lobbying for goats and lawnmowers…

Yesterday, I was wandering the local library. One of the books I picked up was “End of the Line by Charles Clover. This coming week I am at the two day Summit on Fraser River Sockeye Salmon: Understanding Stock Declines and Prospects for the Future hosted by Simon Fraser University at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue in downtown Vancouver.

Clover’s book has now been turned into a documentary, which will be shown at the SFU session on Tuesday. From flipping through the book, and watching the trailer; maybe having many of the science-types at the conference watching this film will snap them out of the “we need more research” paradigm — and the “government better do something” disease — that seems to dominate the discussion.

This two-day session is the third part of the “Salmon Think Tank” that released a statement in Dec. 09. See one of my earlier posts for comments on the statement.

One of the comments in Clover’s book that got me thinking was something to the effect of comparing values of fisheries in the United Kingdom with lawnmower manufacturing  — Economically, apparently, they are worth similar values. He asks — how different would things be if lawn mower manufacturers have the same lobbying power as commercial fishing sectors?

It’s laughable — I snickered at least…

But, it’s also sad. I have an earlier post on the true ‘economic’ value of world fisheries: one fish, two fish…  in the red debt fish.

I decided to take a look at some numbers — just for comparison sake.

  • In 2000, total value of greenhouse tomato production in BC was $73.6 million.
  • In 2001, the value of potatoes produced in BC was approximately $28.5 million.
  • In 2002, BC produced 36.7 million pounds of blueberries at a value of $44.2 million. By 2008, blueberries were worth over $120 million.
  • In 2001, the value of goats in BC was approximately $5 million. Estimated number of goats in BC: under 20,000.

Last year the total landed value of wild salmon in BC was less than $20 million.

This was just over 18,000 tonnes landed, approximately 10.5 million salmon – mostly pink and chum — basically 0 Fraser sockeye.

  • In 2008 it was $20.3 million. (5, 100 tonnes — high % of northern sockeye, basically no Fraser sockeye)
  • In 2007 it was $30.7 million.(20,100 tonnes — high % of pink and chum, basically no Fraser sockeye)
  • In 2006 it was $60.9 million. (24,300 tonnes — over 50% of total is sockeye, thus higher value)

Let’s jump a little further back:

  • In 1997 it was $109.4 million (48,600 tonnes)
  • In 1996 it was $99.2 million (34,600 tonnes)
  • In 1995 it was $85.8 million (48,500 tonnes)
  • In 1994 it was $257.3 million (65,800 tonnes)
  • In 1993 it was $201.0 million (85,000 tonnes)

Wait… I think I see a trend…

It’s not tough to see the years when sockeye make up a larger proportion of the catch on the strong sockeye cycle years. For example, 1994 compared to 1993. There were 20,000 less tonnes (somewhere around 10 million salmon)  landed in 1994, yet $56 million more valuable at landing.

The wholesale value — value added manufacturing like canned, smoked, dressed, etc. — in those years has gone from a high of $466.8 million in 1993; dropping to $135.2 million in 2008. Canned salmon generally makes up between 30-45% of this “value-added” wholesale value.

It would seem some folks finally got a little smarter about value-added manufacturing in the 1990s — kind of like the logging and lumber industry (gee, maybe shipping raw logs to Japan is not the most efficient use of resources).  Landed salmon value in 1993 was $201 million on 85,000 tonnes caught with a final wholesale value of $466.8 million.

In 2006, salmon landed value was $60.9 million on 24,300 tonnes and yet wholesale value was almost $226 million. One might suggest that folks are finding almost 4-times the value in salmon now — as opposed to the early 90s.  Granted these are not always simple comparisons because of the stock composition each year. Some years are big pink and chum years (much less value) and other years are big sockeye years (much more value).

A pretty big question still remains — at least in my mind:

When tomatoes add more to the B.C. economy then wild salmon do we have a problem?

If goats surpass wild salmon — is it time for a fundamental house cleaning of government ministries responsible for looking after wild salmon?

Are we going to start giving goat farmers (no offense) the same lobbying power as commercial fisherfolks?

Wild salmon built this province — biologically, geographically, economically, and most importantly culturally (aboriginal and settler culture alike).

Tomatoes, potatoes, blueberries, and goats did not.

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