too many inquiries… too few fish?

A pretty good article in the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper today.

Endless cycle of Fraser salmon inquiries

So far the storyline is a familiar one for most Canadians. A problem emerges. Perplexed government orders inquiry. Wise men gather to ponder the issue. Citizens await their deliberations.

But what’s striking is that this is the fifth time in 18 years some kind of urgent study has been commissioned by the government in response to a salmon emergency.

Not only that, it’s the fifth study of one specific run: The Fraser sockeye.

That’s a remarkable number of studies into the same problem.

– In 1992 about a half-million sockeye disappeared en route to Fraser spawning grounds. Then fisheries minister John Crosbie named two eminent scientists to investigate.

– In 1994, 1.3 million sockeye went missing. Then minister Brian Tobin appointed a panel to investigate and make recommendations.

– In 2002, sockeye conservation was challenged by a threefold increase in estimates of abundance, uncertainty over mortality rates and a huge fight over allocation. Then minister Robert Thibault named a panel to investigate and make recommendations.

– In 2004, 1.3 million sockeye went missing again, so then minister Gerald Regan named former judge Bryan Williams to head an investigatory panel.

Williams was struck by how much time has been spent investigating the problem. “The rather disturbing frequency of Fraser sockeye management reviews prompts numerous questions. Perhaps the most obvious one…. Why so many?”

…Peter Pearse’s royal commission into the fishing industry, where the phrase “too many boats chasing too few fish” gained currency. Substitute “inquiries” for “boats” and you’re right up to date.

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