getting goals bass ackwards?

This week, listening in on Pacific Salmon Commission – Fraser Panel updates I was struck by an odd tone.

Last week, folks suggested they were trying to “remain optimistic” that the “Summer” run — which was forecast at approx. 2.6 million sockeye pre-season — would peak in the marine area test fisheries over the weekend. Earlier last week it was suggested the “Summers” could be running about 5 days late.

As I alluded to in a post last week  though… sometimes when one assumes something is running “late”… it doesn’t show up at all.

Well… the “Summers” are showing up, it’s just that over this past weekend the “peak” didn’t materialize in the marine areas. In salmon forecasting (esp. on almost 3 million) this can create some dreary folks, as it means that the “peak” has come and gone and the run is actually returning smaller then expected.

This happened on the Skeena River sockeye a little earlier this year. Test fishing was pretty good for a few days, computer models and simulations were pumping out potential run sizes with a decent “surplus” for commercial fisheries. DFO opened commercial fisheries. Test fishing dropped off rather quickly, as some suggested it might, and all of a sudden the run was smaller than predicted and the surplus once thought to be there, went the way of BC government predicted budget “surpluses” over the past few years.

Fishery was closed, no further announcements, and then concerns that maybe spawner numbers in-river might not even be met.

whoops…

_ _ _ _

On Monday’s Pacific Salmon Commission conference call, folks sounded as if family dogs had died over the weekend — and several folks bickered with the reality, as if they were still deep in denial about the passing of le chien. The peak in the “Summer” run that was supposed to materialize over the weekend in test fishing — didn’t happen. There were suggestions that computer models were now pumping out numbers suggesting the run might go from 2.6 million (pre-season forecast) to a 2.0 million in-season forecast.

With warm river temperatures and the like this could mean much less commercial fishing opportunities.

Let the moping begin.

_ _ _ _

Now granted, if my livelihood depended on catching sockeye (of which I think there are very few folks in B.C. that could suggest this is the case anymore — on the commercial fishing front, anyways) — I would be disappointed. However, on these conference calls the folks doing the talking are in various fisheries management positions. Their livelihoods (and rather healthy ones — a recent job advertisement for a DFO management position had a salary ranging from $120,000 – $140,000/year) are not dependent on catching fish and selling them.

Their job — if one is to read the Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy, and whatever other Department of Fisheries (DFO), blather printed on millions upon millions of ground up trees — is to:

  • first: conserve wild salmon and their habitats;
  • second: ensure that First Nation food, social, and ceremonial needs are met (legally); and
  • third open commercial and sport fisheries.

These are laid out clearly in policy. We could assume that salmon policy reads like a corporate Strategic Plan. (Granted DFO’s material doesn’t include budgets so that we can measure how they are achieving their goals against what they spent). There are things like Mission and Vision and objectives and so on, and so on.

Thus, as mentioned the other day, if the first goal of a Strategic Plan is being met — e.g. conserving Wild Salmon, meaning getting enough salmon onto the spawning grounds — which is yet to be seen this year, but at least decent-sized returns are suggesting this could be the case.

On the “Summer” runs a potential in-season forecast of 2 million — as opposed to a pre-season estimate of 2.6 million — will probably still get enough sockeye onto the spawning grounds (the escapement goal — e.g. fish swimming upstream is about 1.4 million); it just means a much reduced commercial fishery (potentially), then if there was 2.6 million total run size.

Well… as mentioned, this news made the call sound as if it was a wake, a funeral, or at least a hospital visit to a dieing comrade.

But hold on folks… isn’t the first goal: conservation of wild salmon. Is that goal going to be met this year? Early indications suggest it might be so.

Isn’t the second goal to meet First Nation needs? That’s yet to be seen; however the First Nation catch (in the marine areas, and lower to mid-river at least) looks decent thus far.

Is the third goal to open commercial and sport fisheries? Well… yeah… it is. And some commercial fisheries have been opened on Fraser sockeye, as have sport fisheries.

So, then why so glum? Many goals and objectives are being met…

_ _ _ _

That’s where the goals of the Department seem ass backwards… The disappointment and questioning the models and questioning the methods and questioning the test fishery numbers and methods and so on and so on — might suggest that fisheries managers are lobbying for the in-season forecasts to be higher.

Well, why would they need to be higher? It seems that conservation goals might be met this year — the numero uno goal?

I think you probably know the answer… and is that what we should be “managing” to based on what we know about Fraser sockeye productivity (see earlier posts), and changing ocean conditions, and a general global warming trend?

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