Making salmon zoos …

There is no mystery folks — when it comes to salmon declines.

death of a thousand cuts

If we stopped putting these endless amount of efforts into “research” and trying to find an apparent ‘smoking gun’ in why salmon are declining… and simply looked at history — it might be so much more revealing.

Salmon have suffered massive declines throughout their range because of inaction, lack of political will, and far too many reports documenting the issues with no one ensuring “recommendations” are actually implemented, monitored, evaluated, and improved (if need be).

A federal government policy intended to ensure there is “no net loss” of fish habitat in Canada is failing to achieve its goal, a panel of experts from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has testified.

This the opening to Mr. Hume’s article today in the Globe and Mail.

Fisheries habitat being steadily eroded, panel told

In 1986, the government established a habitat management plan that stipulates that when fish habitat is damaged by development, then an equal or greater amount of habitat should be created or restored nearby, as compensation.

But three DFO experts appearing Monday at a judicial inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River all agreed fisheries habitat is being steadily eroded, because the habitat provided in compensation often doesn’t match in size or productivity the habitat that has been lost to development.

Patrice LeBlanc, director of Habitat Policies and Practices, from DFO’s headquarters in Ottawa, said it is hard to know exactly what the overall net loss is.

“We do lose some habitat,” he said in responding to questions from Brock Martland, associate commission counsel. “I’m not sure if it’s 10 per cent or 50 per cent – we have no true way to measure.”

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This is not new news. (no offence intended to Mr. Hume, however, I think he well knows this from his reporting over the years. And like other articles glad to see salmon getting so much mainstream press these days…)

Lower Fraser River -- Vancouver Sun article 2009 (click photo to read)

The Auditor General of Canada pretty much said the same thing a few years ago in the release of another damaging report on DFO and Environment Canada:

Efforts to protect fish habitat have been inadequate

Ottawa, 12 May 2009—Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada cannot demonstrate that they are adequately protecting fish habitat as the Fisheries Act requires them to do, says Scott Vaughan, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, in his Report tabled today in the House of Commons. His Report notes that in the 23 years since the Habitat Policy was adopted, many parts of it have been not been implemented by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The audit found that there is limited information on the state of fish habitat across Canada. Fisheries and Oceans Canada does not know whether its actions are achieving a net gain in habitat, the long-term objective of the Habitat Policy.

“The Fisheries Act is among the most important laws of the federal government intended to promote environmental protection and conservation,” said Mr. Vaughan. “I am concerned that many of the issues identified in our audit have been raised repeatedly over many years, and they are still unresolved.”

And well… the list goes on and on and on…

In 1997, the Auditor General of Canada pretty much wrote the same thing.

Chapter 28—Fisheries and Oceans Canada—Pacific Salmon: Sustainability of the Resource Base

Main Points

28.1 Canada’s ability to sustain the Pacific salmon resource at the present level and diversity is questionable given the various factors influencing salmon survival, many of which are beyond its control. While Fisheries and Oceans has built up major salmon stocks, others are declining and many are considered threatened. There is evidence that habitat loss is contributing to these declines. However, no overall status report on salmon habitat is available to assess the impact of habitat loss on the resource.

The physical habitat base is being eroded

28.23 While the overall number of salmon returning to B.C. waters is increasing and some major stocks are rebuilding to higher and sometimes record numbers, the numbers and strengths of some individual stocks are declining and are cause for concern. The causes for these declines are complex and include natural processes, such as cyclic changes in ocean productivity and marine survival, alterations of freshwater productivity, both natural and man-made, and human influences, such as fishing and habitat alteration.

Habitat loss is a major problem and, in fact, the Department estimates that loss of habitat probably accounts for 20 to 30 percent of the disappearance of small stocks of salmon in B.C. For example, the development of the City of Vancouver has resulted in 70 percent of the Fraser River estuary’s original wetland system being altered, mostly by diking and drainage projects, and approximately 50 percent of the estuary’s delta habitat being lost to development since 1880. Such changes have resulted in the documented destruction of streams and the subsequent loss of salmon.

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I think my math is OK — 1997 is over a decade ago.

Where’s the report documenting the big changes that DFO made regarding these recommendations? And more importantly where’s the on-the-ground monitoring, evaluation, and improvement on these recommendations?

You know… feedback loops… those key components of any well-functioning system…

And so… if even DFO numbers (e.g. estimates) suggest that habitat loss could be accounting for 20-30% of the losses of small stocks (e.g. those key components of biodiversity) — why wasn’t drastic action taken?

In 1997 House of Commons (another “Standing Committee) reports it was suggested:

The pacific salmon is a valuable resource for the citizens and communities of British Columbia as well as for Canada as a whole. The commercial salmon fishery was worth $265 million annually during 1986 – 1995. A recent survey indicated that the recreational fishery generated more than $228 million in direct expenditures by anglers in 1990 alone. Many Canadians, especially the citizens and communities in British Columbia, have expressed a strong interest in, and commitment to, preserving this important resource for the use and enjoyment of generations to come.

And so the standard monetary-economic valuation is fronted, without mention of the value of salmon to First Nation communities (culturally, economically, etc.)… Regardless, the numbers stated still suggest a value of about $500 million or so between the commercial and sport sector for salmon fisheries.

Thus… if estimates suggested habitat loss was accounting for somewhere around 20-30% of small salmon stocks population loss — wouldn’t that suggest drastic action, simply with an economic impetus?


Instead… here we are in 2011; another multi-million dollar judicial inquiry which has the same things being reported that have been reported for the last 10 decades.

What is that?

Look after the salmon habitat for the salmon… and the salmon will look after you and the habitat.

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Don’t overfish; and don’t destroy habitat.

Simple principle.

Worked for eons pre-contact…

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Operating under the assumption that we can do this:

"no net loss" of habitat? Vancouver Island Highway

See that giant red stump in the right of the top photo… hmmm. Kind of hard to restore that in a “no-net loss”-kinda-way.

Also kind of hard to restore this in a “no-net-loss” kinda-way:

Vancouver Sun

We’re probably better off simply setting up something like this for salmon — similar to the Oregon Zoo:

Salmon zoo

Because we sure as hell aren’t listening to all of the warnings that have been coming since the end of the 1800s. Stop destroying habitat and stop overfishing. This message was repeated from California all the way up the coast to Alaska and across the Pacific Rim.

Yes, ocean conditions, climate change and otherwise have an impact — are they the “culprit” though?

No, we are.

Would some politicians and bureaucrats within the ministry responsible for “conserving” salmon and their habitat please stand up and actually do something.

There are only so many more forests to produce the eco-green, forest stewardship certified, 100% recycled material paper that these report, after report, after testimony, after standing committee, after judicial inquiry, after congressional hearing, after auditor general report, after special committee, after enviro, after… after… after…



2 thoughts on “Making salmon zoos …

  1. Brian

    You can sense a certain level of frustration coming from the testimony provided by the witnesses in Hume’s article above if you read between the lines. I believe a certain message was being sent to those in Ottawa without coming out as being insubordinate. No, this inquiry is not just about aquaculture, Ms Morton. Thanks for the post, Dave.

  2. salmon guy Post author

    yes, for sure Brian… and I hear it often from within many levels of the great DFO behemoth. Even this evening, I watched the Fraser Chinook video put out a few years ago (my wife had grabbed it at the library, as neither of us had seen it). There’s a DFO enforcement officer from here in PG speaking about how there were only 4 enforcement officers at the time of the filming. I think it’s about 2 now (?) for some thousands upon thousands of square km of territory.

    Hopefully more folks within the behemoth are able to continue to have their voices heard and some real changes can be made…

    And, yes, the commission is certainly about more than aquaculture. As i’ve heard some First Nation folks in the watershed explain… the collapse of Fraser salmon happened a long, long time ago. It’s just now that some folks are becoming truly aware of how dire the situation is.

    Maybe folks involved in the Cohen Commission could find some time to go meet folks working on the Sacramento River or even Columbia or multiple rivers in between those two systems.

    Salmon were on a downward spiral before fish farms arrived on the BC coast… but maybe the early days of salmon farming were the coup de grace…?

    don’t imagine they’ve done many favors for local Vancouver Island stocks…? But then those were also well on their way down, especially East Coast Vancouver Island salmon stocks…

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