Two fitting articles this week by Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail — reporting from the Cohen Commission:
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The first article published on May 31 suggests:
A unique population of sockeye salmon identified in 2004 as facing “a high probability of extinction” wasn’t given protection under the Species At Risk Act because the federal government was worried about the cost of shutting down fisheries…
… Documents filed with the Cohen Commission of inquiry this week show DFO officials knew in 2004 that the Cultus population, which has declined 92 per cent over the past 15 years, could go extinct if commercial, native and recreational fisheries weren’t curtailed.
The sockeye spawn in Cultus Lake, near Chilliwack, about 100 kilometres east of Vancouver. When adult fish return to spawn, they co-migrate in the ocean and Lower Fraser River with larger runs of sockeye that are headed to other watersheds. [sound familiar — read posts most recent posts on this site]. Cultus fish, which look identical to other sockeye, are often killed in nets set for other runs of salmon.
A government assessment in 2004 concluded the Cultus population, which has unique genetic and biological characteristics, collapsed largely due to overfishing.
Despite such efforts, the Cultus sockeye population, which historically averaged about 20,000 a year, has fallen to a four-year average of just 1,000 spawners.
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This is called mixed-stock fisheries — and it has to stop.
Not only have largely gill-net fisheries, and also seine-net fisheries, focusing on the larger, appearing healthy runs of sockeye captured other endangered stocks like steelhead or coho — they also captured and continue to (when open) capture sockeye from endangered smaller sockeye stocks from other rivers within the Fraser.
I can’t say this enough times… DFO (along with the Pacific Salmon Commission) only have enough information for NINETEEN Fraser sockeye stocks. Rough estimates suggest there was once over TWO HUNDRED distinct and unique Fraser sockeye stocks.
That is in other words… DFO and Pacific Salmon Commission are “MANAGING” Fraser sockeye with information on less than 10% of all the stocks.
How would you feel if you’re pension fund was MANAGED by fund managers that only had enough information to track 10% of the stocks held within their mutual funds or pension plans?
How would you feel getting on a plane and flying to a destination that the pilot only had 10% of the information required to land?
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Let’s follow this logic further…
The article states:
…John Davis, who retired in 2008 as DFO’s associate deputy minister of science, said in testimony at the Cohen Commission, Monday and Tuesday, that the socio-economic impact of shutting down fisheries, just to protect the small Cultus run, was considered too great.
He said listing under SARA would have led to widespread fishery closings costing $126-million in lost revenue over four years.
hmmmm… yes…let’s follow the logic…
The “socio-economic impact of shutting down fisheries, just to protect the small Cultus run was considered too great…”
One might assume that “socio” suggests ‘social’ — well, in fact it does. A dictionary definition suggests: “socio: denoting social or society.”
So what we’re talking about here is the social and economic impacts of closing the fishery would be too great? (because when you say “socio-economic”… you’re just lazily saying “social and economic” in a nice bumpfy, academic way).
The article continues:
At the inquiry, Mr. Davis said the government tried to balance the potential environmental losses against the financial gains associated with keeping fisheries open.
“Clearly the department wanted to do the right thing,” he said.
But under cross-examination by Brenda Gaertner, a lawyer representing the First Nations Coalition, Mr. Davis acknowledged that at the time the government did not assess the “social value” of the Cultus fish to aboriginal communities. The coalition represents 12 bands that have standing at the Cohen Commission.
“I don’t think there’s a way of putting value [on the social importance of salmon] … I wouldn’t know how to value that,” he said.
Ohhh, ok… so DFO didn’t really look at all the “socio”-economic considerations… or any for that fact…
It took a cursory look, and just as this department always has… and should have learned already in the North Atlantic Cod collapse of the 1990s… that not listening to scientists that shout: “stop industrial-scale fishing damn it!”
… not considering the long-term economic costs of collapsed fish stocks… is actually far more expensive in the long-run.
And not just in economic terms — in those pesky, un-measurable “social” terms as well.
And who bears the burden… well… the young folks of today in every community — along with all of the potentially devastating ecological consequences of losing what ecologists like to call a “keystone”… a key part of the puzzle… a key food source for all sorts of organisms… including the next generations of wild salmon.
As stated in great DFO wisdom…
…listing under SARA would have led to widespread fishery closings costing $126-million in lost revenue over four years.
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Potential lost revenues of $126 million… Based on what?
Some computer model in Ottawa that utilizes tiddlywinks and Yahtzee scorecards for economic equations?
Looking at DFO’s own information on their Catch Statistics page the landed value of the Fraser sockeye commercial fishery in 2004 — combining Fraser River commercial catches with all of the South Coast (not all Fraser sockeye) was approximately $14 million.
In 2005: $1.7 million
In 2006: $24 million
In 2007: $135,000 (yes that’s “one hundred thirty five thousand”)
In 2008: $158,000
My math ain’t great… but that’s what… less than $30 million landed value for Fraser sockeye… over 4 years… after the 2004 decision to not list Cultus sockeye…
Where the hell did the potential losses of $126 million come from
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See that’s the problem with this broken federal ministry…
…many numbers seem to come from some la-la never-never land equation dreamed up in the creative suites in the depths of some Ottawa hallway, where the only salmon people see is on their bureaucratic convention lunch menu hosted across the street from Rideau Hall…
“wild Pacific Salmon flambe in sundried tomato cream sauce”
(i don’t actually know what’s across the street from Rideau Hall, it just popped out)
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And the absolute sad, pathetic irony of all this is that DFO did have to end out curtailing sockeye fisheries to protect smaller, weaker stocks — in 2009 with a near full shut down of every sockeye fishery and even in 2010 the “miracle” year… the apparent “record-breaking” year… commercial fisheries still had to be shut down to protect weak stocks.
When will this ministry learn?
When will the culture change?
When will the name change from “Fisheries” and Oceans to “Fish & Oceans”?
Or… The Department of Fish in Oceans… has a nice ring to it.