Once upon a salmon: “reducing fishing pressure … to rebuild diminished runs”

Carrying capacity? (circa 1977)

Notice the tag line on this photo: “Carrying Capacity?”

This is from the 1977 publication: “Pacific Salmon Management for People”.

Pacific Salmon Management for People











And yet another image from this book should have the same tag.

Massed gill netters -- Fraser River

As I’ve pointed out in other posts related to this book, the 1977 conclusion states:

To tackle the complex questions of salmon management… highly sophisticated techniques of simulation and decision-making are being evolved… Laymen, and scientists whose experience is in other areas, must take these techniques largely on trust. We are in the hands of technocrats… Certainty is elusive.

One reason for this is the prohibitive cost and difficulty of obtaining precise initial information; another is the yearly variability of freshwater and estuary environments; yet another is the urgency of many managerial choices which dictates that partial evidence must suffice. Misjudgements and errors, then, are likely. Science is to be trusted, but scientists nevertheless make mistakes. The science, as the thalidomide children would remind us, may not be complete.

Ah yes…

_ _ _ _ _

And yet in 1998, a paper emanating out of the University of BC: IMPLEMENTING THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE IN FISHERIES MANAGEMENT THROUGH MARINE RESERVES by Tim Lauck, Colin W. Clark, Marc Mangel, and Gordon R. Munro seems to be pretty clear on a certain issue:

Overexploitation of marine fisheries remains a serious problem worldwide, even for many fisheries that have been intensively managed by coastal nations. Many factors have contributed to these system failures. Here we discuss the implications of persistent, irreducible scientific uncertainty pertaining to marine ecosystems. When combined with typical levels of uncontrollability of catches and incidental mortality, this uncertainty probably implies that traditional approaches to fisheries management will be persistently unsuccessful.

The main gist of this paper is the idea of marine reserves — and idea which is not foreign to the world of wild salmon, with the proposition of wild salmon reserves (at least in their freshwater environment) becoming more common.

The paper continues:

Suggestions for improving the management of marine fisheries have not been in short supply. We will not review here the long history of discussion of the ‘‘problem of overfishing,’’ but will concentrate instead on the implications of uncertainty in fisheries management.

We take as an underlying assumption that fishery declines and collapses result in large part from overfishing, that is to say, from a level of fishing intensity that is excessive in terms of maintaining a sustainable population and fishery. We nevertheless recognize that changes in the marine environment are also often involved in the decline or collapse of any particular fishery.

Levels of catch that may be sustainable under normal or favorable environmental conditions may prove not to be sustainable under abnormal conditions. Many fish populations that have suddenly collapsed under intensive exploitation had presumably persisted for thousands of years in spite of fluctuations in the marine environment. The parsimonious assumption is, therefore, that fishing decreased the resilience of these populations, rendering them more vulnerable to environmental change. From our perspective, this still constitutes overfishing.

Environmental fluctuations are but one of many sources of major uncertainty in fisheries. It is now widely accepted that management must somehow allow for uncertainty and potential inaccuracy in projected sustainable catch levels. It is our contention in this paper, however, that the full implications of uncertainty have not been recognized in the design and implementation of fisheries management strategies. This shortcoming, we believe, has been a major factor in the decline and collapse of many fisheries.

Yes, indeed. And have you looked at the coastwide populations of wild salmon and their changes over… say… the last 30 to 40 years?

Or, have you looked at a shrinking monitoring program of shrinking salmon populations?

One article published in a renowned hallowed-halls, peer-reviewed journal has:

Ghost Runs: management and status assessment of Pacific salmon returning to BC’s central and north coast_Price_2008

I’ll comment on the article in another post, as it certainly relates to recent points in other posts and comments.

One of the more striking lines from the paper — and this isn’t rocket science…

“… reducing fishing pressure as a straightforward management prescription to rebuild diminished runs.

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In this time of great environmental uncertainty… from rapidly expanding ocean dead zones due to acidification that have occurred far faster than any “modeling” by world experts predicted to climate change impacts that are also far beyond what “models” predicted…

shouldn’t we be making drastic changes to how we look after essential ‘resources’ such as wild salmon… and their habitat?

Oh wait… I think I might have read something along these lines in something else recently…

Oh yeah, the 1932 British Columbia Fisheries Department report: Contributions to the Life History of the Sockeye Salmon:

BC Fisheries Department 1932











There was a particular excerpt:

Hope you can read that fine print:

“…lack of control of the fishery is quite well understood… Increased escapements appear to be the logical remedy.”

“…in the meantime a very conservative policy is imperative.”

Indeed. Good 1932 scientific wisdom.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Reducing fishing pressure to rebuild runs… (might be the best rehabilitation/restoration/adaptation strategy going).


4 thoughts on “Once upon a salmon: “reducing fishing pressure … to rebuild diminished runs”

  1. Brian

    One article published in a renowned hallowed-halls, peer-reviewed journal has:

    Ghost Runs: management and status assessment of Pacific salmon returning to BC’s central and north coast_Price_2008

    First, the study only looked at the North and Central Coast. It makes very little mention as to any alternative reasons why escapement monitoring is lacking in with these smaller streams. The fact is that they only looked at a few factors (put into a model) which could suggest why these stream were. The fact is that the author do not know which factors were associated with monitoring cessation. Perhaps a little human interaction with those involved might have been a good thing to explore alternative reasons not touched on in the study? Models are dependent on what information you put into them. Their scope was rather limited given that the answers might not be captured in a mathematical model.

    Second, budget shortfalls might might contribute to monitoring declines in general? Do you think!?…lol. The authors go onto say that they present some insight into how these decisions were made. Really? Who did they talk to? Actually….nobody involved in those areas it seems. What experience do any of the authors have with stock assessment? With Coho? Is it that simple to use the factors they used in their models and say “that it presents some insight”? There concerns are geniune but their hypotheses need a little work. The discussion was brutal.

  2. salmon guy Post author

    Hmmm. Interesting assumptions… are you suggesting that the Canadian journal of Aquatic bla bla bla might be publishing shoddy science?

    If one reads the acknowledgments of the larger report (www.raincoast.org/files/publications/…/ghost-runs/ghostruns-1.pdf) they seem to say that maybe they did talk to folks that work in the area:
    “We would also like to acknowledge the creek walkers and fisheries biologists such as Dave Peacock, Karen and Stan Hutchings, Doug Stewart and Denis Rutherford
    who have shared their knowledge of coastal salmon runs.”

    In addition, the maybe a few folks with some decent knowlege of stock assessment:

    “Special thanks go to Dr. Tom Reimchen at t he University of Victoria for advice, expertise and ideas. His insight into fisheries management spurred lively and compelling discussions that helped shape the first two chapters of this report. Equal appreciation goes to Dr. Chris Wood at the Pacific Biological Station for enlightening our understanding of stock analysis and providing invaluable review of the chapter on the status of stocks. We also thank the Pacific Biological Station for providing the Salmon Escapement Data Base which was the basis for our stock analysis.

    Gratitude also goes to Dr. Ed Carmack at the Institute of Ocean Sciences whose thoughtful feedback on ‘yet another draft chapter’ has been an encouraging presence since the reports infancy. We thank Dr. Barrie Gilbert, Dr. Katy Kavanagh and Jeff Cederholm for undertaking further internal reviews which were critically important to the final product. Ian Bruce has also provided his valued opinion on the draft report. Omissions and oversights that remain after all this review are our own.”

    Budget shortfalls?
    Yes, I think you’re exactly right on that one — that’s kind of been my point all along.

    Who’s making those budgetary decisions?
    Who’s prioritizing what salmon streams get enumerated and which don’t?
    Who’s prioritizing that the halls of DFO in Ottawa (that hub of salmon activity) should get substantially more funding than actual areas with actual dwindling fisheries resources?

    You’re also dead on about ‘models’ — they’re entirely dependent on what one puts into them… garbage-in; garbage out (in essence).

  3. Brian

    Definitely not critical of the journal itself. It is not unusual for people to be critical of other people’s work.

    Dave Peacock….a great guy. Knows his stuff.

    Tom Reimchen?…..I don’t believe he ever did the type of stock assessments that are done on these particular salmon species in this area of the province. I remember him from university days.

    As for the other people in the acknowledgements…..unless they have packed a peugh, put on a pair of chest waders, chopped a few hundred carcasses, and had to make budget choices on stock assessment surveys I will have to consider their contribution on a case by case basis…lol.

    There is more factored into assessments of particular areas then the few factors used in the study. These are not captured – only briefly glossed over in the discussion. I personally do not believe that a “model” can truly bring out what the whole picture is because it is dependent on what you put into it; therefore, you can really only base conclusions on those parameters tested. When the authors say they present some insight into how these decisions are made that has to be weighed against what they put into the model. The concerns are geniune but it just cannot be totally appreciated with models. Secondly, one has to consider other reasons why there might be data gaps. Environmental conditions can totally influence how surveys are conducted and things like fence integrity. Where in the report is the information from these biologists and creek walkers discussed? This leads into the next part………

    Quote from Salmonguy: “Who’s making those budgetary decisions?
    Who’s prioritizing what salmon streams get enumerated and which don’t?
    Who’s prioritizing that the halls of DFO in Ottawa (that hub of salmon activity) should get substantially more funding than actual areas with actual dwindling fisheries resources?”

    Well, when you think about it budgetary decisions are made throughout the whole process – starting from the governing party with their budget and priorities….to individual departments and their budgets and priorities…..all the way down to the biological and technical staff on the ground which have to make priorities of their own depending on how much money available. Budget shortfalls are a pretty big driver, so when the authors merely glance over them in the discussion they basically forget that some tough choices have to be made based on those budgets. Models do not reflect those choices.

    For every action above there is a reaction further down the line. Do tough choices have to be made? No question. However, nobody in this particular area of the province mention in the report is going around giving each other “high fives” for making decisions that could have some undesirable implications. Although you can make a case for certain wasteful spending, it basically all starts from the top down – not just from the departmental buerocrats or other senior managers in our nation’s capital, but from the very people we go to elect every 4 years.

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