Tag Archives: Cohen Commission

Canada is pathetically ranked 125th of 127 countries in fisheries conservation. If this was our hockey ranking, what would be the National response?

Why is this not a major headline in Canada’s newspapers today?

This is fundamentally embarrassing to all Canadians.

And an absolute embarrassment to the federal government: current governing regime and opposition parties alike.

We are but an island surrounded by three coastlines – east, west, and north. We celebrate our coastlines, our oceans, our marine environment, our fisheries, and so on. Canada has the world’s longest coastline and a total of 7.1 million square kilometres of ocean.

Yet, as the Royal Society presents in their report just released:

Sustaining Canada’s Marine Biodiversity: Responding to the Challenges Posed by Climate Change, Fisheries, and Aquaculture

 

  • …among industrialized fishing nations, the status of Canada’s marine fish stocks is among the worst in the world.

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  • Researchers at Yale and Columbia Universities constructed an Environmental Performance Index and used it to rank 163 countries on 25 performance indicators, for environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. In this analysis, Canada was ranked 125th of 127 countries in terms of fisheries conservation.

 

[If we ranked this low in hockey, what would be the National response?]

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Here are the “MAIN MESSAGES —SUSTAINING CANADIAN MARINE BIODIVERSITY” available in PDF from the website link above.

  • Canada sees itself as a world leader in ocean management, but we have failed to meet most of our national and international commitments to protect marine biodiversity.

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  • Canada lags behind other modernized nations in almost every aspect of fisheries management. Despite pledges on conservation and sound policies, Fisheries and Oceans has generally done a poor job of managing fish stocks, planning for whole ecosystems and protecting marine biodiversity.

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  • The government should act to review and rewrite outdated statutes, take rapid action on national and international commitments, curtail the discretionary powers of the minister of Fisheries and Oceans and move to limit regulatory conflict in that department.

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  • Canada needs national operational objectives to protect and restore natural diversity and to rebuild depleted populations and species. Improving and protecting ocean health will restore the natural resilience of Canada’s marine ecosystems to adapt in response to the challenges posed by climate change and other human activities.

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Here are some ‘lowlights’ from the report:

After examining the evidence, we conclude Canada has made little substantive progress in meeting its commitments to sustain marine biodiversity. Although Canada has developed and signed on to sound policies and agreements, and heralded good ideas with strong rhetoric, comparatively little has actually been done, leaving many of our national and international obligations unfulfilled.

[hmmmm, does this sound like our/Canada’s approach to climate change?]

That can — and must — be changed, starting with the Oceans Act. This 1996 law was a landmark in the move toward managing the oceans from an ecosystem perspective, after decades of focusing on one species or habitat at a time, without regard to the intricacies of biodiversity. Unlike the Fisheries Act, it provided a clearly articulated legislative foundation for marine conservation (an objective no one would even have considered in 1868, when the Fisheries Act was written). It was followed by the Species at Risk Act (2002), which included a commitment to develop legislation for the protection of threatened species.

But neither has lived up to its promise

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

In ecosystem-based management, decisions must take into account the sustainability of ecosystem components and attributes. In several jurisdictions, policies and regulations now use this more comprehensive viewpoint.

Effective ecosystem-based management usually involves the “precautionary approach”, which stresses that the absence of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing decisions where there is a chance of serious or irreversible harm. They also set “reference” targets to warn when stocks are getting low and include plans for promoting recovery if a population drops too far.

In contrast to other developed fishing countries, Canada has not adopted the use of reference points. For example, 20 years after the collapse of Newfoundland’s northern cod (once one of the largest fish stocks in the world,) there is still no recovery target, let alone a timeline for rebuilding.

We think that is unacceptable.

One consequence of this lack of initiative is that, among industrialized fishing nations, the status of Canada’s marine fish stocks is among the worst in the world.

In fact, compared to other major fishing nations such as Australia and New Zealand, Canada is moving very slowly on incorporating ecosystem indicators into scientific guidance. Our policies for conservation of wild Pacific and Atlantic salmon, for example, recognize the need for consideration of ecosystem-level.

But they have yet to be implemented.

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Driving reform of the Fisheries Act will not be easy. There is no indication the health of the ocean is a great concern for the present government.

In the Speech From the Throne that opened Canada’s 41st Parliament on June 3, 2011, there was no reference to climate change, species recovery, fisheries rebuilding, or marine biodiversity. Neither the word ‘ocean’ nor ‘Arctic’ was mentioned in the throne speech.

The ‘sea’ was mentioned in the context of a government commitment to complete the Dempster Highway to connect Canada “by road from sea to sea to sea”. ‘Fishing’ was used only in the context of a government pledge to support it and other industries “as they innovate and grow”.

As well, the Fisheries Act delegates absolute discretion to the minister of Fisheries and Oceans [who in many cases couldn’t tell the difference between a northern pike and a pink salmon] to make decisions, with no formalized scientific guidelines or environmental framework for them.

That leaves important biodiversity issues open to dictates of passing political concerns and is completely at odds with the best practices of fisheries legislation that supports sustainability, such as in the US, Norway, and Australia.

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Further legislative measures that should be considered to adequately protect marine biodiversity include:

  • Ending the inherent conflict within DFO to promote industry and economic activity on one hand and the conservation of fish and aquatic ecosystems on the other;

[hmmm, anyone who has read posts on this blog has heard this point before — if you have a federal Ministry with the word “Fisheries” in it… and its central mandate is “conservation”… then there is a problem]

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The preamble to the Oceans Act says Parliament wished “to reaffirm Canada’s role as a world leader in oceans and marine resources management.” This was a remarkable statement, given the Act was passed in 1996, a short four years after the collapse of the northern cod fishery.

That one example of resource mismanagement was not only the greatest numerical loss of a vertebrate in Canadian history, it resulted in the greatest single layoff in Canada when between 30-40,000 people lost their jobs. It also cost $2-3 billion in social and economic financial aid.

But rhetoric over substance too often characterizes the Government of Canada’s handling of its oceans and their marine biodiversity. In contrast to Canada’s self-proclaimed ocean leadership, analyses of Canada’s marine conservation and management initiatives are less than complimentary.

Researchers at Yale and Columbia Universities constructed an Environmental Performance Index and used it to rank 163 countries on 25 performance indicators, for environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. In this analysis, Canada was ranked 125th of 127 countries in terms of fisheries conservation.

Canada has consistently failed to meet targets and obligations to conserve biodiversity and promote sustainability. The government has the knowledge, expertise and even the policy and legislation it needs to correct that; but multiple factors have combined to slow the pace of statutory and policy implementation almost to a standstill.

Those factors, we believe, include the inherent conflict at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which has mandates both to promote industrial and economic activity and to conserve marine life and ocean health. The minister of Fisheries and Oceans has excessive discretionary power to dictate activities that should be directed by science and shaped by transparent social and political values.

Canada’s progress has been unduly slow in both an absolute sense (some commitments have still not been met almost two decades after they were agreed on) and comparatively — other western industrialized nations have made substantive progress in meeting, and often exceeding, their national and international commitments to sustain marine biodiversity.

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Fundamentally embarrassing and disgraceful. Yet saying so with current governing regime will get one labelled a ‘renegade’ or ‘treasoner’ or whatever other empty rhetoric that the Reform Party, err wait, I mean the Conservative party has to offer.

Yet, this is not at the hands of one political party… everyone one of the four main Parties that have been active over the last couple of decades bears a responsibility.

It’s disgraceful.

Hopefully Justice Cohen is reading this and takes a good stab at the issue in this disgraceful situation being afflicted upon Fraser sockeye — and Pacific wild salmon in general on Canada’s left coast.

And media response to this report so far… about all I’ve see is the Vancouver Sun:

Canada’s failure to protect marine biodiversity ‘disappointing and dismaying,’ asserts panel chair

Canada is failing miserably at protecting its rich marine biodiversity from the looming threat of climate change, an expert-panel report for the Royal Society of Canada concluded Thursday.

“Canada has made little substantive progress in fulfilling national and international commitments to sustain marine biodiversity,” the panel report found.

The report noted that the Fisheries Act is beset with regulatory conflicts in terms of protecting and exploiting fish stocks, and the minister of fisheries and oceans wields too much discretionary power.

The report also says the Species at Risk Act has proven ineffective at protecting and recovering marine species at risk, and a promised national marine protected areas network “remains unfilled.”

The application of a “precautionary” management approach with harvest-control rules and recovery plans remains “absent for most fisheries,” the report added.

Panel chairman Jeff Hutchings, a biology professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said the federal government’s lack of action at protecting marine biodiversity is “extremely disappointing and dismaying,” a concern that also applies to management of high-profile Atlantic cod stocks.

“Anybody can see, and anybody can assuredly be bloody angry, that 20 years after the collapse of the northern cod fishery we don’t have a target for recovery,” he told a Vancouver news conference. “How is that possibly consistent with responsible management of our oceans?”

Canada has the world’s longest coastline and a total of 7.1 million square kilometres of ocean — in the Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic — amounting to a global stewardship responsibility, the report found.

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Are we going to stand for this?

Hello… anyone?

Once upon a wild salmon…history’s a bitch.

Oregon salmon cannery early 1900s -- Oregon State University archives

 

Randomly came across these photos from the early 1900s. This is “salmon management” at its best. This is what “salmon management” of the day is built upon. This is what “fisheries management” is built upon.

Fish first, manage later… (look no further then the current herring fisheries opening in the Salish Sea, or the soon to be opened sport fisheries on early-timed Fraser Chinook).

Oregon salmon canneries -- early 1900s -- oh the Chinook?

And where did these beauties go?

Was there not a time in British Columbia when the Springs, the Smilies, the Chinook, the Kings… would line up like this?

Ever study economics?

Ever hear of the concept of ‘the law of diminishing returns’?

Here’s a brief little quote from Wikipedia:

The law of diminishing returns (also law of diminishing marginal returns or law of increasing relative cost) states that in all productive processes, adding more of one factor of production, while holding all others constant, will at some point yield lower per-unit returns.The law of diminishing returns does not imply that adding more of a factor will decrease the total production, a condition known as negative returns, though in fact this is common.

For example, the use of fertilizer improves crop production on farms and in gardens; but at some point, adding more and more fertilizer improves the yield less per unit of fertilizer, and excessive quantities can even reduce the yield. A common sort of example is adding more workers to a job, such as assembling a car on a factory floor. At some point, adding more workers causes problems such as getting in each other’s way, or workers frequently find themselves waiting for access to a part.

In all of these processes, producing one more unit of output per unit of time will eventually cost increasingly more, due to inputs being used less and less effectively. [key point]

The law of diminishing returns is a fundamental principle of economics…

It’s also a fundamental concept within “fisheries” management that they don’t seem to teach at the leading “fisheries” science institutions…

If you keep catching all the ‘hogs’ — the big ones — then eventually there’s going to be little left but small ones…then no ones…

Same thing happened with North Atlantic Cod prior to the big collapse. All the big ones started disappearing and sizes became smaller and smaller and more uniform… diminishing genetic diversity.

Unfortunately, good ‘ol Darwin and his ‘survival of the fittest‘ doesn’t apply when a salmon has no choice about what gill net, seine net, sport hook, or other fishing method catches it. Nor, the obsession of the current human to catch the ‘biggest’ fish…

It did apply though when there was little human intervention… bigger fish, better survival often times, eggs buried deeper in gravel, and so on… more bigger fish, more diversity.

Oregon wild salmon seining -- early 1900s -- Oregon State University archives

Get ’em out however possible…

these times seem to have largely gone with the days of the "iron chink"... (cannery hardware)

The point here isn’t to lament the past, necessarily — but don’t we ever learn?

Folks of the day also said that whole hog logging, placer mining, building dams, and pillaging the seas and river mouths could all ‘happily co-exist’… no problemo… let’s Just Do It (as a well known multinational company based in Portland proclaims).

Freedom, free enterprise, market economies, maximum sustainable yield… let’s do it.

Is this really all that different then what Justice Cohen just heard for two years at the Cohen Commission into the Fraser River sockeye declines?

Or how about the five previous “commissions” prior to that…?

Same conclusion, most likely… we can’t really conclusively “prove” that these practices damage wild salmon… it’s death of a thousand cuts… change is too hard… don’t rock the boat… (gee whiz, I retire with full government pension in five years, don’t hang me out to dry here…)

And, well… you probably know the rest of the story…

SALMONGATE: ‘Joe’ at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says: “It is clear that we are turning the PR tide to our favour… and we will win the war, also.”

This is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency: responsible for your food safety!

“Concentrate on the headlines — that’s often all that people read or remember” says Cornelius Kiley at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Well, ‘Joe’ & ‘Corny’ (and other CFIA and DFO staff) this headline goes out to you…. cheers, salmonguy.

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“It is clear that we are turning the PR tide to our favour… and we will win the war, also” says ‘Joe’ [Joseph Beres] the BC manager of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

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How are you feeling about the safety of your food now?

And to think that Joe and Corny and others included in the email (including Stephen Stephen from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans) are most likely in the high $100,000+/year wage scale. Take a look at the wage scales in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for the highest executive levels…

Performance Pay – Levels EX-05
Effective Date Minimum Maximum
From: Effective April 1, 2010 $163,100 $191,900
Effective April 1, 2011 $166,100 $195,300
Effective April 1, 2012 $168,600 $198,300

 

If the Canadian Food Inspection Agency top staff and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (and the BC Government) think that it’s about headlines and winning PR wars… what does that say about the safety of our food in Canada?

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It’s been said on this blog a lot: “marketing is everything and everything is marketing”

It seems quite clear that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans fully agree — and add in the Privy Council Office that answers directly to PM Harper (but then we know that they fully subscribe to the “marketing is everything, everything is marketing” school-of-thought. [Hence, why one of PM Harper’s main staff people moved over from one of Canada’s oil companies…]

CBC is running an article on this issue today:

Government email makes waves at salmon inquiry

“It is clear that we are turning the PR tide in our favour, and this is because of the very successful performance of our spokes at the tech briefing,” CFIA B.C. manager Joseph Beres wrote.

“One battle is won, now we have to nail the surveillance piece, and we will win the war, also.”

“Spokes” most likely refers to spokespeople. [that’s so cute]

But then… what well paid public/civil service employee then sends out an email like this, knowing full well that it can be accessed through Freedom of Information (FOI) or government sponsored judicial/public inquiries?

Along with the 400 pink slips being handed out to DFO employees, maybe there’s another one coming to this group of CFIA employees and to Stephen Stephen at DFO (no that’s not a typo, that’s his real catchy name).

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The CFIA home page states:

Welcome to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Dedicated to safeguarding food, animals and plants, which enhances the health and well-being of Canada’s people, environment and economy.

[So I’m wondering ‘Joe’ and ‘Corny’ and Stephen Stephen at DFO — how does farmed salmon from the BC Coast laced with both ISA and heart and skeletal muscle inflammation virus (or HSMI) ENHANCE the health and well-being of Canada’s people (let alone the environment and economy)?]

&

Accountability

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) continuously strives to be transparent and accountable in how it does business.

The CFIA is accountable to Canadians and reports to Parliament through key documents.

[So how is the CFIA and Parliament going to account for this accountability? — this is a cover up, and it’s shameful… more so through the arrogance of civil service employees…]

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Scroll down a little here and you’ll see good ol’ Infectious Salmon Anemia (anémie infestieuse du saumon) tucked in between things like: “highly pathogenic avian influenza” “Foot and Mouth disease” “koi herpesvirus disease” and “lumpy skin disease.”

Nasty stuff!

And, yet Senior managers at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency figure this is a “public relations war” where we manipulate news headlines for that silly, dumb public…

embarrassing, shameful, and worthy of serious repercussions — wouldn’t you say?

Reportable Diseases Regulations

Health of Animals Act (S.C. 1990, c. 21)

SCHEDULE

(Section 2)

REPORTABLE DISEASES

 

  • African horse sickness
  • peste équine
  • African swine fever
  • peste porcine africaine
  • anaplasmosis
  • anaplasmose
  • anthrax
  • fièvre charbonneuse
  • bluetongue
  • fièvre catarrhale du mouton
  • Bonamia ostreae
  • bovine spongiform encephalopathy
  • bovine tuberculosis (M. bovis)
  • brucellosis
  • ceratomyxosis (Ceratomyxa shasta)
  • chronic wasting disease of cervids
  • classical swine fever (hog cholera)
  • contagious bovine pleuropneumonia
  • contagious equine metritis
  • cysticercosis
  • epizootic haematopoietic necrosis
  • equine infectious anaemia
  • equine piroplasmosis (B. equi and B. caballi)
  • foot and mouth disease (FMD)
  • fowl typhoid (Salmonella gallinarum)
  • Haplosporidium nelsoni
  • highly pathogenic avian influenza
  • infectious haematopoietic necrosis
  • infectious pancreatic necrosis
  • infectious salmon anaemia

  • anémie infestieuse du saumon
  • koi herpesvirus disease
  • lumpy skin disease
  • Marteilia refringens
  • Marteiliodes chungmuensis
  • Mikrocytos mackini
  • Newcastle disease
  • Perkinsus marinus
  • Perkinsus olseni
  • peste des petits ruminants
  • pseudorabies (Aujeszky’s disease)
  • pullorum disease (S. pullorum)
  • rabies
  • Rift Valley fever
  • rinderpest
  • scrapie
  • sheep and goat pox
  • spring viraemia of carp
  • swine vesicular disease
  • Taura syndrome
  • trichinellosis
  • Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis
  • vesicular stomatitis
  • viral haemorrhagic septicaemia
  • whirling disease (Myxobolus cerebralis)
  • white spot disease
  • white sturgeon iridoviral disease
  • yellow head disease

 

SALMONGATE! Testimony today and yesterday at Cohen Commission demonstrating DFO and Canada Food Inspection Agency willingly hiding salmon disease from public.

An email entered as evidence at the Cohen Commission today (#2110) from a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) employee, Joseph Beres, states (in relation to the DFO and CFIA public relations efforts to stifle news of Infectious Salmon Anemia on the Pacific Coast in wild Pacific salmon):

 It is clear that we are turning the PR tide to our favour…one battle is won, now we have to nail the surveillance piece, and we will win the war… Concentrate on the headlines, that’s often all that people read or remember. Both the “Top Stories” and the “Related Pieces”.

This appears to be in support of a press release on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans website dated Oct. 24, 2011 stating, and this is a direct quote from the DFO press release:

 In short, there has never been a confirmed case of ISA in British Columbia salmon – farmed or wild.

It would appear that, in short, this is an absolute and complete LIE.

(aka: “An intentionally false statement.”)

I did a quick search for what it means when public service/civil service employees lie. Came across a curious quote:

Sir Henry Taylor argued that though the first principles of morality in regard to truth are plain and definite, the derivative principles, and their application in practice are not so: ‘… falsehood ceases to be falsehood when it is understood at all levels that the truth is not expected to be spoken.’

[the other mind blower in here… do public service employees not understand that emails can be requested under Freedom of Information or otherwise… are there not courses on “don’t say stupid shit on email”?]

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An article in the LA Times in early December coined the phrase: SALMONGATE.

Did Canada cover up deadly salmon virus? Report suggests yes

Call it Salmongate. The deepening controversy over who knew what and when about a deadly virus that may or may not have been detected in West Coast salmon would be obscure fodder for biologists if there weren’t so much at stake — the health of the West’s dwindling stocks of wild salmon, for one. And Canada’s $2.1-billion fish farming industry.

Testimony today at the Cohen Commission into Fraser River salmon declines — being streamed out on social media, as there is no public streaming of the hearings — as well as on an article relased on the Globe & Mail website just a little while ago, is demonstrating willful misleading of the public and international trade partners.

And not just misleading the public, but intimidating various individuals trying to get this information out to the public and into scientific circles so immediate action can be taken:

Federal agency accused of intimidation over salmon disease

Scientists who uncovered the first signs that infectious salmon anemia is present on the West Coast have found themselves shunned and intimidated by federal government officials, the Cohen Commission has heard.

Dr. Kibenge said shortly after SFU went public he was called by government officials who had questions about how his lab operated.

Dr. Kibenge told the Cohen Commission, which is inquiring into the collapse of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River, that he initially thought the CFIA was interested in finding how his lab could work co-operatively with a DFO lab they use for ISA testing, in Moncton, New Brunswick.

But he said after officials arrived, he realized they were really more interested in finding faults with his operation as a means to undermine the credibility of his ISA virus findings.

His lab is one of only a handful certified by the World Organization for Animal Health for ISA testing and he is a recognized expert on the virus.

Mr. McDade suggested to Dr. Kibenge that had he reported negative results for the ISA virus, he wouldn’t have been subject to any CFIA scrutiny.

“I agree, yeah,” he said. “Negative findings are very easy to deal with. . .it’s the positive findings that are difficult to accept.”

Dr. Kibenge’s lab in 2007 confirmed the first occurrence of ISA in farmed Atlantic salmon in Chile, where the virus triggered a disease outbreak that killed millions of salmon.

The Cohen Commission has also heard that Molly Kibenge, Dr. Kibenge’s wife, had found evidence of the ISA virus in 2002 and 2003 while doing research at the Pacific Biological Station. But DFO denied her request to publish that research, saying her findings were in doubt because another lab failed to repeat her findings.

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If heads don’t roll over this, I’ll be floored.

Infectious Salmon Anemia is listed right up there with foot-and-mouth disease, mad cow disease, and others — as diseases that need to be reported to the public and to trade partners… immediately.

Denial is not an option.

Plus, with ISA on the coast, and senior government managers purposefully misleading superiors on this issue, and then the story coming to light, and DFO and the CFIA spend their time mounting a credibility attack and public relations campaign — as opposed to immediate direct and affirmative action to act upon the disease.

Maybe there is an imminent shake up coming to a government ministry near you…

 

New York Times and others reporting on ISA issue and Cohen Commission special hearings

"DFO" -- Disconnected Forever On.

The New York Times ran an article late yesterday on the continued hearings into Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) at the Cohen Commission into Fraser River sockeye declines.

Canada Holds Hearings on Suspected Virus in Salmon

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The fate of wild salmon is a sensitive topic in the Pacific Northwest and arguments often end up in court in the United States, whether over threats to endangered fish by hydroelectric dams or sea lions swallowing them along their migration routes.

But on Thursday, a new and particularly bitter dispute began playing out in a very different kind of judicial venue across the Canadian border: a provincial Supreme Court justice held a hearing into questions of whether a potentially lethal virus had been detected in wild Pacific salmon — and whether the Canadian government was responding adequately.

The virus, infectious salmon anemia, has devastated farmed Atlantic salmon stocks in Chile and elsewhere. Some conservationists and scientists have long worried that the virus would spread from farmed fish to wild ones. Those fears escalated in October, when opponents of British Columbia’s ambitious farmed Atlantic salmon program, which is heavily promoted by the government, presented lab results they said showed an asymptomatic form of the virus in wild Pacific salmon.

Several more reports of the virus have emerged in the past two months, including a draft paper suggesting that the virus was detected as early as 2002 but not revealed by the government, further angering farming opponents.

The developments have prompted passionate debate on both sides of the border, with reaction veering from accusations that the Canadian government is covering up evidence of the disease to claims by Canadian officials that the reports are based on poor science.

The most combative exchanges occurred during testimony by Kristina Miller, the head of molecular genetics for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans laboratory at Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island. While previous reports of the virus had surfaced from sources outside the Canadian government, only to have Canadian officials question them, Dr. Miller testified that she also had received positive results when she tested for the virus, known as I.S.A. She said that when she reported her work to a superior last month, she was asked why she had conducted it at all.

“Nobody in the department talked to me about disease or I.S.A. after that,” Dr. Miller testified. At one point, she said she was frustrated at what she called “flippant dismissal of pathogens” that could be harmful.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is charged with promoting aquaculture but also with protecting wild fish, a dual mission that some critics say creates conflicts. Agency officials are scheduled to testify in the next two days…

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It doesn’t only create “conflicts”; it is a fundamental “conflict of interest”.

Some suggest that “conflict of interest” means: “We can define a conflict of interest as a situation in which a person has a private or personal interest sufficient to appear to influence the objective exercise of his or her official duties as, say, a public official, an employee, or a professional.

Enter government agency in there that is providing massive amounts of funding (over $100 million in recent years) to the salmon farming industry in Canada — and yet this week, DFO is starting the process of handing out pink slips to over 400 employees, mainly in the science and conservation sectors.

Is there a disconnect here?

The central mandate of the publicly funded Department of Fisheries and Ocean is “conservation” of wild fish populations, and yet it is now laying many people off that are in fact key in that function — all because of apparent “budget cuts”.

Yet… yet… how many employees would the $100 million or so given to the salmon farming industry in recent years, which most certainly does not play a role in “conserving” wild populations — how many employees would that support?

Government cover up coming to light at Cohen Commission today…? Check that: this has been a cover up!

Social media at work is suggesting that the government has indeed been involved in a cover up of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) on BC’s coast.

The Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser sockeye has convened a couple of days of special hearings, which are underway right now.

On the stand this morning was Dr. Kristi Miller the DFO scientist (head of Molecular Genetics Laboratory at DFO Nanaimo) who has had her research muzzled by the Privy Council Office of the Prime Minister.

Salmon farming on the hot seat at Cohen Commission

Today, as being reported on different social media circles, here are some quotes:

Dr Miller is blowing the whistle big time…

An email from a few days ago is marked as Exhibit #2055 – Dr Miller explains the ISA testing she’s been carrying out. “It’s an important question to find out how long ISA has been here,” says Dr Miller. “We went back to our samples from 1984 and we found that we could amplify PCR products in 1986 and thereafter. The patterns were very similar to now – with positives for ISA. ISA has been here for at least 25 years

“I had a meeting with the BC Salmon Farmers Association,” says Dr Miller. “But at the very last minute they took Atlantic farmed salmon out of the testing. The BCSFA did not want their farmed Atlantic salmon to be tested”.Dr Miller describes the Government’s testing of farmed salmon and asked to test farmed Atlantic salmon but Dr Miller was only allowed to sample for parvovirus NOT ISA. And the samples that were given were useless as the samples were degraded…

Dr Miller testifies that her lab only received half the funding her lab needs

Mr Taylor asks Dr Miller about ISA being in BC since at least 1986. “Given those 1986 samples showed divergence it would suggest it has been here longer,” says Dr Miller.

“There was a threat that I could lose samples that I rely on for my genomic profiling,” says Dr Miller. She was basically threatend by the Government that her research would be closed down and blocked for testing for ISA.

Dr Miller refers to a jaundice-project with Creative Salmon in Clayoquot Sound – she tested their farmed chinook salmon and we identified ISA-positive farmed salmon (sampled last Winter and close to market size). ISA in farmed salmon in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve!!!

Kristi [Miller] tested a Chinook farm at Creative Salmon farms and they tested positive for ISA on that farm. These fish were also jaundice. So far they are the only company willing to give them samples. Question from commission: You testified earlier saying that the farms would give you samples. Kristi- Yes I had a meeting with BC salmon farmers association and we agreed upon a proposal that I would test their salmon but at the last moment they pulled this from the proposal and said we could not test any of their fish.

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After lunch Greg McDade, lawyer for Alex Morton and others will be questioning government scientists for 15 minutes — approximately 1:45 this afternoon.

Will be interesting to see what media stories come out of this tonight and tomorrow…

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Update: 2 pm Thursday.

CBC is apparently already on it:

Salmon virus in B.C. for decades, say biologists

Department of Fisheries (DFO) biologists have told a federal inquiry that fish samples, dating back more than two decades have tested positive for a potentially lethal wild sockeye fish virus — but that fact wasn’t publicly reported.

Dr. Kristi Miller, the head of molecular genetics for DFO in Nanaimo, told the Cohen Commission on Thursday that frozen samples dating back to 1986 have been tested, and show infectious salmon anemia (ISA) has been in B.C. waters for at least 25 years.

The public inquiry into the decline of the Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks was extended for three extra days after ISA was detected in wild B.C. salmon two months ago by Simon Fraser University Prof. Rick Routledge.

That revelation put the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and B.C.’s fish farming industry on high alert, but those results couldn’t be confirmed and government scientists announced earlier this month that extensive testing came up negative.

The alleged presence of ISA in B.C. salmon stocks is controversial because the virus had never before been found in salmon off B.C.’s coast, either in the Atlantic species that are farmed in ocean pens or in B.C.’s indigenous wild salmon.

The virus is known to be devastating to farmed Atlantic salmon and opponents of the fish farm industry have suggested farmed fish could spread ISA to wild stocks, with catastrophic results.

The virus has been linked to the destruction of the salmon farming industry in Chile and Europe.

The crisis has prompted the Canada Food Inspection Agency to develop a regular surveillance program for ISA, that is expected to be in place as early as next spring.

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Please stay posted for SPIN Machine coming from DFO, Canadian Food Inspection Agency and BC Salmon Farmer’s Association… that should be hitting the airwaves any time soon.

See if DFO and the CFIA have another mis-guided, disconnect, press conference…

Which drugs do the DFO and Canadian Food Inspection Agency need for their premature communication issue? (hairtrigger problems anyone?)

As things lead up to the special hearings at the Cohen Commission in to Fraser sockeye declines this week, the heat is turned up…

More information suggesting that Canada and BC’s regulations to protect BC’s and the North Pacific’s wild salmon stocks from Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) — are not good enough.

As per usual, it’s taking ex-DFO and ex-Provincial scientists to blow the whistle… because, as pointed out in the previous post, there are most likely many that don’t want to sacrifice their healthy public servant wages and pensions by speaking out and facing repercussions?

Here’s an article out of Victoria, BC’s Times Colonist today, as well as the leaked report from the ex-Provincial government scientist — a report which has been submitted to the Cohen Commission.

Canada’s fish health regulations are not stringent enough to prevent viruses from being imported to West Coast fish farms on Atlantic salmon eggs, says a former high-level provincial government fisheries biologist.Sally Goldes, fish health unit section head at the B.C. Environment Ministry for 17 years, has submitted a paper to the Cohen Commission on the decline of Fraser River sockeye that says iodine treatment of eggs and the testing of overseas providers of salmon eggs – Canada’s defence against disease transmission – are inadequate…

…”The data – [inadequate sample sizes, ineffectiveness of iodine disinfection, etc.] suggests that the current Canada Fish Health Protection Rules do not provide a high level of regulatory security against the introduction of ISAV into British Columbia,” the paper concludes.

“It is important to remember that iodine disinfection does not kill ISAV present inside the egg and it is unknown whether ISAV is in this location.”

Iodine treatment is designed to rid egg surfaces of bacteria.

This sort of sounds like thinking that would suggest that if you give your newborn baby a bath that it won’t come down with infections or illness…

Isn’t this something that would have been learned in every other place that farmed salmon have had ISA breakouts?

Guess not… the article continues:

Salmon farms in B.C. import Atlantic salmon eggs from such countries as Britain, the U.S. and Iceland.

The virus has devastated fish farms in Chile and Norway and is also present in Atlantic Canada.

She is concerned ISA could be introduced to B.C. waters and spread to already stressed wild salmon populations.

“If you really look closely at the regulations, from a scientific basis, there is not the high degree of protection that the government, and particularly DFO, states that they have,” Goldes said. “It’s an issue of trust.”

Hmmm, one could maybe do a poll of Canadians and ask how much trust they have in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans — and maybe even the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, in this particular case.

Let’s just say it’s probably at an all time low.

Especially, after it came clear that the Food Inspection Agency mounted a big communications campaign with Canada’s trade partners, after the first reported ISA findings in wild Pacific salmon — as opposed to the Canadian public.

And now, both DFO and the CFIA mount denial campaigns.

The problem with denial campaigns is that if you get proven wrong, and in fact are not only proven wrong in your denials and that you held the responsibility in the first place — it’s sort of like a double whammy.

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The article continues:

“I think DFO and CFIA have a lot more work to do. I think that press conference was entirely premature,” she said.

[nothing like premature communication]

“The problem is that DFO has a dual mandate for aquaculture and wild fish, and the decisions are political.”

Amen to that Ms. Goldes — as the old cliche goes: you hit the nail on the head…

And as we’ll all find out soon enough, DFO and the CFIA most likely missed the nail head completely and hit their thumbs… and if it does turn out that they are denying something that is in fact true (e.g. ISA is in wild Pacific salmon — and that better safeguards needed to be in place, and should be in place) — then they’re should be several ‘nail’ heads rolling in the circle of civil servants and Ministers, and deputy ministers, and assistant deputy ministers.

The decisions are political is always one to keep in mind… look no further then Harper’s government/Canada’s removal from the Kyoto protocol (a vote of confidence for oil and gas companies and pipeline companies). Or the current situation in the northern Ontario First Nation community of Attawapiskat — shameful

The federal government can spend $50 million+ on frigging gazebos for 2-3 days of meetings in Ontario’s cottage country, build a fake lake (at what coast?), and so on and then set out on trying to shame a northern community for how it manages its money. Money spent that is audited yearly more heavily then any other government financing handed out in this country.

(Especially money handed out to particular ridings held by Conservative MPs that may be threatened in an election…)

Ahhh, the twisted priorities of the political game… (but I digress…)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Here is the leaked report from the Fishyleaks site:– the report that the Salmon Farmer’s Association is whining about being prematurely released.

Hmmm, all this talk of premature… maybe the salmon farming industry was given free reign to BC’s coast prematurely?

Dr Sally Goldes report

The abstract for the report suggests:

Atlantic salmon eyed eggs have been imported almost yearly into British Columbia during the period 1985 until 2010 from a number of countries including the USA, UK , Iceland and also from Atlantic Canada  (BC Atlantic Imports).   Source aquaculture facilities, except for more recent imports from Iceland (where the definition of lot was not achieved, however the rest of the procedures were the same) were certified free of specified piscine pathogens of concern according to testing protocols mandated in the Canadian Fish Health Protection Regulations (CFHPR).  Immediately prior to shipment, eyed eggs were disinfected according to the CFHPR iodophor disinfection protocol.

Certification and iodine egg disinfection together are the main pillar’s of Canada’s defense against the introduction of exotic piscine diseases such as Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA).  In order to protect British Columbia’s wild aquatic ecosystems and aquaculture industries these measures must provide a high level of security.   Close scientific examination of these regulatory measures however raises concerns that in-practice, these measures fail to provide the high level of protection required.  This discussion focuses on certain concerns with: (1) ISA detection using cell culture, (2) sample size, and (3) iodine surface disinfection, however there remain many other weaknesses.

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Could be an interesting week at Cohen Commission — stay tuned…

“The case of the missing fish”… why don’t we just look in a mirror…?

dave's North Pacific salmon "mysteries"

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The Globe and Mail is running another article by Mark Hume on the apparent “disappearing sockeye salmon”…

The case of the missing fish

What is killing British Columbia’s salmon? And just where is the crime scene?

Like Agatha Christie’s fictional detective, Hercule Poirot, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen is faced with a mass of conflicting evidence as his federal inquiry tries to answer those questions and explain what happened to millions of salmon that have vanished at sea…

The article goes on to explain the ‘great mystery’ of declining sockeye populations on the Fraser River… and compares all the various “suspects” that may (or may not) play a part in the great decline of Fraser sockeye.

There is so much rhetoric and babble and apparent ‘complexity’ to this issue… so say the “experts” anyways…

However, let’s slow down for a second and explore a couple key pieces that Mr. Hume suggests in his article… starting with the second paragraph… “tries to… explain what happened to millions of salmon that have vanished at sea.

Well, that’s an interesting statement… as… we don’t know — in the first place — how many baby sockeye went to sea. We have no frigging clue. The “experts” extrapolate from a variety of estimates of how many adults successfully spawned in the 4-6 years previous, and how many of those eggs in the gravel survived to become little tiny baby salmon (alevin).

little baby salmon - alevin - fresh from the gravel

As one might imagine, these little gaffers are pretty sensitive… not to mention that no shortage of other critters living in creeks, lakes and rivers have evolved to feast on the timing of these little things arriving out of the gravel — no different then any fly fisher who tries to time the various hatches of bugs and such to trick fish into biting their hooks wrapped in varieties of fuzz and other paraphernalia.

Then how many of those little alevin survived to either head to sea or hang out in a freshwater lake for one or two years — dodging any other complete system of predators and other threats.

salmon smolts, migrating out

Then how many of those youngster sockeye ‘smolts’ migrated out to sea, dodging a whole other slew of threats and predators and in the Fraser, then have to spend some time adjusting from fresh water critters to salt water critters — in amongst no shortage of sewage, tugs & barges, urban run-off, endocrine disruptors, periodic oil and fuel spills, and so on.

Then its run the gauntlet of the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait) — including salmon farms, walls of sea lice, and whatever else.

Then its the BC and Alaska coastlines, then “the sea”.

How many?

We have no frigging clue.

So essentially, we sort of have a mystery… of a mystery…of a mystery…

If we start talking about the mystery of “disappearing salmon”… or as referred to in the article as “vanishing salmon”… we don’t even know if they were there in the first place.

baby salmon… now you see ’em… now you don’t…. (oh wait, maybe this wasn’t a game of salmon peek-a-boo… they were just never there in the first place?).

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I drew the image at the beginning of this post the other day as a suggestion of how we will never understand these apparent salmon “mysteries”… or “vanishing” or “disappearing acts”…

And nor should the load be put on Justice Cohen to ‘figure it out’… this isn’t a case of legal precedent, or evolution of the Code of Hammurabi, or Roman Law, or common law, or civil law, or stare decisis… not that our judges are not capable of dealing with all sorts of phenomenal complexities…

however to understand the great mysteries of nature, the North Pacific, and so on… I don’t think so, nor do I expect so… (even law is a great philosophical gray area of all sorts of complexities…)

As it says in my chicken scratch writing in the illustration: “try and disprove that this was the reason for the 2009 ‘disappearance’ of Fraser sockeye…

Well… you can’t. Nobody can conclusively disprove my ‘theory’ for Fraser salmon disappearance. Just as I can’t ‘prove’ my theory…

Just as no one will be able to prove or disprove the apparent Fraser sockeye ‘vanishing’ or ‘disappearance’…

_ _ _ _ _ _

See here’s the thing…

to vanish” means to: “disappear suddenly and completely.” And, for something to “disappear” it had to be there in the first place. Because disappear means:

1. To pass out of sight; vanish.
2. To cease to exist.

See, “dis” means: “do the opposite of” — and so the opposite of disappear is… “appear

And the Latin roots of the word appear suggest it means: “to appear, come in sight, make an appearance.” Starting way back in the 13th century, the current meaning arose from: “to come into view.”

Thus there needed to be fish (e.g. Fraser sockeye) there in the first place — to come into view —  for them to in turn: “disappear” or “vanish”.

But… well… ummmm… we don’t know if they were there in the first place (for example, appeared out of the gravel as alevins) for them to in turn…

dis    appear.

We’re simply hypothesizing… (and sometimes, the thing with hypothesizing, is that the hypothesis might be wrong…)

Therefore… if this is a great mystery… and we’re looking for something that may not have existed in the first place… and we’re looking for a “culprit” that made something “vanish” that never may have in fact existed… is there a “mystery”?

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As one of the over 100 comments to Mr. Hume’s articles suggests, something to the effect of: “ummm… wild salmon have been ‘disappearing’ across the BC coast for decades… is it any surprise that there are dwindling salmon populations in the Fraser…?”

See now this would be a more appropriate use of the term “disappear” because this refers specifically to the view that most coastal folks know intimately, that in recent memory there were thousands upon thousands upon thousands of wild salmon runs in every little trickle of water that hits the Pacific Ocean.

And that these thousands upon thousands of runs produced hundreds of thousands upon millions of adult salmon that returned year after year after year…

those runs have now largely… DISAPPEARED, VANISHED, NADA, ZILCH… EXTINCT…

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wait a second…

there used to be close to 200 distinct Fraser sockeye stocks spread all over the Fraser watershed…?

now the number of stocks is a mere shadow of itself… the stocks have disappeared, as they were once certainly there before… (e.g. made an appearance)

When did that disappearance start…? hmmm… about 1880 or so… when mass salmon canneries opened up and down the Pacific Coast — from California to Alaska.

And then for the next 120 years, mass mixed stock fisheries continued to hammer and hammer and hammer away on wild salmon stocks all along the Pacific coast. Throw in a massive rock slide in the Fraser River in the lower reaches in 1913 and we have a recipe for disaster…

this isn’t meant to blame the fishers, they were simply doing what the regulations said they could… no different then people that get in deadly crashes while driving the speed limit of 100 km/hr… (e.g. speed kills…)

Fortunately, the incredible power of diversity (e.g. over 200 distinct evolutionary-evolved stocks) allowed the overall Fraser sockeye run to continue to return in big numbers (but still a shadow of the over 100 million Fraser sockeye of earlier years — pre-canneries — as Mr. Hume suggests in the article).

And then the 2000s (and maybe earlier) a vastly depleted resource — just as every other river and creek from California to BC will attest to — began to show signs of exhaustion, collapse, depletion…

Ever been at the finish line of a marathon or an Ironman triathlon — i’ve been to many — the look on the faces, and the condition of the bodies crossing the finishing line, is essentially what we’ve seen happen to Fraser sockeye in recent years.

Exhaustion and now extinction (e.g. like a ‘retired’ triathlete)…     why?

Because we’ve subjected the runs and populations to a litany of abuses… they’re exhausted, depleted, and in need of serious recuperation and recovery. (which unfortunately, like after a triathlon is simply rest along with a few beer and a big steak…)

You know recuperation as in: “gradual healing (through rest) after sickness or injury

For close to a century — 100 years — we humans have subjected the Fraser sockeye runs to close to 80% depletion, by injury (aka mixed stock fisheries) every single year, year after year, after year. And meanwhile, in the places where they have an opportunity to ‘regenerate’, we’ve been making a mess through habitat destruction, pollution, water draw-down, and conveniently warming up the water…

Added, the moment there is any sign of recovery… BWAMMO! hit them again with fisheries, get the nets in the water, “oh… we’re cautious now, we only take 60%…” says DFO official policy…  the conservation-based, ecosystem-based… WILD SALMON POLICY

then add in the potential of foreign-imported diseases such as Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) — just one more European-rooted disease introduced to the BC Coast, or more sewage, or more Prozac, Cialis, and other not-good-enough-treated-sewage, add in a couple degrees of warming… and… and…

_ _ _ _ _

Unfortunately, it just seems that maybe we’re opening up the wrong doors and using the wrong language in this apparent “investigation” for finding “perpetrators” for something that may not have existed in the first place… (at least in the short-term view)

Just as I heard a discussion the other day on the radio… look at the worn out, cliche phrase: “war on drugs.”

Apparently, police forces, governments (e.g. G. Dubya Bush and his pa before), and policy and so on and so on… is engaged in this “WAR ON DRUGS“… yet since this phrase started circulating in the 1980s and so on, drugs and drug-related issues have only become more common, drugs are available cheaper, way more prevalent, way more common, and in way more places, and over 50% of the US prison population is made up of people in on drug-related charges… (a massive drain on government and public resources…)

(or how about the investigation and invasion of countries in the search of WMD’s…?)

Just like any ‘crime’ or ‘moral wrong’ or otherwise — what’s the best strategy for prevention in the first place…?

well… education, good parenting, good social institutions, and so on. (e.g. good ‘systems’)

Does telling our kids not to do drugs because there’s a: “WAR ON DRUGS !!” — going to be all that effective?

Probably not. Maybe looking at our language would allow for much more proactive, positive, and effective prevention strategies in the first place….?

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See… when it comes to wild salmon the “perpetrator” in this apparent CRIME… this apparent MURDER MYSTERY  is walking around in plain sight, free to do as s/he pleases, no day pass, no ankle bracelet for monitoring, no parole officer… all you have to do is… look in a mirror…

…and then sit down with others in the community to facilitate and develop a suitable prescription for healing and recuperation…

hmmm… like a CITIZEN’S ASSEMBLY… as opposed to a quasi-court-of-law approach with judges and lawyers and yellow “DO NOT CROSS” ticker tape parades, and salmon chalk lines, and confidentiality agreements and RED TAPE bureaucracy celebrations, and “I’m sorry sir, I cannot recall…”, and adversarial cross-examination, and character assassination, and… and… and…

Time for a new approach?

what say you…?

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…

_ _ _ _ _ _

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…

_ _ _ _ _ _

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _

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…

_ _ _ _ _

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…

_ _ _ _ _ _

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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.