Fraser sockeye and pinks 2013 – the unknown unknowns…

Looking for sockeye on the Cariboo River - Sept. 2013

Looking for sockeye on the Cariboo River – Sept. 2013 – saw 1.

Many of us may be familiar with the rather famous, former US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld-ism, from a From a Press Conference at NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, June 6, 2002:

Now what is the message there? The message is that there are no “knowns.” There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that’s basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns.

It sounds like a riddle.It isn’t a riddle. It is a very serious, important matter.

There’s another way to phrase that and that is that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It is basically saying the same thing in a different way. Simply because you do not have evidence that something exists does not mean that you have evidence that it doesn’t exist. And yet almost always, when we make our threat assessments, when we look at the world, we end up basing it on the first two pieces of that puzzle, rather than all three.

_ _ _ _ _ _

It’s a curious situation – forecasting salmon runs that is… This year on the Fraser River, fisheries scientists in all their wisdom and computer modeling (largely based on similar formats as economic modeling – and we know how ‘accurate’ those are…) – forecast in the pre-season a pink salmon return of just under 9 million humpies. [see below between blue lines and far right “run size forecasted pre-season” below “run size adopted in-season”]

Pacific Salmon Commission Sept. 6th news release

Pacific Salmon Commission Sept. 6th news release

The in-season run-size is now at 26 million.

That’s a huge miss between pre-season and in-season. Might there be a problem in the computer models and the numbers they are ‘kicking out’…?

If the situation was reversed, there would be rabid calls for judicial reviews and inquiries and so on. However, when we miss the mark on the ‘positive’ side of things… “oh, gee, wow, that’s a good thing!”

But is it? Does it still not prove the same thing – e.g., our modeling and equations are f’ed?

[a known known…?]

_ _ _ _ _ _

Similar situation with Fraser sockeye – a story we are all to familiar with.

Pre-season predictions of almost 4.8 million Fraser sockeye.

In-season estimates now suggesting over 1 million less than that – at just over 3.7 million Fraser sockeye.

That’s a big miss. [another known known?…]

However, it gets worse…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The various estimates of run-size are one thing – the actual successful upstream migration, reaching the spawning grounds (some of them over 1000 km upstream), and successfully spawning – is an entirely different story. Let alone… survival of eggs over the winter, then survival of the baby salmon, most of them 2 years in a freshwater lake avoiding trout, sturgeon, sculpin and all sorts of other predators.

Buried much deeper in the “Technical Reports” from the Pacific Salmon Commission is the more dire predictions of how many Fraser sockeye might actually make it upstream. Keep in mind this was one of the hottest years on record for water temperature on the Fraser River (many days around 22 degrees C water temp, and now running close to 18 degrees C, combined with lower flows than normal).

When this occurs – the fish experts fire up the computer models again to “kick out” some more numbers. This is the “Management Adjustment” (MA). This percentage is then taken off the in-season predicted run-size – all of which is based at the mouth of the Fraser. Essentially, this the percentage of the run that the “managers” figure will die en-route, largely due to high water temps.

Anything over 20 degree C is pretty deadly – how long could you swim upstream in water at 20 degrees C. ? (without eating…)

Pacific Salmon Commission “objectives”

Thus as the numbers in the chart above – in red – show: on each of the four run-timing groups (e.g., Early Stuart, Early Summer, Summer, and Late Summer) over 2 million sockeye are estimated to die or disappear en-route.

Predictions suggest only 1,215,500 Fraser sockeye will actually reach the spawning grounds. This is 700,000 less than what the great computer models suggest should reach the spawning grounds (the second set of red numbers).

More troubling yet… there were almost 370,000 Fraser River sockeye caught in various fisheries (see below – each of the four columns are similar to above, they are the four run-timing groups of Fraser sockeye – the farthest right column is Fraser Pinks).

Pacific Salmon Commission estimates of catch to date - Sept. 5, 2013

Pacific Salmon Commission estimates of catch to date – Sept. 5, 2013

There is no pointing of fingers implied here – as that is a much deeper hundreds year old discussion. And, that without these sockeye in many communities, dire circumstances would be that much more dire. The point here is that this resembles a classic fisheries problem over the last 100 years or so: needs and fights over dwindling and dwindling populations.

[the known knowns…?] or [unknown knowns?] or [known unknowns?]

One of the most concerning set of numbers in all of this being the immensely dwindled “Summer” group of sockeye. Close to 680,000 sockeye short of spawning goals. This is a problem.

The Summer group has historically comprised the largest portion of the Fraser sockeye populations… the numbers that make the overall Fraser sockeye populations still appear healthy. However, that grouping of populations is generally reliant on just a few specific populations returning to specific areas. This year a huge miss in predictions was the Quesnel run, as well as Chilko another historically larger run.

It was also a huge miss on Fraser Pinks, Skeena sockeye, and the list goes on… the known knowns that is.

Maybe time for a serious re-think (e.g., Think Salmon) of how we ‘manage’ these dwindling runs…? Factor in some known unknowns, and unknown unknowns…

Ghost Lake - aptly named? Quesnel River headwaters

Ghost Lake – aptly named? Quesnel River headwaters.

Vancouver Sun article: “Why was iron dumping [in North Pacific] a surprise?”

An interesting series of articles running in the Vancouver Sun on iron dumping in the North Pacific last year and what the Federal government knew or didn’t know. Classic case of the left hand and the right hand… not knowing what each other are doing. (or not caring…)

By Zoe Mcknight, Vancouver Sun September 4, 2013

Federal officials were aware of the Haida Salmon Restoration Co.’s ‘rogue science’ plans to dump iron dust at sea long before last summer’s seeding project went ahead. So why was Ottawa caught by surprise? Officials say they thought they had deterred the group with legal warnings. Yet the company was upfront about its plans in public meetings on Haida Gwaii.

When the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. spread 100 tonnes of iron sulphate and 20 tonnes of iron oxide in the northwest Pacific in the summer of 2012, government officials scrambled to distance themselves from the project.

Yet there is plenty of evidence officials knew what the Haida Gwaii company was considering long before the dumping took place.

In October 2012, Peter Kent, then the environment minister, told the House of Commons that his department never received an application for the project and did not approve “this demonstration of rogue science.”

The government line has since been that Environment Canada staff met with the company in Victoria on May 7, 2012, when the company was warned of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act’s disposal at sea legislation.

On Aug. 29, 2012, officials learned the iron dumping had happened in international waters west of Haida Gwaii. They began an investigation the next day. Kent said he personally was informed in late August as well.

But according to documents released under an Access to Information request, “Environment Canada first became aware the proponent was considering ocean fertilization in 2011” and contacted the corporation’s representatives on several occasions to advise them of the national and international provisions surrounding disposal at sea.

An information flyer was provided to the company, “due to the contact already made on the issue.”

Then the 120 tonnes of iron were released into the Pacific between July 14 and Aug. 3 last year, causing international uproar.

The Vancouver Sun has learned that another federal department was earlier willing to spend government money on the project.

According to documents filed in Federal Court in Vancouver, Industry Canada approved two funding proposals submitted by the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. under the Industrial Research Assistance Program and the National Research Council.

Approvals were given in March and July 2012, before the dump, but were revoked in November 2012, after the project incited a media storm. Haida Salmon company representatives applied for a judicial review of the decision to terminate the funding, arguing they were “undertaking research that was fostered by the existing government of Canada program, and in particular the IRAP funding process for ocean science.”

The application asks for the reinstatement of an undisclosed amount of money as well as a statement of reasons for revoking the government funds. None were given, according to the court documents, which were filed in December 2012.

According to Haida Salmon director and operations manager Jason McNamee, the funding was in the $75,000 range and was to be applied to a summer student and the development of low-cost marine instruments that could be used in future projects.

Haida elder and vocal opponent Gloria Tauber was horrified by the iron dumping proposal from the beginning, calling local politicians, writing letters to the editor of the Queen Charlotte Observer and phoning representatives from various government agencies. Tauber, who has lived on the island all her life and only rarely uses Internet, faxed pleas and background information to government representatives at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as well as Environment Canada as late as May 2012, three months before the dump.

Nobody was listening, she said.

“I felt like what I was doing wasn’t making a difference,” she said.

Once the news broke, she became one of the most outspoken critics of ocean fertilization, which has been banned since the 2008 London Convention of the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations body.

The plans for iron dumping were made very clear on the islands of Haida Gwaii, also known as the Queen Charlottes.

The Council of the Haida Nation distanced itself from the project, but a series of public meetings was held in the community of Old Massett back in March 2011. That spring, less than 200 people cast a ballot in a public vote on spending the band’s money on the $2.5-million project, with 57 voting against it. About 700 people live in Old Massett.

An update appeared in the Old Massett Village Council newsletter in late February 2012, saying “we are on track to head offshore in about three months.”

“(The Haida Salmon Restoration Corp.) is always telling the world the ‘Haida people’ support them,” Tauber said. “It’s the Old Massett Village Council that goes along with it … it isn’t the ‘Haida people’ they’re representing.”

Officials with the provincial Crown corporation Pacific Carbon Trust also met with Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. representatives before the iron dump, even visiting their chartered fishing boat when it was still docked in Victoria on July 12.

While the primary Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. goal was to cause a surge in plankton, and indirectly boost salmon stocks, the company has argued the process leads to plankton pulling carbon dioxide from the air. The company argued the process should be eligible for those seeking to buy carbon credits.

“We advised them on July 30 that we didn’t think the project was eligible,” said Hope Hickli, Pacific Carbon Trust’s spokeswoman.

She was unable to divulge the details of the application, but said it was rejected for carbon credits because the iron bloom would be in international water.

“Pacific Carbon Trust conducted a review of the project, and with government, determined the project would not meet the requirements of the B.C. emission offsets regulation,” she said. The technical description of the project was received by the Trust, and said it would “replenish ocean mineral micronutrients … using natural, iron ore mineral compounds.”

The Canadian Centre for Ocean Gliders in Sidney, which lent two robotic underwater measuring devices to the project, has a collaboration agreement with the federal government and access to equipment at the Institute of Ocean Sciences, a Department of Fisheries and Oceans marine science facility, also in Sidney.

Staff at the institute were aware of the company, if informally, said Paul Lacroix, director of the ocean glider centre. Well-known scientific maverick Russ George and other Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. representatives visited the institute on several occasions, sometimes after hours, to learn how to calibrate the gliders.

“There’s no conspiracy. The Haida (company) approached me, they wanted to use a glider for a scientific project. It’s in our mandate,” Lacroix said.

“They weren’t hiding (their intentions). I wasn’t hiding anything. Nobody was hiding anything,” he said, adding no government resources went to the project.

George (who is no longer with the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp.), along with the summer student hired on the promise of Industry Canada funding, chemist Craig Mewis, attended a conference at the Pacific Biological Station, a DFO research station in Nanaimo in March 2012.

They attended under the company name and were referred to as “a First Nations ocean research group” in the conference report, which also said the workshop was “timely for the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation (financed by the First Nation government) to help develop plans for their upcoming cruise to evaluate the health of Haida Gwaii marine ecosystem.”

The conference was hosted by government scientist Andrew Edwards.

The company was upfront about its plans, McNamee said.

“Anybody who Googles Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. – and everyone was well aware Russ George was one of the directors – and then Googles Russ George, and knew we were working at sea, you can’t tell me you don’t know what we’re doing. It was well known,” he said.

The Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. has filed an application in B.C. Supreme Court to set aside the search warrant that was executed on March 27 by Environmental Protection Act enforcement officers, arguing the basis of the search warrant, the 2008 London Protocol against ocean dumping, is not legally binding in Canada.

The next hearing in the case is expected in December.

According to a blog post written by Haida Salmon Restoration CEO John Disney, who is also the economic development officer of Old Massett, the officers “stormed” the company’s Vancouver offices, seizing lab notes, samples, hard drives, cellphones and documents during a raid that lasted overnight and into the next morning.

Disney also claimed in the blog post the officers were “fully armed and equipped with bulletproof vests and multiple support gear.” (The federal department says officers do not carry arms, but may wear body armour and carry other protective equipment such as batons.) Other sites were searched as well, including the Victoria offices of the charter fishing boat company that leased the vessel to the company last summer.

Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, disposal at sea is prohibited without a permit, and no permit application process exists for ocean fertilization. Those projects or proposals that “do not qualify as legitimate scientific research would be regarded as disposal at sea, which is prohibited under CEPA 1999,” and any projects that will yield direct financial gain are disqualified.

“You don’t need a permit for ‘legitimate science,’ but we don’t have a process in place to consider whether your science is legitimate or not. What kind of nonsense is that?” said Haida Salmon Restoration lawyer Jay Straith.

And the Haida goal was primarily about science, he said, not carbon sequestration. Sequestration by a plankton bloom is not only unproven, but too small in this case to yield any financial gain at all. “No one’s going to get rich off 100 tonnes of iron … at best it will subsidize what (the company) is doing.”

But representatives also pointed out the contradiction between the prohibition against financial gain during scientific research and the recent public shift in focus at the National Research Council to fund only projects with a commercial application, announced this May.

Peter Kent, federal environment minister when the iron dumping took place, said in an interview last week that he thought the search warrant would stand up in court, and he continues to follow the story, even though he’s no longer in cabinet.

“Some research in this area may well be justified under very controlled circumstances by approved scientific bodies. But I think their plan had a getrich-quick aspect to it, which was selling carbon credits. That was a really irresponsible pitch on behalf of the promoter.”

“An awful lot of members of the band themselves recognized it was a pipe dream and wasn’t particularly responsible in terms of environmental precautions.”

It was possible a meeting had been held with his department’s officials as early as 2011, but he was unaware of the project until summer 2012, Kent said, calling it “very alarming and very concerning.”

In May 2012, it was “all hypothetical … the department folks didn’t think anything of it. There was nothing suspicious and nothing to be pursued because they advised the proponents what the law was and what the regulations were.”

“The enforcement folks at Environment Canada on the West Coast had a visit and basically thought they had shut down the proposal in the spring. They never heard anything else until the reports came out the dump had taken place.”

Environment Canada would not comment last week on when exactly the department knew about the ocean fertilization.

“Our government takes seriously its commitment to protect the environment. When Environment Canada became aware of an alleged violation of federal environmental laws it began an investigation,” spokesman Mark Johnson wrote in an email.


More salmon bycatch… on BC Northwest Coast… maybe should talk to folks on the Yukon River…

Press release today from three organizations: Skeena Wild, Raincoast, and Watershed Watch.

August 19, 2013 12:07 ET

Conservation Groups Say Federal Investigation is Scapegoating Fishermen

“DFO and Pattison Group throwing a few fishermen under the bus won’t fix systemic problems”

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwired – Aug. 19, 2013) – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has announced they are investigating the fishermen shown in a controversial video released last week that documents serious violations of fishing regulations and no enforcement in this year’s largest Canadian salmon fishery. DFO has asked SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, and Raincoast Conservation Foundation to hand over their raw footage, taken in the Area 6 seine fishery west of Kitimat, BC. But the groups say that the federal government and companies like the Jim Pattison Group are serving the fishermen up as scapegoats so that they don’t have to sit down with the conservationists and fishermen to identify real, lasting solutions.

Fisheries targeting abundant pink salmon runs on BC’s north coast are required to return chum, sockeye, and other salmon species back to the water “with the least possible harm” because of concerns for their very low abundance across large sections of the coast. The video shows fishermen handling the prohibited species in such a manner that they are being discarded dead or nearly dead. At least 167,000 salmon from prohibited species have been discarded in north coast salmon fisheries so far this year, and another 24,000 have been discovered dead at processing plants.

“DFO and the big processors have set these guys up to take the fall,” said Greg Taylor, a former fishing company executive, now with SkeenaWild. “It’s just plain wrong. Our objective in releasing the video was to improve the fishery so that future generations have some salmon left, not punish a bunch of hard working guys who are working for Jimmy Pattison. I don’t know how Minister Shea and Mr. Pattison will be able to sleep at night if they go through with this.”

The Pattison Group owns the Ocean’s and Gold Seal brands of canned salmon, controls the largest portion of the seine fleet, and is BC’s dominant salmon processor.

“Having a few fishermen charged, and their lives disrupted because they happened to be the first ones in line when we showed up with our camera is not going to fix the broken management system that let this fishery get so far out of control,” said Aaron Hill, an ecologist with Watershed Watch. “All three of the boats we filmed mishandled fish, and now DFO and the Jim Pattison Group are trying to paint them as ‘just a few bad actors’? It’s outrageous. The practices we exposed are commonplace in the fleet, but the fishermen are the solution; DFO and companies like the Pattison Group are the problem,” concluded Hill.

“They’ve asked us for our raw footage, and we’ll provide it,” said Greg Knox, executive director of SkeenaWild. “But if anyone should be taking the fall here, it’s the Fisheries Minister, top bureaucrats, and fishing company executives who have ignored these problems for decades, not the people working to feed their families under a broken system that rewards bad behavior.”

Fraser River sockeye forecast is blown… Again. And river temps at record highs.

Salmon management Denial Train

Salmon management Denial Train

Yesterday the Pacific Salmon Commission confirmed what many figured would probably be the case in the first place… the forecasts for Fraser Sockeye were blown… AGAIN.

Yet, the Dept. of Fisheries & Oceans and PSC will carry on about how predictions are a tough business, etc. etc. And that if we look closely at the end of the season that the returning numbers of Fraser sockeye to the mouth were actually in their 25% probability range.

Here’s the newly adopted in-season run predictions for Fraser sockeye from the PSC’s Friday news release:

in-season Fraser sockeye run size predictions ala Pacific Salmon Commission

in-season Fraser sockeye run size predictions ala Pacific Salmon Commission

The real blown part of the ‘forecast’ is in the Summer runs grouping – Again (the ‘groupings still a problem in themselves). Appears that things were missed by close to half (circled in dark blue near the middle of image). The overall result is a difference of pre-season prediction of close to 5 million (circled in orange) and a current in-season estimate of just over 2.6 million (circled in red). However, we still don’t have an in-season estimate on late summers, which are going to be hooped if river temps stay anywhere near where they are. Chances are good as the temps in the lower Fraser have been climbing steadily all week.

Here’s the PSC narrative on that:

Record Fraser River temperatures. Aug. 9, 2013.

Record Fraser River temperatures. Aug. 9, 2013.

The “management adjustment” is the WFU factor.

(We F’ed Up and now our ‘management’ kicks in – factor).

The best part of all this is the language that the PSC uses to try and explain themselves out of this:

Fraser sockeye PSC languageTthe stocks have “experienced below average total productivity relative to the historical”… Hmmm.

Wasn’t this the year of the return of the 2009 Fraser sockeye run that was the lowest ever on record and was a completely blown forecast from 10 million predicted by the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans in the pre-season?

Wasn’t this the progeny of the 2009 run that motivated the unprecedented some-$26 million judicial inquiry – the Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser sockeye? (which remains unimplemented).

Not to mention that it seems fisheries managers are suffering from a classic philosophical problem – the problem of induction. Old English philosopher Bertrand Russell explained it well in the early 1900s – basically calling it the turkey problem.

See the turkey, a few days before Thanksgiving, sees the farmer walking across the farmyard carrying a unique glittering thing. The turkey figures, “oh whatever, our beloved farmer is just coming to feed us, like she has for the last 500 or so days.”

The turkey suffers from the classic problem of induction… because that day figuring all will be like history has suggested: e.g., farmer arrives, I get fed. Unfortunately, it has suffered from a classic error. As not long after this thought that its feeding time (again), like every day in turkey memory before that… it loses its head. And off to market and some happy family dinner table.

Russell used the example that classic human folly suggests we believe the sun will rise tomorrow just like it has for the last however long – yet… there is a chance that it won’t. But we continue to believe in the “historical time series”… That will do us little good the day that the sun does not rise in the way that it has for the last several millenniums. The Black Swan event, as some call it.

The problem with this thinking is that the historical time series is only part of reality – however fisheries managers put an immense amount of stock in it… and then get burned, like they are this year (again), and come out looking like turkeys, or at least being painted with that bad feather brush.

Time for things to change – as the Skeena and Fraser Rivers and many others… have been warning for quite some time.


The year of the Skeena River sockeye crash: 2013.

include Skeena sockeye in this one

Seems it’s now the Skeena River’s turn to experience a sockeye crash. Pre-season predictions suggested somewhere between 600,000 – 800,000 sockeye. Current in-season estimates are now just over 400,000 and all targeted fisheries on sockeye have been closed – including First Nations.

Here’s an idea… let’s launch another multi-million dollar judicial inquiry that results in hundreds of recommendations that never get implemented…

Category(s): ABORIGINAL – General Information
Subject: FN0702-ABORIGINAL- General Information- Area 3 to 5- Skeena sockeye retention and gillnets prohibited in First Nations Food, Social and Ceremonial Fisheries

Returns of sockeye to the Skeena River continue to be at extremely low levels.
As of today, the mid-point run estimate is in the low 400,000 range.  First
Nations that harvest Skeena sockeye have been consulted and agree that this
return size is a conservation concern. 

Therefore, starting at 00:01 hours Tuesday August 6, 2013, the following
measures will be in place:

1. For Area 4, Area 5-1, 5-2, 5-3, 5-10, and 5-11, and Area 3-1, 3-2, 3-3, and

-Retention of sockeye will not be permitted;
-Use of gillnets will not be permitted;
-Fishing for other species using gear types other than gillnet will
continue to be permitted, in accordance with communal licences.

2. For the Skeena River from the Area 4 commercial boundary (Mowitch Point to
Vetch Point) to the confluence with the Babine River and up to the Babine weir:

-Retention of sockeye will not be permitted;
-Use of gillnets will not be permitted;
-Fishing for other species using gear types other than gillnet will
continue to be permitted, in accordance with communal licences.

3. For the Babine weir and Babine Lake:

-The Babine weir will be closed for large sockeye harvesting;
-Only jack sockeye will be harvested at the Babine weir;
-Large sockeye will be harvested in Babine Lake;
-Fishing for other species will continue to be permitted, in
accordance with communal licences.

Another blown Fraser salmon forecast… runs “lower than expected”…

chinook circle black

Seems like another year of blown Fraser sockeye forecasts… maybe it’s not the runs that are ‘lower than expected’ and more that we can expect most forecasts to be higher than the runs expected?

News Release from the Pacific Salmon Commission today – below. Not only was the forecast wrong, the Fraser River is smoking hot – over 20 degrees Celsius (water temperature that is). With current weather forecasts and low flows, don’t imagine this will be getting any better any time soon.

And yet, the $26 million recommendations from Cohen Commission have disappeared like a PMO Chief of Staff…

Tuesday, August 6, 2013
The Fraser River Panel met Tuesday, August 6 to receive an update on the migration of Fraser River sockeye and pink salmon and review the status of migration conditions in the Fraser River watershed.
Although the migration of Fraser sockeye through the marine approach routes to the Fraser River has increased in recent days, it is still considerably lower than expected. This is primarily due to the lower than expected migration of Summer-run through the marine approach routes to-date. At the meeting today, the Panel approved an increase in the run size estimate for Early Summer-run sockeye from 400,000 to 452,000 fish. Their 50% migration timing through Area 20 is estimated to be July 22, which is one day earlier than expected. Current assessments suggest that the abundance of Summer-run sockeye is either lower than forecast or their migration timing is much later than expected. An in-season assessment of Summer-run sockeye abundance should be available by later this week.

The proportion of Late-run sockeye migrating through the marine assessment areas has increased over recent days.

DNA analyses continue to indicate that Fraser River pink salmon currently comprise a small proportion of the pink salmon presently being harvested in marine area test fisheries, which is consistent with the later marine timing of Fraser pinks relative to Washington and Canada South Coast (non-Fraser) pink salmon stocks.
On August 5, the Fraser River water discharge at Hope was 3,150 cms, which is approximately 26% lower than average for this date. The temperature of the Fraser River at Qualark Creek on August 5 was 20.5 degrees C, which is 2.8 degrees C higher than average for this date. Sustained exposure of sockeye to Fraser River water temperatures in this range may cause high pre-spawning mortality.

Doesn’t sound or look or feel like things will be improving for Fraser sockeye any time soon. Good thing taxpayers flipped a $26 million bill for a thousands of hours of lawyers, ‘biologists’ and a judge’s time…

And those that care about salmon… most definitely do not want to hear about Fraser Chinook this year… (some of the worst numbers on record in ‘test fisheries’ and yet some sport fisheries remain open for them… go figure…)

Probability means what?

"Friendliest Catch" (as in 'not')

“Friendliest Catch” (as in ‘not’)

Probability: “The quality or condition of being probable; likelihood.”

Probable: “Likely to happen or to be true.

These are a few definitions fronted by the Free Online Dictionary.

Generally, most of us use probable to suggest that this event, or that event: is probable. However, in fisheries ‘management’ on the West Coast of North America – and specifically salmon management – we now use probable in the opposite way. We now say that certain ‘forecast’ numbers are ‘probable’ to not occur.

Here’s an excerpt from the latest Pacific Salmon Commission news releases regarding Fraser Sockeye:

'probability' management

‘probability’ management

Thus, the suggestion is that there is a 75% probability that the run will not be at the 8.595 million level, and will in fact be below that.

So here’s a great way to make predictions sound fantastic “there is 100% probability that the Fraser Sockeye run will be at or below 40 million”. Say that every year and then down the road it sounds like you’ve been right every time.

Here’s my suggested new ‘financial’ management language:

new 'financial management' language

new ‘financial management’ language

However, this is my favorite quote from the news release, and hence the cartoon above:

low impact fisheries

“low impact fisheries”

Last time I checked… a dead fish is… well… a dead fish.

Won’t be long until we have ‘probability’ forecasts for ‘impacts’ of fisheries. And, yet, the great irony in all of this is that the ‘management’ actions only continue to grow as the ‘available’ catch shrinks. The classic human folly in natural systems…

The more we learn… the more we learn we don’t know. The more we don’t know… the more we figure we need to know, and thus “gentlemen, start your research engines…” – (rinse and repeat if necessary).

When it comes to most fisheries worldwide – as the allowable catch shrinks… the ‘research’ agenda, and ‘management actions’ grow. (rinse and repeat if necessary).

the more we learn

The Salmon Cycle… Reviews, inquiries, reports.

salmon Inquiry cycle

salmon Inquiry cycle

Twenty + years or so of salmon reviews, inquiries and reports…

The last one – the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River – led by Justice Bruce Cohen, at a price tag of some $26 million.

26 Million Dollars.

$26 Million of cycling reports, recommendations, outcries And pay cheques for researchers, consultants, communications experts, lawyers, and so on…

And so on…

And so on…

Ad infinitum…

Ad nauseum…

Rinse and repeat if necessary.

And many of these… one species of salmon… on one river. A big one mind you (The Fraser River), but still one and one.

And number of Recommendations implemented from the Cohen Commission?

Zero. Zilch. Zip.

$26 million paper weight.

Mind you the number of folks that collected a pay cheque or consultant’s cheque for this must be pleased with the multiply extended Commission deadlines and two years worth of income…? (wonder if these show up in the ‘jobs created’ numbers quoted by various ministries…? but that would be cynical…)

Add in the price tag of Fisheries Renewal, Forestry Renewal, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (e.g. the disappeared Habitat Restoration and Salmon Enhancement Program (HRSEP)), the amount of funding to the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy and Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management Program which are essentially meant to take the place of negotiated treaties – at least in the interim.

Price tag?


Number of jobs created, meetings held, and ‘consultants’ paid through these programs?



Highly questionable.

The spiral continues…

When does evidence-based decision-making suffer from corrupt evidence?

A press release and information out of the University of Alberta suggests:

A $4.4-million investment from Cenovus Energy, and the Canada and Alberta governments, has allowed the University of Alberta to establish a Chair in Energy and Environmental Systems Engineering. The research program will seek to strengthen the ability of industry and government to make evidence-based decisions about energy pathways and resources, while finding ways to conserve water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cenovus first established a $3-million endowment to support the Cenovus Energy Endowed Chair in Environmental Engineering, but wanted to seek further investment partnerships to expand the program.

How is it that ‘governments’ can make “evidence-based decisions” which is based on ‘evidence’ potentially funded by a potential polluter and most definitely a greenhouse gas emitter?

Isn’t ‘science’ and ‘research’ supposed to be ‘objective’?

And how about this for a ‘neutral’ (and I don’t mean carbon) title: Cenovus Energy Endowed Chair in Environmental Engineering.

It’s captured well in the UofA news release and the AB Minister of Education:

Thomas Lukaszuk, deputy premier and minister of enterprise and advanced education, said the collaboration “sounds like poetry to me.”

“This is exactly what the vision of our government and the vision of our premier is,” he said…

Yes, I’m sure Mr. Lukaszuk, that is exactly the vision… and maybe that’s one of the issues in Alberta… energy companies funding higher education research is considered “poetry”….

Apparently, the individual in this position:

“… will help governments and businesses better assess the costs and environmental impacts of various energy technologies, and ultimately shape the future of energy production in Canada.”

Hmmmm. And what about the general public?

Great that businesses and governments are getting assistance – hopefully those aren’t like the governments in Quebec, or the Canadian Senate, or companies like SNC Lavalin…

I’d like to hear the uproar when there is a Greenpeace-endowed Chair of Climate Change Research, or the PETA-endowed Chair of Fur Seal conservation…

Give me one Reason…

Solving salmon mysteries

Solving salmon mysteries — the real reason Fraser sockeye disappeared in 2009

“When an apple ripens and falls — what makes it fall? Is it that it is attracted to the ground, is it that the stem withers, is it  that the sun has dried it up, that it has grown heavier, that the wind shakes it, that the boy standing underneath it wants to eat it? No one thing is the cause.”       – Tolstoy, “War and Peace”

Fallacy of the single cause… or the ‘smoking-gun fallacy’. Several years ago Tracy Chapman sang about it: “Give me one reason…”

After the near-global financial meltdown of 2008, the explanations of causes began… Alan Greenspan, fiscal policy, investors, leveraged-funds, greed, etc. etc. Pundits, journalists, economists, world leaders and advisors, and every other somebody-wanting-to-be-somebody pondered the reason for the collapse.

The problem…?

There is no ‘ONE’ reason.

Yet… it seems that we now may have a $25+ million investment in the Cohen Commission with Chapman singing the theme song: “Give me one Reason”.

(and no, this is not ‘give me one reason’ to actually implement the recommendations… that’s a different story)

All of this to explain the ‘collapse’ of 2009 Fraser River sockeye.

Yet, could we not have done the same for the record run (for some areas of the watershed) the next year: 2010? Why not study the ‘record’ up, as well as the ‘record’ down… would that maybe not explain more as opposed to trying to find a ‘smoking gun’ for the collapse.

If we did a $25+ million judicial inquiry of the record-run the next year – what would we be looking for? What would be the analogy…?   the ‘fertilizing gun’…?

Was the entire issue with the Cohen Commission that maybe everyone used the wrong analogy?

_ _ _ _ _ _

What do both of these events prove: a record collapse followed by a record run?

(sound like stock markets anyone? of course, government pundits and leaders will tell you that the stock market runs have been all about the government intervention and ‘stimulus’… )

What does 2009 and 2010 tell us about Fraser sockeye?

That we, and the ‘managers’ charged with ‘managing’ wild salmon – don’t really have a clue. Like the pundits that try and predict stock market rises and falls based on illusions of some factor or other… we don’t really know what’s going on – yet, if we stick to the ‘averages’ from some 100 years of tracking, that will probably provide some sort of illusion of prediction…

Like financial markets, and various other fields, ‘predicting’ salmon runs comes down to chance – the ‘illusion of skill’ pervades…. and that if we just spend enough money, on enough ‘experts’ we will come up with an answer – THE ANSWER.

Nope – fallacy of the single cause.