Monthly Archives: August 2011

Environmental Assessment processes in Canada becoming kangaroo courts?

Figure this one out… (is this not exhausting?… and expensive for taxpayers…?)

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you heard the one about a pig in lipstick...?

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The controversial proposed Prosperity Gold project west of Williams Lake in BC is back into the federal Environmental Assessment process.

Last November, the federal government denied approval for this flawed open-pit mining proposal following a “scathing” (Jim Prentice — Conservative Environment Minister’s words) federal Environmental Assessment report. The report concluded that the project as proposed would have “signficiant environmental effects” and therefore should not be approved. The federal government (then a Conservative minority) agreed.

Environment Canada Nov. 2, 2010  press release:

the significant adverse environmental effects of the Prosperity project cannot be justified as it is currently proposed.”

“as it is currently proposed” is the big phrase to pay attention to here…

In short… one of the central concerns of the proposed project was turning Fish Lake (aptly named) into a mining waste and tailings facility. Taseko Mines Ltd. the Vancouver-based mining company swore up and down that without the lake for a tailings facility the project was not economically feasible. They put a $300 million price tag on the lake — as in it would cost an extra $300 million to undertake the project without having access to destroying the lake.

And this made the project economically infeasible.

Despite fierce opposition from First Nations and many others — including the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans for many, many years — Taseko insisted on pushing ahead with the ‘kill-Fish Lake’ option.

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For those not entirely familiar with this project… Taseko Mines Ltd. has been trying to push this proposed open-pit copper and gold mine for many years. A few years ago, in my own conversations with senior staff at the organization, they suggested Taseko had over $90 million invested in bringing this project to development.

Now that it has gone through two environmental assessment process — British Columbia and Canada — those costs are sure to have risen significantly.

Taseko Mines lobbied British Columbia and Canada to ensure that they were not subjected to a Joint Review Panel. The purpose of a Joint Review process is to harmonize the process and save the costs of having to do two separate Environmental Assessments.

Now why would a company not want a harmonized process? Why enter two separate processes with the added cost?

That appears to be clear when through a fast-tracked British Columbia Environmental Assessment (EA) the proposed project was approved.

This despite several important studies still not being completed. And the fact that the BC EA process still suggested that the project would have significant environmental impacts…

‘But these would be outweighed by the apparent economic benefits.’

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Curious, that, as it is called an: “environmental” assessment”…

However, the BC EA website does suggest that the Office and process considers:

… thorough, timely and integrated assessment of the potential environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects that may occur during the lifecycle of these projects

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Yet, if one reviews the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) website there is a much more comprehensive discussion of the benefits of “sustainable development” and there are lengthy reports describing what this means and how Canada will uphold its international commitments on this front.

To provide Canadians with high-quality federal environmental assessments that contribute to informed decision making in support of sustainable development.

The classic internationally-recognized definition of sustainable development being upheld here: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

In the mid-1990s, every Canadian federal government ministry was bound by this definition and provided strategies, actions plans, and other bureaucratic drivel to meet this definition. (you know… benchmarks, accountability measures, best practices, etc.)

And so what option was the federal government left with last November when the “scathing” federal EA assessment report was tabled and not only laid out the ‘significant environmental impacts’ of killing Fish Lake and turning it into a tailings pond for mining waste but also more, as outlined in their final report:

The Panel concludes that the [Prosperity] Project would result in significant adverse environmental effects on fish and fish habitat, on navigation, on the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by First Nations and on cultural heritage, and on certain potential or established Aboriginal rights or title.

The Panel also concludes that the Project, in combination with past, present and reasonably foreseeable future projects would result in a significant adverse cumulative effect on grizzly bears in the South Chilcotin region and on fish and fish habitat.

Yeah, that does seem a bit scathing… and straight forward.

Sorry folks, Rejected. (with rubber stamp)

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Now through the federal EA process many questions were asked about alternative proposals for the project. Against Taseko’s desires, they did start to rumble about other options, as opposed to killing Fish Lake — especially as commodity prices such as gold and copper started to recover from the global recession.

However, some of those options may very well have bigger impacts then the initial proposal.

And now, folks, we have “New Prosperity“.

Taseko Mines has created a fancy new PR website touting all the economic advantages of their “New” project. One can also read the “new” project summary, which includes:

…While the New Prosperity proposal does result in the loss of the 6 hectare Little Fish Lake, Little Fish Lake provides only low overwintering values (i.e., it is subject to winterkill)…

Hmmm.

I’m guessing there’s no connection between Little Fish Lake and Fish Lake…?

And, yup, i’m sure that Little fish “provides only low wintering values”…

I’m attaching a couple of images that most folks learn in elementary school:

example food web in a lake

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example of mountain lake food chain

And here’s another:

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Fascinating stuff, that ecology thing…

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Now, I’m sure there’s no connection between the incredible run on commodity prices such as Gold and Copper over this past year? Gold now sits at record prices, copper not far off.

And somehow Taseko’s “long-term” forecasts for these metals looks so much better now, then they did two years ago.

How does that happen?

How does the “forecast” change that dramatically?

Oh wait, because its based a helluva lot more on current prices then it has anything to do with what computer models pump out. Because really, we know that economic forecasting is less accurate than weather forecasting, and even less accurate then things like modelling natural ecosystems (e.g. wild salmon returns).

So let ask the experts this… what happens when a project such as this ramps into development and commodity prices crash?

Then no lake (even Little Fish Lake), and ‘no economic benefits’.

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Now, it is important to notice that the federal government (aka Conservatives) left the door wide open for Taseko to return to the consultants… er… drawing table to draft up more reports and more plans to revise their development plans…

However, even the alternatives discussed through the previous EA process will most likely still have significant environmental impacts. The new proposal (e.g. “New Prosperity”) reminds me of the old saying of putting lipstick on a pig…

And this apparent “New Prosperity” is largely based on commodity bubble prices that won’t last in a very, very fragile world economy — and still doesn’t change the fact that the ‘new prosperity’ represented in the project still poses significant adverse environmental impacts and effects.

It may be a “new” prosperity — but that’s still to the same people as before, not the local First Nations and others that still oppose the project in its “new” form.

And it’s still the “old” environmental impacts, and still the “old” economy vs. environment debate.

And most of all… it still makes a mockery of an Environmental Assessment process in BC that is still simply a BC Liberal-government kangaroo court, rubber stamping facility.

“The Salmon Doctors: Condition Critical”

Darwin's theory at work -- apparently we humans walked out of the water...

Pretty interesting articles over at the Tyee — a two part series: “The Salmon Doctors: Condition Critical

The second: “Sockeye Feel the Heat” (By Jude Isabella, 24 Aug 2011, TheTyee.ca):

“Global warming cranks up stress on salmon. Scientists are scrambling to identify what the heat’s unleashed.”

…What [Scott] Hinch [University of BC-based researcher] worries about most when it comes to salmon are two horsemen of the environmental apocalypse: warming temperatures and pathogens.

The Fraser River is close to 2 C warmer than it was just 50 years ago for cold-blooded salmon. That’s a problem.

“Warmer temperatures are going to be a big influence on disease proliferation so I’m very interested and concerned about that angle and we know so little,” he said. “The research hasn’t been done.”

All sorts of circumstances drive pathogens — infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and prions (a cause of the fatal brain disease BSE) — to morph or spread. Crowded fish farms in Chile, for example, hastened the spread of the infectious salmon anaemia virus. And climate change is a big player in pathogen behaviour. So given the almost slam-dunk certainty that Earth will be warmer in our lifetime, what can sockeye expect?

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One of the more telling parts of the story:

The inescapable human factor

So how would you fix declining sockeye runs in British Columbia, I asked one population geneticist. His answer was simple.Probably just fix their habitats and leave them alone.

Unfortunately for salmon, especially the sockeye in the Fraser River watershed, habitat is more than a scientific concern. It’s a commodity, which means people are not likely to leave them alone. The Fraser River is home to over 100 sockeye populations with a commercial worth of over $1 billion annually, on average.

Canada’s commercial relationship with the fish is older than the scientific relationship. Since the Hudson Bay Company began exporting salted salmon in cedar barrels from Fort Langley on the Fraser River in the 1840s, the numbers of people invested in sockeye has climbed, while sockeye numbers have declined.

It seems a curious slip, or maybe it was not a slip…

…put the end of one sentence onto the beginning of the next:

habitat is more than a scientific concern. It’s a commodity

The second sentence goes on to explain how salmon are a commodity and folks are heavily invested in catching and selling them. Yet both are exactly right.

Salmon habitat is a commodity (especially along all corridors in the lower mainland and southern areas of BC), and so are the salmon themselves. As is much of the other stuff that grows on the landbase, or was deposited within the landbase, or flows through the landscape.

Water is the most precious commodity… er…um… habitat that salmon depend on and yet it most certainly isn’t treated that way.

These are all a problem.

salmon commodity cycle

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One of the most telling and truthful elements of the article is a quote from Dr. Hinch:

“We all know, from the cod collapse on the East Coast, that even some of the best science can be ignored.”

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And one of the fundamental points that I keep making and will continue to make:

Unearthing answers will take cooperation between scientific disciplines — a real challenge when it comes to combining biology and anthropology. They generally tend to have different mindsets.

Added to this “cooperation between scientific disciplines” is the ‘non-scientific’ disciplines as well.

Local knowledge. Community knowledge.

I would further add, as I have often, the “answers” will most likely NOT be found by “science” alone. There probably are no “answers” — JUST CHOICES.

Choices made by local communities and citizens, and choices  resulting in & inspiring political will.

Because just as the scientists well know; even the best science is often ignored by politicians — and public relations folks can and will spin things any which way they want (or are directed… by Prime Minister’s offices, Assistant Deputy Ministers, or otherwise).

Or, one scientist is pitted against another, one scientific ‘study’ is glorified at the expense of another.

Just as many of the comments on this site will demonstrate… there are a range of answers… er… um… opinions, on what should be done.

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More to come on this…

“DFO scientist says Privy Council silenced her”

Canadian Press story:

DFO scientist says Privy Council silenced her

A fisheries scientist says she believes senior officials close to the prime minister prevented her from talking to the media about her research into the 2009 sockeye salmon collapse in B.C. …

Miller testified she believes it would have been useful to speak to the media after the article’s publication to let them know what scientists knew and didn’t know and she found it frustrating to see the direction some news stories went.

The federal government did not dispute Miller’s suggestion that it was the Privy Council Office, which serves the prime minister, that refused to allow Miller to talk to media.

“Dr. Miller’s testimony was thorough, extensive and speaks for itself,” Dimitri Soudas, communications director at the Prime Minister’s Office, said in an email to The Canadian Press.

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Globe and Mail story:

Privy Council blocked scientist’s access to media, Cohen probe told

The top bureaucratic arm of the federal government decided a fisheries scientist who published a paper on a virus that could explain the decline of Fraser River sockeye would not be allowed to speak to the media, even though her department had no objection, an inquiry has heard.

Further complicating matters is the fact that funding for Dr. Miller’s program is in jeopardy due to a shift in policy for paying staff.

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Nothing to be concerned about though… will be the comments flowing in from some of those that leave comments on this site…

Why did the Privy Council Office feel it had to intervene?

And what about the continued flow of ‘outside’ funding to keep DFO scientists afloat? … and now in jeopardy of being cut-off…?

curious stuff…

 

“Elwha River salmon, steelhead better off without hatcheries” (and the problem with ‘benchmarks’)

"Benchmarks" (in flux) table... "could you get me a new coffee?" asks the manager on the right...

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This is a rather interesting article out of a Seattle paper:

With the dams being removed, a massive hatchery program threatens to impede effective use of the millions spent to open up the river and help salmon and steelhead runs recover.

… interesting if you’re into this sort of thing. Although I suppose it’s more opinion piece than article… as it carries a clear bias.

This summer, the longawaited dam removal on the Elwha River finally gets underway, marking the culmination of a two-decade effort toward restoring salmon to one of Washington’s most pristine rivers. The Elwha, in many ways, is a chance to rewrite history, undoing a century of destruction wrought by two dams that block migrating salmon from 90 miles of their historic habitat.

By all accounts, removing the dams from the Elwha watershed is an extraordinary opportunity, one that will bring about the rebirth of a river, which was once home to some of the largest Chinook ever documented and where a 65-pound salmon was more the norm than a rarity. Throughout their evolutionary history, wild salmon and steelhead have recovered from a range of catastrophic disturbances.

Curious language this…”rewrite history”… “recovered from catastrophic disturbances“.

“Rewrite history”… maybe a bit of hyperbole here… does that mean colonization of the Pacific Northwest? the massive commercial fisheries of the last 120 years or so? (probably not…)

On one hand, ‘catastrophic disturbances‘ is about exactly right though…

As, much of north-western North America was under a kilometre or so of ice some several thousands of years ago. Theories suggest that during the last period of great ice sheets — some 12K to 18K years ago — wild Pacific salmon hung out south of the Columbia River all the way down into Mexico; northwestern Alaska, Yukon, and current Bering Sea in the area known as Beringia; and in various ice-free refuge areas (e.g. northeastern Haida Gwaii, Brooks Peninsula on western Vancouver Is., etc.).

The salmon runs ‘recorded’ since European contact were still potentially on a ‘recovery’ track as the landscape ‘recovered’ from so much ice, melt, and glacial retreat.

So…  “recovered from catastrophic disturbance”?

See, “recover” means ‘to restore to a normal state’ or ‘to get back again’.

What is the ‘normal state‘ for salmon in any particular river?

How do we know when wild salmon populations have “recovered“?

What’s the “benchmark”? (as scientists and corporatists like to say)

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The article continues:

Despite the capacity of these fish to recover naturally, state, federal, and tribal fisheries managers are poised to squander the opportunity. They’ve opted to build a $16 million hatchery that will flood the river with more than 4 million juvenile salmon and steelhead each year, including more Chinook and steelhead than are released on the entire northern coast of Oregon.

This is despite 20 years of research demonstrating conclusively that hatchery fish are a major contributor to the decline of wild salmon in our region.

Now there’s a hotly debated statement…

Last spring I attended an international conference in Portland, OR hosted by “The State of the Salmon” organization: Ecological Interactions between Wild & Hatchery Salmon.

Ecological Interactions postcard

This very issue was batted back and forth across the North Pacific and north and south up the western North American coast.

Folks in the lower 48 largely curse hatcheries. Folks in Alaska sing the praises as they have multi-million dollar investments in ‘ocean-ranching’ programs.

Folks in Japan absolutely rely on hatchery/ocean-ranching programs for about 95% of their domestic catch.

And the Russians are apparently sitting on somewhere near $2 billion to start massive hatchery programs along their coastline.

(And Canadians… well… we just apologize and say “maybe this, maybe that”… “ooops sorry, my fault…your salmon spawned with mine, but i’m still sorry”)

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The article:

Domestication alters salmon so dramatically that a recent study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) revealed that even when hatchery fish are only one generation removed from the wild, wild fish produce approximately twice as many offspring as their hatchery counterparts. The current plan on the Elwha will domesticate a majority of the remaining wild salmon in the basin, reducing their productivity, and threatening their ability to build locally adapted, abundant wild populations.

Despite all the public interest, decisions on the Elwha recovery plan have been made largely without public input, driven instead by the millions of dollars set aside for a misguided and counterproductive hatchery. Meanwhile, research and monitoring critical in tracking the progress of the recovery remains woefully underfunded. The recovery plan claims that hatchery releases will be phased out as wild fish recover in the watershed, yet to date no benchmarks for wild recovery have been set, giving hatchery managers a blank check to continue harmful hatchery programs in perpetuity.

Oh, oh… there’s that benchmark thing. Scientists and ‘managers’ and money managers love benchmarks. (and of course there’s that ‘decisions made without public input’ thing as well…)

The problem with ‘benchmarks‘ when it comes to wild salmon populations is the point I raised above… how do we know when things have “recovered”?

What is the ‘normal state’ for salmon in the Elwha?

Or for any river for that fact… the Fraser, the Columbia, the Skeena…?

So where do we establish the ‘benchmarks’?

And what the hell does benchmark mean? (visit an older post to see)

‘Setting a benchmark’ is a term from carpentry, for building tables and chairs… not for setting arbitrary numbers to define success in ‘rebuilding’ salmon populations… (or measuring corporate success for that fact…)

And the bigger problem with ‘benchmarks’… they’re always based on the past.

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The point here isn’t necessarily to criticize the writers of the article or the points they make, as many I tend to agree with… more to question the assumptions that lie behind much of the statements made.

(and for a continued interesting read, if you’re into this sort of thing, read the comments to the article).

The assumptions that lie behind this article, are very common assumptions in the salmon world.

They are prevalent in the current $20 million+ federal public inquiry: Cohen Commission into Fraser River sockeye declines. For example, how can we know the extent of the devastation that humans have wrought on Fraser sockeye populations if we have no ‘normal state’ to compare against?

… or can’t ever agree on what a normal state was? Let alone what the historical populations were in the 20th century.

How do we set “rebuilding goals” or “restoration benchmarks” (beware of preceding bumpf…) — if we don’t know what a steady state might be?

Oh right… we’ll use our assumptions to measure “productive habitat” — for example, this many metres squared of gravel means this many fish will successfully spawn, and this many young will return as adults…

yeah whatever… I call bullshit.

We just don’t know.

In the last 150 years, we have intervened to such a scale, around every corner, across every inch of water that wild salmon inhabit, that we just don’t know what “normal” is.

Was it ever ‘normal’… or… is constant flux — normal?

If we’re “benchmarking” how stable do you think your table would be if someone kept changing the length of the other three legs?

Or, if while you’re cutting to one benchmark, someone is shaking the sawhorse wildly back and forth, or the piece of wood you’re trying to cut?

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There comes a time when I agree with the sentiment of some of the comments to this particular article.

Leave well enough alone.

Rivers of the Pacific Northwest can become naturally dammed by debris flows and mudslides and volcanoes. Eventually the dam releases and all the gravel and sediment blasts downstream. Fish populations are mutilated for years, but eventually a certain dynamic equilibrium (e.g. constant flux) is met, fish populations thrive, bears are happy, etc.

Hatcheries are essentially little more than warm milk and cookies.

They’re comfort food to make us feel better after obliterating fish species in the first place… or simply to support an economic benchmark.

Wild salmon runs recovered from Ice Age(s)… they’ll probably recover this latest scourge as well.

 

 

 

discarding North Coast chum — make sense? (If it’s broke — it probably needs a fixin…)

spawning chum

This comment was posted recently under the post: If it’s broke; it probably needs a fixin’… wild salmon “management” in Canada

Seems like something might be ‘broke’… (thanks for the comment Greg).

North Coast commercial salmon fishermen have discarded almost 22% of their total catch so far this year, including 1.2 million pounds of chum salmon, many coming from stocks DFO has described as being of “special conservation concern”. One-half of these chum discards came from areas in and around the Great Bear Rainforest.

Unlike most other BC fisheries there are no independent observers to confirm the accuracy of the discard information provided by fishermen. At least two DFO science papers and a recent J.O.Thomas Report have expressed concerns about fishermen “underhailing” their discards. Hence, the number of fish reported by DFO as having been discarded should be considered a “minimum” estimate.

In addition, the absence of independent observers means that fisheries are not monitored to ensure fishermen abide by their “Terms of Licence” and return the discarded salmon back into the water “with the least possible harm”. There are no scientifically defensible estimates of the proportion of discarded chum that survive to spawn, but it is believed to be relatively low.

DFO requires that chums be discarded as a “conservation measure”. Yet, DFO cannot provide scientifically defensible estimates of how many chum salmon are discarded, the proportion that survive to spawn, the consequences of killing so many salmon from depressed populations, or the associated ecological costs.

Why is this allowed to occur?

1. Chums are of no commercial value on the North Coast. In fact, they are a cost to fishermen. Discarding chums slows the fishing process. The objective is to discard the unwanted salmon as fast as possible rather doing all that can be done to ensure they survive the encounter.

2. The recreational sector has little interest in north and central coast chums and therefore places little value on them.

3. Most of the impacted chum stocks are located in wild and remote areas of BC like the Great Bear Rainforest, isolated from the majority of BC’s population, and therefore “out of sight, out of mind”.

In contrast, management of chum fisheries on the South Coast reflects the economic and social value people living on the south coast place in their salmon. Commercial fisheries targeting chum salmon are managed to a maximum 15% commercial harvest rate. There are significant and growing recreational fisheries for chums in both salt and fresh water. Eco-businesses have flourished taking people to gaze in wonder and awe at grizzly bears feasting on salmon. And watching chum spawn in local streams is a major event in many communities.

In order to save North Coast chum salmon DFO needs to be told that the value of these fish should be measured not just in dollars. That as British Columbians we value our wild places, our bears, our steams, and our forests. And what binds it all together is our salmon.

They are too important to be discarded. North Coast chum salmon stocks need to be rebuilt and protected.

Greg Taylor
SkeenaWild Conservation Trust
August 5, 2011

“Is Scientific Inquiry Incompatible with Government Information Control?”

Pretty good piece by Dr. Gordon Hartman, former Department of Fisheries and Oceans, posted at “The Common Sense Canadian”. As quoted on the website:

Dr. Gordon F. Hartman has consulted on fisheries issues in a number of foreign countries to help them contribute to the well being of that resource. Leading fishery scientists all over the world will attest to his knowledge and ability. Dr Hartman, long a premier scientist and manager with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, was one of the “dissident scientists”, as Alcan referred to them – a sobriquet he wears with pride – who helped mightily in the fight to cancel the Kemano Completion Program proposal for the Nechako system.

This title is quoted from a publication by Jeffry Hutchings, Carl Walters and Richard Haedrich, back in May of 1987. Their paper dealt with government control of science information in regard to the cod fish crisis in the Atlantic Ocean, and the Kemano Completion issue in B.C.  Now, almost 25 years later, their title question is still appropriate when we consider the control of public communication by Dr. Kristina Miller, a DFO scientist at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo. The control is in regard to her public discussion of her (and co-author’s) highly technical paper on genomic signature and mortality of migrating Sockeye salmon (Science, pages 214-217, Vol. 331, 14 January, 2011). The muzzling of this scientist originates primarily in the office of the Prime Minister of Canada, far more than in the DFO bureaucracy.

I have read the paper and it is unclear to me why there should be any reluctance on the part of government, at any level, to having such research discussed with the public. It is even less clear to me why Dr. Miller is constrained from discussing such work until after she appears before the Cohen Inquiry in late August. Her work is already open to the scientific community through publication in the prestigious journal, Science. To the extent that Dr. Miller and co-author’s work on wild salmon in the Fraser River may provide help in sustaining them, it should be open to the public now. Science should not be used for playing political games.

When one considers the behavior and record of governments, over the years and at the  very “top end”, there is cause to wonder what the real commitment is, deep down, in regard to sustaining wild salmon. The bitter history of issues such as Alcan/Kemano, salmon farming, and Fraser River gravel mining underlie such concern. In each case there appears to be an unspoken policy of business and industry first, and wild salmon and their environments second. Salmon-friendly measures such as the “wild salmon” policy and “no-net-loss” principle are positive, however, they seem to have less weight than they should when big business is involved.

Such doubt and concern has “big roots” as far back as the mid 1980s in the Kemano completion issue. A major element of debate involved the allocation of adequate flows in the Nechako River for the Chinook salmon population that reproduced there. Full review of this unfortunate part of history is not possible in a limited space. A listing of the chronology of events is given in my paper in the publication (GeoJournal, October 1996, Volume 40, nos. 1 & 2, page147 – 164).

A deeper and harsher indication of the misuse of scientists and their work is given in the Brief to the B.C. Utilities Commission Review Panel by Dr. J.H. Mundie (The Kemano Completion Project: An Example of Science in Government, 50 pages, February 1994).

  • Dr. Mundie tells of the Schouwenburg report, the joint year-long work of about ten scientists, being buried. This report contained the best advice the scientists could offer regarding required flows for salmon in the Nechako River.
  • He reviews how DFO scientists and managers were told that the minister accepted Alcan’s prescribed flows as adequate.
  • He reviews how a group of DFO people and Alcan consultants, over a four day weekend period, came up with a program to make Alcan’s dictated flow regime work.
  • He testifies to his being pushed, unsuccessfully, to change his expert witness document regarding flows required for salmon.
  • He quotes the minister’s statement in regard to scientists who were concerned about the Alcan/Nechako River process, they should either agree with him, or “take their game and play elsewhere.”

Except for the need for brevity, the experiences of other scientists could be added to this section. This history is not presented to re-acquaint people with the whole controversial history of the Alcan/Nechako episode. It is touched on to indicate that little has changed during about the last 25 years in the way governments manage science and scientists.

Organizations like DFO contain many very talented and dedicated people. The public does not gain the full benefit that they might offer in the present politicized and bureaucratized system. Both the public and the public servants deserve better.

As for the Fraser River salmon, they face a difficult and uncertain future even if only the freshwater environment is considered. It is a future marked by change and complexity. The complexity involves interaction of climate, flow regimes, thermal and forest cover changes. Added to these are, expanding human populations, water abstraction, pollution, and competing demands for catch.

There is urgent need for a structure that can focus on these major challenges now and into the years ahead. Such complex and expanding challenges cannot be dealt with without scientific knowledge. Whatever the Cohen Inquiry might do, it is not a substitute for science now, and into the future.

Beyond the provision of knowledge, we need a structure that allows the public to know what the scientific findings and advice are. We need a structure that permits thoughtful public response and feed-back to such information.

If political people must over-ride science for reasons of “greater societal good”, which they have every right of do, let them do so openly. Then let them also explain it openly, rather than trying to shape and manipulate science, through the bureaucracy, to serve political or business ends.

G.F. Hartman, Ph.D.,

August 2011

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The underlined part goes back to this idea I’ve put out there frequently, something akin to a Citizen’s Assembly on how we coexist with wild salmon.

As I’ve also mentioned frequently on this site, it’s not just up to the ‘scientists’; however, science does play an important part.

(and this is made clear by the Prime Minister’s Office interference on this particular issue of muzzling scientists)

Unfortunately, though, just as the East Coast Cod collapse, and issues such as massive dam construction, and so on — it doesn’t really matter what the “scientists” say or what their ‘science’ says; it’s the economists and politicians opinions that win. And thus a “scientific inquiry” — which is essentially what the Cohen Commission has become — won’t answer many questions…

One scientist says that, another says this… and so goes the merry-go-round.

Or the famous beast known as Hydra arrives, and that’s the thing with “science” and natural systems — just when you think you have the answer, you realize you have two more questions that need be answered. Chop of another head, two more pop up.

These are issues of political will and political decision-making — whether it be in the Prime Minister’s office or the DFO office… and yet the Cohen Commission is not to find fault with any people or branches of government. And thus, what sort of “answers” to folks expect?

And, like it or not, media plays a role in near everything. The bigger change in recent years that many of the 40% of older work force in institutions like the Departments of Fisheries and Oceans (and older range of MPs and long time bureaucrats) may not have have  full grasp upon — the power of social media.

Marketing is everything and everything is marketing — plain and simple.