Monthly Archives: September 2011

One buzzword away…

Someone on a parallel track, sure enjoy some of this guy’s stuff:

Hugh MacLeod at

Commentary for the illustration:


Success is never formulaic, but people are all too willing to forget that.

Many people cling to the belief that if one acquires the lingo of “the system”, he or she will suddenly be handsomely rewarded: “Congratulations! You cracked the secret code! You learned the secret handshake! Here’s a million dollars!”

We know it’s not that simple, and yet we still invent more ways to box ourselves into little trendy frames of corporate lingo, buzzwords, social clichés, etc…

Being a master of buzzwords doesn’t equal good performance, and for those of us on the outside looking in, this can be a rather frustrating thing to witness.

It just doesn’t work…

Eureka: It was Colonel Mustard in the ocean with a net… practicing mixed stock fisheries.

Cohen Commisson: new winter clothing line


Earlier this year I introduced you to the new corporate sponsor for the Cohen Commission:


Cross off “summer” in the illustration above and put in “Winter”… as we move into the close of ‘hearings’ for the Cohen Commission and the short daylight hours, and long winter nights of Justice Cohen and his staff forging through testimony, upwards of a million pages of ‘data’, bumpf out the ying-yang, job-protecting bureaucrat testimony, and so on.

In my somewhat cursory review of the technical reports completed for the Commission — at least those available for review, let me give you a few of my salmonguy summary notes:

(1) very few scientists want to come out and actually take a hard line on something… (all protect the almighty god of Objectivity)

(2) there are many scientists lining themselves up for an ambitious and aggressive research agenda… (i’ve lost count of the “recommendations for research” in the technical reports). And one doesn’t do well on that front by having ‘opinions’ contrary to the funding agencies…

(3) I’m starting a list of how many ways one can say “limited data” or “data gaps. There are more ways to say it then there are ways to count a sockeye…

I’m hard pressed to believe we actually know anything more about Fraser sockeye then they swim downstream go to the ocean, come back, swim upstream, spawn… and… wait for it…


_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Let me give you a little taste:

Technical Report #1: Diseases and parasites

…There are certainly many pathogens that occur in wild sockeye salmon, but their precise impacts on survival in these stocks are poorly understood...

The absence of data on pathogens and diseases in wild salmon in British Columbia is a reflection of the historical research focus on fish diseases, in both the Province and other regions. Most research on salmonid diseases has been directed toward those afflicting captive fish, either in government hatcheries or private fish farms.

As with many scientific issues, more research is needed to elucidate the impacts of pathogens on Fraser River sockeye salmon…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Technical Report #1A: Hatchery Disease Impact Assessment

…The disease impacts of salmon enhancement facilities on Fraser River sockeye salmon are largely unexplored in the literature. The published literature failed to provide sufficient direct or indirect evidence to fulfill standard criteria for causation.

The literature was unable to provide sufficient information to determine the likelihood of salmonid enhancement-associated diseases impacting Fraser River sockeye salmon, the magnitude of the hypothetical impacts, or the ability of enhancement facilities to prevent or mitigate the risks…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Technical Report #2: Effects of contaminants on Fraser River sockeye salmon

…Many other substances in the Inventory of Aquatic Contaminants have the potential to adversely affect Fraser River sockeye salmon, including organometals, cyanides, monoaromatic hydrocarbons, chlorinated and non-chlorinated phenolic compounds, resin and fatty acids, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, hormone mimicking substances, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, wood preservation chemicals and nanoparticles.

However, insufficient information was available to evaluate the hazards posed to sockeye salmon in the Fraser River associated with exposure to these contaminants…

(now that’s comforting — if I can’t pronounce it, it’s probably not good for me… or sockeye)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Project 3 – Evaluating the Status of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon and Role of Freshwater Ecology in their Decline

…Given our review of available data, measures of freshwater habitat condition are generally not available across many CUs even though Strategy 2 of the Wild Salmon Policy is charged with developing relevant habitat indicators. Given this gap

Given a general lack of information that could be used to reliably define dynamic changes in condition across sockeye salmon spawning, rearing, and migratory habitats…

Given a lack of experimental design in the way population, habitat, and stressor data have been collected, our ability to test for cause and effect relationships between the freshwater environment and Fraser sockeye salmon declines was limited. As a result, we were only able to use a limited set of quantitative techniques and data summaries to assess the role of freshwater influences.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Project 4 – Marine ecology

Quite satisfingly, doesn’t carry on about all the data limitation — just the time constraints of pulling the report together:

A major objective that was achieved in this report was to assemble, within an eight week period, as comprehensive a summary as was possible of what is known about Fraser River sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) in the ocean. While much of this effort involved summarizing information published in data/technical reports and the primary literature, where necessary, original data have been re-examined and new analyses conducted to fulfill the terms of the Statement of Work.

However, it was more an exercise of regurgitating information already out there… (appreciate the honesty).

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Project 5A – Summary of Information for Evaluating Impacts of Salmon Farms on Survival of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon

Inferences from statistical analyses that correlate trends in abundance or survival of Fraser River sockeye with trends in pathogens found in salmon farms will be extremely limited by the number of years of available data. There are only 3-5 years of overlapping Fraser River sockeye survival and salmon farm data available for statistical evaluation.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Project 5B – Examination of relationships between salmon aquaculture and sockeye salmon population dynamics

The analyses in the first part of this report are based on short time series of aquaculture variables, beginning no earlier than 2003, with low statistical power to detect relationships should they truly exist.

(nothing like only 7-8 years of data to do ‘analysis’…)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Project 5C – Impacts of salmon farms on Fraser River sockeye salmon: Results of the Noakes investigation

(No points about limited data, more about how other ‘scientists’ are not looking at the right data…)

Some of the publications are highly speculative for a variety of reasons including but not limited to the absence of data from government and industry as well as assumptions used by the researchers. In some cases, the publications were deficient to the point that they were neither objective nor scientific and they generally lack credibility.

(interesting… absence of data can in turn make someone have a non-objective nor scientific opinion and therefore lack credibility? that’s a rather bold subjective statement in itself to be made in a “scientific” investigation– is it not?)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Project 5D – Impacts of salmon farms on Fraser River sockeye salmon: Results of the Dill investigation

(And in a complete about face from the above report…)

Unfortunately, it turned out that the data provided by Provincial government (BCMAL) and the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) were insufficient in both quantity and quality to allow a rigorous analyses capable of answering these questions with certainty. The biggest problem was the very short length of the time series available for analysis, basically only 4-5 year classes.

(these darn scientists, why can’t they just all get along…seems like reports 5C and 5D are a little pissing match between each other)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Project 7 – Fraser River sockeye fisheries and fisheries management

The final section of our report provides recommendations which address important data gaps and known deficiencies in the fisheries management system

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Project 8 – Effects of predators on Fraser River sockeye salmon

Naming the predators of sockeye salmon should not be a difficult task given that everyone likely loves sockeye—but scientifically supported ecosystem-level information about predator species (numbers, diets, trends, and distributions) is sparse throughout the sockeye salmon range.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Project 9 – Effects of climate change on Fraser River sockeye salmon

…There has been little research examining cumulative impacts, both across multiple stressors (e.g. fisheries capture, temperature, pollutants) or life history stages (i.e. carry-over effects), and/or among generations (i.e. intergenerational effects). These information gaps are critical to fill to begin to understand current trends in sockeye salmon productivity and abundance

(ummm… so… what has been the purpose of the Cohen Commission then…? to simply identify data gaps and recommend a big research agenda? Or… was it to try and answer some questions around current trends in salmon productivity and abundance, e.g. 2009 collapse).

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Project 10 – Fraser River sockeye salmon production dynamics

Further research is required to draw definitive conclusions about the relative influence of such large-scale versus more local processes.


_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Project 12 – Fraser River Sockeye Habitat Use in the Lower Fraser and Strait of Georgia

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. In our view, some efforts have been made in this direction, but these have not been adequate and are even less likely to be adequate into the future…

Research in habitat ecology to evaluate alternative approaches to those prevailing today will be needed to adequately evaluate habitat compensation projects.

Programs and management initiatives used to examine and understand the quantitative parameters of habitats, potential losses and gains, habitat quality types and the dynamics of habitat productivity do not appear to be sufficient for keeping track of the current and future status of habitats used by sockeye and potential links and associations to variations in sockeye productivity.

However, one of my favorite lines comes early in the Executive Summary for this report:

Salmon are often viewed as a living barometer of the conditions in the environment and their habitat state and stock status could reflect potential impacts from human activities.

Yet… sadly… for crying out loud… we’ve got that little legal disclaimer in there…

“POTENTIAL” impacts.

ghad forbid, we say there’s actually been an impact of humans on salmon…

(that wouldn’t be objectively peer-reviewed…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

Now, I suppose the question is whether or not, Justice Cohen will rely upon his legal training to come to some sort of conclusion on this rather expensive exercise.

Will he decide the issues on a matter of facts…?

Or will it be in the objective test of a reasonable person?

The sad thing is… that the objective test of a reasonable person means someone acting prudently… and in this case it could potentially be a professional person acting prudently.

And thus, will Justice Cohen be adopting the prudent, objective viewpoint of a fisheries scientist to review this information? or a policy maker?

ghad help the salmon if he is. Save yourselves little oncorhynchuses

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I can safely say I do not envy his work over coming months…

and here’s to hoping that more fisheries scientist could actually come out with an informed “opinion”.

This whole “objective” science thing is BS anyways… go read the old philosophers to find out how realistic it is to sit on the throne of objectivity and not have an opinion.

It’s not possible, and it sure as hell doesn’t do wild salmon any good.

We might as well all just run around with our tail between our legs, babbling on madly about how we don’t have “enough data”… if we could just get “more data”… “then we’d understand”… “then it’d be easy”.

We’ll never have enough data!

And how is it that catching and killing over 80% of the Fraser sockeye runs for over 50 years is not an impact!

A devastating one…

It’s the same story the world over… it’s why fisheries stocks around the world are in deep shit.

We catch them and eat them. All my empirical objective data says so… (as does the United Nations…)

We can keep looking for our keys under the streetlight because that’s where the light is, or we can look for them near where we dropped them… in the dark alley.

The lights are on folks, and just like a good Shakespearean drama, the spotlight is on us.

We did it. It was Colonel Mustard in the ocean with a net… practicing mixed stock fisheries.

When the words matter more: DFO – the lost, contradiction-laden bureaucracy

To “manage”:

1. Be in charge of (a company, establishment, or undertaking); administer; run.
2. Administer and regulate (resources under one’s control): “we manage our wild salmon well”.

An online etymology dictinoary suggests the roots of the word: c.1400, from Latin manualisof or belonging to the hand,” from manus “hand, strength, power over, armed force, handwriting,” from PIE *men- “hand, to take in one’s hand”

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

And maybe that’s the problem… many folks have taken the roots of the word ‘manage‘ far too literally. But, I’ll get to that in a second.

The other key component of the meaning of to ‘manage’ is to “administer“:

1. Manage and be responsible for the running of (a business, organization, etc.).

2. Be responsible for the implementation or use of (law or resources).

Unfortunately, we’re running around after our lost tail here… administer means to manage, and to manage means to administer…

(yet, tucked in there somewhere between our tailbone and our rectum is the: ‘be responsible for use of resources’)

The online etymology dictionary suggests the roots of administer are: late 14c., “to manage as a steward,” from Old French amenistrer “help, aid, be of service to” (12c., Mod.Fr. administrer, the -d- restored 16c.), from Latin administrare “manage, control, guide, superintend; rule direct,” from ad- “to” (see ad-) + ministrare “serve”.

So if we keep going on this little trip, what is a “steward“?

1. One who manages another’s property, finances, or other affairs.
2. One who is in charge of the household affairs of a large estate, club, hotel, or resort.

Roots of the word suggest: ‘Old English stiward, stigweard “house guardian,” from stig “hall, pen” + weard “guard.”

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Now as we put this all together, some glaring contradictions arise, yet, maybe some insight into the ongoing issues of massive, resource-draining bureaucracies that become slurping, sucking, leeches all unto themselves. As well as insular, ivory-towered kingdoms surrounded by the pavement moat; separate from the serfs that provide the tax dollars to keep them afloat…

That aside… and not to discount the many folks that actually try to do good work amidst the sucking sounds inherent in a vacuum… or the folks that try valiantly to pull compadres out of their bureaucratic, paper-producing stupor…

If ‘to manage’ stems from what we do with our hands (manus-es), especially in relation to ‘handwriting’, and to manage also means ‘to administer’

And ‘to administer’, means to be responsible for running things, and the roots of the word suggest that it means “to steward” things…

And to steward things, means to manage others’ affairs well (e.g. a public resource)…

And the roots of that word, suggest that it means to ‘guard the hall’ essentially. Or maybe we can stretch that out to say “guard the resources, that its supposed to be responsible for administering (e.g. managing)” — which is the fish and the habitat that they rely upon. And to do this, they will most likely — in the act of managing — rely upon lots of handwriting…

Then why is it that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans seems to be much more concerned with fisheries, as opposed to “managing”, “administering”, “stewarding/guarding” the resource it is tasked to do so with public dollars?

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Don’t get me wrong here… fisheries are important, vital even. I, myself, engage in the act of fishing and fisheries often. I also grew up in communities that fundamentally relied upon ‘fisheries’ — however, those communities, and the simple act of fishing alone — require something vital to be successful.


(and I can certainly say with safety — those same communities are asking where the fish went…)

The problems start to lie in what our collective focus is.

Is our collective focus to continue to manage, administer, and steward “fisheries”?


is it to continue to manage, administer, and steward the fish themselves — and the habitat they depend upon?

(even more so, if we see that healthy fish habitat is not all that different then the same habitat we depend on…)

Is the focus on ‘fisheries’ for next year… or is the focus on still having similar fisheries 50 years from now…?

_ _ _ _ _ _

And, I suppose the answer is: BOTH.

We need fish and healthy habitat to have healthy, prosperous fisheries.

BUT — should that mean that the responsibility for “managing”, “administering”, and “stewarding” the two should be housed in the same place?

Is it fundamentally possible for a government bureaucracy to hold the best interests of a resource (e.g. fish, salmon, etc. and their habitat) that it intends, in turn, to kill?

– and not just a few in the case of the salmon… it was over 80% of the returning Fraser sockeye runs for well over 50 years — the supposed Maximum Sustainable Yield. And now, we’re supposed to take comfort on years like this year when it is reduced to 60% of the total Fraser Sockeye run.

A total run, that has smaller runs within it on the verge of extinction and many that have gone extinct.

Mixed stock fisheries are inherently not good for the resource.

Mixed stock means that while in the act of fishing, it is near impossible to separate, say an endangered Nechako River (mouth is at Prince George, BC) sockeye and a sockeye from a potentially healthy Adams Lake run (near Kamloops, BC).

Or, say, an endangered Skeena River steelhead from an ‘human-enhanced’ Babine Lake sockeye.

If one sets a gill net, for example, it catches largely everything that swims into it… unless they’re big enough to rip the net and free themselves.

It then becomes what we term a “trade off”…

_ _ _ _ _ _

It seems to me that it’s akin to the old practice of having cigarrette vending machines in hospitals, so that the hospitals could raise money for their administrative budgets and ‘enhance’ the bottom line…

Or, having candy and pop vending machines in schools (to raise money for bottom lines), in the midst of a population that now boasts a majority either overweight or just plain obese (and at the same time cutting physical education and sports programs).

And not realizing (or simply chalking it up to a trade-off) that this only creates a much bigger problem in the near-enough future. A completely sapped and drained medical system.

It’s the fundamental problem of many human societies… short term gain, in the midst of serious long-term repercussions (obvious ones — clear as a smokers’ exhale on a minus-20 degree morning).

Yes… again… “trade-offs”…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Personally, and maybe I’m alone on this, I just don’t think it is possible for a giant bureaucracy, largely based in Ottawa, thousands of kilometres from both the spawning grounds and the fishery, to both look after the best interests of the fish (e.g. wild salmon) and the best interests of the fisherfolks that catch them.

It’s a fundamental contradiction, that will never be overcome.

(let alone the mass complications of simply managing the fisherfolks themselves: aboriginal, commercial-industrial, commercial-sport, and sport)

No different then the folks that say a ministry can’t house both aquaculture proponents and supporters AND the divisions responsible for the conservation and preservation of wild resources.

That’s essentially like putting the ‘management’ of wild elk populations and cattle farmers in the same ministry.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Saddest of all… and yet, one positive from the Cohen Commission at this point, is these glimpses inside the grinding of gluttonous government bureaucracies.

One can review any number of email threads between senior ‘managers’ at DFO. At times, a curious process and yet also a sad process — reflecting a sad state of affairs — and the proof that many take the word “to manage” very much by its roots… the act of handwriting, which in this day in age is typing…

On the Cohen Commission website there is ‘evidence’ from yesterday’s hearings (Sept. 26). Some of those are email strings between senior managers.

In one is an ongoing email discussion surrounding an apparent “National Precautionary Approach Framework” . In there are the usual examples of how ‘the words’ and “the wording” are far more important, as are bureaucratic deadlines, than what happens on the water.

it's about the wording, folks


And, this below, pretty much the suggestion I’ve made in a variety of posts over the last couple years:

this “is as close as we are likely to come to making ‘eco-system’ management operational.”

“as close as we’ll come”… so how close is that?

Is this like the protective father that says to the young suitor of his 16 year old daughter — ” 20 ft. is as close as you’ll ever come to making your amorous intentions operational…” as he pats the shotgun by the door…

Using the phrase, “as close as we’ll come” generally suggests there is some significant distance between the present situation and the desired end destination.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Looking after, stewarding, and managing one of BC’s most important and valuable ‘resource’ — wild salmon runs — is farm more about ‘operational objectives’ and ‘measurable fishery objectives’ and making ‘trade-offs to inform decision-makers’…

bureaucratese bumpf


Maybe, it’s just me again, however, I thought it was up to the public to discuss trade-offs and inform decision-makers.

Would one assume that the ‘decision-makers’ referred to here are not the elected “decision-makers” but the autocratic, be-good & rise-to-the-top-of-the-bureaucracy (subject to the Peter Principle) decision-makers?

Would these be the root of why we’ve had to endure five public reviews/Commissions/inquiries in less than two decades?

Will the root of the contradiction inherent in this government ministry be exposed in the Cohen Commission Final Report?

Are the fate of wild salmon wrapped up in bureaucratic ‘measurable fishery objectives’, national frameworks, benchmarks, and the ever-present “trade-off”?

Or… or… have we reached a turning point?

… a tipping point?

..a change in the winds?


Rocket science vs. Salmon science… (come on, let’s get a grip)

fish mysteries?


I’ve begun reading through some of the penultimate Cohen Commission report: Technical Report #6: Data Synthesis and Cumulative Impacts.

The objective of this report as listed on the Commission website:

The researcher will synthesize information contained in the other contractors’ technical reports, to address cumulative effects and to evaluate possible causes for the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon.

Quite early in the report, after a discussion trying to define what “cumulative effects” and “cumulative impacts” are is the rather common analogy utilized these days in the discussions of ‘fisheries’ science — the good old

rocket science vs. fisheries science.

Seems that many in the ‘fisheries’ science establishment and practice have become a little defensive about comments from various sources suggesting that fisheries science is not rocket science.

And so there is this quip from the authors of this report:

Rocket science is commonly used as a benchmark when describing the relative difficulty of other subjects (e.g., “It isn’t rocket science.”).

Fisheries science also isn’t rocket science, but it is nonetheless very challenging.

Rocket scientists rely on repeatable laws of physics, whereas ecological interactions are much more variable over time and space, and much less understood. If a rocket scientist had equivalent challenges to a fisheries scientist, s/he would be launching and landing rockets with all the key variables determining outcomes (gravity, atmospheric pressure, temperature, solar radiation, fuel quality, cosmic rays) radically changing from year to year and place to place, with little ability to monitor this variation, and considerable uncertainty about the basic theory behind each of these variables and their interactions.

And so we have a couple of highlights here: (1) considerable uncertainty about the basic theories behind… “fisheries science”…

(2) rocket scientists rely on repeatable laws of physics.

So, then let me add this variable into the equation, or beg this question:

If rocket scientists had to contend with the fact that they were going to lose approximately 80% of their rockets on a yearly basis — would they maybe approach things a little differently?

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

This is the fundamental challenge I have with this entire process…

And it is summed up well here, within the report:

“Given all of the above challenges, what can fisheries science achieve that is helpful to both the Cohen Commission and fisheries managers?

First, science can test hypotheses, rejecting those that are unlikely or false. Even with considerable gaps in data and understanding, and mostly indirect evidence, contrasts over space and time in both salmon stock productivity and the potential stressors allow us to judge certain stressors to be unlikely to have been the primary factors causing declines in sockeye productivity or abundance.

The second challenge is gaps in basic knowledge or understanding. We generally do not know how, where or when sockeye die.

Well…ummm… I’ve got a pretty good idea.

It’s called US. (no, not the United States… us, humans, people).

We know from fisheries records that in the range of  80% of the entire returning adults coming back to the Fraser River on a yearly basis were caught by industrial fisheries.

take, take, take --- 80% take

So we do know where Fraser sockeye die — prior to them reaching spawning grounds… in nets set by humans.

So, in fact aren’t what we talking about here within the Cohen Commission — since no one wants to look at the simple numbers and simply hypothesis — that we are looking for some miraculous smoking gun theory, which is really based on the progeny (babies) produced by only 20-30% of the total adult run that was returning?

Remember, the 80% killed in fisheries before reaching spawning grounds — for over 50 years — is just the reported amount caught in industrial fisheries. This does not include unreported catch on the high seas of the North Pacific, bycatch in other fisheries, Alaskan fisheries, or unreported catch from in-river.

Plus, really, in the glory days of the BC coast sockeye fishery can we really suggest with any accuracy that we know exactly what was caught?

_ _ _ _ _

So, essentially, what we could have is a $25 million paper exercise (e.g. the Cohen Commission) that is looking for a smoking gun to explain why we don’t understand that if we kill 80% of the returning adults for decades, that 20% is unable to produce the same size run four years down the road.

This is a $25 million exercise that is only looking at 20% of the Fraser sockeye — essentially.

We’ll just pretend we don’t see that 80% of the run, dead in the boats — for over 50 years.

And we won’t talk about the more than 80% of the Fraser sockeye runs caught prior to 1950.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Does this not beg another question?:

If we call it “fisheries” science… does this not suggest that this is science based on: “fisheries”.

Rocket science is largely science based on “rockets” or many of the verbs surrounding rockets: launching, flying, landing, etc.– along with the variables that affect rockets and the verbs closely associated with them.

And thus would not ‘fisheries’ science then largely be concerned with the verbs that surround “fisheries”: catching, selling, landing, intercepting, and so on?

Where is the ‘science’ for the good of the fish themselves…?

_ _ _ _ _ _

Do we expect 20% of humans to reproduce the same size population — if 80% of our human population died before it even had a chance to reproduce, could 20% maintain our species at the same size?

“Cumulative impacts” at Cohen Commission this week


scientific research agenda?

This week, things start wrapping up at the Cohen Commission hearings. And what a fitting note… apparently it is all about “cumulative impacts”… with a brief 363 page report to summarize.

Here is a fitting illustration to get us started: The illustrated guide to a PhD.  Over at Matt Might’s site.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Imagine a circle that contains all of human knowledge: [or human knowledge about salmon]

By the time you finish elementary school, you know a little: [e.g. salmon in the classroom]

By the time you finish high school, you know a bit more:

With a bachelor’s degree, you gain a specialty: [e.g. fisheries... or statistics... or...]

A master’s degree deepens that specialty: [e.g., fisheries biology... and phalluses...]

Reading research papers takes you to the edge of human knowledge: [e.g. or reading technical report...]

Once you’re at the boundary, you focus:

You push at the boundary for a few years:

Until one day, the boundary gives way:

And, that dent you’ve made is called a Ph.D.:

Of course, the world looks different to you now: [or it looks like a nipple...]

So, don’t forget the bigger picture:


Keep pushing.

(Matt’s illustration is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License so use as you wish, just make sure to give him credit and a link).

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I took a little glance at the brief 363 page: Cohen Commission Technical Report #6 Fraser River sockeye salmon: data synthesis and cumulative impacts.

First, I wasn’t surprised to find that several of the authors of the report have done work for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or research, or past contracts… (been a familiar theme at the Commission).

Second, my surprise was also not raised at the usual comment — From the Executive Summary:

Section 5.2 of this report describes 23 recommended research and monitoring activities

And so yet another major (or minor) environmental consulting firm submitting information to the Cohen Commission is suggesting: more research, more research, and… more research.

I can understand the fact that more research may be required… however, what is that going to change in the immediate or near term?

Sure… the North Atlantic Cod also needed “more research” while it was collapsing, as I’m sure the currently collapsed eulachon (oolichan, hooligan) populations on the BC coast also needed “more research.”

Doesn’t there… at some point in time… need to be accountability for the research that has been done, decisions made, research agendas planned, and so on?

At a basic fundamental level, we could always use more research… on everything.

I could use more research to assist me in raising children, or being married, or making day-to-day decisions… Yet… day in and day out, I still have to make decisions, and be accountable to those decisions.

I’m not sure this approach would go over all that well:

“well… my banker… I need to do more research on that overdraft this month, and determine how I won’t go into overdraft next month — so if we could just leave that overdraft sitting there in the red, that would be great…”

NO… I’m thinking my banker ain’t going to go for that…

_ _ _ _ _ _

When the ‘rate of return’ isn’t sufficient to support you withdrawing money, your financial planner does not come back to you and say “I need to do more research…”

… and please pay me more to do that research”

_ _ _ _ _ _

As the illustration above depicts… when it comes to human knowledge about things (e.g. wild salmon)… “experts” “more research” “more statistical analyses”, etc. is not going to change things.

Just as a recent cartoon on this site depicted, the old adage that if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.

The institution that is DFO is an unwieldy pig. It’s mandate is wrapped up in it’s original mandate of the 1940s and 50s — support industrial domestic fisheries.

But what happens when your domestic fisheries become drained… well, ask Japan, or other international organizations that rely upon distant-water fleets to supply their internal and export demand.

_ _ _ _ _ _

More research, and requests for “more research” by firms that specialize in research, seems to me, to be a rather endless cyclical spinning of despair…

And what good is any research… if it’s not followed up by “ACTION”?

It’s akin to movies or books… a director, writer, actor, etc. can ‘research’ until the cows come home… but at some point in time decisions need to be made, and action ensues, Seth Godin (marketing guru) calls it “shipping”.

At some point we all need to ‘ship’…

It would be absolute sham, if the main thing to come out of the Cohen Commission is a $25 million bill for a plan that simply suggests: “MORE RESEARCH”…

Even my early readings of the apparent “cumulative” impacts on wild Fraser sockeye, is big ongaps” and “more research“…

Well… news flash… there will always be ‘gaps’ and need, on some level, for “more research”…

What’s that old saying about lemons and lemon-aid…?



The clever propagandist doesn’t tell outright lies. These are relatively easy to disprove. Instead they provide half truths in the knowledge that a considerable part of the distortion will stick…



Almost 100 Years of Maximum Sustainable Yield?!

 Maximum Sustainable Yield

take, take, take --- 80% take

 End of an era?

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What happens when you put a rapidly growing city of over 2 million people at the mouth of the ‘world’s greatest salmon river’?

quality urban salmon habitat?

In the salmon world of propaganda it’s called: Over-escapement.

What do they call it when too many people show up for a flight?



Conflicting mandates at DFO?

no conflicts...


On Sept. 19th or so, the Cohen Commission has two days of hearings on cumulative impacts. Two days… to discuss cumulative impacts…

There’s also several days of DFO largely defending itself, etc. …


final hearings at Cohen Commission


This following the release of a DFO ‘Communications Plan‘ entered as evidence last week at the Commission… suggesting that the public is dull, and all these slanted journalists… and so on.

There’s an interesting editorial at the Times Colonist from the other day:

DFO in conflict on fish farms

Many British Columbians will likely be mildly insulted to find the Department of Fisheries and Oceans considers opposition to salmon farming the result of a confused and unaware public, manipulated by environmental groups and poorly served by biased reporters.

That’s the conclusion in a DFO communications plan filed as an exhibit at the Cohen Commission investigating the decline of Fraser River sockeye runs.

The National Aquaculture Communications and Outreach Approach report, by a New Brunswick communications consultant, is revealing.

The DFO is assumed to be the champion of the industry. Critics – or reporters – are presumed to be self-serving. Environmental groups raising concerns are seeking “to further their agenda and fundraising efforts.”

News coverage often draws those sorts of comments. In the case of salmon farming, both supporters and critics routinely accuse the news media of favouring the other side. That’s one of the things that is troubling about the report. The industry can be expected to have an agenda.

So can communities and environmental groups.

But the DFO should be a neutral, science-based regulator, ensuring that the best evidence is used to set standards for fisheries, farmed and wild, that protect the environment and the public interest. That role is undermined, even corrupted, if the government department becomes an advocate for a particular industry segment. Its impartiality and willingness to enforce standards is cast in doubt. Its pronouncements can no longer be trusted.

Actions like forbidding scientists from discussing their research are taken as evidence of pro-aquaculture bias.

The report highlights a fundamental conflict. The DFO, or at least senior management, believes it should be promoting aquaculture. At the same time, it is charged with regulating the industry. The two roles create, at the least, the perception of conflicts of interest.

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The issue with DFO in general is that its one huge institutional conflict. The number one mandate is supposed to be “Conservation” — however, it’s institutional focus for the last hundred years has been to support commercial and sport fisheries.

On one hand it hands out money to various groups for fisheries related work… and then on the other hand shows up with big truck and guns demanding to know what folks are doing in a creek.

On one hand, its supposed to ‘conserve’ fish habitat, and then on the other hand approve major hydro dams and mining projects, which in turn are supposed to ensure “no net-loss of habitat”…

On the one hand, its supposed to ‘conserve’ fish habitat, and then takes on ‘economic development’ with aquaculture…and hands out over $100 million in ‘research & development’…

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Is this not akin to the RCMP arresting and investigating crimes… and then having an economic interest in building more jails, or recovering funds from the sale of goods seized in crimes…?

(there’s enough fuss as it is — with the RCMP investigating itself…)

shouldn’t maybe the ‘conservation’ of wild salmon get handed over to Environment Canada, or some ministry with an actual mandate to ‘conserve’…

there’s significant irony in a government ministry having the central mandate of “conserving” something so that people can catch and kill it…

and ‘conserve’ for whom? why?

Re-branding government ministries…

branding is everything... everything is branding.


This article out of the Globe and Mail yesterday:

E-mails cite ‘directive’ to re-brand government in Harper’s name

Despite Conservative assertions to the contrary, a directive did go out to some civil servants last fall ordering them to use the term “Harper Government” in official government of Canada communications.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press contradict a published denial by Dimitri Soudas, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former director of communications, who wrote “nothing could be further from the truth.”

“Since when have we started making announcements as the ‘Harper Government’?” Daniel Morier, Health Canada’s chief of social media, asked in an internal email on Nov. 30, 2010.

Mr. Morier also passed along the following inquiry: “Why is @healthcanada creating partisan ‘press releases’ and marketing them as non-partisan ministry news?”

Erin Junker, a senior communications adviser at Health Canada, responded by email: “This was a directive I received from PCO.”

The Privy Council Office is the bureaucratic nerve centre that serves the prime minister, working in concert with the Prime Minister’s Office.

A PCO spokesman responded to a series of questions Wednesday about the Health Canada email exchange by reiterating that “there has been no change in policy or direction.”

Non-partisan departmental web sites switched to a Tory-blue motif soon after the Conservatives took power in 2006, and taxpayer funded Economic Action Plan website, signs and ads have blanketed the country since 2009 in a “whole of government” exercise that is indistinguishable from the partisan Conservative pitch.

It’s true…quite remarkable, and immensely slimy.  Go look at every federal ministry website you can find. Finance ministry, , Human Resources Development Canada, Treasury Board, and one of my favorites Economic Action Plan.
Better yet, the Economic Action Plan has all headlines stating:

Harper Governmentfederal government of Canada this

Harper Government federal government of Canada that

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The G&M article continues:

And the remake of the Government of Canada brand has only begun.

This summer, PCO posted a public notice of “Proposed Procurement” for new design concepts for Government of Canada advertising.

“PCO is seeking to develop a ‘whole of government’ branding approach that increases the public resonance and recall of government messages and information,” says the proposal.

It calls for bids to alter the “voiceovers, sound bugs, music, colour schemes, taglines, vision icons” of government advertising in everything from the Web to TV and radio.

Some critics say they’re alarmed to see any partisan re-branding of what should be the scrupulously non-partisan machinery of government.

“There’s a serious issue here and it’s a deeply corrupting one for the public service,” says Ralph Heinzman, who teaches public administration at the University of Ottawa.

The former senior civil servant spent five years overseeing the Government of Canada’s communications policy and helped rewrite it, then headed the office of Values and Ethics in Treasury Board – which oversees all civil servants.

Mr. Heinzman was awarded the Vanier Medal in 2006, Canada’s highest recognition for public administration for his work in the areas of ethics and citizen-centred service delivery.

His assessment of the “Harper Government” label is scathing.

“I would say that any public servant who’s involved in communications activities of that type is in breach of both the Communications Policy and the Values and Ethics Code,” Mr. Heinzman said in an interview.

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Caught wind of some of those changes. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is being re-branded “Steve-O” in honor of George W.

And the Privy Council Office (PCO) is being re-branded the Primary Conservative Office.

But don’t worry (as some commenters on this site have suggested)… those in Ottawa engaged in communications and PR have no intentions of purposely misleading you…

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What do you think the response would be if the NDP got into power and changed all the websites to an ORANGE motif?

And I do seem to remember quite a few old RED federal ministry websites when the Liberals were in concocting the sponsorship scandal…

It really is little wonder that so many folks have become so disillusioned with politics and politicians.

Marketing is everything, everything is marketing.

Which is another way of saying: beware of branding.



“Fisheries plan alleges confusion and bias in B.C”… who butters your toast?…

public dollars...

public funded communications strategies?

Fisheries [DFO communications] plan alleges confusion and bias in B.C

A Department of Fisheries and Oceans communications plan, filed as an exhibit at the Cohen Commission, portrays the B.C. public as confused, West Coast newspaper reporters as biased and environmental groups as self-serving.

The National Aquaculture Communications and Outreach Approach, prepared for DFO by a New Brunswick consultant, sets out a three-to five-year plan for convincing both DFO staff and the public of the merits of fish farming.

David Black, associate professor in the School of Communication and Culture at Royal Roads University, said communication plans prepared for government ministries, with the public interest in mind, need to be held to a high standard and the DFO plan fails to meet that higher standard.

To represent the citizenry as confused and unaware raises some concerns in my view as to the underlying attitude,” he said. “It is also a strange thing to identify journalists as not effectively doing their jobs.”

The report impugns the named journalists and shows a lack of respect for the practice of journalism, Black said.

To assume bad faith and a lack of professionalism on the part of journalists is ethically and strategically dubious,” he said.

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Maybe this should be titled:

When publicly funded institutions forget who butters their toast…

Seems a bit odd that a publicly funded institution is using public dollars to tell the public how dumb they are… but then that’s also been the take by some individuals commenting on this site, defending internal practices of DFO, and explaining how ‘misinformed the public is’.

Does this harken to the North Atlantic Cod issue…?

As I’ve said before:

Marketing is everything, everything is marketing.