Tag Archives: BC fishing

Salmon fisheries of the North Pacific high seas?

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A curious find at the local university library this week: “Salmonid Ecosystems of the North Pacific“.

inside page

It was compiled in 1980.

In the preface, it suggests:

Some stocks of salmonids have been fished heavily since before the turn of the century, and most have been heavily fished since the 1930s. Freshwater spawning and nursery habitats have also been degraded by land and water use activities. Most natural populations have declined from the combined effects of overfishing and environmental damage.

The preface also discusses the explosion at that time of artificial propagation, such as salmon enhancement (e.g. hatcheries) and massive ‘salmon ranching’ programs in Asia and Alaska. The big question on the books for this symposium was the impact of these efforts on the North Pacific.

Essentially: did pumping out a pile of artificially propagated salmon have a negative impact out in the ocean? Or, was the continued practice going to have a negative impact?

Kind of like asking if you drop an ice cube in a swimming pool whether it changes the temperature…

Or whether farting in a gymnasium changes the inside air temperature…

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The first paper is by Dr. Randall Peterman, a common presence still to this day in salmon discussion in B.C and in the now wrapping up Cohen Commission into Fraser sockeye declines.

In the intro to his paper, Peterman suggests:

The catch of salmon (Onchoryncus spp.) in both British Columbia and all Pacific rim countries has dropped 50 percent in the last forty years.

And so salmon species were absolutely hammered by human fisheries from the late 1800s through the early 1900s coupled with… what might be called rather lax environmental standards…

And yet…

Under the guidance of government ministries, we continued on this path in B.C.:

take, take, take --- 80% take of total annual Fraser sockeye run

Every year, year after year, take anywhere between 60 – 80% of what was the estimated run size. All in a practice of Maximum Sustainable Yield. A fine practice largely supported by fisheries scientists everywhere.

Even with esteemed scientists such as Dr. Peterman (prob. pretty young in that day) suggesting: “hey look we’re already seeing a 50% drop in the catch rates…”

It has to be continually pointed out… this is 60 – 80% of the run taken in domestic fisheries. This does not account for the high seas.

The Magnuson-Stevens act which granted Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of 200 miles offshore to coastal nations didn’t kick in until 1976. That means that until that time there were any number of international and domestic fishing boats plying the North Pacific for fish.

Remember the term “curtains of death” … these referred to drift nets that could be as long as 40 km and caught everything in their path. These weren’t banned until the 1980s by the United Nations.

And yet, even a Vancouver Sun article in 2008 discusses the challenges in still catching offenders using outlawed drift nets.

B.C. important base in drift-nets search

From May to October, surveillance planes from Canada, Japan, Russia and the U.S. search that immense body of water for illegal drift nets.

Drift-net boat crews put out the banned nets at dusk and pull them in after dawn, to try to avoid being seen from the eyes in the sky above them.

The nets – some as long as 40 kilometres – are an efficient but indiscriminate way to remove target and non-target fish during those six months, when the North Pacific’s frigid waters are warmest and fish populations peak.

Depleted stocks of salmon in North America and Asia aren’t the only victims…

Yeah… this a bit more like trying to measure the impact of an ice cube dropped in your hot tub…

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The 1980s book, has an article that provides a slight glimpse into the impacts of high seas fisheries in the middle part of the last century.

high seas fisheries salmon catch

As the caption suggests: this is the catch of sockeye salmon by commercial fisheries of the then-USSR, Japan, U.S., and Canada from the 1920s through the 1970s.

This is the “reported” catch of those fisheries.

And yup, that’s over 40 million sockeye caught on the high years.

Now of course, the offended fisheries scientist will probably jump in here and say, but those were mostly Alaskan sockeye…

I’m guessing the research wasn’t all that advanced to tell us exactly where the fish came from. I’m also guessing that maybe Cold War relations didn’t really facilitate American scientists or observers on Soviet fishing boats…

It also needs to be pointed out that this is the “reported catch” of salmon in fisheries that reported them… what about the other high seas and domestic fisheries that don’t and didn’t need to report salmon by-catch?

By-catch being the fish thrown overboard dead and squashed and unwanted. When one is targeting Gulf of Alaska pollock they don’t want dirty salmon polluting their catch…

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Sadly… there is next to no mention of this issue in Cohen Commission material — but for five clauses in one of the twenty-one Policy and Practice Reports.

With reference to the North Pacific Anadromous Stocks Convention, which did not come into force until 1993 and only includes (as quoted in the Cohen Policy report):

The parties are Canada, the US, Japan, South Korea, and Russia. China participates informally in this convention, but is not a party to it.

The high seas are essentially considered “common” property, which means you gotta boat, you go fishing…  and considering the Vancouver Sun article from 2008 suggesting that high seas illegal drift net fisheries were still a problem…

And maybe I’ll just make casual mention of the fact (from the Cohen policy report):

The primary purpose of the North Pacific Anadromous Stocks Convention is to prohibit targeted fishing of anadromous fish stocks outside of the parties’ EEZs.

Yeah… I’ve heard a few folks use that excuse: “…but… i wasn’t ‘targeting’ them…it was an accident”

The convention delimits a zone, called the Convention Area, within which this prohibition applies. Under the treaty, only incidental catch of anadromous species is permitted within the Convention Area, and any incidental catches must not be retained, except for scientific research

Great… more by-catch thrown overboard.

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But there is more…

The convention creates the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission. The goal of the Commission is to promote the conservation of anadromous species in the North Pacific and the enforcement of the convention. While it does not play a fisheries management role, the Commission is mandated to determine scientific research projects, conservation measures and enforcement issues. Parties also commit to promote cooperative scientific research in the North Pacific.

In other words… no teeth… this is just about marketing… er… umm… I mean “promotion”.

It’s akin to the idea of governments promoting the idea of personal savings as a good idea… but knowing just as good ol’ Dubya Bush said after 9/11… everyone needs to be good Americans and get out there and shop…

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This type of “policy” language is where many problems lie.

Seems many folks figure because we write something down on paper and say “this is the regulation/policy/law” that that then becomes actually enforced, enforceable, and makes any difference whatsoever.

Like the bike helmet law in BC…

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And more unfortunate… it seems that the Cohen Commission into Fraser Sockeye (aka. “the commission to end all salmon commissions”) largely limited itself to only looking as far back as about 1990 when it comes to Fraser sockeye.

That’s only about 4 or 5 life cycles for a Fraser sockeye. (what if we did fruit fly research that way… “hey folks, we’re only going to look at a 40 to 50 day period…”

And sadly, the story written for Fraser sockeye declines had some significant plot developments at the turn of the century through to the 1980s.

A good hundred years of profit and plunder… and blunder…

A similar storyline as almost every fish stock around the world subject to industrial fisheries… and industrial fisheries science and industrial society politics.

Sadly, much of the science simply justifies the fisheries.

As well as, simply supporting more writing of policies and procedures and best practices and benchmarks and strategic plans and… and… and…

And yet on the ground… or in the water for that sake… the small coastal communities and people that live in them bear the brunt of the burden.

The brunt of the burden when the fisheries starting getting cut back… and even more brunt of the burden when fisheries all but disappear, because now it’s time for conservation

And when the discussion starts about “what to do…?” they’re told to sit quietly at home, or in the back corner, and let the “experts” figure it out for them…. and then read the thousands of pages of documentation that tells them why the experts are right… (just like they were last time…last decade… and the decade before that…)

Maybe it’s time for a change on how things are done.

More Citizen’s Assemblies… less expert forums, and policy and practice reports, and technical reports, and expert testimony, and bumpf-filled excuses and justifications…

Don’t get me wrong, the experts play a part… it’s just that they probably shouldn’t write the story.

 

Eureka: It was Colonel Mustard in the ocean with a net… practicing mixed stock fisheries.

Cohen Commisson: new winter clothing line

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Earlier this year I introduced you to the new corporate sponsor for the Cohen Commission:

Data-GAP

Cross off “summer” in the illustration above and put in “Winter”… as we move into the close of ‘hearings’ for the Cohen Commission and the short daylight hours, and long winter nights of Justice Cohen and his staff forging through testimony, upwards of a million pages of ‘data’, bumpf out the ying-yang, job-protecting bureaucrat testimony, and so on.

In my somewhat cursory review of the technical reports completed for the Commission — at least those available for review, let me give you a few of my salmonguy summary notes:

(1) very few scientists want to come out and actually take a hard line on something… (all protect the almighty god of Objectivity)

(2) there are many scientists lining themselves up for an ambitious and aggressive research agenda… (i’ve lost count of the “recommendations for research” in the technical reports). And one doesn’t do well on that front by having ‘opinions’ contrary to the funding agencies…

(3) I’m starting a list of how many ways one can say “limited data” or “data gaps. There are more ways to say it then there are ways to count a sockeye…

I’m hard pressed to believe we actually know anything more about Fraser sockeye then they swim downstream go to the ocean, come back, swim upstream, spawn… and… wait for it…

die.

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Let me give you a little taste:

Technical Report #1: Diseases and parasites

…There are certainly many pathogens that occur in wild sockeye salmon, but their precise impacts on survival in these stocks are poorly understood...

The absence of data on pathogens and diseases in wild salmon in British Columbia is a reflection of the historical research focus on fish diseases, in both the Province and other regions. Most research on salmonid diseases has been directed toward those afflicting captive fish, either in government hatcheries or private fish farms.

As with many scientific issues, more research is needed to elucidate the impacts of pathogens on Fraser River sockeye salmon…

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Technical Report #1A: Hatchery Disease Impact Assessment

…The disease impacts of salmon enhancement facilities on Fraser River sockeye salmon are largely unexplored in the literature. The published literature failed to provide sufficient direct or indirect evidence to fulfill standard criteria for causation.

The literature was unable to provide sufficient information to determine the likelihood of salmonid enhancement-associated diseases impacting Fraser River sockeye salmon, the magnitude of the hypothetical impacts, or the ability of enhancement facilities to prevent or mitigate the risks…

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Technical Report #2: Effects of contaminants on Fraser River sockeye salmon

…Many other substances in the Inventory of Aquatic Contaminants have the potential to adversely affect Fraser River sockeye salmon, including organometals, cyanides, monoaromatic hydrocarbons, chlorinated and non-chlorinated phenolic compounds, resin and fatty acids, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, hormone mimicking substances, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, wood preservation chemicals and nanoparticles.

However, insufficient information was available to evaluate the hazards posed to sockeye salmon in the Fraser River associated with exposure to these contaminants…

(now that’s comforting — if I can’t pronounce it, it’s probably not good for me… or sockeye)

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Project 3 – Evaluating the Status of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon and Role of Freshwater Ecology in their Decline

…Given our review of available data, measures of freshwater habitat condition are generally not available across many CUs even though Strategy 2 of the Wild Salmon Policy is charged with developing relevant habitat indicators. Given this gap

Given a general lack of information that could be used to reliably define dynamic changes in condition across sockeye salmon spawning, rearing, and migratory habitats…

Given a lack of experimental design in the way population, habitat, and stressor data have been collected, our ability to test for cause and effect relationships between the freshwater environment and Fraser sockeye salmon declines was limited. As a result, we were only able to use a limited set of quantitative techniques and data summaries to assess the role of freshwater influences.

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Project 4 – Marine ecology

Quite satisfingly, doesn’t carry on about all the data limitation — just the time constraints of pulling the report together:

A major objective that was achieved in this report was to assemble, within an eight week period, as comprehensive a summary as was possible of what is known about Fraser River sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) in the ocean. While much of this effort involved summarizing information published in data/technical reports and the primary literature, where necessary, original data have been re-examined and new analyses conducted to fulfill the terms of the Statement of Work.

However, it was more an exercise of regurgitating information already out there… (appreciate the honesty).

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Project 5A – Summary of Information for Evaluating Impacts of Salmon Farms on Survival of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon

Inferences from statistical analyses that correlate trends in abundance or survival of Fraser River sockeye with trends in pathogens found in salmon farms will be extremely limited by the number of years of available data. There are only 3-5 years of overlapping Fraser River sockeye survival and salmon farm data available for statistical evaluation.

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Project 5B – Examination of relationships between salmon aquaculture and sockeye salmon population dynamics

The analyses in the first part of this report are based on short time series of aquaculture variables, beginning no earlier than 2003, with low statistical power to detect relationships should they truly exist.

(nothing like only 7-8 years of data to do ‘analysis’…)

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Project 5C – Impacts of salmon farms on Fraser River sockeye salmon: Results of the Noakes investigation

(No points about limited data, more about how other ‘scientists’ are not looking at the right data…)

Some of the publications are highly speculative for a variety of reasons including but not limited to the absence of data from government and industry as well as assumptions used by the researchers. In some cases, the publications were deficient to the point that they were neither objective nor scientific and they generally lack credibility.

(interesting… absence of data can in turn make someone have a non-objective nor scientific opinion and therefore lack credibility? that’s a rather bold subjective statement in itself to be made in a “scientific” investigation– is it not?)

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Project 5D – Impacts of salmon farms on Fraser River sockeye salmon: Results of the Dill investigation

(And in a complete about face from the above report…)

Unfortunately, it turned out that the data provided by Provincial government (BCMAL) and the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) were insufficient in both quantity and quality to allow a rigorous analyses capable of answering these questions with certainty. The biggest problem was the very short length of the time series available for analysis, basically only 4-5 year classes.

(these darn scientists, why can’t they just all get along…seems like reports 5C and 5D are a little pissing match between each other)

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Project 7 – Fraser River sockeye fisheries and fisheries management

The final section of our report provides recommendations which address important data gaps and known deficiencies in the fisheries management system

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Project 8 – Effects of predators on Fraser River sockeye salmon

Naming the predators of sockeye salmon should not be a difficult task given that everyone likely loves sockeye—but scientifically supported ecosystem-level information about predator species (numbers, diets, trends, and distributions) is sparse throughout the sockeye salmon range.

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Project 9 – Effects of climate change on Fraser River sockeye salmon

…There has been little research examining cumulative impacts, both across multiple stressors (e.g. fisheries capture, temperature, pollutants) or life history stages (i.e. carry-over effects), and/or among generations (i.e. intergenerational effects). These information gaps are critical to fill to begin to understand current trends in sockeye salmon productivity and abundance

(ummm… so… what has been the purpose of the Cohen Commission then…? to simply identify data gaps and recommend a big research agenda? Or… was it to try and answer some questions around current trends in salmon productivity and abundance, e.g. 2009 collapse).

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Project 10 – Fraser River sockeye salmon production dynamics

Further research is required to draw definitive conclusions about the relative influence of such large-scale versus more local processes.

(eghad…)

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Project 12 – Fraser River Sockeye Habitat Use in the Lower Fraser and Strait of Georgia

Although the effectiveness of habitat compensation projects in the Fraser River appears to be improving, the need for an improved habitat science, monitoring and data management framework is clear and aspects of this need are consistent with recommendations made by others over the past decade or two. In our view, some efforts have been made in this direction, but these have not been adequate and are even less likely to be adequate into the future…

Research in habitat ecology to evaluate alternative approaches to those prevailing today will be needed to adequately evaluate habitat compensation projects.

Programs and management initiatives used to examine and understand the quantitative parameters of habitats, potential losses and gains, habitat quality types and the dynamics of habitat productivity do not appear to be sufficient for keeping track of the current and future status of habitats used by sockeye and potential links and associations to variations in sockeye productivity.

However, one of my favorite lines comes early in the Executive Summary for this report:

Salmon are often viewed as a living barometer of the conditions in the environment and their habitat state and stock status could reflect potential impacts from human activities.

Yet… sadly… for crying out loud… we’ve got that little legal disclaimer in there…

“POTENTIAL” impacts.

ghad forbid, we say there’s actually been an impact of humans on salmon…

(that wouldn’t be objectively peer-reviewed…)

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Now, I suppose the question is whether or not, Justice Cohen will rely upon his legal training to come to some sort of conclusion on this rather expensive exercise.

Will he decide the issues on a matter of facts…?

Or will it be in the objective test of a reasonable person?

The sad thing is… that the objective test of a reasonable person means someone acting prudently… and in this case it could potentially be a professional person acting prudently.

And thus, will Justice Cohen be adopting the prudent, objective viewpoint of a fisheries scientist to review this information? or a policy maker?

ghad help the salmon if he is. Save yourselves little oncorhynchuses

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I can safely say I do not envy his work over coming months…

and here’s to hoping that more fisheries scientist could actually come out with an informed “opinion”.

This whole “objective” science thing is BS anyways… go read the old philosophers to find out how realistic it is to sit on the throne of objectivity and not have an opinion.

It’s not possible, and it sure as hell doesn’t do wild salmon any good.

We might as well all just run around with our tail between our legs, babbling on madly about how we don’t have “enough data”… if we could just get “more data”… “then we’d understand”… “then it’d be easy”.

We’ll never have enough data!

And how is it that catching and killing over 80% of the Fraser sockeye runs for over 50 years is not an impact!

A devastating one…

It’s the same story the world over… it’s why fisheries stocks around the world are in deep shit.

We catch them and eat them. All my empirical objective data says so… (as does the United Nations…)

We can keep looking for our keys under the streetlight because that’s where the light is, or we can look for them near where we dropped them… in the dark alley.

The lights are on folks, and just like a good Shakespearean drama, the spotlight is on us.

We did it. It was Colonel Mustard in the ocean with a net… practicing mixed stock fisheries.

When the words matter more: DFO – the lost, contradiction-laden bureaucracy

To “manage”:

1. Be in charge of (a company, establishment, or undertaking); administer; run.
2. Administer and regulate (resources under one’s control): “we manage our wild salmon well”.

An online etymology dictinoary suggests the roots of the word: c.1400, from Latin manualisof or belonging to the hand,” from manus “hand, strength, power over, armed force, handwriting,” from PIE *men- “hand, to take in one’s hand”

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And maybe that’s the problem… many folks have taken the roots of the word ‘manage‘ far too literally. But, I’ll get to that in a second.

The other key component of the meaning of to ‘manage’ is to “administer“:

1. Manage and be responsible for the running of (a business, organization, etc.).

2. Be responsible for the implementation or use of (law or resources).

Unfortunately, we’re running around after our lost tail here… administer means to manage, and to manage means to administer…

(yet, tucked in there somewhere between our tailbone and our rectum is the: ‘be responsible for use of resources’)

The online etymology dictionary suggests the roots of administer are: late 14c., “to manage as a steward,” from Old French amenistrer “help, aid, be of service to” (12c., Mod.Fr. administrer, the -d- restored 16c.), from Latin administrare “manage, control, guide, superintend; rule direct,” from ad- “to” (see ad-) + ministrare “serve”.

So if we keep going on this little trip, what is a “steward“?

1. One who manages another’s property, finances, or other affairs.
2. One who is in charge of the household affairs of a large estate, club, hotel, or resort.

Roots of the word suggest: ‘Old English stiward, stigweard “house guardian,” from stig “hall, pen” + weard “guard.”

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Now as we put this all together, some glaring contradictions arise, yet, maybe some insight into the ongoing issues of massive, resource-draining bureaucracies that become slurping, sucking, leeches all unto themselves. As well as insular, ivory-towered kingdoms surrounded by the pavement moat; separate from the serfs that provide the tax dollars to keep them afloat…

That aside… and not to discount the many folks that actually try to do good work amidst the sucking sounds inherent in a vacuum… or the folks that try valiantly to pull compadres out of their bureaucratic, paper-producing stupor…

If ‘to manage’ stems from what we do with our hands (manus-es), especially in relation to ‘handwriting’, and to manage also means ‘to administer’

And ‘to administer’, means to be responsible for running things, and the roots of the word suggest that it means “to steward” things…

And to steward things, means to manage others’ affairs well (e.g. a public resource)…

And the roots of that word, suggest that it means to ‘guard the hall’ essentially. Or maybe we can stretch that out to say “guard the resources, that its supposed to be responsible for administering (e.g. managing)” — which is the fish and the habitat that they rely upon. And to do this, they will most likely — in the act of managing — rely upon lots of handwriting…

Then why is it that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans seems to be much more concerned with fisheries, as opposed to “managing”, “administering”, “stewarding/guarding” the resource it is tasked to do so with public dollars?

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Don’t get me wrong here… fisheries are important, vital even. I, myself, engage in the act of fishing and fisheries often. I also grew up in communities that fundamentally relied upon ‘fisheries’ — however, those communities, and the simple act of fishing alone — require something vital to be successful.

FISH.

(and I can certainly say with safety — those same communities are asking where the fish went…)

The problems start to lie in what our collective focus is.

Is our collective focus to continue to manage, administer, and steward “fisheries”?

OR,

is it to continue to manage, administer, and steward the fish themselves — and the habitat they depend upon?

(even more so, if we see that healthy fish habitat is not all that different then the same habitat we depend on…)

Is the focus on ‘fisheries’ for next year… or is the focus on still having similar fisheries 50 years from now…?

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And, I suppose the answer is: BOTH.

We need fish and healthy habitat to have healthy, prosperous fisheries.

BUT — should that mean that the responsibility for “managing”, “administering”, and “stewarding” the two should be housed in the same place?

Is it fundamentally possible for a government bureaucracy to hold the best interests of a resource (e.g. fish, salmon, etc. and their habitat) that it intends, in turn, to kill?

– and not just a few in the case of the salmon… it was over 80% of the returning Fraser sockeye runs for well over 50 years — the supposed Maximum Sustainable Yield. And now, we’re supposed to take comfort on years like this year when it is reduced to 60% of the total Fraser Sockeye run.

A total run, that has smaller runs within it on the verge of extinction and many that have gone extinct.

Mixed stock fisheries are inherently not good for the resource.

Mixed stock means that while in the act of fishing, it is near impossible to separate, say an endangered Nechako River (mouth is at Prince George, BC) sockeye and a sockeye from a potentially healthy Adams Lake run (near Kamloops, BC).

Or, say, an endangered Skeena River steelhead from an ‘human-enhanced’ Babine Lake sockeye.

If one sets a gill net, for example, it catches largely everything that swims into it… unless they’re big enough to rip the net and free themselves.

It then becomes what we term a “trade off”…

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It seems to me that it’s akin to the old practice of having cigarrette vending machines in hospitals, so that the hospitals could raise money for their administrative budgets and ‘enhance’ the bottom line…

Or, having candy and pop vending machines in schools (to raise money for bottom lines), in the midst of a population that now boasts a majority either overweight or just plain obese (and at the same time cutting physical education and sports programs).

And not realizing (or simply chalking it up to a trade-off) that this only creates a much bigger problem in the near-enough future. A completely sapped and drained medical system.

It’s the fundamental problem of many human societies… short term gain, in the midst of serious long-term repercussions (obvious ones — clear as a smokers’ exhale on a minus-20 degree morning).

Yes… again… “trade-offs”…

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Personally, and maybe I’m alone on this, I just don’t think it is possible for a giant bureaucracy, largely based in Ottawa, thousands of kilometres from both the spawning grounds and the fishery, to both look after the best interests of the fish (e.g. wild salmon) and the best interests of the fisherfolks that catch them.

It’s a fundamental contradiction, that will never be overcome.

(let alone the mass complications of simply managing the fisherfolks themselves: aboriginal, commercial-industrial, commercial-sport, and sport)

No different then the folks that say a ministry can’t house both aquaculture proponents and supporters AND the divisions responsible for the conservation and preservation of wild resources.

That’s essentially like putting the ‘management’ of wild elk populations and cattle farmers in the same ministry.

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Saddest of all… and yet, one positive from the Cohen Commission at this point, is these glimpses inside the grinding of gluttonous government bureaucracies.

One can review any number of email threads between senior ‘managers’ at DFO. At times, a curious process and yet also a sad process — reflecting a sad state of affairs — and the proof that many take the word “to manage” very much by its roots… the act of handwriting, which in this day in age is typing…

On the Cohen Commission website there is ‘evidence’ from yesterday’s hearings (Sept. 26). Some of those are email strings between senior managers.

In one is an ongoing email discussion surrounding an apparent “National Precautionary Approach Framework” . In there are the usual examples of how ‘the words’ and “the wording” are far more important, as are bureaucratic deadlines, than what happens on the water.

it's about the wording, folks

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And, this below, pretty much the suggestion I’ve made in a variety of posts over the last couple years:

this “is as close as we are likely to come to making ‘eco-system’ management operational.”

“as close as we’ll come”… so how close is that?

Is this like the protective father that says to the young suitor of his 16 year old daughter — ” 20 ft. is as close as you’ll ever come to making your amorous intentions operational…” as he pats the shotgun by the door…

Using the phrase, “as close as we’ll come” generally suggests there is some significant distance between the present situation and the desired end destination.

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Looking after, stewarding, and managing one of BC’s most important and valuable ‘resource’ — wild salmon runs — is farm more about ‘operational objectives’ and ‘measurable fishery objectives’ and making ‘trade-offs to inform decision-makers’…

bureaucratese bumpf

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Maybe, it’s just me again, however, I thought it was up to the public to discuss trade-offs and inform decision-makers.

Would one assume that the ‘decision-makers’ referred to here are not the elected “decision-makers” but the autocratic, be-good & rise-to-the-top-of-the-bureaucracy (subject to the Peter Principle) decision-makers?

Would these be the root of why we’ve had to endure five public reviews/Commissions/inquiries in less than two decades?

Will the root of the contradiction inherent in this government ministry be exposed in the Cohen Commission Final Report?

Are the fate of wild salmon wrapped up in bureaucratic ‘measurable fishery objectives’, national frameworks, benchmarks, and the ever-present “trade-off”?

Or… or… have we reached a turning point?

… a tipping point?

..a change in the winds?

 

If it’s broke; it probably needs a fixin’… wild salmon “management” in Canada is broke.

form Flickr_alinnigan

Two fitting articles this week by Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail — reporting from the Cohen Commission:

Ottawa left endangered sockeye unprotected

Salmon recovery team left out of loop

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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 extinctionwasn’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?

_ _ _ _ _

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!”

… and…

… 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.

BUT NO…

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _

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

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

See that’s the problem with this broken federal ministry…

 

from Flickr_MarxFoods.com

…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)

_ _ _ _ _ _

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.

 

NEW E-BOOK… 1 Fish, 2 Fish: Do you really want to know about Maximum Sustainable Yield

New e-book on Maximum Sustainable Yield

Today is the release date for the first e-book on this site. It’s not a long one, however, maybe informative.

1 Fish, 2 Fish: Do you really want to know about Maximum Sustainable Yield

Here is a sample from page 1…

Page 1: How (not) to “manage” fish…

Please share this document with anyone — or send folks to this site to download. (Please comment at will.)

And please consider making a contribution to support this site, and future publications — look along the right hand side of this page for the PayPal link.

Maximum Sustainable Yield — A sure Recipe for Wild Salmon Extinction.

And stay tuned for more e-books coming soon.

Once upon a salmon… in Oregon… (what we knew then…)

The other day I had a post: Once upon a salmon… in Oregon.

1950s

In that post, I highlighted some information from a 1950s report: Some Factors Influencing the Trends of Salmon Populations in Oregon.

The report focuses on coho runs in certain Oregon streams:

Oregon streams

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The trend of salmon populations and specifically of salmon catches within commercial fisheries was rather familiar… dwindling fast.

The report looked at commercial fisheries catches in Oregon from the mid-1920s on to the late 1940s.

It was clear in the report that fisheries were having an impact… (seems like a bit of a no-brainer…).

The report also looked at: Other Potential causes such as:

Pollution?, Hatcheries?, Logging?, Waterflow?

Remember this report is from 1950.

Factors dismissed: Pollution and Hatcheries (most were still quite small at this point).

Factors implicated:

Negative factors

_ _ _ _ _ _

The report paints a pretty clear picture of the impacts of overfishing and logging — and in turn the impact of logging on waterflows.

Logging impacts... "disturbance of ecological balance"

“… resultant erratic flow patterns, silting, increased water temperatures, and general disturbance of the ecological balance…”

Remember this was 1950…

For those in BC who know some of the fisheries history — this was well before the Fish Forest Interaction Program (FFIP) of the 1980s… this was well before studies began in earnest in Carnation Creek on west coast Vancouver Island… that was well before the BC Forest Practices Code arrived in the 1990s. This was before Greenpeace was even ‘Green’ and the “peace” movement was not yet active.

This was when David Suzuki was probably still in grade school… and David Bower hadn’t yet started his rage against dams and facilitating growth of the Sierra Club in the U.S.

John Muir was probably about the only prevalent “conservationist” “tree-hugger”… and he’d been dead awhile…

Here is chart comparing the trends in salmon catch  to the production of lumber board feet in Coos Bay, Oregon through the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.

lumber production to salmon populations

I’m sure someone will want to argue that this is coincidence and that correlation is not causation and so on…

And well… folks did argue against this report. There is transcribed conversation at the end of the report, that really is quite revealing.

“Discussion”

I guess Mr. A.C. Taft from California didn’t understand that part about: “… resultant erratic flow patterns, silting, increased water temperatures, and general disturbance of the ecological balance…”

Logging companies

So Mr. Riddell is fronting the age-old argument… “you can’t really tell us here that overfishing could in fact be an impact…? there must be other factors…”

Then Mr. Glover from California… “do you think changing logging practices would make a difference…?”

Ummm, gee, there’s that curious part about: “… resultant erratic flow patterns, silting, increased water temperatures, and general disturbance of the ecological balance…” again…

Hard bit of info to pick up…

Then there’s the question by Mr. H. D. Fry, Jr. “hey… could you explain that point to me again about how intensive clearcut logging and increased water flows are related…?”

Hmmmmm….

Same answer many folks have provided for generations…

Trees are giant sponges. An average tree, especially an old-growth Douglas Fir absorbs and retains an incredible amount of water that falls from the sky. That water is then retained from suffering the full effects of gravity and raging down hillsides through the point of lowest resistance — stream channels. More water running down hillsides means erosion, mudslides, raging debris torrents, etc.

Trees hold hillsides up and stream channels up.

Take the trees off hillsides and very little is holding all that soil on that hillside. Add in 5-9 metres of rainfall, snow, melting snow, and the worse rain-on-snow events, and what happens?

 

just "natural"

 

west coast of Vancouver Island near Brooks Peninsula

more Seattle Times photos -- 2009 (...salmon stream...?)

I think the point is clear…

The main point of all this is that for well over 60 years we have known what impacts salmon populations.

In Oregon, folks knew in the 1950s that overfishing and logging were decimating salmon populations and in turn decimating salmon fisheries and in turn decimating coastal communities.

Unfortunately, overfishing and overlogging carried on in the Coos Bay area for quite some time after this rather clearly worded report.

Have you been to Coos Bay, Oregon lately?

It’s a nice area, however last time I was through the downtown was gutted with more “for lease” signs then business signs.

The population peaked around 15,000 people in the 1970s and hasn’t changed much since.

Is the story of Coos Bay and salmon and logging — all that different then say any Eureka, California or Port Angeles, Washington or Port Alberni, BC or Port Hardy, BC or Port Clements, BC… or Port Edward, BC… or… or… or….

And yet it doesn’t seem to matter what local knowledge says in these communities. Folks have been sitting there ringing alarm bells saying: “this is not sustainable, this pace cannot be maintained, our communities won’t survive this…”

“This is boom-and-bust…”

“We are upsetting the ecological balance…”

And the response is: “sit down and shut-up you darn tree hugger…”

“don’t rock the boat…”

“if we stop now we will impact the economy…”

and so on, and so on, and so on…

_ _ _ _ _ _

Well… where’s that booming fishing industry now…? Where’s that booming logging economy?

Where are those things that apparently “built BC…”?

And… where the heck are the salmon?

_ _ _ _ _ _

The response… (and no offence to the hard workers involved)… in British Columbia… is another multi-million dollar public inquiry involving lawyers, scientists, and know-it-alls sitting there asking the same questions… looking for the same magic bullet that is not us… some magical coincidence of ocean conditions or climate impact…

And on the other side of the equation, a slew of panels of experts, saying the same thing… “we just can’t say for sure”… “we just don’t know”… “it’s just all so uncertain”…

And the same people and institutions that were on deck to watch the sinking of the wild salmon ship… testify, trying to prove that they didn’t know what ‘sinking’ looked like… or that they believed ramming harder into the iceberg was going to right the ship… not sink it…

No one will admit that they didn’t know how to bail… or simply didn’t want to…

And anyone that suggests: “well, look at this… we harvested the crap out of them [salmon] for close to a hundred years with no respect for small or weak stocks or other species (e.g. mixed stock fisheries)… we nuked the crap out of their freshwater habitat… we are still dumping sewage and all manner of synthetic drugs and compounds into the key areas where they make their adjustments to saltwater as juveniles and freshwater as adults…

…and we’ve systematically changed the climate within a generation, which changes water flows, speeds up glacial melt, and assists in devastating habitat impacts through beetle infestations and otherwise…

and anytime any population demonstrates any sort of population blip to the positive we insist on returning to the old habit of harvesting the shit out them…

Would we treat our households this way?

Would we treat our household finances this way? (oh wait, some do… but then there’s this thing called bankruptcy…)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

And worse yet, the institutions mandated to ensure the future of species like salmon and all of the individual runs — is basing decisions on decades old information.

For example, the numbers that guide how many Chinook should be reaching the spawning grounds in the Fraser River is based on numbers devised in the 1980s. Things have changed a little since then… there may be a few more challenges for those fish to face, so should we maybe not be getting more fish onto the spawning grounds…?

If I planned to run my household on a 1980s reality… would that make sense?

If Jack Layton of the New Democrat Party (NDP)  in the current Canadian federal election ran on the same platform of as NDP leader Ed Broadbent of the 1980s — would something not seem a little off… or fishy?

_ _ _ _ _ _

Fundamental changes are required in our relationship with wild salmon…

And not one based on: how many can we catch?

The story that starts: Once upon a salmon

…finishes with the predictable ending of a fairy tale… its just that this one isn’t a positive fairy tale ending… and it’s not a very good fish-story… more of a grim Grimm’s tale…

It generally ends in:

when I was a kid I can remember walking across that river on the backs of salmon… there were soooo many fish, the river was alive with the sound of slapping tails and slithery, fishy movement…

And now, we’re lucky to see a pair of spawners

Fraser Chinook — “Recipe for Extinction” website

Saturday’s Globe and Mail had the following advertisement on page 2 of the B.C. section:

The accompanying website is here.

Recipe for Extinction

3 cups of Department of Fisheries & Oceans inaction.

1 cup of refusing to close marine sport fisheries impacting Fraser River early-timed Chinook.

1 cup of lowest amt of spawners since 1975 (in 2007, parents of this year’s run, less than 2000 Chinook returned).

1 cup of only 500 spawners the 2009 returns to Nicola River & tributaries (estimates suggest there needs to be 20,000 spawners to sustain any harvest).

1 cup of chasing the last fish…

Mix vigorously with lack of political will to protect habitat and enforce the Fisheries Act.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Can’t say I disagree… this is a Recipe for Extinction. Here is a graph from a Department of Fisheries ‘death by PowerPoint’ presentation last year.

Fraser early-timed Chinook survival and exploitation rate

Chinook 4-2 refers to a group of Chinook stocks that spawn largely in the Thompson River, most in the Nicola River watershed. The “4″ means these Chinook are 4 years old when they return. The small “2″, refers to how many years these fish spend in fresh water as juveniles.

The graph above shows the estimated exploitation rate of these Chinook (% of total estimated run size — this is the percentage on the right hand side) overlaid on the estimated survival of these Chinook (% of adults returning — this is the percentage on the left).

The boxes in the graph represent the survival rate. You can see that the survival rate is decent in the mid to late 1990s and then it becomes a train-wreck

With the exception of 2004, the survival rate has generally been less than 1%.

But do you see a problem?

_ _ _ _ _ _

That dark black line is the exploitation rate of these populations. In 1998, the rate is way down, somewhere around 20% — most likely due to the heavy coho protection that year (e.g. 0% Coho exploitation — 0% mortality).

But after that, the exploitation rate more than doubles. And in fact missing from this graph is 2009 — exploitation rate: 53%.

An almost tripling of exploitation rates in just over ten years.

But wait… do you see the survival rates?

They fell by 8 – 9 times.

So survival falls by multiples of 8 to 9… and exploitation rates triple

…and this on populations that are already in deep trouble. Even DFO numbers suggest that this population needs at least 20,000 fish to sustain any exploitation… those sorts of numbers haven’t been seen in decades.

[This is also a good example of how you use graphs to skew data - the black line looks so innocuous in comparison to the boxes]

_ _ _ _ _ _

Do you see the last bullet point circled in pencil?

Sustainable exploitation rates currently estimated at 8 – 11% range for low survival period; populations declining at current exploitation rates.

Worse yet, in 2007 — the parents of this year’s returns — were some of the lowest returns seen since the mid-1970s with less than 2000 spawners…

And yet… and yet… just like last year, marine sport fisheries for Chinook have been open 24-7.

Pre-season forecasts for Chinook 4-2s this year are brutal; and there won’t even be confirmation of approximate run sizes until the Albion test fishery starts this month. Meanwhile, coastal-marine sport fisheries have been open for months while these fish arrive from their ocean migration and head up to the Thompson River.

(First Nations on the Fraser voluntarily closed Chinook fisheries last year, and are again this year — even though DFO insists on keeping those fisheries open as well…)

Hmmm… I think maybe this is why it’s called a Recipe for Extinction.

The website has a “Take Action” page…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

 

When salmon folk lose touch…

You can't be serious...?

Sometimes when one is doing research on wild salmon, salmon ‘management’, salmon conservation, salmon rehabilitation, and the like… one may come across things that bring pause, and an occasional head shake…

Today, I was searching around for information on Chinook salmon. My path led me to the Pacific Salmon Commission; a place I often land in my salmon searches. Specifically, my search led me to a report titled:

Development of the Technical Basis for a Chinook Salmon Total Mortality Management Regime for the PSC AABM Fisheries. February 2011

(It’s down the right hand column of the home page… and only 218 pages).

I tend to be someone who often advocates for “meaning what you say and saying what you mean“. I have varying degrees of success at this, but always looking to improve.

One of my intentions for this website/weblog is to try and present a variety of views on salmon — specifically wild salmon and our rather tenuous relationship with them.

And so when I read a title that suggests that we are looking for a ‘technical basis’ to manage Chinook based on “total mortality”… it does leave me puzzling. Did we manage based on ‘partial’ mortality before?

Well… we based on AABM… which translates to “Aggregate Abundance Based Management“. I won’t get it into it now, but in essence, the AABM means we fish less when Chinook stocks are in trouble and more when they are in good shape.

I know… rocket science.

Part of the problem is that it is done by “aggregate” meaning based on groups of Chinook stocks up and down the coast (Alaska, BC and Washington) that have potential spawners counted through various methods… various methods of accuracy…

There is also ISBM, which is “individual stock-based management” where information from individual stocks is considered when making fisheries decisions.

The move to TM based fisheries… and no that’s not “trademark” as in:

“this is our fishery management regime… TM“.

It’s “total mortality”.

From what I can see it means that Chinook catch numbers will now also include undersize Chinook or otherwise that may incidentally die in fisheries. Some types of fisheries are permitted to keep undersize or otherwise fish (e.g. some net fisheries) — other aren’t (e.g. sport fisheries) and thus undersize or oversize have to be released.

Or in the case of sport fisheries, when there is an imposed limit — say 2 Chinook a day — one person in a boat may ‘limit out’ first, yet keep fishing. If they catch a bigger fish then the two their keeping for their limit, the smaller one goes overboard “for the seals”.

(this isn’t the case with all rec fishers, however, as one myself, I’ve certainly seen it happen often enough)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

As the Commission report describes it:

The TM management regime would estimate catch and the associated incidental mortality (IM) in a fishery, and constrain the fisheries based on defined limits to TM rather than LC [Landed Catch].

… [Total mortality] is the sum of the landed catch and the associated incidental mortalities from fishing…

Hey, now that makes sense, less try and account for all the fish killed in fisheries as opposed to just what shows up at the dock (e.g. canneries or otherwise)…

In other words, it’s sort of like a full accounting for what military folks like to call “collateral damage”… or that other innocuous fisheries term “by-catch”.

Almost all fisheries have size restrictions, so one can imagine the number of undersized fish caught, for example, in commericial troll fisheries… and by the time an undersize fish has been swinging around on troll gear for a awhile, it’s probably not going to do too well when it’s “released”…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

For your pondering:

In 2009, the total commercial troll Chinook catch in Southeast Alaska alone was almost 176,000

Seine Chinook catch was over 54,000 and

Sport Chinook catch was over 69,000

With a total Chinook catch in Southeast Alaska just under 300,000

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

In northern BCover 75,000 Chinook caught in commercial troll fishing.

34,000 in sport fisheries.

On West Coast Vancouver Is. … commercial troll over 58,000 Chinook caught.

Sport fishery over 66,000 Chinook.

So throw in another 230,000 Chinook caught (or so).

_ _ _ _ _ _

Not included here is the Juan de Fuca, Salish Sea/Georgia Strait, or Fraser River mouth catch numbers. Not much going on their commercially, but lots of sports fisheries.

Total 2009 Chinook catch numbers — on what the Commission calls ISBM fisheries — was almost 205,000 with over half of those caught by sport fisheries (approx. 116,000) and First Nation (approx. 53,000) the rest was test fisheries and commercial.

_ _ _ _ _ _

The estimated “Incidental Mortality” (IM) — e.g. numbers not included in these numbers — appears to be estimated at close to 10%.  (…coincidentally, about the same approximate percentage of Chinook catch in BC, by First Nations…e.g. 12% as compared to the approximate 50% caught by sport fishers )

(And remember, much of these number are based on raging estimates)

Sport fisheries are only covered by creel surveys (e.g. interviews with fisherfolks) and estimates suggest about 10% coverage, as well as fly overs to count boats…

Ever dwindling though, due to funding cuts to Fisheries and Oceans monitoring and enforcement budgets.

So throw in another 70,000 (at least) dead Chinook into the equation.

(that’s almost the entire Fraser River Chinook run in some years…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

So some of this “Incidental Mortality” stuff begins to make sense once the glaze is peeled back from one’s eyes in trying to read mulit-hundred page documents that have an executive summary that reads like this…

Pacific Salmon Commission Chinook Tech docs

I think I spent more time scrolling back to the Acronym guide… and my new ‘techno-bumpf’ translation app.

However, here’s my favorite part:

The CTC also formed a Total Mortality Work Group (TMWG) in 2003 to develop the technical analyses and approaches necessary to implement total mortality regimes. The TMWG made substantial progress on methods for translating the relationship between nominal landed catch and the abundance indexes (AIs) for AABM fisheries into TM units, but was not able to complete the work due to lack of consensus on the interpretation of the TM language in the Agreement.

The “CTC” is the Chinook Technical Committee within the Pacific Salmon Commission… of which there are 32 people.   I’m not sure how many of those reached “total mortality” to become part of that working group…

Maybe another name might be appropriate…?

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

However, this incredible depth of scientific analysis, techncical committees of over 30 people for one species of salmon, and so on… certainly makes one start to ponder “what is being spent on total mortality working groups…” which largely guide “fisheries”?

As opposed to trying to design: “how do we get as many fish onto the spawning grounds as possible — working groups

how do we avoid having to go to capital expensive, concrete-laden, long-term expensive hatchery options… which often do more damage then good — Working Group

And… “how do we make sure those fish have healthy habitat — Working Group

Wild salmon catch — is it worth it?

sockeye catch San Juans

Commercial catch statistics for last year are posted on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans website.

Grand total in 2010 of salmon caught commercially: 6,777,763

With 5,774,694 of those being sockeye.

This is a cumulative weight of 17,757,562 kg. With a little over 15,000,000 kg of that being sockeye.

Grand total value of all salmon… $53,567,127

With sockeye making up a little over $44,000,000 of that.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Seems we’ve improved from the 2009 season (see popular post: $2 for one wild salmon… do you see a problem?). Rough averages suggest we jumped last year to an approximate value of $8 per salmon

Or, roughly, $1.30 a pound or so — on average.

_ _ _ _ _

On the sockeye front, the catch statistics suggest total sockeye landed = 5,774,694 with a landed weight of: 15,025,525 kg or approx. 33,000,000 pounds.

The total value of sockeye = $44,192,198

That’s about $1.33 per pound.

_ _ _ _ _

This fits in roughly with averages over the last few decades.

My question: Is it worth it?

_ _ _ _ _

And this is directed in so many different ways…

What does it cost these days for the operating costs of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans? What are the operating costs of the 100+ “salmon team” alone — including stock assessment, management, admin, etc.?

What does it cost to relocate, or shoot a starving bear rooting through some villages’ garbage because the local salmon runs disappeared?

What is the true value of what is required on the salmon habitat front — both protection/preservation and rehabilitation?

What does the Department of “Fisheries” & Oceans and the Department of Justice pay these days in court costs to argue that the First Nations fronting numerous challenges in relation to fishing rights — don’t actually have any rights, or had little involvement in trading fish and salmon pre-contact, and so on, and so on…? (mainly, it appears, to protect commercial and other interests — as why argue it otherwise?)

High court to consider landmark B.C. aboriginal fishing rights case

The Lax Kw’alaams band, located near Prince Rupert, claim a constitutional right to fish, not only salmon, but also halibut, herring and other species, commercially along the north coast.

The federal government maintains that aboriginal right to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes does not extend to the right to sell fish.

The case has been winding its way through the legal system for five years. In 2006, the Lax Kw’alaams sued the federal government in B.C. Supreme Court, arguing their historical reliance on fish and centuriesold trade in fish oil gave them a modern right to a commercial harvest.

_ _ _ _

The old economic vs. environment argument starts to wear pretty thin when it comes to the value of commercial salmon fisheries.

This isn’t meant to paint those who still commercially fish with a bad brush. I know many who do — or did…

It’s more to ask the hard questions.

The Department of “Fisheries” & Oceans is aptly-named. It harkens of a bygone era and so does much of the culture within the institution (the “mustache” crowd as many folks have dubbed it). There are many good folks within the organization, with good intentions.

However, maybe a parallel could be drawn with sports teams that finish last. Maybe lots of good players and management — but often have adopted a losing culture, or an outdated culture.

How many senior managers, administrators, and asst. deputy ministers and otherwise within that organization were there in the heyday of high salmon prices and catches in the 1980s and otherwise?

For over a hundred years that organization has existed — and how many complete restructuring initiatives, re-culturing, or complete overhauls have happened?

Say… compared with other older organizations like General Electric, or Bell, or CN Rail or otherwise.

Most everything about the “management” of wild salmon is structured around who is going to catch them… from the Pacific Salmon Treaty and the Pacific Salmon Commission, through DFO.

And yet… up and down the coast of BC massive changes have occurred over the last few decades in every small (once) fishing-focused villages and towns. As the fisheries closed due to dwindling runs, canneries shuttered, dock pilings rotted, trollers turned into pleasure craft, bears starved, and the like — the Department of “Fisheries” simply became more concentrated in Vancouver and Ottawa.

Less regional offices, less regional staff, less stock assessment (because the stock just aren’t there to assess…), less habitat protection and monitoring, less enforcement — yet more and more and more paper.

MORE paper then one could ever imagine.

Look at the Cohen Commission into Fraser sockeye declines — an entire year extension and multi-million dollar budget expansion — largely due to paper (reports, emails, briefing notes, meeting notes, meeting minutes, Minister’s briefings, and so on and so on).

Teams of people blasting through PAPER… and more PAPER… and still… more PAPER.

Go look at the meeting schedules of DFO staff, or look on their website, or phone one of the employees and ask.

Meeting after meeting, after meeting…

meaning…

More PAPER.

When problems occur… what’s the solution… hire more people to produce more PAPER. Or get rid of people and load up the remaining folks with more paper…

It’s like the 4 P’s of Marketing recreated… People Pushing & Producing more Paper.

WHY?

For a $1.30 a pound?

_ _ _ _ _

There’s about 1.57 lbs in a litre of fuel. That means that at about $1.30 per liter of gas right now (more for diesel, but cheaper for marine fuel), that translates to roughly 87 cents a pound.

How many pounds of fuel does it take to catch a pound of salmon?

_ _ _ _ _ _

I came across a note the other day for a conference on building Resilient Communities in the face of climate change. The note suggested:

fish circle

Resilience Theory is a discussion about how communities and societies will adapt to climate change. We understand that we must mitigate climate change and adapt, or we will be in a very difficult place…

And yet, we don’t change our ways of “managing” salmon, or at least our relationship with salmon, to account for these same sorts of changes coming rapidly down the pipe.

When it comes to wild salmon in BC… we’re already in a “difficult place” and have been for years. Go ask… again… all the old fishing villages up and and down the coast. Go ask all the First Nation communities that have depended on yearly salmon returns for eons…

(or add up the costs of the fifth major ‘commission’ in less than two decades on how to better look after salmon)

If one reads through Pacific Salmon Commission and DFO documents — for example on Fraser Chinook — various ‘targets’ for ideal number of spawners (“escapement” they call it — which harkens to the time of counting spawners based on what “escaped” fisheries) are based on numbers derived in the 1980s.

I’m thinking there’s been a few changes in the habitat of Fraser Chinook since the 1980s and that they face a suite of challenges a little more dire than… say… the average water temperature in the Fraser River in the 1980s and earlier.

How has our ‘management’ of salmon changed to account for the dramatic changes occurring as a result of climate change? Some changes we won’t even know until there on top of us.

Look at ocean acidification on the Pacific coast… it has happened at a rate 50-times faster than any scientific models predicted. It’s there, and it’s getting worse.

Dead zones, etc.

Theories change, climate changes, cultures change, organizations change, nature changes… maybe it’s time for change in how we guide our relationship with wild salmon? Fundamentally change…

And what is a “department” anways…?

Free dicitonary online suggests it is: ”

A distinct, usually specialized division of a large organization, especially:

a. A principal administrative division of a government.
b. A division of a business specializing in a particular product or service. [e.g. "fisheries"]

An area of particular knowledge or responsibility; a specialty. [e.g. "fisheries"]

And see, running with this definition is exactly why salmon aquaculture was ruled by Canadian courts to revert back to the Federal government and the Federal department of fisheries and oceans from the Province of BC — because aquaculture was basically deemed a “fishery”. And under the division of powers in Canada that must be managed federally.

Thus, do we maybe need a new “Department”?

A ‘department’ of “fish and habitat conservation”.

Because it seems that the goals of keeping “fisheries” afloat can run directly in the face of conserving fish and habitat. And, therefore, we have a federal “department of conflicting mandates” (just as the anti-fish farm lobby consistently suggests…)

What would we call this specialized “department” if all salmon fisheries are curtailed?

“department of oceans”? (granted some other fisheries would still continue)

$8 per fish; $1.30 a pound… is it worth the risk?

what mystery?

So we’ve only known this for how long?

the Great Cycles

Salmon are a cycle.

They come and go like seasons;

like tides;

like the weather.

Or… as is happening in the north right now — like birds.

The other day I saw the first few robins starting to brave the several feet of snow still in our yard in BC’s central interior. I also saw the first hawk of the year a few days ago.

Yesterday afternoon, in a stop at the grocery story my daughter spotted something like this, way above us:

the cycles of spring

Canada Geese on their way north.

And so what else comes with spring?

salmonberry bush in the spring

Well… on the coast, salmonberry bushes will start to blossom.

Some folks suggest the bush got its name because First Nations folks ate salmon with the berries… others suggest its because the berries look like small clusters of eggs.

salmonberry

Growing up on Haida Gwaii, I had it suggested to me that the link was that when the berries started to ripen it meant it was time to go fishing for sockeye…

(I also learned — the hard way (on several occasions) — that gorging on salmonberries can lead to some gastric distress… kind of like some of the debates surrounding salmon…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

And then last week the media jumped on the story about scientists “proving” the deep-reaching links of the salmon cycle… This story out of the Ottawa Citizen, of all places:

Fish nutrients fertilize soil

Salmon may live in the water, but a new study shows they help shape the forest.

A study of 50 watersheds in the Great Bear Rainforest on British Columbia’s central coast says bears, fish-catching wolves and other predators haul huge amounts of salmon into the forest that provide a potent “nutrient subsidy” that drives plant growth in the surrounding forest.

Nitrogen released by the fish favours some plants – such as the aptly named salmonberry -while pushing out other species, researchers from Simon Fraser University published in the journal Science’s Friday edition.

“Salmon are important to us not just because of their value in fisheries and for food, but they also can be having quite significant impacts on our surroundings,” says biologist John Reynolds, co-author of the four-year study.

Salmon in the Great Bear Rainforest are so plentiful that the region’s wolves have specialized to catch the fish live as they swim through shallow waters on their way to spawning streams, says Reynolds.

The wolves, like the bears, leave a lot of the fish behind.

“The wolves typically eat only the head or the brain,” he says.

Working with the Heiltsuk First Nation the researchers counted how many salmon migrated up different streams -and found “thousands” of fish spawning in some of the coastal streams, many which had not been surveyed before, says Reynolds.

Bears, wolves and other predators “can transfer more than 50 per cent of the salmon to the forest,” they report. The rest of the fish, which die after spawning, either rot along the stream banks or are washed downstream.

To assess the impact, they looked at stream chemistry and what grew in surrounding forests.

“We looked at all plants that we encountered, from lichens to shrubs,” says Reynolds.

They found species, such as salmonberry and stink currant, thriving along streams with plenty of salmon. Plants such as blueberry and false azalea prefer nutrient poor soils and were less common.

_ _ _ _ _ _

As I pointed out in a post last week… it’s great to see some of these sorts of things hitting the mainstream media. However, it should be remembered that this sort of thing has been ‘known’ for a long, long, long time throughout the range of Pacific salmon… Not “hidden” as the article suggests… (maybe hidden to those that understand natural cycles… or those that isolate things into little categories… kind of like government departments that separate “managing” bears from “managing” salmon…)

State of the Salmon: Salmon Atlas -- Original Pacific salmon distribution

.

As a more recent example, in their 1999 paper: Pacific salmon carcasses: Essential Contributions of Nutrients and Energy for Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystems. Jeff Cederholm and colleagues state:

Pacific salmon also have been considered important vectors for returning significant amounts of nutrients from the northern Pacific Ocean back to land, representing a unique way to move nutrients upstream. This subject has attracted attention from scientists and economists throughout the Pacific Rim.

Consider Japan’s Edo era (1603-1867), when people believed that a streamside forest could provide fish with numerous benefits such as cover, nutrients, and food. This belief remained in the minds of people living near waterfronts or forests after the Meiji Restoration (1868).

When the first forest act of Japan was introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century, it contained an article ordering conservation of uo-tsuki-rin, literally “fish attracting forest.” Using anecdotal information, Sibatani (1996) suggested that uo-tsuki-rin may operate in the opposite direction: “The land near rivers is well fertilized by the ocean nutrients brought by ascending (spawning) salmon, which causes the forests to thrive.

_ _ _ _ _ _

So let’s think about this for a few seconds…

the great salmon cycle

We have this great cycle that has gone on for thousands and thousands and thousands of years.

Salmon spawn then die, babies are born in the spring, head to the ocean, cycle through the North Pacific, head home, spawn, die.

The death feeds everything around — including the babies, and the cycle begins again.

And so on, and so on, and so on….

But then in the late 1800s, a new factor enters the equation… a cycle of another kind: an economic cycle with largely one sole purpose. Profit.

And so the equation is something akin to this:

Salmon equation through late 1800s and entire 1900s

.

So in sticking with the analogies from the beginning… (and this isn’t very “scientific”)…

What would happen in the north if we removed 75% of the seasons?

 

Seasons captured?

Would we expect the “Fall” to keep producing the same amount of things we have come to expect? 

_ _ _ _ _

What about the geese?

captured geese?

If we captured 80 – 100% would we expect the few remaining to keep producing the same numbers?

(granted some folks aren’t big fans of geese and suggest they are killing salmon…)

_ _ _ _ _

.

.

.

So this is the part that gets me…

There’s some apparent great “mystery” out there on why salmon populations are crashing…

There’s even a $15 – $20 million judicial inquiry going on right now over one year (2009) of crashed sockeye populations in the Fraser River: the Cohen Commission.

Within the Commission is a whole ream of scientists scrambling to find the ‘smoking gun’… (made all the more bizarre with the monster return of Fraser sockeye last year — 2010).

_ _ _ _ _ _

If we know it’s a cycle and over the last 125 years or so we’ve done our best to obliterate the cycle — not just through overfishing — then why are fish populations, with industrial fisheries focused upon them, so “mysterious” when they collapse?

What happens if I take 75% of the gas out of your car?

What happens if take 75% of the money out of your bank account?

What happens if I cut the value of interest collected on your investments by 75%?

Or, for that fact, cut your investments by 75%? (as experienced by a few folks in the last few years).

What if we interrupted the water cycle — and harvested 75% of the rain fall in the Okanagan over the next 50 years?

A cycle is a cycle is a cycle.

If we humans decide to interrupt naturally occurring cycles by “harvesting” or “consuming” for ourselves– we’re going to have an impact.

No one puzzled all that greatly on what happened to Cod… no on puzzled all that greatly on what happened to the variety of over-harvested whales… no one is puzzling all that greatly on what’s happening to the world’s tuna populations… or even BC’s Coho populations for that fact.

And the starving grizzly bear’s of Rivers Inlet on BC’s coast?

Well… if you went to a restaurant and they only served you 25% of what you ordered — what would be the impact? (And then you had to fight all the other restaurant goers for your share of what used to be enough)

What if every time you go to the grocery store and you were only able to buy 25% of what you normally do?

I think you probably get my point…. still a mystery?