Tag Archives: Chinook

‘everything I need to know about fisheries management I learned in Kindergarten’

Mark Hume reports today in the Globe and Mail:

Funding for test fisheries to expire

There is no funding agreement in place to continue test fisheries on the West Coast, a key program that allows managers to calculate how many salmon are returning to the Fraser River each year, a federal judicial inquiry has learned.

Jim Cave, head of stock monitoring for the Pacific Salmon Commission, and Paul Ryall, a senior Department of Fisheries and Oceans official, both testified Monday that test fishing is crucial in providing stock estimates, so managers can determine how many fish can be caught.

But the two officials told the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River that a five-year funding program for test fishing is coming to an end this year, and it’s not clear yet how test fishing will be paid for after it expires.

“I’m not aware there’s an agreed-upon solution,” said Mr. Ryall, in response to questions from Wendy Baker, associate counsel for the commission headed by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen.

Mr. Ryall, who was head of DFO’s salmon team until becoming co-ordinator of his department’s involvement with the Cohen commission, said funding for test fishing became a problem after the Federal Court ruled, in 2006, that the government could not finance any activities by granting a licence to fish, then selling the catch.

Until that ruling, DFO had financed test fisheries by allowing the contractor to sell the fish or crabs that were taken in the tests. Across Canada, DFO spends about $12-million annually doing test fisheries, with half of that spent on the Pacific Coast.

In the wake of the Federal Court ruling, DFO approved a five-year funding program to cover the cost of test fisheries while a long-term solution was worked out.

Mr. Ryall said one proposal called for the Fisheries Act to be amended, so that paying for test fishing with the proceeds of the catch would be legal. But the legislative changes suggested were never made. Nor did a proposal to have industry pick up the costs come to fruition.

“This will be the last year [of funding]. … I don’t know what options are contemplated at this point,” Mr. Ryall said.

_ _ _ _ _ _


There’s a rather terse response in one of the few comments to the online article:

geez, DFO only had 5 years to figure something out!?….that’s not nearly enough time for thousands of bureaucrats to come to any decision…

DFO couldn’t manage its way out of a wet paper bag….embarrassing and calls for a complete overhaul of this bankrupt ( morally, fiscally, etc etc) department

I’m not generally one for such a comment… but… really… Is the comment all that far off?

Five years and no one of the 70+ DFO staff listed on annual Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (IFMPs), and other 100+ in other departments within the Department were unable to see this coming?

The article continues:

The data collected in the test fisheries is compared with the results that have been gathered on similar tests over the past 50 years, the size of the salmon run is estimated, and commercial catch limits are set. As the salmon run approaches the river, more data is gathered and catch limits can be adjusted in-season.

“Without that information we don’t have the information to manage the fisheries,” Mr. Ryall said. “We need those test fisheries to properly manage.”

_ _ _ _ _ _

Say that again…

“Without that information we don’t have the information to manage the fisheries,” Mr. Ryall said. “We need those test fisheries to properly manage.”

Oh, that’s what I thought you said… “we need those test fisheries to properly manage…” and in five years no one has devised a $6 million solution to the problem?

What is this… “everything I need to know about fisheries management I learned in Kindergarten”?

…”I don’t know what options are contemplated at this point,” Mr. Ryall said.

Five years… no contemplated options… wow.

_ _ _ _ _

Parallel link to this story… consider the post from the other day: wow, shocking… Commission extension & DFO fighting court cases rather than protecting salmon.

In that post I outlined how DFO lost a court challenge with a decision handed down in mid-Dec. 2010.

In that decision Justice Russell declared that:

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans erred in law in determining that the critical habitat of the Resident Killer Whales was already legally protected by existing laws of Canada;

… Ministerial discretion does not legally protect critical habitat within the meaning of section 58 of SARA [Species At Risk Act], and it was unlawful for the Minister to have cited discretionary provisions of the Fisheries Act in the Protection Statement.

In essence, DFO is failing in protecting critical food (Fraser Chinook salmon) for endangered orcas in the Salish Sea. The judge was pretty clear — DFO made errors and better clean up their act (sort of like the Aquaculture decision).

But now… DFO is actually going to appeal the orca decision. Rather than actually protect an endangered species, and act now, they would rather mount more legal action — costing what?

There was also in that same post, an explanation of how the Cohen Commission has been granted an approximately one year extension and another $11 million. And DFO actually has dedicated senior managers strictly tasked with managing the Cohen Commission process [Ryall quote above]. What’s this cost?

If someone can’t come up with a funding plan in five years for something (test fisheries) that is apparently central to fisheries management — then what the hell are they doing over there in the hallowed halls of the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans?

I recognize unwieldy, ineffective, bureaucratic behemoths are an easy target… but come on… can someone figure this one out?

wow, shocking… Commission extension & DFO fighting court cases rather than protecting salmon

Wow, shocking news. The Cohen Commission gets an extension and a near double of its initial budget of $14 million.

We now have a $25 million budget, and a couple years of quasi-legal wrangling.

Cohen Commission granted extension for final report

Cohen commission given 13 more months, $11 mill to complete Fraser Sockey inquiry

For those of you who were holding your breath… take a deep breath.

And for First Nations attempting to negotiate Treaties with wild salmon as a key component — another year of waiting as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans made the brilliant decision to yank fisheries chapters off Treaty table when the Commission started.

Or, for things like Salmon Think Tanks and other events — don’t expect DFO to participate. They are just toooo busy.

Too busy doing what? (some might ask)


Too busy appealing Federal court cases that suggest their ministry is failing miserably in protecting endangered Orcas in the Salish Sea (protected under the Species at Risk Act – SARA).

Here’s the press release from Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund) back in mid-December when the initial decision came (there is a backgrounder and the actual court decision document):

Decisive killer whale court win offers hope for at-risk species

In that decision Justice Russell declared that:

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans erred in law in determining that the critical habitat of the Resident Killer Whales was already legally protected by existing laws of Canada; … Ministerial discretion does not legally protect critical habitat within the meaning of section 58 of SARA, and it was unlawful for the Minister to have cited discretionary provisions of the Fisheries Act in the Protection Statement.

And here’s a recent press release (Jan. 17, 2011) describing how DFO is going to fight this decision:

DFO seeks to undo important precedent for at-risk species

The Department of Fisheries and Ocean suggests that the Fisheries Act, its yearly Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (IFMPs), and its Minister’s discretionary decision-making — are all enough to protect the Orcas, which for a good chunk of the year have close to 90% of their diet comprised of Fraser River bound Chinook salmon. (see post from last year Cull the endangered Orcas…? for scientific article and media stories)

Those Chinook are largely on an extinction tract in many parts of the Fraser watershed, and serious downward spirals in other parts of the watershed.

Who is catching the bulk of those Chinook these days? — the recreational-sport fishery.

The Department’s protection (and rebuilding) of Fraser Chinook populations… is failing at so many levels.

And yet, DFO would rather spend money fighting court cases — as opposed to actually take real measures to protect Fraser Chinook and in turn endangered resident Orcas (now numbering less than 300).

This makes sense…

Something fishy: The salmon are back

The National Post ran this story on Friday:

Something fishy: The salmon are back

…confounding expectations and mocking the experts, some 34,546,000 wild sockeye returned to the Fraser River this summer.

It was the largest such return in at least 97 years.

Some 13 million of the sockeye were caught as they swam into and up the Fraser, most of them taken by commercial fishermen. Another 15 million likely perished in the turbulent river runs, either in the fast-flowing Fraser, or later in the Thompson. A lot of fish died after reaching Shuswap Lake, so close to home.

Firstly, it’s unfortunate that the media continues to use this: “35 million sockeye returned”… No, it’s 35 million sockeye were estimated to have been heading to the mouth of the Fraser River. This was an in-season run size estimate based on test fisheries, scale samples, hydroacoustic counts, and whatever other science and quasi-science goes into run size estimates.

We won’t really have a better idea until all of the escapement and spawner counts are in somewhere around the time snow if flying and rivers are freezing (and the Cohen Commission hearings are in full swing).

Secondly, no “the salmon” are not back. One species, of a couple stocks of Fraser sockeye – “are back.” Sure there were some decent returns of other salmon in other areas; however, interior coho, early run Chinook, steelhead, and a myriad of other salmon stocks and species are still in deep trouble.

Thirdly, don’t get me wrong — it’s fantastic that the sockeye returned in numbers this year. However, I really hope folks remember the ‘power in diversity’ maxim.

The Adams River is but one run on the Fraser River. It’s comprised of a few stocks; however there was once over 200 separate and distinct sockeye stocks on the Fraser River.

don't count; it's just to get the idea across - from my Cohen Commission presentation

As pointed out in several previous posts, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans can only manage to 19 stocks, as that’s all there is enough information on.

I certainly don’t want to rain on the parade of this year’s “historic” return of Fraser sockeye; however, anywhere between 70-90% of the total run will be comprised of just the Adams run. That percentage could keep getting higher as the actual stream counts start coming in and the in-season forecast of 35.4 million is scaled back.

If you started celebrating the great return on the mutual fund within your RRSP and then realized that the fund was comprised of 70-90% of one company – one stock (Say Research in Motion, or other company) — would you be feeling very safe? Would you be celebrating?

Or, would you think maybe diversity is a better strategy? Maybe that mutual fund would be a little more balanced and safe if it was comprised of 200 separate stocks, or maybe 100…

Here’s a map of the historic stocks of sockeye (including kokanee) all across BC.

from "Freshwater Fishes of British Columbia" J.D. McPhail

And as far as I know, the picture ain’t all that rosy for all those black dots that represent sockeye stocks on Vancouver Island. Plus there were no record breaker runs on the Skeena this year; decent return but not “historic”.

Some more good questions

Got a great comment and question on a recent August post: In-season Fraser sockeye forecasting… making it up as we go

I concluded that post by suggesting:

Spawner estimates is a wonderful example of more — exactly as it says — “estimates”. There’s mark-recapture, counting fences, stream walks, helicopter overflights, and other wonderful estimating tools.

As much as many folks suggest this whole salmon thing is a very precise practice… it is far from it.

It is simply fancy tools that “kick-out” fancy estimates.

There are lots of good folks working hard at these estimates — however they’re still fancy estimates with absolutely no method to truly “confirm” that the models, scale sampling, test fishing, and so on are “accurate”.

Then throw in terms like “ecosystem-based management” — ever present in the Wild Salmon Policy — and I tend to call ‘bullshit’.

We simply don’t know… we’re trying hard to estimate; but really… we’re making it up as we go along… and that’s OK; it’s the defensiveness and insistence by those involved that we do know what’s going on…

well… i think this year is a fine example that we definitely do not know.

_ _ _ _

Bob recently responded with this comment on the post:

As someone who made run size estimates for years, got a better idea? Perhaps we should just leave them alone, in the river, and wait until they have all spawned. Then we can concentrate all the effort on a carcass census and get (a much better estimate of) the real number of fish in the run. Of course that would mean no fishing.

Then, after all is said and done, we still wouldn’t have much of an idea as to what resulted in those numbers; spawning escapement of the parents, juvenile river/lake survival, outmigrant survival, ocean survival, poor/good fishing conditions for returning adults, etc.

Right back were we started……
Any good ideas?

_ _ _ _

Really appreciate the comment, and here’s my response (with a picture):

I don’t know if i have good ideas, I’ll leave that for others [as some have certainly taken issue with some of the comments and posts]; however, my point on a few posts has been that I see very little – if any – effort in research on traditional salmon-human relationships… I hesitate to call it enumeration.. or counting methods.

In my travels through salmon territory I’ve heard various stories and methods. Most of these combined selectivity and analysis of run-size and health. One of the most common was the use of fish weirs (this being limited to river sizes where this can work), as well as fish traps. There are some fantastic pictures of these in the BC Archives and sketches in Hilary Stewart’s book on salmon, as well as “Cedar”.

For example, in the Yukon near the town of the Dawson City is the “Klondike” River. It, as I have had it explained to me, was once one of the greatest producers of Chinook salmon on the entire 3000 km long Yukon River. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people for eons caught Chinook on the river. And as I understand it Tr’ondek is the proper pronunciation — “Klondike” is the anglicized version of the word. The meaning of Tr’ondëk in the Gwichin language of the area is something to the effect of “the sound of stakes being pounded into the river bed.”

Tr'ondek Hwech'in Cultural Centre

If you have, or do visit Dawson City, just downstream of the junction of the Klondike and Yukon is a cultural centre built in the 1990s. The centre was built in such a way as to represent a salmon trap or weir, with elements of fish drying racks. It’s a beautiful building.

The point of this — and I’ve heard this from many different First Nations folks — is that weirs and fish traps were a method of capturing salmon alive and being able to selectively harvest by species, size, and sex – as well as get a good idea of the size and health of runs. There were also the political aspects to these weirs, in that downstream folks could have a big impact on upstream folks by not allowing fish through.

In a sense… counting fences provide some of this same effect — however, there are the excuses of (wo)man-power to operate the fences.

Dip netting is also a non-lethal method of counting. And then there’s the work of LGL and their fish wheels. Much more use of fish wheels could allow non-lethal methods of enumeration — as well as harvest.

And then there’s just good old stream walks [have sure enjoyed my time in the past doing this].

My issues isn’t necessarily with some of the enumeration methods — just the lethal ones, like test fishing, it’s not required. My issue is with the way in which enumeration methods are held up as gospel, and their effect on harvest strategies, and the connection back to computer modeling and simulations. For example, this year, DFO set out to harvest only 25% of the Early Summer group of Fraser sockeye. This is in exception to their goals of 60% on other groups (Summer and Late Summer). The reason for the reduced harvest was to try and limit impacts on endangered stocks such as the Bowron and others in the upper Nechako that really are on a death spiral. There were many concerns brought forward during pre-season planning by upper Fraser First Nations. And some credit needs to be given to DFO on setting that goal with conservation concerns in mind.

Looking at in-season info it looks like the harvest rate on Early Summers will be about 23-25% or so… However, this won’t be known for sure until there is confirmation of in-river spawner counts which will be bounced back over test fishing, commercial catch, and the various computer models. All of those methods are generally regarded as akin to gospel. And thus, much frustration when in meetings with fisheries officials and they start tossing around these numbers as if we actually “know”.

We don’t… as is being made very clear by the fish this year.

If anything, I think – and hope – that most scientists looking at these issues are being greatly humbled by how much we don’t know (and some are, from what I hear and have heard). As the saying goes, the more we know, the more we learn we don’t know. I use the analogy of the old Greek (or Roman) monster Hydra — cut off one head and two pop up in it’s place… it’s the same with questions about salmon.

Lastly, one of the more common suggestions I’ve heard from many folks this year (First Nations and non)… leave the Fraser sockeye alone for a life cycle or two (4 to 8 years). Then there wouldn’t need to be all of this tension between folks looking to harvest them. As well as, there wouldn’t be all of this finger pointing and searching for one “smoking gun” (as referenced by folks at the Fraser Sockeye Forum in late March of this year). As well as pretty unproductive comments about black market sales, un-reported catches and so on.

[we’re already spending $12-$15 million on a public inquiry Cohen Commission (it’ll probably cost more), however much $$ on the Pacific Salmon Commission hosting forums to look into the Fraser sockeye issue, and the other 5 or so public inquiries over the last two decades — what did that cost?… why not re-direct those $$ to a bail-out of sorts… the commercial salmon fishery in BC last year was only $20 million landed value anyways. Not a popular prospect… but neither was losing the entire North Atlantic Cod fishery for coming on 2 decades now…what has that cost in Employment Insurance and re-training?]

just a few ideas… for what they are worth.

I appreciate the questions, comments and discussion — that was my whole purpose for setting up and maintaining this weblog… There has to be a different way; the history of methods we use in the present day; and this insistence by scientists that ‘answers’ lie in science — I find somewhat naive. There are hundreds of thousands of people throughout salmon country that have intimate knowledge… call it community knowledge, local knowledge, traditional knowledge, or maybe just… knowledge.Other ways of knowing.

I just don’t think the issue is going to be solved by intricate equations and computer models. That’s the same method that brought us financial derivatives, and we know where that got us… e.g. sub-prime mortgage.

Visiting salmon and mountains and beautiful places

Food fish smokehouse: Moose Valley Gathering -- Skeena - Sustut

Thankfully been away from the computer for several days.  Several days camped in a very powerful part of B.C.

Ingenika Lakes — Continental divide between Arctic-Mackenzie drainage and Skeena-Sustut drainage (click on image to get a little higher resolution)

Standing in the divide that separates Arctic Canada from Pacific Canada. To reach Moose Valley, the headwaters of the Sustut River and the Skeena and the Peace River (Finlay River) and nearby to the Stikine River headwaters — one must drive through some of the headwaters areas of the Fraser River.

Was fortunate enough to visit the salmon counting fence on the Sustut River in the far upper reaches of the Skeena River and be around folks getting a few salmon for their winter supplies. A few early Skeena steelhead were also spotted.

Sustut River counting fence

enjoying the sight of wild salmon on the spawning grounds



Upper Sustut: quite a few sockeye, Chinook, and Steelhead in the subalpine & heavy smoke haze (what a place!)

wild salmon dissonance and patchwork quilts for fisheries managers

Dissonance, the Free Online Dictionary suggests means:

Wild Salmon Policy?

1. A harsh, disagreeable combination of sounds; discord.

2. Lack of agreement, consistency, or harmony; conflict.

Under the first definition I was privy to some serious dissonance this past week while sitting in salmon-related  meetings listening to a senior Department of Fisheries and Oceans manager run circles around questions. At one point, he was even asked for a “yes” or “no” answer; yet a long-winded response would start winding up…

“No, no… I said YES or NO, please” said the questioner again.

“Well… yeah… but… you need to understand…” said the bureaucrat.

One of the most offensive ways to answer a question or begin any explanation is: “you have to understand…”

_ _ _ _

Part of the meeting involved discussions around Fraser sockeye and predicted returns. Of course, this type of discussion involves the computer simulation model Fraser River Spawning Sockeye Initiative (FRSSI) which apparently pumps out fishing plans, or “TAM rules” (total allowable mortality). This model is great for theoretical understandings of biological organisms — like Fraser sockeye — but an absolute joke for “managing” biological organisms in the wild — like Fraser sockeye.

Worse yet (and you can read more on previous posts on this site) the Fraser River is suggested to have approximately 200 distinct sockeye populations or stocks; and approximately 150 different spawning areas, and countless nursery lakes. The FRSSI is based on information on 19 stocks or populations, much of that information spotty at best, and only about 50 years of data which means approximately 12-15 life cycles of sockeye. Those 19 stocks are further simplified into four groups based on the timing of their upstream migration and spawning.

The model has various productivity scenarios fed in (again spotty estimates); with the added benefit that DFO only studies two sockeye rearing lakes (yeah that’s 2).

Worse yet, the FRSSI model does not incorporate any data prior to about 1948 when DFO started keeping records.

Worse yet, the model has no ecological values factored in — things like seals, bears, eagles, and so on. It simply sets fishing rates and guesstimates how many sockeye need to reach spawning grounds.

It’s supposed to be “Pilot Study” and is listed as such in DFO promotional material… yet, it’s being used to “manage” sockeye on the Fraser, even though there hasn’t been a commercial fishery in three years (that will probably change this year…).

However, I suppose one positive out of this is that the maximum fishing rates (maximum sustained yield – MSY) is now 60% of total run size, not 80% as it has been in the past….

Salmon think tank... salmon fisheries in the tank...

_ _ _ _

The second definition of dissonance occurred in the same meetings last week when DFO reps started presenting information on Fraser River Chinook: pre-season forecasts, proposed exploitation (a.k.a. fishing) rates, and various forecasted population scenarios with proposed fishing rates:

The 5 represents the age of these fish and the small subscript 2 represents how many winters they spent in fresh water as babies (i.e. fry) and the Spring and Summer referring to timing of their migration.

Estimates for this year suggest a run of these Chinook somewhere between 58,000 and 62,000; however, not a lot is known about these fish and they represent a huge geographic area in the various Fraser tributaries that they spawn in – from the far upper Fraser to tributaries downstream through Williams Lake (Chilcotin) and Thompson River and tributaries.

I asked what seemed like the obvious question to me: “what is the rate for maximum sustained yield (MSY)?… is it 80% of the run — like in the past; 60% like it is with sockeye now; 50% like many Alaskan salmon runs are managed to?”

“Well, you have to understand…” began the DFO rep…

Eghad, here we go again.

“…these Chinook are managed differently… it’s based on habitat capacity and output…so it’s not a set rate”

“Gee… that sounds accurate”, was the response that slipped out of my mouth.

I was given a name of a DFO scientist working in Nanaimo that is apparently the expert on this: “Parken”.

_ _ _ _

I looked up his work (apologies, I’m assuming it’s a he… i think I heard the pronoun “he”). I came across a report on the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat: Habitat-based methods to estimate escapement goals for data limited Chinook salmon stocks in British Columbia, 2004

Seems like some pretty interesting work… although I was struck immediately by a key phrase in the title: “data limited“.

There’s another way to phrase that, that might be more accurate: “limited data“.

In other words… we don’t really know because we have limited data.

And this is laid out quite clearly in the report, even in the abstract:

Our habitat-based model can generate biologically-based escapement goals, rooted in fish-production relationships, for data limited stocks over a broad range of environments. This simple approach requires easily acquirable data and makes few assumptions. However, spawner escapements of known accuracy and reliability are required, which may impede implementation for some systems. The approach is well suited for most data limited stocks in BC and can be tested and refined as new stock-recruitment data become available. Since the habitat-based method was more accurate than the interim method for BC Key Streams, we recommend applying it for data limited stocks in BC to establish escapement goals until more stock-specific data are available. [my emphasis]

Again… as mentioned previously in other posts. My comments are not meant to be a jerk; just pointing out some gaping voids and massive assumptions. Sometimes these assumptions are pointed out in papers and reports; yet, many/most fisheries science folks still talk in circles around them. It’s as if the massive assumptions and “data limited” experiments are a personal affront against them and their “science”.

Our goal was to develop a habitat-based approach to generate escapement goals for data limited Chinook stocks in British Columbia (BC). We focused on developing a model with general applicability that could be applied inexpensively and quickly, while making sufficiently accurate predictions to suit fisheries management purposes.

That’s the problem in most cases… “fisheries management” is more speculative then investing in penny stocks sold out of some guys basement. And thus the “purpose” of fisheries management is to carve out as many fish as possible for human consumption, economic opportunities, and social considerations — then think about the environmental/ecological implications…thus “sufficiently accurate” for fisheries management?! Yikes…

We focused on developing simple models that lacked biological detail, yet described general biological patterns across a range of environmental conditions and Chinook salmon biology. Inasmuch as high precision and accuracy are desirable properties of models, we aimed to develop a method with reasonable accuracy and precision for most domestic and international fisheries management purposes.

But isn’t “biological detail” the whole purpose of looking after fish populations and all the critters that depend on them?

Yes, precision and accuracy are desirable properties… especially if you work for the same federal department responsible for decimating North Atlantic Cod.

There’s a big important word missing after the “properties or models” and the “,” (comma); it’s “BUT”…

As in “… , but we aimed to develop a model with reasonable accuracy”

“Reasonable” accuracy…?! what the ^*!#?

reasonable to whom…?

Is this like the legal test: “a reasonable person…” or is this like “reasonable” to fisheries management folks… or “reasonable” to a Fisheries minister with a long distinguished career with Revenue Canada.

Sorry folks, but the history of “reasonable accuracy and precision for domestic and international fisheries management purposes” is brutal. There’s a reason why the oceans have lost 90% of large predator fish and 75% of the world’s fish populations subject to fisheries pressure are in trouble.

Time for a new paradigm.

Is this a wet blanket?

And maybe time for DFO to stop managing salmon via a patchwork quilt of methods…

Or at least fully admit limitations — especially “data limited” limitations — and get a whole lot more precautionary. Oh wait, isn’t the precautionary approach part of the Wild Salmon Policy…?

this is the spirit… 6 Chinook returned last year — 1600 required simply to survive

Thursday evening, I drove back from Kamloops, British Columbia following two days of meetings that included Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) staff. As per usual, for almost any comment made, or criticism suggested, DFO bureaucrats have a bafflegab filled response. There’s a whole lot of “at the end of the day…” & “change doesn’t happen over night…” & “we care…” & “we are considering your input…” and so on,and so on.

Now, it’s not that I hold a personal grudge against these folks… I do think that many individuals have good intentions within various government ministries and some do good, hard work. However, the difference between DFO bureaucrats and, for example, First Nation representatives attending a meeting to discuss salmon is the difference between “a job” (with full benefits) and “a way of life“.

The Department of Fisheries and Ocean hasn’t really been around all that long; a few decades. The relationship between First Nations people and communities and salmon… well… that relationship has been around a little longer….

A mid to high level DFO staffer sitting in these meetings is surviving comfortably on a $70,000 – $100,000 per year job, with a full suite of benefits: medical, dental, RRSP contributions, and one heck of a decent pension after all those “years of service”. That’s somewhere between $6,000 per month – $8,000+ per month, or about $300 – $400 per day.

When someone such as myself attends a meeting (at a rate of $0 per day) and suggests that the Wild Salmon Policy is a joke; that it’s a nice piece of paper with pretty pictures;  that came into being in the late 1990s, took until 2005 to bring it into legislation, and here we are in 2010 listening to DFO staff explain the “challenges” in implementing…(not to mention that DFO’s own internal audits suggest a severe lack of accountability in many of their multi-million dollar programs)

Therefore, when a DFO Policy gets called piece of shit, DFO staff jump up and defend these ridiculous little gatherings of words, sentences, and meaningless bumpf — as if it’s religious gospel. It’s about as close to gospel, as the Policy is to preparing for a Salmon Resurrection… (it’s also about as close to effective as the B.C. bike helmet law…)

I suppose they have to… it’s their job; and for folks working on salmon issues within DFO, it’s worked into their job description: “thou shalt sing the praises of the Wild Salmon Policy!”… (at least until 5 pm on weekdays…) “thou shalt defend shitty computer models as if they are one of the Ten Commandments”

And, as it’s been pointed out lately… “thou shalt bury any independent investigator [e.g. Justice Cohen] in a litany and avalanche of paper”

(Ghad knows, 10,000 full time equivalents within one department can produce A LOT of paper. Let’s say 5000 employees create one piece of paper per day (on the supreme low end). That’s 1.8 million pieces of paper in one year… good luck Justice Cohen and your team of lawyers)

_ _ _ _ _

On my drive back from Kamloops, I drove north through the communities of Barriere, Clearwater, and Blue  River — the north Thompson River. One of the areas I drove by was Louis Creek, just south of Barriere. Yesterday, this great little poster was emailed through various circles with the title: “Important message from Interior of BC“.

Now this is the type of paper that is truly important:

Here’s a link to the document for a better view of this important message.

When kids speak, more folks should listen.

Save Our Louis Creek Chinook

Having grown up on Haida Gwaii (formerly referred to as Queen Charlotte Is.) with a very close connection to salmon (see forthcoming book), as well as many years of salmon related work, I am not one to discount a kids connection to watching salmon swim up one’s home streams.

Some grumpy folks might suggest these kids were “put up to this”… I say hogwash. Kids care.

And truly… when there are only 6 Chinook counted, and even DFO says 1600 are required to simply keep the run alive.

Start listening – and maybe start thinking about: Hard decisions… If not now; when?

(for more info on this issue see posts like Fisheries and Oceans Canada breaking laws? and others related to Fraser Chinook)

$9 billion wasted on failed ‘restoration’…

I think many of you probably know this story:

The consequences of the steep salmon and steelhead declines in the [enter river here] — cultural loss, broad economic harm, diminished quality of life, persistent uncertainty — are not limited to [enter Province or State here] or the [enter watershed] Basin.

This quote is from a letter to two U.S. senators in Washington State from a broad coalition of folks (business owners, fisherfolks, conservationists, and so on). It was forwarded to me from folks south of the border working on Columbia River (Snake River) issues.


There is also a press release here:


And the website: Working Snake River with the tag line: “restoring a river that works for people and salmon”.

From the letters:

Commercial and recreational fishing, a powerful economic engine for the lower Columbia River and Washington coast for generations, has been deeply harmed. Our state’s salmon economies have lost thousands of family-wage jobs, with hundreds of westside businesses and their communities suspended in uncertainty over whether they have a future or not. Restoring a river to re-establish productive, sustainable Columbia Basin fisheries would be a great boon to westside communities.

In addition, the science is now plain that recovery of Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales and recovery of endangered chinook salmon in the Columbia Basin are inextricably linked. The 2008 Recovery Plan for these orcas recognizes that steep declines in Columbia and Snake River chinook have resulted in a critical loss of preferred prey during the six months the orcas spend outside of Puget Sound. The Columbia Basin, and particularly the Snake Basin, provides our greatest opportunity to restore significant chinook populations to foster orca survival and recovery. We know you understand both the cultural and economic importance of Puget Sound’s orcas to people, businesses and communities throughout the Sound. The prolonged endangerment of Columbia/Snake salmon leaves at risk orcas and all they mean to Washington.

The issue with endangered Orcas is not just south of the border – see one of my earlier posts: Cull the endangered Orcas? It also has a direct connection to Fraser Chinook, many of which are on death-spiral declines.

One of the biggest threats facing our resident orcas today is the availability of food,” said People For Puget Sound executive director Kathy Fletcher. “Our killer whales depend largely on chinook salmon – whose numbers have dropped significantly in the Northwest. This relationship between orcas and salmon is one more connection — like those of food and energy — uniting the people of Eastern and Western Washington. And its one more reason why we need leadership from our senators to bring our communities together to find effective lasting solutions.

No salmon — no orcas. It’s that simple.

Opening day thoughts…

Today is the opening day of the conference: Ecological Interactions between Wild & Hatchery Salmon in Portland, OR. There’s approximately 300 or so attendees including an international contingent from Russia and Japan.

The opening and first two keynote speakers have just finished. The first keynote speaker — Ray Hilborn — is a professor at the University of Washington. The second keynote speaker — Rob Walton — is a policy analyst with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

Professor Hilborn highlighted some of the older science on this issue such as a paper from the late 1970s that suggested that the long-term consequence of heavy fisheries is that small stocks are sacrificed.

Uh-huh… Guess we haven’t learned that yet — can you say Fraser River sockeye?

One of the other key points I picked up from Professor Hilborn was the idea of “goal displacement” — which occurs when an activity becomes the objective. One of the examples he used was the  practice of using Coded Wire Tags (CWTs) — which are put in the noses of hatchery salmon — and then relying on the recovery of salmon heads with CWTs to actually manage a fishery.

On Fraser Chinook, for example, the recovery of CWTs and utilizing the data is mandated by the Pacific Salmon Commission. Thus, if hatcheries aren’t pumping out baby salmon with CWTs up their noses; it makes it much more difficult to ‘manage’ the fishery. In theory anyways… (my editorializing might suggest there are some serious shortfalls in this system)

And thus keeping the hatchery going has become the objective — and therefore goal displacement.

(It should be noted that the original goal of the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Salmon Enhancement Program in British Columbia was to double commercial catches… Another dismal failure).

If we failed on that goal, and continue to fail on that, and continue to sink millions of dollars into hatcheries… why?

The second keynote speaker, Mr. Walton, unfortunately depressed me to great end. He started his presentation by suggesting (and I’m paraphrasing):

Here in the United States, we draft legislation, Congress passes it,  and then we get sued.

He ran through the history of creating policies around the Endangered Species legislation here in the U.S.  and how wild salmon and hatchery salmon have played a key role. Initially, the NMFS developed policy surrounding Endangered Species protection for salmon with various pieces of legislation that explained the role of hatchery salmon in the Evolutionary Significant Units (ESUs) of the western states– sound similar to the Conservation Units of Canada?

In March of last year, NMFS was sued regarding their policy. Not only were they sued from one side – a coalition of environmental groups; they were sued from the opposite side — a coalition of businesses including water user groups, construction companies, developers, etc.

This case is built on several other court cases involving salmon and protection. What started in a District Court decision overturning earlier legislation, then went up the U.S. court systems. At each juncture NMFS would return to the office draft new policies, present them, pass them, then get sued again. Another set of lawsuits over ridiculous language, then a decision by judges, then more policy drafting, then more lawsuits, then more judges decisions, then more policy drafting, and so on, and so on….

So in the U.S. — salmon are managed by lawyers, judges and the legal system (in essence) — with a bunch of policy wonks sandwiched in between.

During the question period a representative from the Squamish Nation told a story about how  elders in his community scratch their heads: “science and technology screwed this all up in the first place — and now science and technology is going to fix it?”

Another question was telling: a rep from Washington State who “works in the trenches” asked (paraphrasing again):

when’s the talking about action going to stop… and actual action begin?

A tough question, especially to start a conference… and this was evident in the lack of meaningful answers given by panel members and keynote speakers.

Onwards with the day…

If not now; when? (Supplement)

As a supplement to my earlier post today — If not now; when?

(And a post from late Jan. The Interventionist Solution?)

These graphs are from a report on the Salmon Enhancement Advisory Board (SEHAB) website completed by Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in the early 2000s.

Pacific Salmon Hatcheries in British Columbia

And yet, in 2003, major hatcheries in BC released over 12 million coho fry. Plus another 2.5 million from community development programs. And another 3.8 million fry from Public Involvement Programs.

Great return on investment… catch has edged back up to over 200,000 in recent years; however all from the north.

Over 41 million Chinook fry released from major hatcheries. Almost 7.5 million from Community Development Projects and over 4 million from Public Involvement Programs.

If you’re curious, since 1999, the total catch of Chinook has continued to dwindle with less than 130,000 caught last year commercially and over half of those from the North Coast and further north.

Does anyone see a problem here?

Let me guess… we will continue with the line that overfishing is not the problem…?

Or maybe it’s more complex — we didn’t slow down our fishing when productivity started to tank?

This is otherwise known as sacrificing the future for the demands of today…

I ask again: If not now; when?