to keep the fish for 17 months, raising them in water as cold as the native stream from which their brood stock originated. And she restricts feed, so the fish mature more slowly. Those fish are known as S-1s and she believes such “stream type Chinook” are the key to the restoration of wild salmon populations in B.C.

“If you raise them in warmer water and feed them lots, as DFO does, they grow bigger and faster, but you trigger ‘smoltification’ too soon,” Ms. Schmitt said.

Smoltification is when young salmon undergo dramatic physiological changes, turning from fry into smolts, as they adapt for the move from freshwater to salt water.

DFO’s Chinook look ready when they are released, but their immune systems aren’t fully evolved, she said – and most will die from vibriosis, a bacterial disease that attacks fish in salt or brackish water.

“I feel 85 to 90 per cent of federal S-0s are dead within four to six months,” Ms. Schmitt said.

The statistics appear to bear that out, as DFO typically gets only about 1 per cent of its hatchery salmon back as adults. On the Sarita River, only 500 Chinook spawners returned last year – 0.1 per cent of the fish DFO had released as S-0s four years earlier.

Ms. Schmitt, with whom DFO is working on an experimental trial of S-1s on three Vancouver Island rivers, said she is expecting returns of up to 10 per cent.

“If you ship those fish out as S-0s you are accelerating the decline of the river,” she said. “If you release them as proper S-1s, you will get three to ten times as many fish back.”

Ms. Schmitt said in Alaska, releases of S-1 Chinook have resulted in returns as high as 22 per cent.

“Can you imagine what returns like that would mean in B.C.?” she asked. “That would be incredible. It’s pretty exciting stuff.”

With funding support from DFO and four fish farm companies (Mainstream Canada, Marine Harvest Canada, Creative Salmon and Grieg Seafood), Ms. Schmitt is doing trial releases this week of about 100,000 salmon in the Sarita, Phillips and Nahmint Rivers. The first release was Wednesday.

She said it has been tough to get to this point, because DFO has been resistant to change. “Getting DFO to allow us to participate in enhancement has and continues to be a challenge.”

DFO was unable to provide a spokesman to talk about the Omega project.

_ _ _ _ _ _

There are so many things that strike me about this project and article… many of them striking a bit of a sour cord. Maybe this initiative will bear results… however the experiment of “salmon enhancement” for the last many decades has few ‘success’ stories. (the thing with interventions, is they generally become permanent…)

As you can probably already tell by the pounce on “mimicking nature” … Without knowing a lot more about this specific project… yet, about the only natural mimicking I can see is that the water is colder…

The rest truly is an “experiment”… and really how have our experiments with nature gone?

_ _ _ _ _

The ‘companies’ are having some difficulties getting acceptance. Yeah… well… there could be some ethical and other considerations that may need to be considered here.

When private companies start investing in producing fish; could they not rightly express some “ownership” of these fish when they return to spawn?

Or do these fish simply enter the common pool and become lead actors in that famous Shakespearean play “Tragedy of the Commons”…?

Not that I don’t doubt that companies can’t do altruistic, well-intentioned things; however, it does run against the flow of the corporate modus operandi… profit.

But then of course there is some social capital and goodwill gained in this type of effort… isn’t there?

And, don’t you know it… salmon farming companies need some good press these days; and not the kind that gets purchased in multi-million $$ PR campaigns…

_ _ _ _ _

Test-tube salmon “are the key to the restoration of wild salmon populations in B.C.“?

Last time I checked, ‘restoration‘ meant something like:

The return of something to a former owner, place, or condition.

This is about as much “restoration” as lipsosuction and a face lift is “restoration” to one’s youth…

It’s pretty tough to “restore” these sorts of things once they’re gone:

slide from my presentation to Cohen Commission

Or this:

We really need to be careful when we start batting around terms like “restoration”…

It’s important to ‘mean what we say and say what we mean’…

Hatchery interventions can be used to assist in rehabilitation of some areas… however, they can’t be a permanent solution.

Let’s for example look at some of the numbers quoted in the success of DFO’s enhancement efforts.

If they’re getting 0.1% return on investment… does that sound like a sound strategy? That’s worse returns then the common chequing account these days…

But then the initial goals of the Salmon Enhancement Program were:

The Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP) was established in 1977 with objective of restoring stocks of salmon to their historic levels of abundance.

How’s that going?

_ _ _ _ _ _

Making comparisons to Alaskan returns, just isn’t going to cut it.

Different practices (e.g. ocean ranching); different migration patterns; different investments; different priorities.

Seems its convenient in situations like test-tube salmon babies to forget the issues in the ocean — e.g. lower productivity, etc. — but when it comes to judicial inquiries, fisheries ‘management’, etc. then all of a sudden the discussion of poor ocean conditions and the like become prevalent.

(is that because it makes easier… rather than looking in a mirror… and at history)

At some point we need to make a choice on what the issues are…

For example, what’s the point of spending millions of dollars to send test-tube babies out to the ocean if productivity remains low…?

what’s the point of sending test-tube babies out to the wild if the streams they have to return to are largely clearcut to the banks…?

Go down to the Lower 48 and see what sort of success they’ve had at spending upwards of a billion $$ on salmon habitat rehab and hatcheries… ask how many fish they’re catching?

_ _ _ _ _

We are far past the point of “restoring” salmon.

Are we all that far off from basically preserving zoo populations and setting up kids fishing ponds…?

Salmon fishing derbies of the future?

Rather than fumbling around trying to do better what nature already does perfectly (for millions of years) why don’t we clean up the mess we made in the first place?

The problem with salmon isn’t that they need “help” reproducing… they been doing that well before we came along. It’s more that if we’re all to co-exist; then we need to look after the neighborhoods that we co-exist in… for example: watersheds, rivers, lakes, and so on.

With the rapid changes coming due to climate change (less cold water, ocean acidification, water shortages, etc.)… wild salmon are going to need a lot of help making sure their neighborhoods are fit for spawning, dieing, and reproducing in.

Just like your neighborhood… pretty hard to spawn in a mudslide isn’t it?

(fun to wrestle in maybe… not so much fun after that…)

What happened to Rivers Inlet sockeye?

So let me ask you this: What happened to Rivers Inlet sockeye?

Rivers Inlet is a large inlet located on mainland BC a little ways north of Port Hardy off the northern end of Vancouver Island.

do you see the irony in this map?

Here’s a slide from a presentation by Rick Routledge at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver:

Rivers Inlet — once #2 in BC sockeye catch

Yeah, Rivers Inlet used to be #2 in BC sockeye catch. Although there was a time in the early 1900s when the Skeena was higher… but those runs zonked sooner than Rivers and Smith Inlets.

In the same presentation, Routledge has this slide:

Rivers Inlet

I do find it curious that since there was no data for “escapement” (potential spawners that reach the river) prior to 1951 — and as such we still call this a sockeye “returns” graph. But then, I suppose, a sockeye caught at the mouth of the inlet is still a “return”…

Key message here… a lot of fish were caught in Rivers Inlet in the early 1900s.

A similar slide to a DFO report in 1998 by McKinnell and company: The collapse of the Rivers Inlet Sockeye Fishery – The Case against a freshwater cause. (here we are looking for a “cause” again… separate from ourselves)

The numbers don’t really seem to match up between the slides… For example, the big catch year in 1926 shows almost 2 million fish caught in Routledge’s graph and maybe about 1.7 million in the DFO produced graph…

Graph comparison

But gee whiz… what’s 200,000 to 300,000 fish caught in the heyday anyways…?

(or maybe it’s just the skewing due to scale…)

But why was there never a judicial inquiry into the collapse of Rivers Inlet sockeye — once the #2 commercial sockeye producing area?

And might those two huge years of catch in the 1970s have anything to do with the crash?

_ _ _ _ _ _ _


so what do we have here?

Well… let’s consider a couple of things…

Firstly, if we take both of these graphs back far enough into the 1800s we would see a trend like this:

familiar trend?

And I think this may look familiar to many people.

It’s sort of a similar trend to many industrial fisheries around the world over the last 100-years or so…

For the economists out there it also sort of resembles the tax curve…

e.g. taxes are good for awhile but eventually they start to have negative returns and we  see this classic mound shape…

Or for the cooks out there: the salt curve… A bit of salt is good, better to a point, then there are quickly dwindling returns on the taste front…

Or salmon cannery production… one cannery is decent, production goes up, profit goes up…

Rivers Inlet cannery (early 1900s?)

…throw in a couple more canneries

another Rivers Inlet cannery

…and eventually things plateau, populations start declining, production declines, profits decline… and CRASH!…

Was it worth it?

(and unfortunately, we can’t cut the costs of production by outsourcing to a place like China or otherwise… the classic economic solution)

_ _ _ _ _ _


Secondly, there is a classic western-science based assumption in all of this…

The idea that no one else was harvesting fish — commercially or otherwise — prior to the mid-1800s.

The common colonial concept of: Terra nullius the Latin expression for “no man’s land”; nobody here – nobody there.

Terra nullius & Mare nullius

Mare nullius is the ocean equivalent — “nobody was using the ocean…”

Almost every graph one looks at in the ‘science’ world shows this bizarre assumption that no salmon were being harvested prior to contact.

Why is that?

We know that entire cultures harvested millions upon millions of salmon. The bulk of First Nation cultures of BC are basically built upon the backs of salmon.

Some research suggests that the First Nation harvests of salmon pre-contact may actually have been higher than average commercial catches in previous decades.

So, why is there no big research agenda directed at finding just how many salmon were being harvested pre-contact? (appears it was done sustainably as the cultures thrived…)

Or how many salmon were being harvested by First Nation communities at the same time as the cannery boom? (granted most communities were forced from their fishing grounds and through this process basically formed the present landscape of the First Nation reserve system…)

Why is this not on the Cohen Commission research agenda?

Oh right… because we’re only looking at the 2009 Fraser River sockeye crash and nobody wants to admit that overfishing is one of the biggest culprits… because that would mean it’s our fault, us humans… much easier to blame ocean conditions, climate change, and so on and so on.

Sort of like the insurance industry that has outs with ‘acts of god’… for things like building on the floodplain of huge rivers and having dikes fail that were built to withstand the 1 in 100 flood year. (certainly wasn’t our fault for building in the floodplain in the first place… because really, how much comfort is there building in a place called “delta”?)

_ _ _ _ _ _

A key point here is that people are an intimate component of the salmon cycle — pretty much always have been; always will be.

And yet, when it comes to research agendas… judicial inquiries… salmon think tanks… and otherwise — we so often want to focus on the other ‘reasons’ for declines: ocean conditions, marine survival, juvenile migration, gravel condition, nursery lakes, etc.

(oddly enough though, we often don’t even focus on some of these basic components…e.g. DFO only really looks at 2 sockeye nursery lakes in the entire Fraser system)

Seems, we just don’t want to look in a mirror… and look back.

Might a look in the mirror clearly demonstrate the reason why Rivers Inlet sockeye have gone the way of the North Atlantic Cod?

Or why so many other BC sockeye and other salmon populations are on a similar path, or already well down that path…?

(Pretty much the only reason the Skeena River has sockeye anymore is because of massive enhancement and human-made spawning channels in the Babine system — which accounts for approximately 90% of the total Skeena return)

Is there an example of any wild animal population anywhere that is subject to industrial economic models over the last 100 years that has survived to tell a tell of plenitude and plenty and true long-term sustainability?

If we know that the decaying carcasses of spawned out adult salmon are key food for future generations of salmon; are key ingredients for the health of the surrounding environment (e.g. forest); and are key to the health of us-humans — then why do we continue to follow the route that we do?

Rivers Inlet canned salmon

All the fish in these cans means that consumption of nutrients is largely limited to humans in places a long ways away from the salmon’s natal stream… and what percentage of the sockeye runs to Rivers Inlet are represented in these cans — 80%, 90%, 98.5%…?

This means less nutrients for everything around and in the stream… which in turn means a dwindling cycle…

Why are we so damn blind to the impacts of the last 125 years (approx. 30 salmon life cycles)?

Doesn’t really matter where you look, the population trends of wild fish and humans over the last 150 years or so… tend to be on disparate angles.

humans and fish

I’m just not so sure the mystery is all that great…

Yet we continue to spend small fortunes on “research agendas” and “action plans” and “inquiries” to prove something we probably already know… e.g., we took far too many fish in the heyday, and now we’re paying the price.

The cod story is not a mystery… so why is the sockeye story expected to be much different?

And now the question is how many ‘interventions’ are we going to continue to muddle with? (stay tuned for next post)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Update from April 14th.

Related… came across this in one of Raincoast’s reports:

Salmon in the Great Bear Rainforest

page 15

Making salmon zoos …

There is no mystery folks — when it comes to salmon declines.

death of a thousand cuts

If we stopped putting these endless amount of efforts into “research” and trying to find an apparent ‘smoking gun’ in why salmon are declining… and simply looked at history — it might be so much more revealing.

Salmon have suffered massive declines throughout their range because of inaction, lack of political will, and far too many reports documenting the issues with no one ensuring “recommendations” are actually implemented, monitored, evaluated, and improved (if need be).

A federal government policy intended to ensure there is “no net loss” of fish habitat in Canada is failing to achieve its goal, a panel of experts from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has testified.

This the opening to Mr. Hume’s article today in the Globe and Mail.

Fisheries habitat being steadily eroded, panel told

In 1986, the government established a habitat management plan that stipulates that when fish habitat is damaged by development, then an equal or greater amount of habitat should be created or restored nearby, as compensation.

But three DFO experts appearing Monday at a judicial inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River all agreed fisheries habitat is being steadily eroded, because the habitat provided in compensation often doesn’t match in size or productivity the habitat that has been lost to development.

Patrice LeBlanc, director of Habitat Policies and Practices, from DFO’s headquarters in Ottawa, said it is hard to know exactly what the overall net loss is.

“We do lose some habitat,” he said in responding to questions from Brock Martland, associate commission counsel. “I’m not sure if it’s 10 per cent or 50 per cent – we have no true way to measure.”

_ _ _ _ _

This is not new news. (no offence intended to Mr. Hume, however, I think he well knows this from his reporting over the years. And like other articles glad to see salmon getting so much mainstream press these days…)

Lower Fraser River -- Vancouver Sun article 2009 (click photo to read)

The Auditor General of Canada pretty much said the same thing a few years ago in the release of another damaging report on DFO and Environment Canada:

Efforts to protect fish habitat have been inadequate

Ottawa, 12 May 2009—Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada cannot demonstrate that they are adequately protecting fish habitat as the Fisheries Act requires them to do, says Scott Vaughan, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, in his Report tabled today in the House of Commons. His Report notes that in the 23 years since the Habitat Policy was adopted, many parts of it have been not been implemented by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The audit found that there is limited information on the state of fish habitat across Canada. Fisheries and Oceans Canada does not know whether its actions are achieving a net gain in habitat, the long-term objective of the Habitat Policy.

“The Fisheries Act is among the most important laws of the federal government intended to promote environmental protection and conservation,” said Mr. Vaughan. “I am concerned that many of the issues identified in our audit have been raised repeatedly over many years, and they are still unresolved.”

And well… the list goes on and on and on…

In 1997, the Auditor General of Canada pretty much wrote the same thing.

Chapter 28—Fisheries and Oceans Canada—Pacific Salmon: Sustainability of the Resource Base

Main Points

28.1 Canada’s ability to sustain the Pacific salmon resource at the present level and diversity is questionable given the various factors influencing salmon survival, many of which are beyond its control. While Fisheries and Oceans has built up major salmon stocks, others are declining and many are considered threatened. There is evidence that habitat loss is contributing to these declines. However, no overall status report on salmon habitat is available to assess the impact of habitat loss on the resource.

The physical habitat base is being eroded

28.23 While the overall number of salmon returning to B.C. waters is increasing and some major stocks are rebuilding to higher and sometimes record numbers, the numbers and strengths of some individual stocks are declining and are cause for concern. The causes for these declines are complex and include natural processes, such as cyclic changes in ocean productivity and marine survival, alterations of freshwater productivity, both natural and man-made, and human influences, such as fishing and habitat alteration.

Habitat loss is a major problem and, in fact, the Department estimates that loss of habitat probably accounts for 20 to 30 percent of the disappearance of small stocks of salmon in B.C. For example, the development of the City of Vancouver has resulted in 70 percent of the Fraser River estuary’s original wetland system being altered, mostly by diking and drainage projects, and approximately 50 percent of the estuary’s delta habitat being lost to development since 1880. Such changes have resulted in the documented destruction of streams and the subsequent loss of salmon.

_ _ _ _ _ _

I think my math is OK — 1997 is over a decade ago.

Where’s the report documenting the big changes that DFO made regarding these recommendations? And more importantly where’s the on-the-ground monitoring, evaluation, and improvement on these recommendations?

You know… feedback loops… those key components of any well-functioning system…

And so… if even DFO numbers (e.g. estimates) suggest that habitat loss could be accounting for 20-30% of the losses of small stocks (e.g. those key components of biodiversity) — why wasn’t drastic action taken?

In 1997 House of Commons (another “Standing Committee) reports it was suggested:

The pacific salmon is a valuable resource for the citizens and communities of British Columbia as well as for Canada as a whole. The commercial salmon fishery was worth $265 million annually during 1986 – 1995. A recent survey indicated that the recreational fishery generated more than $228 million in direct expenditures by anglers in 1990 alone. Many Canadians, especially the citizens and communities in British Columbia, have expressed a strong interest in, and commitment to, preserving this important resource for the use and enjoyment of generations to come.

And so the standard monetary-economic valuation is fronted, without mention of the value of salmon to First Nation communities (culturally, economically, etc.)… Regardless, the numbers stated still suggest a value of about $500 million or so between the commercial and sport sector for salmon fisheries.

Thus… if estimates suggested habitat loss was accounting for somewhere around 20-30% of small salmon stocks population loss — wouldn’t that suggest drastic action, simply with an economic impetus?


Instead… here we are in 2011; another multi-million dollar judicial inquiry which has the same things being reported that have been reported for the last 10 decades.

What is that?

Look after the salmon habitat for the salmon… and the salmon will look after you and the habitat.

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Don’t overfish; and don’t destroy habitat.

Simple principle.

Worked for eons pre-contact…

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Operating under the assumption that we can do this:

"no net loss" of habitat? Vancouver Island Highway

See that giant red stump in the right of the top photo… hmmm. Kind of hard to restore that in a “no-net loss”-kinda-way.

Also kind of hard to restore this in a “no-net-loss” kinda-way:

Vancouver Sun

We’re probably better off simply setting up something like this for salmon — similar to the Oregon Zoo:

Salmon zoo

Because we sure as hell aren’t listening to all of the warnings that have been coming since the end of the 1800s. Stop destroying habitat and stop overfishing. This message was repeated from California all the way up the coast to Alaska and across the Pacific Rim.

Yes, ocean conditions, climate change and otherwise have an impact — are they the “culprit” though?

No, we are.

Would some politicians and bureaucrats within the ministry responsible for “conserving” salmon and their habitat please stand up and actually do something.

There are only so many more forests to produce the eco-green, forest stewardship certified, 100% recycled material paper that these report, after report, after testimony, after standing committee, after judicial inquiry, after congressional hearing, after auditor general report, after special committee, after enviro, after… after… after…