is this a rebound relationship? — Sockeye and the media

Unfortunately the media is not all that helpful sometimes when it comes to salmon runs. The other day I was listening to CBC Radio and commentators were mentioning how great the Fraser sockeye run is going to be this year. And a few days ago the Globe and Mail reported how sockeye were “rebounding”.

First forecasts are for sockeye rebound

It’s early yet, but the first forecast of the season indicates that sockeye salmon will return this summer in healthy numbers to British Columbia’s Fraser River.

About 11.4 million sockeye are expected to swim up the river this summer, analysts at the Pacific Salmon Commission say. Around two-thirds of those – more than seven million – will be heading to the fabled Adams River spawning grounds in south central B.C., about 60 kilometres east of Kamloops.

Firstly, there are over 200 unique sockeye populations in the Fraser River.

Note: DFO has ‘decent-enough’ information on only 19 (some rather spotty info on those); and has identified approximately 36 separate Conservation Units (CUs); yet only manages to four separate sub-groups (Early Stuart, Early Summer, Summer, and Late Summer)

Yea… bit confusing, and ridiculous… gets worse the deeper one goes in trying to understand the rhyme and reason.

(when it comes to managing salmon… coho starts to rhyme with sockeye and chinook with pink… at least in the world of fisheries management institutions)

So when only one run (Adams River) will potentially represent almost three-quarters of the total Fraser sockeye run — there’s a problem; or at least serious potential for one.

Plus, we really, really need to look at history… and not the history that DFO likes to sell. Here’s a graph presented by Mike Lapointe, Chief Biologist for the Pacific Salmon Commission at the Simon Fraser University Fraser Sockeye Summit in late March 2010. (proceedings available online – graph on page 5):

selective truth?

(The green box is meant to highlight how “big” the 1993 run was comparatively)

actual written history

Here’s my problem…(and this is not meant as criticism of Mike, he seems like a good guy who brought some humour to a dire subject these days) —

…how could the 1901 total sockeye run be noted as less than 30 million by Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Pacific Salmon Commission when a 1902 Fisheries report to Ottawa outlines how 30 million Fraser sockeye alone were canned that year by canneries in the Vancouver area? (go to British Columbia section)…

And better yet… that 30 million more could have been canned if there had been enough cans and capacity at the canneries.

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(apologies for the small print – link to the report to read – Appendix 4 page 102)

Over 2.1 million cases of sockeye… almost all sockeye destined for Fraser River. (Ironic, hey? There were more cases of sockeye canned in 1902 then there were total Fraser sockeye salmon last year. Note that a case includes 48 cans)

Here’s my technically advanced graph of estimated Fraser sockeye returns over the last 100+ years — based on various sources (I keep posting this, because its damn important that folks remember where we’ve come from):

Lest we forget!

And thus… headlines of “rebounds” really need to be kept in context — and not DFO’s context (maybe they should start seeing other people…rebound relationships are hard work).

“Healthy numbers”? I guess on who’s “health” we’re measuring. DFO’s sockeye health is like a 30-year smoker, red meat-eating, sedentary heavy drinker (their historical salmon estimates) as compared to a 70-yr old still running marathons (the true numbers).

“Rebounds”? I guess the rebound relationship depends on how high the bounce is measured. If 11 million is supposed to suggest a “rebound” to historical numbers…. ummm… that ball might be a bit flat.

….”that old grey mare, she ain’t like she used to be…”

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