“Cumulative impacts” at Cohen Commission this week


scientific research agenda?

This week, things start wrapping up at the Cohen Commission hearings. And what a fitting note… apparently it is all about “cumulative impacts”… with a brief 363 page report to summarize.

Here is a fitting illustration to get us started: The illustrated guide to a PhD.  Over at Matt Might’s site.

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Imagine a circle that contains all of human knowledge: [or human knowledge about salmon]

By the time you finish elementary school, you know a little: [e.g. salmon in the classroom]

By the time you finish high school, you know a bit more:

With a bachelor’s degree, you gain a specialty: [e.g. fisheries… or statistics… or…]

A master’s degree deepens that specialty: [e.g., fisheries biology… and phalluses…]

Reading research papers takes you to the edge of human knowledge: [e.g. or reading technical report…]

Once you’re at the boundary, you focus:

You push at the boundary for a few years:

Until one day, the boundary gives way:

And, that dent you’ve made is called a Ph.D.:

Of course, the world looks different to you now: [or it looks like a nipple…]

So, don’t forget the bigger picture:


Keep pushing.

(Matt’s illustration is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License so use as you wish, just make sure to give him credit and a link).

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I took a little glance at the brief 363 page: Cohen Commission Technical Report #6 Fraser River sockeye salmon: data synthesis and cumulative impacts.

First, I wasn’t surprised to find that several of the authors of the report have done work for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or research, or past contracts… (been a familiar theme at the Commission).

Second, my surprise was also not raised at the usual comment — From the Executive Summary:

Section 5.2 of this report describes 23 recommended research and monitoring activities

And so yet another major (or minor) environmental consulting firm submitting information to the Cohen Commission is suggesting: more research, more research, and… more research.

I can understand the fact that more research may be required… however, what is that going to change in the immediate or near term?

Sure… the North Atlantic Cod also needed “more research” while it was collapsing, as I’m sure the currently collapsed eulachon (oolichan, hooligan) populations on the BC coast also needed “more research.”

Doesn’t there… at some point in time… need to be accountability for the research that has been done, decisions made, research agendas planned, and so on?

At a basic fundamental level, we could always use more research… on everything.

I could use more research to assist me in raising children, or being married, or making day-to-day decisions… Yet… day in and day out, I still have to make decisions, and be accountable to those decisions.

I’m not sure this approach would go over all that well:

“well… my banker… I need to do more research on that overdraft this month, and determine how I won’t go into overdraft next month — so if we could just leave that overdraft sitting there in the red, that would be great…”

NO… I’m thinking my banker ain’t going to go for that…

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When the ‘rate of return’ isn’t sufficient to support you withdrawing money, your financial planner does not come back to you and say “I need to do more research…”

… and please pay me more to do that research”

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As the illustration above depicts… when it comes to human knowledge about things (e.g. wild salmon)… “experts” “more research” “more statistical analyses”, etc. is not going to change things.

Just as a recent cartoon on this site depicted, the old adage that if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.

The institution that is DFO is an unwieldy pig. It’s mandate is wrapped up in it’s original mandate of the 1940s and 50s — support industrial domestic fisheries.

But what happens when your domestic fisheries become drained… well, ask Japan, or other international organizations that rely upon distant-water fleets to supply their internal and export demand.

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More research, and requests for “more research” by firms that specialize in research, seems to me, to be a rather endless cyclical spinning of despair…

And what good is any research… if it’s not followed up by “ACTION”?

It’s akin to movies or books… a director, writer, actor, etc. can ‘research’ until the cows come home… but at some point in time decisions need to be made, and action ensues, Seth Godin (marketing guru) calls it “shipping”.

At some point we all need to ‘ship’…

It would be absolute sham, if the main thing to come out of the Cohen Commission is a $25 million bill for a plan that simply suggests: “MORE RESEARCH”…

Even my early readings of the apparent “cumulative” impacts on wild Fraser sockeye, is big ongaps” and “more research“…

Well… news flash… there will always be ‘gaps’ and need, on some level, for “more research”…

What’s that old saying about lemons and lemon-aid…?


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