Monthly Archives: May 2011

Salmon History 101

Came across this 1991 news article: “Wild Salmon need more help” from the Spokesman Review regarding an agreement of the day for Japan to stop using their “curtains of death” — the multiple-miles long drift nets that caught anything that swam into them.

There are several other similar articles in various newspapers around the same time — including the New York Times.

A fitting quote from the top of the second column:

As the region struggles to restore wild salmon runs it will consider many tactics, but one that has not received enough serious attention, due to an excessive preoccupation with dams, is controlling fish harvest.

 

1991 article

And more fitting to the posts of this past week…

 

Just as drift nets cannot distinguish between dolpins and squid… gill nets cannot distinguish between hatchery raised salmon… and the far less numerous wild salmon in need of protection [or small endangered stocks vs. larger healthy stocks migrating at similar times]. The nets kill both. And when gill nets are out, they remove fish from the river at an extremely efficient rate.

Some salmon runs are small enough, that a few seasons of unluckily timed gill netting could eradicate them.

Want proof?

Ask folks in the Skeena River where 90% of the Skeena sockeye run now comes from the enhanced, man-made spawning channels of the Babine run.

Or, ask on the Fraser River, where DFO only has enough information to track nineteen sockeye stocks — when estimates suggest there were once over two hundred different distinct Fraser sockeye stocks.

Or, ask around Rivers Inlet. Where did those darned sockeye go…?

Wild salmon needed more help in 1991… Now 20 years later, they need more help then ever before. They haven’t seen threats like they do now, since about…

…the last Ice Age…

Upper upper Fraser River sockeye: Recipes for Extinction 2011

 

Sockeye salmon in spawning channel, Nadina River Spawning Channel, Houston, British Columbia

This is a continuation of the last post — outlining the current Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Pacific Salmon Commission cookbook recipes for decimating troubled Fraser River sockeye stocks.

At the moment there is a $20 million (or so) judicial inquiry investigating the 2009 shockingly low returns of Fraser River sockeye.

One may not need to look too much further then the current cookbook approach to “managing” troubled sockeye stocks from the upper Fraser River.

These stocks are being “managed”/cooked into oblivion.

One might suggest it’s akin to throwing fish and steak on the same bar-b-q at the same heat and cooking the fish the same way as the steaks. The result…?

hockey puck fish… not much good to anything or anyone.

If the current DFO method of “managing” Fraser sockeye, specifically upper Fraser sockeye is not a Recipe for Extinction… then someone let me know what it is…

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The last post…

…explained how the Bowron River and Nadina River sockeye that spawn in the eastern and western reaches of the upper Fraser River face dismal pre-season forecasts for 2011.

These two runs are grouped into the “Early Summers” which include several stocks from all across the Fraser watershed that all migrate into the river at approximately the same time. These sockeye stocks have been ‘grouped’ for “management” purposes.

(e.g. it is easier to devise ‘fishing plans’ on an aggregate of stocks that migrate into the river at similar times… as opposed to carefully trying to protect smaller, endangered runs).

Some of the other Fraser sockeye stocks that co-migrate with the Bowron and Nadina stocks are larger, healthier stocks that have relatively decent productivity in recent years and decent pre-season forecasts.

As a result, the aggregate total of all the runs combined means some limited fishing may occur on the Early Summers — however this means that the potential total allowable mortality predicted and permitted for the Early Summers in potential fishing plans could potentially wipe out an entire troubled sockeye run like the Bowron or Nadina or both.

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Late Stuarts and Stellak0 — Summer grouping

There is a similar story for the Late Stuarts and Stellako sockeye runs.

 

upper Fraser sockeye -- Summer group

These two stocks of Fraser sockeye are grouped into the “Summers” — an aggregate based on run-timing a bit later into the Summer (hence the name).

DFO Fraser sockeye pre-season forecast -- Summer group focus

 

There is a very concerning picture here.

Let’s look at the 50% probability pre-season forecast for the Summer stocks:

Fraser sockeye forecast -- Summers - 50p prediction

Summers -- 50p forecast

 

This shows a total run size forecast for the four “Summer” stocks — all grouped together — of a little over 1.4 million sockeye.

The Chilko run (west of Williams Lake) is looking pretty decent with some green boxes in productivity and a run that appears to be within range of average (“mean”) run sizes.

The 50% probability suggests a run size of a little over 1.1 million, comprising almost 80% of the total “Summer” group returns.

The other Summer stocks…?

not looking so good!

The Late Stuart is showing a 50p pre-season forecast of only 41,000.

This is well below the mean run size on all cycles of well over 500,000.

And even on this cycle year, a mean run size of over 80,000.

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Similarly for Stellako.

A 50p pre-season forecast on this stock of only 79,000.

The mean run size on all years is over 460,000.

Worse yet, 2011 should be an up year with a cycle average of just under 600,000!

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Things don’t look good on these stocks…

…even…

…even if they were left entirely alone and no one went fishing.

However, DFO and the Pacific Salmon Commissionin their great wisdom — are proposing fisheries on the Summer aggregate/group that will allow up to 57% mortality on the overall group run size.

At the 50p forecast of 1.4 million fish — this equates to a potential catch of well over 800,000 Summer-run sockeye.

Yeah… that’s right… 800,000 sockeye are proposed to be caught as part of pre-season fishing plans.

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Let’s take another look for a second at those numbers….

The total run size forecast for the Summer-grouping of Fraser sockeye at the 50% probability level is: 1,414,000.

Pre-season planning by DFO and the Pacific Salmon Commission is suggesting a target of 57% exploitation, which equates to over 800,000 Fraser Summer sockeye dead.

That means that — theoretically — both the Stellako and Late Stuart runs could have the entire runs captured in fisheries — as they only comprise together less than 10% of the total Summer grouping run size.

Their total run size is 120,000.

(remember this isn’t what is predicted to reach spawning grounds — this is just predictions for reaching the mouth of the Fraser).

With a predicted fishery exploitation of 800,000 — doesn’t seem all that difficult to consider that fisheries might catch every last Late Stuart and Stellako sockeye, or 120,000 sockeye.

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Quesnel River stocks — Summer group

Not only that — factor in the one other “Summer” group stock — the runs that return to the Quesnel River (e.g. the famed Horsefly and Quesnel Lakes runs). The 50p forecast on these is only 153,000 (just over 10% of total Summer-run size)

And thus the potential fishery exploitation rate of 57% of the Summer group — over 800,000 fish — could potentially eradicate three of the four Summer stocks.

(these three runs comprise only about 20% of the total Summer group)

(And it must be remembered, as well, the “management adjustment” — or death en route to the spawning grounds — such as hot water, drought, disease, and so on, is not even factored in here… these fish face a gauntlet of threats trying to reach spawning grounds — let alone avoiding fisheries that are targeting a 60% exploitation rate)

How is this not a recipe for extinction?

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This is the absolute absurdity of mixed-stock fisheries…

…DFO’s aggregate management (groups of stocks based simply on run-timing — not health of the stocks or geographic distribution), and a “salmon management system” that is based on limited information and fisheries-first — not conservation goals.

Worse yet… ask DFO if they have “escapement objectives” for runs like Stellako, Late Stuarts, Nadina, etc. — this means how many spawners do they guess they have to get onto the spawning grounds for each sockeye stock, just to meet conservation objectives (e.g. survival of the individual runs)?

They don’t know.

The escapement objectives for Fraser sockeye are also done by the aggregate groupings — e.g. Early Summers, Summers, etc. — so if particular runs like the Stellako and Late Stuarts disappear… it doesn’t really matter if other stocks within the groupings remain somewhat healthy.

Worse yet, DFO and the Pacific Salmon Commission only have enough information to track 19 individual Fraser sockeye stocks.

Estimates suggest there might have once been over 200 individual Fraser sockeye stocks, utilizing over 150 different spawning areas. (Other estimates suggest that total run sizes once reached numbers of over 160 million Fraser sockeye on a yearly basis…).

How is this current system not a recipe for extinction?

This cookbook has already cooked, baked, poached, decimated… call it what you want… numerous small, distinct Fraser sockeye stocks.

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(Cohen Commission… hope you’re reading this… and looking into this vital issue… if this Recipe for Fraser Sockeye extinction does not come out in final reports… it’s largely a wasted $20 million — and we can all start writing the eulogy for upper, upper Fraser sockeye).

upper Fraser River sockeye 2011: DFO Recipe for Extinction

adapted from Cohen Commission tech report #2

It might be with some irony that today the Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser River sockeye is conducting hearings into fisheries Monitoring and Enforcement. There is probably little question that better Monitoring and Enforcement could assist Fraser sockeye stocks; however, on a cost-benefit analysis between ‘good management‘ vs. ‘monitoring, enforcement, & compliance‘ would there really be much comparison…?

Let’s look at this coming year’s sockeye forecasting and pre-season planning (2011): As the Recipe for Upper Fraser Sockeye extinction is plain as day

Below is a rather complex chart produced by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that documents the “recent productivity” of 19 (of the over 150) distinct Fraser sockeye stocks.

The 19 sockeye stocks in which DFO actually has enough information to utilize are further grouped into four run-timing groups (Early Stuart, Early Summer, Summer, and Late Summer).

These can be seen down the far left hand side — Column A. (I will break this chart down further with specific focus on some key numbers and columns).

 

DFO 2011 "Recent Productivity" Fraser Sockeye Forecast

First off, the Early Stuarts, one of the furthest upstream migrating Fraser sockeye — Northwest of Prince George in the upper Nechako drainage (Stuart River is main tributary — see map above), is in deep trouble.

In essence, what column “I” suggests is that the historical ‘mean run size’ for the Early Stuarts — based on all cycles — is 311,000.

On the 2011 cycle (Fraser sockeye predominantly run in four-year cycles) the mean run size is 172,000.

Columns “K” to “O” give the ‘probability’ of various forecasts.

Column K is the “10p” forecast suggesting that there is a 10% chance (or 1 in 10 chance) that runs will be at or below this number — for Early Stuarts that’s 6,000.

The standard generally used in pre-season forecasting is the 50p or 50% probability forecast which for Early Stuarts is 17,000 (column “M”).

So the Early Stuart median for all cycles is 311,000 — for the 2011 cycle-year it is 172,000 — however for this year the 50% probability pre-season forecast for 2011 predicts a run size of only: 17,000.

Even the best-case scenario (90p — 90%) predicts a run-size of only: 42,000.

(Note: Last year 2010 — the apparent big record year — the Early Stuarts met the 90p pre-season forecast and had an estimated return of 100,000).

However, raise any questions on the Early Stuart sockeye and DFO will say “but we’ve been in conservation mode on these fish for decades”. Yet, even just as far back as 1997 — the total run size of the Early Stuarts was estimated at almost: 1.7 million sockeye.

And yet that year the estimated catch was over 770,000.

Worse yet, an en-route loss is estimated at over 630,000.

Only an estimated 260,000 reached the spawning grounds. A mere 15% of the total run.

And then this year the best case scenario suggests only 42,000 as a total run size, not even what might reach the spawning grounds — some 1000+ km upstream…

Hmmm. wonder why we there’s a problem…?

_ _ _ _ _ _

Estimated Returns and Historical Productivity

So, yes, the Early Stuarts have been in trouble for quite some time — however, it seems like this is akin to a flu-bug in the upper watershed. Trouble for upper Fraser sockeye seems to be contagious..

In the “Early Summer” grouping there are two sockeye stocks with enough information for “management” purposes — the Bowron (returns to Bowron River east of Prince George, and northeast of Quesnel) and the Nadina (returns to upper Nechako River, west of Prince George and southwest of Fraser Lake).

Here are the numbers blown up from the above chart:

2011 Fraser sockeye forecast: Bowron and Nadina River runs.

This half of the chart shows the estimated Effective Female Spawners (EFS) in columns “C” and “D”.

The “BY” stands for Brood Year. Therefore, 2007 is the Brood Year (BY) for the majority of returns this year: 2011 — as sockeye largely have a four-year life cycle. However, some years and some runs have more five-year old sockeye return as well. Often this is in the range of approximately 20-30% of the total run. And thus column “D” is the estimated Effective Female Spawners of 2006.

And so in 2007, the estimate suggests there were 1,100 Effective Female Spawners (EFS) and in 2006 there were 600 for the Bowron.

For the Nadina there were an estimated 1,000 Effective Female Spawners in 2007 (the main brood year for this year’s 2011 returns) and 4,500 EFS in 2006.

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The next columns — “E” and “F” are estimates of the productivity of each Effective Female Spawner over an 8-year time period (column E) and 4-year time period (column F).

For a population of any critter each female (effective female spawner) must average a productivity of 2 progeny that live to become reproductive adults — ideally an average of one male and one female — just to maintain any population with no growth or depletion.

The Bowron has an estimated productivity of 2.4 (over 8 years) and 2.1 (over 4 years) returning adults for each female spawner (the numbers in red boxes — red meaning bad/stop ).

estimated productivity of Bowron sockeye stocks

This means that the Bowron stock of Fraser sockeye is barely replacing itself at current productivity.

The Nadina is faring a little better with estimated productivity over 8 years of 3.0 (in the red box) and over 4 years of 4.6 returning adults per effective female spawner (in the yellow box – meaning, caution).

estimated productivity of Nadina sockeye

Sockeye salmon enhancement facility, Nadina River, British Columbia

 

(It should be noted that the Nadina sockeye largely utilize man-made spawning channels… and they are still in trouble…).

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The next set of numbers further along the right on the chart are rather revealing as well, here’s a clip with columns C-H taken out:

 

Fraser sockeye forecast_2011 Estimated probabilities for Bowron & Nadina stocks

Columns “I” and “J” are showing average “mean” runs sizes for these various runs as an overall average of all years previous — “all cycles” column “I” and the four-year cycle that includes 2011 column “J”.

For the two runs of concern — Bowron and Nadina — one can quickly see that the difference between the average run sizes and the various probabilities of run sizes this year — there’s a big discrepancy.

(And it must be pointed out that this is estimates of Total Run Size returning to the Fraser which may be targeted for fisheries — not the total run size that is predicted to reach, or reached, the spawning grounds.)

As mentioned earlier the 50p or 50% probability forecast is the one most commonly used during pre-season forecasts. For the Bowron that’s 5,000 estimated as a total run size (as compared to a mean average of all years of 39,000) and for the Nadina 12,000 (as compared to a mean run size of 80,000). (Remember, total run size predicted, not what’s estimated to reach the spawning grounds).

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Recipe for Extinction

The Bowron and Nadina River adult sockeye stocks migrate into the Fraser River approximately the same time as several other stocks that migrate to different parts of the Fraser River. The other stocks are listed in the chart above — names like Fennell, Gates, Pitt, Raft, etc. These stocks are spread from the upper, upper Fraser through the upper Thompson River, right down to the lower Fraser with the Pitt.

All, most likely, quite genetically distinct from each other — however, simply grouped because of run-timing. These are called the Early Summers for exactly that reason. Convenient for fishing plans… maybe not so convenient for conserving genetic diversity of stocks… or even conserving stocks themselves…

If you look through the various other runs within the Early Summers grouping, a few are looking relatively healthy, with 50% forecasts suggesting run sizes a little larger then the mean averages. There is even some green in the productivity and EFS boxes.

Total 50% probability pre-season forecast for all Early Summers is 453,000. With a few healthy runs… this means potential fisheries targeting this Group.

At the present time apparently DFO and Pacific Salmon Commission is considering fishing plans that would target a 40% exploitation rate on these Early Summers — which suggests that close to 200,000 of these Early Summers could potentially be targeted in fisheries.

For the Bowron and Nadina sockeye runs, this could mean total disaster.

There are only a total of 17,000 total fish at the 50% probability pre-season forecast for both these runs combined — and this is just fish forecast to reach the Fraser River, not the actual number forecast to reach the spawning grounds, which for these two runs is over 1000 km up the Fraser River.

These 17,000 potential fish could easily be swallowed in fisheries targeting other healthier Early Summer stocks.

Or, let’s say even conservatively that these targeted fisheries only catch half of the Bowron and Nadina returning runs — 8500. Conservative estimates suggest that 40% or more of these fish will die en route or prior to spawning. If that occurred there would still be 90% of the total run wiped out.

This is all considering fish on paper… which is the problem here.

The Recipe of Extinction for upper Fraser sockeye stocks is: mixed stock fisheries based on fisheries management plans that manage to the Aggregate Groups (only four) and do not discern between endangered individual, genetically distinct runs — such as the Bowron and Nadina stocks.

(let alone the 130 or so unnamed Fraser sockeye stocks that don’t have enough information to be considered by DFO or the Pacific Salmon Commission).

Tomorrow?

We consider the Late Stuarts and Stellako, two more Upper, Upper Fraser River sockeye runs that face a worse scenario as part of the Summers group of Fraser sockeye.

They are the Recipe for Extinction — Chapter 3.

“Fraser River sockeye face chemical soup of 200 contaminants”

 

Cohen Commisson: new summer clothing line

That’s the headline on the Globe & Mail article yesterday. Another decent summary by Mark Hume, and continued information release on salmon.

The Globe & Mail article:

Sockeye salmon are exposed to a soup of chemicals in the Fraser River, and some of the ingredients are accumulating to potentially lethal levels in eggs, while others may be disrupting the sexual function of fish, according to a scientific review conducted for the Cohen Commission.

The study states that because of key data gaps, it is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion about exactly how the 200 contaminants identified in the river have affected the growth, survival rates or reproduction of salmon.

There is the great salmon killer again… data gaps, lack of information, and conclusions gone ‘missing’ (like the Fraser sockeye of 2009 and other years).

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Who’s looking… mr(s) Data Gap?

The issue of pollutants and chemicals is a scary, scary beast. Not just because of the risks that chemicals present (especially newer synthetic ones with little research to prove safety — for example fire retardants that are sprayed at will on BC forest fires and then accumulate in soils and waterways) —- but mostly, because of the great, gigantic, gaping void of data and research.

The great Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) ban of the 1970s due to bio-accumulation in critters, including people, in the Arctic and across North America  — which hasn’t really gone away. PCBs were used heavily through the 1930s on, until the ban came in to play. And, in many parts of the ‘developing’ world, are still used heavily.

New chemicals, many created in labs of a variety of concoctions, are much, much spookier. Marketing spin and scant research in ‘real world’ environments results in mass usage of many of these chemicals with little to no monitoring of impacts on ecosystems and critter health (including humans). Added to scant research is the immense myriad of other chemicals being introduced into watersheds — pharmaceuticals like cialis/viagara, birth control hormones and chemicals; antibiotics, steroids;  fire retardants, industrial chemicals, and so on.

And who is researching the impact of these chemicals mixing?

We’re taught from an early age not to mix various housecleaning chemicals due the dangers that that poses… what happens when you mix PCDDs (Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins) + PCDFs (dibenzofurans) +  PCBs + TCDD (2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin) + BEHP (Phthalates) + PAHs (acenaphthalene, benz(a)anthracene, and dibenz(a,h)anthracene) + a little dose of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious…?

From the Cohen Commission report #2 (pg 130):

Data on the interactive effects of contaminants (such as endocrine disruptors), disease agents, and water temperature on sockeye salmon are not available for the Fraser River Basin or elsewhere.

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Endocrine Disrupt what…?

The Cohen Commission report — Technical Report #2: Potential Effects of Contaminants on Fraser River Sockeye Salmon — can be downloaded from the Cohen Commission evidence and transcripts of May 9, 2011. (I would put it on here, unfortunately this 603 page report exceeds the upload capabilities of this site…).

The Globe and Mail article continues:

While it is unlikely that contaminants are “the sole cause” of sockeye population declines, the report says there is “a strong possibility that exposure to contaminants of concern, endocrine disrupting chemicals, and/or contaminants of emerging concern has contributed to the decline of sockeye salmon.

The report, by McDonald Environmental Sciences Ltd., a Nanaimo-based research firm, identified numerous chemicals in surface waters and in bottom sediments that posed potential risks to sockeye, including nitrate, chloride, sulphate, arsenic, mercury and selenium.

It said some of the chemicals exceeded toxicity levels for fish and it noted that “water quality conditions have degraded over the past two decades.”

The report also says research done in 2001 and 2004 found some chemicals were concentrating in the eggs of sockeye at toxicity levels “associated with 30 per cent mortality of fish eggs.

If you haven’t read about endocrine disruptors… maybe don’t… the old saying ‘ignorance is bliss’ may hold true…

These are nasty chemicals that mess with one of the oldest biological ‘systems’ — the endocrine system. There is some decent summary information at Wikipedia:

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with endocrine (or hormone system) in animals, including humans. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Specifically, they are known to cause learning disabilities, severe attention deficit disorder, cognitive and brain development problems, deformations of the body (including limbs); sexual development problems, feminizing of males or masculine effects on females, etc. Any system in the body controlled by hormones, can be derailed by hormone disruptors.

The Cohen Commission technical report states (pg 100):

There is a substantial body of scientific evidence demonstrating that many of the substances released to the environment due to human activities have the potential to modulate or disrupt the endocrine system in fish…

…Based on the results of the qualitative exposure assessment… it is apparent that Fraser River sockeye salmon may be exposed to endocrine disrupting compounds originating from multiple sources [including: Sewage treatment plants; Pulp and paper mills; and Areas with high industrial activity/chemical contamination].

The report has a table outlining Fraser sockeye exposures during migration — juveniles and adults.

pg 102 of Technical Report #2

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…Overall, this information suggests that stocks utilizing spawning habitats located furthest from the mouth of the river (i.e., those with the longest residence times in migration corridors) are likely to have the highest exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds, while those destined for natal streams nearby the mouth of the Fraser River are likely to have the lowest exposure to these chemicals.

Is it coincidence then that the majority of sockeye stocks from the upper Fraser (north of Quesnel) are the ones in the most trouble, and have seen most of the big declines over the last half century?

The Early Stuart run, Bowron, Nadina, etc.

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The Great Gap…

The Globe & Mail article continues:

Among the endocrine disrupting ingredients identified in the Fraser were industrial chemicals, pesticides, compounds with a carbon-metal bond, pharmaceuticals and “several estrogen-like compounds,” the report says.

It states that data are insufficient to evaluate the impact of endocrine-disrupting compounds, but [and] notes reports from First Nation fishermen that salmon are smaller on average, increasingly have blotchy skin and of one male sockeye that had ovaries, are cause for concern.

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Not only is data “insufficient” — there simply just isn’t any. No one is really looking. No one — in management institutions — seems to really care.

Maybe ignorance is bliss has become a bureaucratic principle…? (e.g. not my department, not my worry…)

Pg. 122 of the Cohen Commission report:

In particular, there is substantial uncertainty regarding the types and quantities of herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides that are currently being used within the watershed.

It’s not just uncertainty… it’s so bad that the only way to track what herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and so on that are being sprayed, applied, spilled etc. throughout the watershed is through sales receipts.

In addition, limitations on the available source and monitoring data made it difficult to identify all of the pharmaceuticals and personal care products, endocrine disrupting compounds, and contaminants of emerging concern that could have been released within the study area.

Worse yet:

many agencies and regulated interests maintain their own databases that are not readily available to the public or do not have a systematic means of storing and retrieving such data. As such, it is difficult or impossible to assemble all of the information needed to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the risks posed to sockeye salmon associated with exposure to contaminants in the Fraser River Basin.

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Conclusion?

While limitations on the available data make it difficult to answer this question conclusively, the results of this study suggest that the exposure to contaminants in surface water, sediments, or fish tissues is not the primary factor influencing the productivity or abundance of Fraser River sockeye salmon.

However, it is a strong possibility that exposure to the contaminants of concern and/or uncertain contaminants of concern (i.e., endocrine disrupting compounds and contaminants of emerging concern) has contributed to the decline of sockeye salmon abundance in the Fraser River Basin over the past 20 years.

One more reason for even stronger application of the precautionary approach and high-time for the blissful ignorance of government agencies to end on this one.

For example, have you ever traveled through the Fraser watershed in the summer? You know that same water that sockeye migrate through? Well… ummm… where do you think all of that water spraying on fields is coming from?

Same place.

If sockeye are facing a chemical soup… that same chemical soup is being sprayed on hay fields and whatever other irrigated crop. Cows, sheep, goats, etc. are eating the hay. We eat the cows, sheep, goats, vegetables, and so on.

What befalls the sockeye… befalls us.

(not to mention lots of folks eat sockeye…)

NEW E-BOOK… 1 Fish, 2 Fish: Do you really want to know about Maximum Sustainable Yield

New e-book on Maximum Sustainable Yield

Today is the release date for the first e-book on this site. It’s not a long one, however, maybe informative.

1 Fish, 2 Fish: Do you really want to know about Maximum Sustainable Yield

Here is a sample from page 1…

Page 1: How (not) to “manage” fish…

Please share this document with anyone — or send folks to this site to download. (Please comment at will.)

And please consider making a contribution to support this site, and future publications — look along the right hand side of this page for the PayPal link.

Maximum Sustainable Yield — A sure Recipe for Wild Salmon Extinction.

And stay tuned for more e-books coming soon.

Cohen Commission: “No data means no answers, sockeye inquiry told”

Dead sockeye -- Flickr "Watershed_Watch"

That’s the headline on Hume’s article today in the Globe & Mail.

The lack of hard data on the ocean environment has become an important issue to a federal commission investigating the collapse of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River.

Repeatedly, scientists testifying at the Cohen Commission have said they don’t really know what happens to salmon once they have left fresh water and headed out into the “black box” of the Pacific Ocean. They have complained about a shortage of data, or no data at all, and have said there are limited funds available for research.

Well… it’s not just the ocean environment that has a lack of data. Pretty much every life stage of Fraser sockeye has big black boxes of little to no data. (hard or soft…)

Sure some life stages and critical habitat have been studied more than others, and some folks think they know — but then of course they don’t know what they don’t know, and sometimes they think they know what they don’t know… and so on…

The cold hard reality that Justice Cohen is going to be faced with — or is already faced with — is that we just don’t know. For example, we don’t know how many sockeye juveniles leave the Fraser every year, we don’t even know how many juvenile sockeye leave the majority of the 150 rearing areas where they spend some time as babies.

(DFO only looks at two rearing lakes in any detail… or depth.)

What we know of the population dynamics of Fraser sockeye — and wild salmon in general — is limited to about the simple fact that we know they swim in water… when compared to all of what we don’t know.

No amount of systems theory, chaos theory, or computer modelling is going to shed much more light on things either.

Not only do we not know much about sockeye we know very little about the rest of the dynamics surrounding them. Just as the article suggests:

One of the papers filed with the commission identifies a “hotspot” in Queen Charlotte Sound, for example, where more than 10,000 sharks gather on a main salmon migration route – but nobody knows why the sharks are there, how long they are there, or what they are feeding on.

Black bear cub with sockeye -- Flickr: Gillfoto

Gee… this sounds like grizzly bear research in BC. Or black bear research. Or eagle research. Or coastal wolves research. Or mink research. Or osprey research… or… or…

We simply… just don’t know.

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If we can’t even predict our own brain patterns, then why do we think we can predict behavior and nature of wild salmon runs?

(for example, does anyone have an explanation on what the heck happened last year? — with 30 million or so returning sockeye to the Fraser. We’ll never know…)

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We call it ecosystem-based planning or ecosystem-based management… but we don’t know shit about the ecosystem…

Management is defined as: “The process of dealing with or controlling things or people”.

News flash… we can’t control wild salmon… but we sure as hell can control people if need be… (look at the great federal Conservative crime plans…)

Planning is defined as: “The process of making plans for something” .

Well… what are we making?

An ecosystem?

(well… that’s what the engineers of things like “no-net less to habitat” policies would have us think… we can just “re-create” ecosystems better than Mother Nature did in the first place over millenia…)

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One of the definitions of plan suggests: “A systematic arrangement of elements or important parts; a configuration or outline” .

Hmmm… so what are the “important parts”…? And what are we trying to “configure”? And how can we know what we’re trying to configure if we don’t really know much about things in the first place (e.g. the “black box” of the North Pacific)?

_ _ _ _ _ _

The article continues:

The knowledge gap caused Tim Leadem, a lawyer representing a coalition of conservation groups, to wonder out loud Thursday if the Cohen Commission will ever get a definitive answer on what caused the Fraser River sockeye population to collapse. The commission was appointed in 2009 after only one million salmon returned to spawn instead of the 10 million expected.

“What was the cause of the 2009 decline?” Mr. Leadem asked a panel of scientists testifying about the impact of predators on salmon. “I expect at the end of the day … [it will be an inconclusive] death by 1,000 cuts.”

Gee. Maybe Mr. Leadem has seen my cartoon:

Salmon... death of a thousands cuts

I sense a certain frustration or defeatism in that comment…

Yes, Mr. Leadem it is a thousands cuts or so… but the worst ones, the mortal ones for some sockeye runs — have been inflicted by us.

Through direct action (harvest)… or inaction (how’s that enforcement of the Fisheries Act going?)

Pick your killer; our knives are sharp. We’ve filleted Fraser sockeye runs faster than the old terribly named: “Iron Chink” used in salmon canneries.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Article continues:

Mr. Leadem noted most of the science teams that have presented papers to the Cohen Commission have concluded by saying more research is needed.

“This is perplexing,” he said. “If we are depending on science [for guidance], where are we going to find the funding? And who’s going to be pulling the strings and saying what science goes forward?”

Mr. Leadem said it appears scientists “are in a world where you are scrambling for dollars” while facing a growing list of questions.

“Yeah, we are scrambling for research funding and it is going to be the nature of science that there are always more questions that need answering,” said Andrew Trites, a professor and director at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre.

EXACTLY MY FRIGGING POINT!! (thank-you Dr. Trites).

We don’t have to depend on just science for the “answers” — because it won’t have any.

It might be able to provide gentle guidance, or thoughts, or an ‘answer’ here or there — however, at its fundamental core answering one question through science only opens up two more questions. It’s like the mythical beast Hydra — cut off one head, and two more pop up to replace it.

And so, when it comes to “fisheries” science,  it is not really a practice of “truths” and “facts” — and cannot provide all the “answers”. At its heart it is a practice of questions and theories… and analysis of things that we will never understand (e.g. the ocean).

We don’t have all the answers for how our brain works, yet we still function on a day-to-day basis. We still design teaching curricula for our children and send them off to school. And, amazingly, we can actually function and “think” on a day-to-day basis without knowing everything about our brains…

We don’t know the “answers” for the magic of how a child comes into being in the meeting between sperm and egg… We don’t know the “answers” about how we develop a soul, or even the magic occurring between our brains, hearts, lungs and every other organ working in unison. It’s a true magic mystery…

Yet we still carry on day-in and day-out…

_ _ _ _ _ _

The article:

Mr. Justice Bruce Cohen, the B.C. Supreme Court judge who is heading the hearings, asked if there is an overall strategy for addressing the many unanswered questions about the ocean environment. “Within DFO and within the larger community of science … is there an overarching body that does a macro analysis of all the science that’s taking place? Who’s going to draw the agenda? Is this a scrambled situation … or is there actually a game plane here?” he asked.

“My perception as an academic . . . in terms of fisheries management … I don’t feel there is a game plan,” replied Dr. Trites, who appeared on a panel with John Ford, head of cetacean research in the Pacific for Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Peter Olesiuk, DFO’s head of pinniped research.

No… no game plan indeed.

There never has been — and never will be (with all due respect).

And even if there was… what difference would it make?

“Salmon management”… “fisheries management” is a game of politics — not science.

Science can provide some gentle guidance — however it is certainly not the game plan.

(Just like “science” isn’t the game plan in the Vancouver Canucks’ current run at the Stanley Cup — it assists, but is not the plan).

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Our relationship with wild salmon is simply that… A Relationship.

What is that… a ‘relationship’?

Well… dictionary.com suggests: “The way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.”

Just like the relationship between our hearts, minds, and lungs… the relationship between white blood cells and our immune system (our most ancient of systems)… the relationship between children and parents… the relationship between dogs and owners…

What does connected mean?

Joined or linked together;

Related by family.

Hmmmm…..

And curiously, even in mathematics it means:

Not decomposable into two disjoint nonempty open sets.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Salmon and people are both concepts and objects…

And… well… here along the Pacific Rim — we are connected. We are in a relationship.

And unfortunately, this is not a balanced relationship. This is not an equal give-and-take relationship.

We’ve been more on the taking end…

take, take, take... over 80% for 100-years or so...

When people get married, or make commitments, or talk about their relationship — they don’t look to science, nor even tout the latest studies or research, or engage in a peer-review process…

If you talk to a couple that’s been married for 60 years, they don’t tell you about how the marvels of science kept them together.

No… they generally talk about the hard work… the commitments… a knowing… and call it cheesy, or hairy-fairy… but there’s also (as the song says) “a whole lotta love…”

If salmon are as important as certain surveys suggest (e.g. more important to BC’ers as French is to Quebecers) — not that we need surveys to tell us this — then why this great reliance on science… on data… on research…?

The article concludes:

Lara Tessaro, junior commission counsel, later asked the witnesses to name the DFO managers who are directing scientific research in the Pacific, a line of questioning that suggested the issue may be revisited as the hearings continue.

I think most of us know the answer to that question… (and unfortunately, from what it says in the recent Commission status update, we won’t be getting  Project 11 – Fraser River sockeye salmon: status of DFO science and management

(which was to include an analysis, including an economic analysis, of DFO activities in Fraser River sockeye management since 1985;  DFO science and research expenditures related to Fraser sockeye; and  an analysis to evaluate DFO’s ability to meet its stated management objectives relative to Fraser sockeye since 1985).

The great department of Oceans sails a rudderless ship… and will it be exposed as to just how rudderless?

I’m curious to hear the answers to this and who’s at the helm (or not, or will it be like the story of the Queen of the North..? including the stifling of the truth…) — Yet, I sure hope that in the multiple thousands of pages that are being produced by the Cohen Commission that a little more time gets spent on plain language to describe our relationship with wild salmon.

Our connectedness… and how the relationship needs to improve… drastically.  And “data” is not the answer… it’s simply a tool, one piece of the equation… one piece of the relationship… one piece of the connectedness.

Bears don’t sell salmon for profit.

culprits? predators?

Published at the Globe & Mail today — another article by Mark Hume, reporting from the Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser Sockeye:

The mystery of the disappearing salmon

The disappearance of millions of sockeye salmon from the Fraser River has been compared to Murder on the Orient Express by two scientists helping a federal inquiry solve an environmental mystery.

Andrew Trites and Villy Christensen, both professors at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre, made the comparison to the Agatha Christie whodunit as they testified Wednesday at the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.

Led by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen, the commission has been given more than two years and a $25-million budget to figure out why sockeye salmon stocks have been in decline for the past two decades, and why only about one million fish returned to spawn in 2009, when 10 million were expected.

Let me ask the simple question — in 2009 was it disappearing fish, or simply a blown forecast?

Maybe, it’s kind of like the weather – we have thousands more tools, expertise and ‘science’ for forecasting weather – yet forecasters blow it all the time…

(“today we can expect cloudy periods with a chance of salmon…”)

_ _ _ _ _ _

As part of the inquiry, Judge Cohen has assigned teams of scientists to look at 12 different issues, examining everything from climate change to sport fishing to determine the impact on salmon.

Curiously, I don’t remember reading anything in the Commission’s terms of reference about sport fishing — or in the 12 ‘scientific’ reports… However, I suppose maybe one can assume that sport fishing is covered in “policies and practices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans” .

(I haven’t seen this particular report yet, as Commission transcripts and “evidence” are not posted on the site until weeks after the date; however, the reports I’ve reviewed thus far are more like literature reviews then scientific studies. I wonder if the Commission could have saved some of its $25 million budget by having Masters’ students do the same literature reviews?)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

The article continues:

In a report on predation, Dr. Trites and Dr. Christensen tried to find which, among the myriad predators that feast on salmon, could have been responsible for killing so many sockeye as to decimate the population.

They came up with a long list of suspects and then narrowed it down to the six most fearsome killers: salmon sharks (220 kilograms and so aggressive they sometimes bump fishing boats), blue sharks (triangular teeth with finely serrated edges), daggertooths (the name says it all), sablefish (black cod with gaping mouths), lamprey (jawless fish that suck blood) and the common murre (a bird that dives 60 metres deep and can swim faster than a fish).

“It’s six,” Dr. Christensen said of the top suspect list. “We could have made it eight or 10. … It’s subjective. Salmon shark is at the top of the list. For the rest, it’s hard to say [how to rank them]. We found evidence for all of these six, that they might have considerable impact.”

In their report, the two science investigators say they are unable to point the finger at any one suspect, because so many factors are at work. They compared their dilemma to the one faced by the detective Hercule Poirot, who finds a passenger has been murdered while the Orient Express is speeding across Europe.

So let me ask this then?

Where were “the myriad predators that feast on salmon” last year — 2010 when somewhere around 30 million Fraser sockeye made the journey home?

I guess they must have hopped onto the Siberian Express as opposed to the Orient Express…??

_ _ _ _ _

“The murderer had to be on board,” states the report. “M. Poirot interviewed everyone on the train, but there was no ‘usual suspect,’ no smoking gun and no butler. Rather, it seemed that all of the passengers (save M. Poirot) had a motive and an opportunity. That made for a difficult case – who did it?”

The scientists concluded the mysteries on the Fraser River and on the Orient Express had the same answer: “All the suspects played a role and all are guilty.”

They state that while all the predators feed on sockeye salmon, none of them does so exclusively, and none to such an extent that it could explain the population collapse. And predation alone, even by all the suspects combined, cannot fully explain the long downward trend of the sockeye population or the sudden collapse in 2009, they say.

Yes — brilliant deduction Wats…errr… Poirot.

An excellent point, and about dead on.

_ _ _ _ _

“For the Fraser River sockeye, it may well be that the declining survival trend over the last decades was caused by a combination of effects, and not by any single one,” they write. “If predation had been the smoking gun in the disappearance of Fraser River sockeye salmon, it should have been smelled by now.”

Dr. Trites and Dr. Christensen said the study was hampered by a shortage of up-to-date data and they called for more research on what happens to Fraser River sockeye after they leave fresh water and enter the ocean.

Well… there is one predator that Drs. Trites and Christensen forgot in their investigation — a key suspect:

US.

No, not the United States — but us… humans.

And… well… better yet — Mother Nature… which includes us humans, and… well… predators… and prey… and so on…

And, what to our wonder… there’s that great “not enough data” must “have more research” thing… again.

Dr. Christensen said the last major ocean research projects on salmon were undertaken in the 1950s and 1970s, and a new effort, using modern technology, is warranted.

Perhaps it might even solve the mystery of what killed all the salmon.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Let’s ponder this for a moment…

danger...danger!

Even if this particular study concluded that salmon sharks, or black cod, or lamprey, or even the vicious yellow-bellied sapsucker were implicated in the deaths of so many sockeye — a veritable sockeye massacre — what we do about it?

Try those “predators” in the Hague? Bring them to justice at the International Criminal Court? Start a lamprey massacre in return?

(certainly has been done in the past when sea lion rookeries were strafed with machine guns from patrol boats…)

Or what if we find that ocean conditions are the #1 problem — the great sockeye salmon killer?

Are we then going to try and seed the North Pacific with ash mimicking a giant volcano? Are we going to try misguided fertilization attempts similar to freshwater environments? Are we going to pull icebergs down from the Arctic to try and cool North Pacific ocean temperatures resulting in more phytoplankton?

…Put giant underwater shopvacs on ‘blow’ mode under the North Pacific to create more upwelling? … get the entire Canadian Navy (all five boats) to line up and drive around in circles to improve the current circulation around the North Pacific?… Tell the Pacific decadal oscillation it’s not welcome?…

Well… NO. We’re probably going to realize that we need to be a heck of a lot more “PRECAUTIONARY” in how many fish we harvest.

At this point in time we have no control over the rate of climate change impacts or ocean acidification or El Nino events… We’re simply along for the ride.

We have to learn RESILIENCY & ADAPTABILITY in a hurry — unfortunately (and fortunately) wild salmon are incredibly resilient and adaptable. They survived the last Ice Age quite well. However, they don’t do well at adapting to the wall of nets they face when they return to spawn — and they don’t survive the canning process very well… and if a big hunk of water that they need to spawn in is sucked up to irrigate fields, or roads, or natural gas drilling processes… well… they don’t do well.

Maybe we just need to catch less for awhile, and look after the things that we can have an effect on…? … like… freshwater habitat.

And maybe we need to remember what we learned in Grade 2 about food chains… predators are not culprits, they’re simply part of the system — everything plays its part.

(unless they’re human and taking more than they need).

See… Bears don’t sell salmon, nor do salmon sharks, or blue sharks, or seals. They just take what they need and leave the rest for other critters in need…

(and Bears certainly don’t set up Exchange Traded Funds on the New York Stock Exchange to capitalize on common property resources…)

Invest in fishing companies and fish farms? Bursting bubble to come…

I don’t know what else to say other than… I think I see a bubble ready to burst…

Today there was an “Exchange Traded Fund” (ETF) launched today by a company in New York — Global X. An ETF is sort of like a mutual fund, however it is traded on stock exchanges like a company.

The ETF launched today is the Global X Fishing Industry ETF (Ticker: FISN on the New York Stock Exchange NYSE).

Apparently:

This is the first ETF globally targeting the fishing industry. The fishing industry is comprised of two main components: commercial fishing and aquaculture. Commercial fishing represents those companies directly involved in the capture of fish from wild fisheries, while aquaculture represents those companies that supply fish through fish farming operations.

Want to know two of the top three holdings?

Cermaq and Marine Harvest — companies both with open pen salmon farms on the BC Coast.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Here’s the theory lying behind this investment scheme…

Wow, sounds like a great investment opportunity…?!?!

Expansion of the middle class around the world… the drop of trade barriers and more bilateral agreements (e.g. another set of phrases for “colonization”)…

Global fishery trade has increased combined with more distant water fleets?

Hmmm… I wonder why?

Maybe because fish stocks subject to commercial fisheries around the world are in deep shit and folks are having to go further and wider to find fish… or simply fishing further and further down the food chain?

Sure wouldn’t mind seeing the rate of subsidies on this either?

In the 1990s, the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) suggested:

…that the operating costs of fisheries around the world exceeded commercial revenues by over $50 billion each year. Without subsidies, the world’s fishing industry would be bankrupt.

The World Wildlife Fund suggests:

Even as fish stocks dwindle, some of the world’s richest nations are paying billions of dollars to keep flagging fishing industries afloat through fishing subsidies. The result: a growing series of economic, social, and environmental crises around the world.

Estimated at tens of billions of dollars per year, these subsidies are equivalent to roughly 20% to 25% of the value of the landed fish catch worldwide. This scale of subsidization is a huge incentive to expand fishing fleets and overfish.

Hmmmm…. sounds like a great investment to me. It’s sort of like the auto industry or the oil industry — some of the most subsidized businesses on the planet.

It’s a negative sum game… the bubble will burst. And it won’t be individual’s investments and retirement plans that implode —- it will be entire nations, and citizens will go down with it…

(Anyone see the current debt of the United States?)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Here’s the comforting graph that accompanies this little marketing brief on the Global X website…

 

Bubble?

It seems that this investment scheme has been launched because it appears that this trend can continue forever…

Well… Global X and investors… I have news for you… world catch of fish plateaued at the end of the 1990s and may actually be on a downward trend now. We’d have a better idea if some countries didn’t lie about their catch data — e.g. falsely inflated…

Global X response: ‘but there’s aquaculture…’

 

bubble II?

Well… at this point in time much of that graph – the blues and green portions – require other fish to feed the farmed fish…

I think that’s also known as a “negative sum” gain…

Maybe the wisest thing I see on the marketing material for this ETF:

 

Risk?

The risk include “…the possibility of depleted fish stocks as a result of overfishing…”?!

Hmmmm… yeah. You mean like 75% of the world’s fish stocks?

 

marketing bumpf?

Yes, however, there is absolutely no way that this is sustainable though.

Especially with the continued practice of bottom trawling and by-catch thrown overboard.

Absolutely no way.

This is as twisted a scheme as Bre-X gold, or Enron… or the Marine Stewardship Council certifying Fraser sockeye fisheries as sustainable the year that the stocks experience an unprecedented collapse.

if you’re a wise investor ‘short’ this stock… just like you should ‘short’ any commercially exploited fish stocks. Or the US dollar, or US real estate…

(‘shorting’ means you make money when the stocks collapse… fish or financial)

Schemes like this will simply increase the pressure on corporation and some countries to further expand and grow fishing fleets and processing facilities on fish stocks that absolutely CAN NOT support more FISHING pressure. (or increase the scale of fish farming — like open-pen salmon farming — in sensitive coastal areas worldwide).

As I’ve suggested multiple times on this site, and will continue to — show me where companies like Cermaq and Marine Harvest are providing farmed salmon to needy and hungry people and countries. There sure as hell aren’t many folks in the “growing middle class” buying salmon at $15/lb to feed their families…

What a bizarrely short-sighted world we live in…

slippery secret salmon science society

is this the secret?

Announcement: the Slippery Secret Salmon Science Society (S5) is hosting Seance Saturday (S2)…

It’s called S5 + S2 = ??

If you can answer the question you win a new neutron microscope…

(remember your secret spawning salmon handshake…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve been reviewing various kernels of information on the Cohen Commission. One can surf through the Executive Summaries of some of the technical reports — only one of the reports is available to download (Project 9 – Effects of climate change on Fraser River sockeye salmon).

Some others are hidden in transcripts as “evidence”. Others are not available yet. And one — Project 11 – Fraser River sockeye salmon: status of DFO science and management – is apparently not going to be done. At least according to the most recently posted status report:

Commission counsel have decided not to present project 11, Fraser River Sockeye SalmonStatus of DFO Science and Management, into evidence. The financial information requested by the commission’s researcher for project 11 could not be obtained in the time frame needed to complete the intended analyses.

Further, the Commissioner has heard or will hear direct evidence on the issues covered in the technical report. In particular, the Commissioner will hear evidence directly from DFO witnesses on these issues during the final hearing topic, “DFO Priorities & Summary.”

Hmmm… the report that would most likely shine the light on the biggest culprit in Fraser sockeye declines slinks off into oblivion.

Might some surmise this is because the small world of salmon scientists didn’t want to open the can of worms and potentially affect their chances of securing contracts with the only show going out there — the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?

(I wouldn’t want to be so cynical… however, some may not find it a huge stretch…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

A couple of curious things I’ve noticed in reading the Technical Reports:

1. Each report has two reviewers — comments and responses from reviewers and report authors are recorded at the end of the documents.

Now, one should probably conclude that this is meant as a quasi-peer review process — the great leveler of scientific literature. Oddly, though, many of the reviewers are some of the authors of other Commission technical reports. And more oddly, some of the reviewers are co-authors of other papers with the authors of the technical reports that they are reviewing.

Is this really a transparent, open method of reviewing and providing critical feedback?

Or, is this the ‘secret’ society of salmon scientists…?

Is the world of salmon experts really so small that something as important as the science review for the Cohen Commission resembles a tight-knit Conservative Party climate change fundraiser in Calgary (the heart of oil and gas co. headquarters)?

Even reading through one of the better technical reports — Project 9 – Effects of climate change on Fraser River sockeye salmon – one reads about the past in-depth research done by these two researchers paid for bythe Pacific Salmon Commission and DFO

Did you read in yesterday’s post how a “seance” is sometimes known simply as a: “sitting of a society”?

Is this “scientific” work simply a seance of a salmon society?

2. The bulk of the reports appear to simply be literature reviews. Some go so far as to hypothesize qualitative matrices (“the matrix”) and so on that organize literature reviews into some sort of quasi-scientific view of the salmon world.

And, there is a whole lot of: “due to limited data…” and “lack of data…” and “lack of data limited testing for cause and effect…” and “Due to our inability to rigorously test for cause effect relationships…”

And so on, and so on…

And take a guess at what the bulk of the recommendations are…?

We need more research…”

We highly recommend research priorities focus on…”

more research…” “More Research…” and (you got it) “MORE RESEARCH…”

Is this not akin to police doing investigations on themselves and concluding no wrong-doing…or… more investigations required?

Or, politicians recommending their own raises and increases to expense accounts…or increased terms?

Ok… maybe a bit of a stretch… and not necessarily similar — simply intended to make a point… there is some irony in scientific researchers saying they need to do more research — when that’s what brings home the bacon.

Some of this should potentially be taken with a big truckload of salt… we can research EVERYTHING further… or summarize research further, or review research, or identify gaps, or… or…

The other danger of this approach is that it makes implementing real change — rather difficult.

Why implement change when “we just don’t know… we’re not sure… the apparent evidence is not conclusive.”?

It’s not all that different… than say… cancelling elections and simply basing governments on poll results. Or, waiting until Inuvik, NWT experiences green Christmases before implementing real climate change policy…

Watching election coverage last night, Elizabeth May the Green Party leader and first elected North American Green Party candidate quipped: “the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic was built by professionals…”

Granted, that apparently god was directing Noah’s building plans… however, the Titanic was most definitely deemed unsinkable by the pros…

_ _ _ _ _

Now, I recognize these technical reports for the Cohen Commission are meant for the privilege of Justice Cohen himself.

The commission established a scientific research program to enhance the Commissioner’s understanding of the science behind the decline of Fraser River sockeye. The commission contracted with qualified and experienced external scientific researchers to study a wide range of technical and scientific issues designed to address potential causes for the decline. (from Apr. 27 Status Report)

My quick look-up of the definition of “enhancement” suggests: “To make greater, as in value, beauty, or effectiveness; augment.” So I’m guessing the Commissioner might have augmented knowledge, or more effective knowledge, or even beautiful knowledge of salmon science… or… errrr… ummm… the apparent incredible “lack of data”… “limited data” … and the mass of opinions in the slippery salmon science society suggesting “more research required” .

Let’s hope that this augmented knowledge sees past the slippery secret society to suggest real meaningful change — because if real change is to be dictated by scientists… then we’re going to be waiting a lot longer than the great bovine herd return… (errr… homecoming of the cows…)

Plus isn’t science supposed to be “objective”… e.g. “presented factually”… and how do we do that if we don’t have ALL the data? all the “facts”? the “truth”?

_ _ _ _ _ _

I recognize this is a little tough on the scientific institution… there is a valuable place for science, and I’m prone as the next wild salmon guy to quote my gumboot biology textbook… however, healthy wild salmon runs aren’t really about SCIENCE… They’re about politics and political will.

There are a heck of a lot more scientists involved in stating that climate change is here, here to stay, and one of the greatest threats to humankind… there are scientist declarations… scientists warnings… scientists sit-ins… scientist hunger strikes — stating that climate change is here, and it could be devastating.

But show me the life altering policy changes at the political level… show me a current sitting politician (not a previous politician flying hundreds of thousands of kms a year touting the dangers of climate change…) that is making the hard decisions to stem the tide…

Even this Cohen Commission report #11 states:

Overall, the weight of the evidence on the adverse effects of recent warming on survival of some individual life stages, as well as its possible cumulative effects across life stages, suggest that climate change has been a possible contributor to the observed declining trend in abundance and productivity of Fraser River sockeye salmon over the past 20 years.

And so if climate change is having a negative effect… what difference do any other changes make, if most world governments refuse to make changes to the things causing climate change?

So where is the research reports for the Cohen Commission on political decision-making? — a literature review of all the political decisions that have endangered salmon runs (or cod… or sturgeon… or whales… etc.)?

Science plays a part… yes… but politics rule the game…

And how are you salmon folks feeling about the new majority rule here in Canada (put in with about 40% of the popular vote)? Think it’s going to get better for wild salmon out there?

salmon science… a body of “facts” and “truths”?

data gaps?

Science” : the intricate process of saying a lot with a variety of charts of graphs and concluding… well… not much at all…

Oddly enough, dictionary.com suggests that “science” is sometimes mistaken as “seance” .

A seance being some spiritual communing with the dead; a ‘sitting’ — (which is the actual French roots of the word).

And as such, a seance is also defined as: “a sitting of a society”.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Now the definition of science suggests it is:

a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws.

A fact: “Knowledge or information based on real occurrences.”

And truth: “Conformity to fact or actuality.”

Or: “A statement proven to be or accepted as true.”

And some suggest:“Perhaps the most general description is that the purpose of science is to produce useful models of reality”

Reality…?

Hmmmm.

So what happens when science and its practitioners enters the unknown?

Well…sometimes… it makes shit up

(…or models it with “expansion lines” and algorithms…).

Or… simply states all sorts of disclaimers, qualifiers, and other forms of political speak.

Or… gift wraps affirmative statements in crinkly, fancy ambiguity and obscurity with lovely bows of contradiction and inconsistency.

All of these sent priority post with a hefty invoice for reassurance.

_ _ _ _ _ _

I’ve started reading through the various scientific and technical reports of the Cohen Commission into Fraser River sockeye declines. At least the ones I can find…

In August 2010, the Commission announced an “ambitious scientific research program to help the Commissioner understand the science behind the decline of Fraser River sockeye.”

After disbanding the initial pre-eminent scientists panel formed in the early days, the Commission announced 12 Research projects back in August 2010:

Project 1 – Diseases and parasites

Project 2 – Effects of contaminants on Fraser River sockeye salmon

Project 3 – Fraser River freshwater ecology and status of sockeye salmon Conservation Units

Project 4 – Marine ecology

Project 5 – Impacts of salmon farms on Fraser River sockeye salmon

Project 6 – Data synthesis and cumulative impact analysis

Project 7 – Fraser River sockeye fisheries and fisheries management

Project 8 – Effects of predators on Fraser River sockeye salmon

Project 9 – Effects of climate change on Fraser River sockeye salmon: literature compilation and analysis

Project 10 – Fraser River sockeye salmon production dynamics

Project 11 – Fraser River sockeye salmon: status of DFO science and management

Project 12 – Sockeye habitat analysis in the Lower Fraser River and the Strait of Georgia

Back at the time that these projects were announced and the pre-eminent science panel disbanded — the Commission was still on timelines to be wrapping up right now — May 2011. As such, the researchers were given very tight timelines: “In most cases, the researchers will provide the commission with a progress report by November 15, 2010 and a final report by January 31, 2011.”

In other words… science doesn’t only need to state facts and truths about reality… it needs to be fast.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Now since then… the Commission has been extended a year; however the scientific reports were still rushed — and it shows in reading some of them.

(And if you suffer from insomnia… three of the  reports I’ve seen comes in at a pithy 120+ pages each… and when it doubt, and in a rush… list as many references as possible).

_ _ _ _ _ _

Now that I’ve stirred up the scientific ire of a hypothesizing hornets nest…

Does this make sense to you?

This is from Project Report 12 – Fraser River Sockeye Habitat Use in the Lower Fraser and Strait of Georgia, which you have to dig out of Commission transcripts, it’s not available on the main webpage.

Our review and analysis involved compiling available data from various technical reports, primary literature and online sources of potential factors or measures related to human development and activities in the lower Fraser and Strait of Georgia.

A statistical analysis of the association of human activity and potential impacts on sockeye habitats and, in turn, on Fraser sockeye productivity was not possible in this review due to the limits on the nature and extent of data available for human activity and in particular the lack of quantitative information on sockeye habitats.

So, the information doesn’t really exist… this is confirmed further in the report:

An approach reliant on quantitative measures of changes in sockeye habitats was not possible for this report due to the lack of quantitative data available on the extent and quality of sockeye habitats across the lower Fraser River area, lower Fraser watersheds (Harrison, Chilliwack and Pitt Rivers) and the Strait of Georgia.

There you have it… the information is not there, not available, not collected and so on. Yet… yet… this ‘scientific’ report which maxes out at 60+ pages of report and another 50 pages of fluff, suggests:

Overall, the development of major projects and resource restoration efforts during the period 1990 – 2010 has resulted in a net gain of sockeye habitat and these gains have been substantially added to through efforts to restore historically lost or damaged fish habitats.

Ohhh… so there’s “lack of quantitative data available on the extent and quality of sockeye habitats across the lower Fraser River” yet the report then goes on to suggest that there was a “net gain of sockeye habitat” and goes on further:

Although the effectiveness of habitat compensation projects in the Fraser River appears to be improving, the need for an improved habitat science, monitoring and data management framework is clear and aspects of this need are consistent with recommendations made by others over the past decade or two.

So… no data on the habitat… but apparently that habitat is “improving”?

The habitat protection strategies used in the lower Fraser River and Strait of Georgia, appear to be effective at supporting sockeye habitat conservation. More broadly, a hypothesis that the declines in Fraser River sockeye production over the period 1990 – 2009 are the result of habitat impacts from project development is not supported by the net habitat gains that have occurred over the 1990 – 2010 period.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

How the heck does this work?

There’s not enough data on human activity and there’s not enough data on sockeye habitat; yet, these folks can conclude that all’s well… all’s good in the hood… habitat protection is working, and so on…

Where the heck is the systematic arrangement of “facts” and “truths” that are supposed to represent “science”?

And what did this report cost? Apologies to the writers of this report and the apparently ‘well-respected’ firm that authored this report… but this makes little sense…

(and how much work has this firm — Golder & Associates done for DFO over the years?)