Another workshop… another call by scientists for more science…

In June of this year the Pacific Salmon Commission convened a workshop in Nanaimo:

Synthesis of Evidence from a Workshop on the Decline of Fraser River Sockeye June 15-17, 2010

This workshop was viewed as a first step toward evaluating and synthesizing evidence on alternative explanations for the Fraser sockeye situation.

There are a few things I find a little odd about all of this… as far as I understand, the Pacific Salmon Commission is funded jointly by the Canadian federal government and the U.S. federal government. I’m not generally one to carry on about “taxpayer’s dollars” — yet at the same time shouldn’t one ask questions of redundancy in government spending and research agendas.

If the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) funded this workshop where:

An Expert Advisory Panel was created, composed of 11 experienced researchers from Washington and British Columbia who are the authors of this report. As well, about 25 other experts were invited to attend the workshop to make presentations and to critically evaluate data and hypotheses about causes of the decline. Many observers also attended, so that a total of 68 participants were at the meeting.

That sounds like a bit of a bill: pay all the researchers and presenters and host the meeting…?

This in light of the fact that in November of last year a public inquiry — the Cohen Commission — was formed to do pretty much what this PSC workshop apparently intended to do. The Cohen Commission is also on the public tax bill a mere $15 million or so… and at the rate that process is going — scientists on; scientists off; scientists on, 150 days of evidentiary hearings, public hearings (of which I applied for over 2 weeks ago now and have yet to hear a peep from Commission staff, despite the hearings in Prince George less than 2 weeks away — including a recent follow-up email, still no response… efficient process?) and then long multi-page reports.

Not to mention that a bunch of the scientists at this PSC workshop are also involved in the Cohen Commission…

And then there was the Simon Fraser University-hosted: Summit on Fraser River Sockeye Salmon: Understanding Stock Declines and Prospects for the Future. A Public Dialogue (proceedings available at SFU Coastal Studies website), which was hosted a mere 6 weeks earlier (end of March, 2010) than this PSC-hosted workshop.

And then there’s this little federal government ministry called the Department of Fisheries and Oceans which actually has the responsibility to conserve and protect and “manage” wild salmon:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for managing sockeye, pink, chum, chinook and coho salmon in a manner that balances conservation goals with Aboriginal, recreational and commercial fishing opportunities.

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Is the old salmon research and investigation agenda maybe getting a little too redundant?

Or is there a little too much of the same people looking for, and at, the same issues?

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The PSC Nanaimo workshop:

The Panel concluded that the available evidence for and against each of the nine hypotheses does not point to a single cause of either the poor adult returns of Fraser River sockeye in 2009 or the long-term decrease in returns per spawner.

Gee… (with respect) do you think…?

The Panel agreed that multiple hypothesized causal mechanisms are very likely to be operating simultaneously and their effects may be additive, multiplicative (i.e., synergistic), or may tend to offset one another’s effects (e.g., mortality earlier in the life history can create less density dependence and higher survival later in the salmon’s life cycle).

In plain english: lots of shit/stuff is affecting Fraser sockeye and it is cumulative — and humans are largely responsible.

Other conclusion:

Given that the workshop considered 12 primary and secondary hypotheses (nine main ones plus sub-hypotheses) and advice provided by over 35 technical experts, the list of possible recommendations for monitoring and research could be extensive.

So a panel of researchers/scientists gets together and concludes that a whole bunch more research needs to be done (i.e. extensive).

Hmmm.

…each recommendation should be seen as a component of a fully integrated, multi-disciplinary research program for Fraser sockeye salmon. Such an integrated approach is strongly recommended because multiple inter-dependent factors influence Fraser sockeye survival, and their cumulative effects ultimately determine the abundance of adult sockeye returning to spawn.

Uh, huh…

Lots of stuff affecting Fraser sockeye (e.g. “cumulative”) and way more research required…

Isn’t this kind of like Goldman Sachs executives advising the U.S. government on U.S. banking regulations?

Or, Provincial MLAs or Federal MPs recommending they need a pay raise and bigger expense accounts?

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Who”s going to pay for all this research?

And could we maybe see a cost-benefit analysis on that?

Why all this money to find an apparently “smoking gun”… when, really, it doesn’t seem like an all to difficult idea… Look after salmon’s habitat and they will look after us…

And throughout all of this… where’s the research into the community, traditional, local knowledge of people across western North America that have had relationships with salmon for eons? Gee, they might know a thing or two about how to handle this…

just a thought.

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