Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Salmon Cycle… Reviews, inquiries, reports.

salmon Inquiry cycle

salmon Inquiry cycle

Twenty + years or so of salmon reviews, inquiries and reports…

The last one – the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River – led by Justice Bruce Cohen, at a price tag of some $26 million.

26 Million Dollars.

$26 Million of cycling reports, recommendations, outcries And pay cheques for researchers, consultants, communications experts, lawyers, and so on…

And so on…

And so on…

Ad infinitum…

Ad nauseum…

Rinse and repeat if necessary.

And many of these… one species of salmon… on one river. A big one mind you (The Fraser River), but still one and one.

And number of Recommendations implemented from the Cohen Commission?

Zero. Zilch. Zip.

$26 million paper weight.

Mind you the number of folks that collected a pay cheque or consultant’s cheque for this must be pleased with the multiply extended Commission deadlines and two years worth of income…? (wonder if these show up in the ‘jobs created’ numbers quoted by various ministries…? but that would be cynical…)

Add in the price tag of Fisheries Renewal, Forestry Renewal, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (e.g. the disappeared Habitat Restoration and Salmon Enhancement Program (HRSEP)), the amount of funding to the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy and Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management Program which are essentially meant to take the place of negotiated treaties – at least in the interim.

Price tag?


Number of jobs created, meetings held, and ‘consultants’ paid through these programs?



Highly questionable.

The spiral continues…

When does evidence-based decision-making suffer from corrupt evidence?

A press release and information out of the University of Alberta suggests:

A $4.4-million investment from Cenovus Energy, and the Canada and Alberta governments, has allowed the University of Alberta to establish a Chair in Energy and Environmental Systems Engineering. The research program will seek to strengthen the ability of industry and government to make evidence-based decisions about energy pathways and resources, while finding ways to conserve water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cenovus first established a $3-million endowment to support the Cenovus Energy Endowed Chair in Environmental Engineering, but wanted to seek further investment partnerships to expand the program.

How is it that ‘governments’ can make “evidence-based decisions” which is based on ‘evidence’ potentially funded by a potential polluter and most definitely a greenhouse gas emitter?

Isn’t ‘science’ and ‘research’ supposed to be ‘objective’?

And how about this for a ‘neutral’ (and I don’t mean carbon) title: Cenovus Energy Endowed Chair in Environmental Engineering.

It’s captured well in the UofA news release and the AB Minister of Education:

Thomas Lukaszuk, deputy premier and minister of enterprise and advanced education, said the collaboration “sounds like poetry to me.”

“This is exactly what the vision of our government and the vision of our premier is,” he said…

Yes, I’m sure Mr. Lukaszuk, that is exactly the vision… and maybe that’s one of the issues in Alberta… energy companies funding higher education research is considered “poetry”….

Apparently, the individual in this position:

“… will help governments and businesses better assess the costs and environmental impacts of various energy technologies, and ultimately shape the future of energy production in Canada.”

Hmmmm. And what about the general public?

Great that businesses and governments are getting assistance – hopefully those aren’t like the governments in Quebec, or the Canadian Senate, or companies like SNC Lavalin…

I’d like to hear the uproar when there is a Greenpeace-endowed Chair of Climate Change Research, or the PETA-endowed Chair of Fur Seal conservation…

Give me one Reason…

Solving salmon mysteries

Solving salmon mysteries — the real reason Fraser sockeye disappeared in 2009

“When an apple ripens and falls — what makes it fall? Is it that it is attracted to the ground, is it that the stem withers, is it  that the sun has dried it up, that it has grown heavier, that the wind shakes it, that the boy standing underneath it wants to eat it? No one thing is the cause.”       – Tolstoy, “War and Peace”

Fallacy of the single cause… or the ‘smoking-gun fallacy’. Several years ago Tracy Chapman sang about it: “Give me one reason…”

After the near-global financial meltdown of 2008, the explanations of causes began… Alan Greenspan, fiscal policy, investors, leveraged-funds, greed, etc. etc. Pundits, journalists, economists, world leaders and advisors, and every other somebody-wanting-to-be-somebody pondered the reason for the collapse.

The problem…?

There is no ‘ONE’ reason.

Yet… it seems that we now may have a $25+ million investment in the Cohen Commission with Chapman singing the theme song: “Give me one Reason”.

(and no, this is not ‘give me one reason’ to actually implement the recommendations… that’s a different story)

All of this to explain the ‘collapse’ of 2009 Fraser River sockeye.

Yet, could we not have done the same for the record run (for some areas of the watershed) the next year: 2010? Why not study the ‘record’ up, as well as the ‘record’ down… would that maybe not explain more as opposed to trying to find a ‘smoking gun’ for the collapse.

If we did a $25+ million judicial inquiry of the record-run the next year – what would we be looking for? What would be the analogy…?   the ‘fertilizing gun’…?

Was the entire issue with the Cohen Commission that maybe everyone used the wrong analogy?

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What do both of these events prove: a record collapse followed by a record run?

(sound like stock markets anyone? of course, government pundits and leaders will tell you that the stock market runs have been all about the government intervention and ‘stimulus’… )

What does 2009 and 2010 tell us about Fraser sockeye?

That we, and the ‘managers’ charged with ‘managing’ wild salmon – don’t really have a clue. Like the pundits that try and predict stock market rises and falls based on illusions of some factor or other… we don’t really know what’s going on – yet, if we stick to the ‘averages’ from some 100 years of tracking, that will probably provide some sort of illusion of prediction…

Like financial markets, and various other fields, ‘predicting’ salmon runs comes down to chance – the ‘illusion of skill’ pervades…. and that if we just spend enough money, on enough ‘experts’ we will come up with an answer – THE ANSWER.

Nope – fallacy of the single cause.


Oh where, oh where, did Justice Cohen’s recommendations go…

2013 Fraser River salmon forecasting

2013 Fraser River salmon forecasting

Another year of wild salmon returns being prognosticated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) – another year of wildly variable predictions ranging from the one in ten chance (10%) probability through to the 9 in 10 chance (90% probability).

But… one has to read these carefully, as DFO as adopted their own unique probability language – it sort of reeks of used car salesman language (no offence to those in this line of business).

This year the Fraser River sockeye forecast in fisheries science speak is a one in ten chance (10% probability) of a return “at or below 1,554,000” Fraser sockeye — and a nine in ten chance (90% probability) of a return “at or below 15,608,000″ Fraser sockeye”.

Hmmm… nothing like being able to report back in some ten years on some “best practices” or “benchmarking” report: “Look, we were 90% accurate in our forecasts because nine out of ten years the actual salmon return was always under the 90% probability prediction…”

Now the curious thing is that DFO goes with the 50% probability forecast (1 in 2 chance), which is this year at 4,765,000 Fraser sockeye — to “manage” the various fisheries.  So, again, in fisheries science speak that is a 1 in 2 chance that the run will be “at or below” that level.

Missing from these forecasts is the 0% chance and 100% chance – but instead of 100% chance representing a ‘guarantee’ it’s sort of in reverse. There is a 100% chance that the run will never get this high… oh, but wait, we don’t deal in 100% probabilities when we’re dealing with nature… ummm… because it is ‘un-predictable’…

Even says so in DFO’s own documents – including this years 2013 forecasts documents:

2013 sockeye forecasts


So, apparently we can’t “quantitatively” or “qualitatively” factor in, or accurately capture environmental variables…  And we are surprised that we can’t capture variability or reduce uncertainty?

Thus we use “random variability” in our forecasts…?

“Stochastic”… which the etymology (roots) of this word capture the meaning well…

“pertaining to conjecture,” from Greek stokhastikos “able to guess, conjecturing,” from stokhazesthai “guess,” from stokhos “a guess, aim, target, mark,” literally “pointed stick set up for archers to shoot at”

Or… maybe a dart board in which to place ‘predictions’ and start throwing away… and hence the opening illustration. Which also represents the new “top ranked models”…

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Mis-guided probabilities aside…

Where are the variety of $20+ million Cohen Commission recommendations?

Several had a deadline of March 31, 2013 – and remain at a 0% probability of ever being implemented – or wait, is that supposed to be 100% probability that the level of implementation will remain “at or below” the current level of implementation…(?)

…if we are to use fisheries forecasting-speak….

But then at least it seems money that went into the Commission can just get piggybacked onto the “Canada’s Economic Action Plan” initiative – it was a great job and contract creation project for several years.

And well, it kept a variety of journalists going, and even this blog… but oh where, oh where has the interest in Fraser sockeye gone…?