Tag Archives: DFO

“DFO scientist says Privy Council silenced her”

Canadian Press story:

DFO scientist says Privy Council silenced her

A fisheries scientist says she believes senior officials close to the prime minister prevented her from talking to the media about her research into the 2009 sockeye salmon collapse in B.C. …

Miller testified she believes it would have been useful to speak to the media after the article’s publication to let them know what scientists knew and didn’t know and she found it frustrating to see the direction some news stories went.

The federal government did not dispute Miller’s suggestion that it was the Privy Council Office, which serves the prime minister, that refused to allow Miller to talk to media.

“Dr. Miller’s testimony was thorough, extensive and speaks for itself,” Dimitri Soudas, communications director at the Prime Minister’s Office, said in an email to The Canadian Press.

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Globe and Mail story:

Privy Council blocked scientist’s access to media, Cohen probe told

The top bureaucratic arm of the federal government decided a fisheries scientist who published a paper on a virus that could explain the decline of Fraser River sockeye would not be allowed to speak to the media, even though her department had no objection, an inquiry has heard.

Further complicating matters is the fact that funding for Dr. Miller’s program is in jeopardy due to a shift in policy for paying staff.

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Nothing to be concerned about though… will be the comments flowing in from some of those that leave comments on this site…

Why did the Privy Council Office feel it had to intervene?

And what about the continued flow of ‘outside’ funding to keep DFO scientists afloat? … and now in jeopardy of being cut-off…?

curious stuff…


discarding North Coast chum — make sense? (If it’s broke — it probably needs a fixin…)

spawning chum

This comment was posted recently under the post: If it’s broke; it probably needs a fixin’… wild salmon “management” in Canada

Seems like something might be ‘broke’… (thanks for the comment Greg).

North Coast commercial salmon fishermen have discarded almost 22% of their total catch so far this year, including 1.2 million pounds of chum salmon, many coming from stocks DFO has described as being of “special conservation concern”. One-half of these chum discards came from areas in and around the Great Bear Rainforest.

Unlike most other BC fisheries there are no independent observers to confirm the accuracy of the discard information provided by fishermen. At least two DFO science papers and a recent J.O.Thomas Report have expressed concerns about fishermen “underhailing” their discards. Hence, the number of fish reported by DFO as having been discarded should be considered a “minimum” estimate.

In addition, the absence of independent observers means that fisheries are not monitored to ensure fishermen abide by their “Terms of Licence” and return the discarded salmon back into the water “with the least possible harm”. There are no scientifically defensible estimates of the proportion of discarded chum that survive to spawn, but it is believed to be relatively low.

DFO requires that chums be discarded as a “conservation measure”. Yet, DFO cannot provide scientifically defensible estimates of how many chum salmon are discarded, the proportion that survive to spawn, the consequences of killing so many salmon from depressed populations, or the associated ecological costs.

Why is this allowed to occur?

1. Chums are of no commercial value on the North Coast. In fact, they are a cost to fishermen. Discarding chums slows the fishing process. The objective is to discard the unwanted salmon as fast as possible rather doing all that can be done to ensure they survive the encounter.

2. The recreational sector has little interest in north and central coast chums and therefore places little value on them.

3. Most of the impacted chum stocks are located in wild and remote areas of BC like the Great Bear Rainforest, isolated from the majority of BC’s population, and therefore “out of sight, out of mind”.

In contrast, management of chum fisheries on the South Coast reflects the economic and social value people living on the south coast place in their salmon. Commercial fisheries targeting chum salmon are managed to a maximum 15% commercial harvest rate. There are significant and growing recreational fisheries for chums in both salt and fresh water. Eco-businesses have flourished taking people to gaze in wonder and awe at grizzly bears feasting on salmon. And watching chum spawn in local streams is a major event in many communities.

In order to save North Coast chum salmon DFO needs to be told that the value of these fish should be measured not just in dollars. That as British Columbians we value our wild places, our bears, our steams, and our forests. And what binds it all together is our salmon.

They are too important to be discarded. North Coast chum salmon stocks need to be rebuilt and protected.

Greg Taylor
SkeenaWild Conservation Trust
August 5, 2011

“Is Scientific Inquiry Incompatible with Government Information Control?”

Pretty good piece by Dr. Gordon Hartman, former Department of Fisheries and Oceans, posted at “The Common Sense Canadian”. As quoted on the website:

Dr. Gordon F. Hartman has consulted on fisheries issues in a number of foreign countries to help them contribute to the well being of that resource. Leading fishery scientists all over the world will attest to his knowledge and ability. Dr Hartman, long a premier scientist and manager with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, was one of the “dissident scientists”, as Alcan referred to them – a sobriquet he wears with pride – who helped mightily in the fight to cancel the Kemano Completion Program proposal for the Nechako system.

This title is quoted from a publication by Jeffry Hutchings, Carl Walters and Richard Haedrich, back in May of 1987. Their paper dealt with government control of science information in regard to the cod fish crisis in the Atlantic Ocean, and the Kemano Completion issue in B.C.  Now, almost 25 years later, their title question is still appropriate when we consider the control of public communication by Dr. Kristina Miller, a DFO scientist at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo. The control is in regard to her public discussion of her (and co-author’s) highly technical paper on genomic signature and mortality of migrating Sockeye salmon (Science, pages 214-217, Vol. 331, 14 January, 2011). The muzzling of this scientist originates primarily in the office of the Prime Minister of Canada, far more than in the DFO bureaucracy.

I have read the paper and it is unclear to me why there should be any reluctance on the part of government, at any level, to having such research discussed with the public. It is even less clear to me why Dr. Miller is constrained from discussing such work until after she appears before the Cohen Inquiry in late August. Her work is already open to the scientific community through publication in the prestigious journal, Science. To the extent that Dr. Miller and co-author’s work on wild salmon in the Fraser River may provide help in sustaining them, it should be open to the public now. Science should not be used for playing political games.

When one considers the behavior and record of governments, over the years and at the  very “top end”, there is cause to wonder what the real commitment is, deep down, in regard to sustaining wild salmon. The bitter history of issues such as Alcan/Kemano, salmon farming, and Fraser River gravel mining underlie such concern. In each case there appears to be an unspoken policy of business and industry first, and wild salmon and their environments second. Salmon-friendly measures such as the “wild salmon” policy and “no-net-loss” principle are positive, however, they seem to have less weight than they should when big business is involved.

Such doubt and concern has “big roots” as far back as the mid 1980s in the Kemano completion issue. A major element of debate involved the allocation of adequate flows in the Nechako River for the Chinook salmon population that reproduced there. Full review of this unfortunate part of history is not possible in a limited space. A listing of the chronology of events is given in my paper in the publication (GeoJournal, October 1996, Volume 40, nos. 1 & 2, page147 – 164).

A deeper and harsher indication of the misuse of scientists and their work is given in the Brief to the B.C. Utilities Commission Review Panel by Dr. J.H. Mundie (The Kemano Completion Project: An Example of Science in Government, 50 pages, February 1994).

  • Dr. Mundie tells of the Schouwenburg report, the joint year-long work of about ten scientists, being buried. This report contained the best advice the scientists could offer regarding required flows for salmon in the Nechako River.
  • He reviews how DFO scientists and managers were told that the minister accepted Alcan’s prescribed flows as adequate.
  • He reviews how a group of DFO people and Alcan consultants, over a four day weekend period, came up with a program to make Alcan’s dictated flow regime work.
  • He testifies to his being pushed, unsuccessfully, to change his expert witness document regarding flows required for salmon.
  • He quotes the minister’s statement in regard to scientists who were concerned about the Alcan/Nechako River process, they should either agree with him, or “take their game and play elsewhere.”

Except for the need for brevity, the experiences of other scientists could be added to this section. This history is not presented to re-acquaint people with the whole controversial history of the Alcan/Nechako episode. It is touched on to indicate that little has changed during about the last 25 years in the way governments manage science and scientists.

Organizations like DFO contain many very talented and dedicated people. The public does not gain the full benefit that they might offer in the present politicized and bureaucratized system. Both the public and the public servants deserve better.

As for the Fraser River salmon, they face a difficult and uncertain future even if only the freshwater environment is considered. It is a future marked by change and complexity. The complexity involves interaction of climate, flow regimes, thermal and forest cover changes. Added to these are, expanding human populations, water abstraction, pollution, and competing demands for catch.

There is urgent need for a structure that can focus on these major challenges now and into the years ahead. Such complex and expanding challenges cannot be dealt with without scientific knowledge. Whatever the Cohen Inquiry might do, it is not a substitute for science now, and into the future.

Beyond the provision of knowledge, we need a structure that allows the public to know what the scientific findings and advice are. We need a structure that permits thoughtful public response and feed-back to such information.

If political people must over-ride science for reasons of “greater societal good”, which they have every right of do, let them do so openly. Then let them also explain it openly, rather than trying to shape and manipulate science, through the bureaucracy, to serve political or business ends.

G.F. Hartman, Ph.D.,

August 2011

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The underlined part goes back to this idea I’ve put out there frequently, something akin to a Citizen’s Assembly on how we coexist with wild salmon.

As I’ve also mentioned frequently on this site, it’s not just up to the ‘scientists’; however, science does play an important part.

(and this is made clear by the Prime Minister’s Office interference on this particular issue of muzzling scientists)

Unfortunately, though, just as the East Coast Cod collapse, and issues such as massive dam construction, and so on — it doesn’t really matter what the “scientists” say or what their ‘science’ says; it’s the economists and politicians opinions that win. And thus a “scientific inquiry” — which is essentially what the Cohen Commission has become — won’t answer many questions…

One scientist says that, another says this… and so goes the merry-go-round.

Or the famous beast known as Hydra arrives, and that’s the thing with “science” and natural systems — just when you think you have the answer, you realize you have two more questions that need be answered. Chop of another head, two more pop up.

These are issues of political will and political decision-making — whether it be in the Prime Minister’s office or the DFO office… and yet the Cohen Commission is not to find fault with any people or branches of government. And thus, what sort of “answers” to folks expect?

And, like it or not, media plays a role in near everything. The bigger change in recent years that many of the 40% of older work force in institutions like the Departments of Fisheries and Oceans (and older range of MPs and long time bureaucrats) may not have have  full grasp upon — the power of social media.

Marketing is everything and everything is marketing — plain and simple.


And the pressure builds… “silences and lies” and DFO and the feds…

Thanks to some other folks that are hilighting these articles. The mainstream media seems to be on to this bandwagon now…

New York Times article:

Norwegians Concede a Role in Chilean Salmon Virus

By   Published: July 27, 2011

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — A virus that has killed millions of salmon in Chile and ravaged the fish farming industry there was probably brought over from Norway, a major salmon producer has acknowledged.

Cermaq, a state-controlled Norwegian aquaculture company that has become one of the principal exporters of salmon from Chile, has endorsed a scientific study concluding that salmon eggs shipped from Norway to Chile are the “likely reason” for the outbreak of the virus in 2007, according to Lise Bergan, a company spokeswoman.

But, she argued, “the report didn’t pinpoint any company” as the culprit. [gee, thank goodness for that...]

The virus, infectious salmon anaemia, or I.S.A., was first reported at a Chilean salmon farm owned by Marine Harvest, another Norwegian company [which also has a large amount of operations on the B.C. coast].

It quickly spread through southern Chile, wracking a fishing business that had become one of the country’s biggest exporters during the past 15 years. The Chilean industry, whose major clients include the United States and Brazil, suffered more than $2 billion in losses, saw its production of Atlantic salmon fall by half and had to lay off 26,000 workers.

The outbreak in Chile also revealed structural problems within the industry, including overcrowding in pens that environmentalists say probably helped speed the spread of the virus. Since then, the industry and the Chilean government have instituted a wide range of reforms to try to contain outbreaks, but despite extensive efforts to rein it in the virus continues to spread.

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Victoria Times Colonist

Muzzling scientists wrong

Taxpayers paid for Kristi Miller’s important research on why West Coast salmon stocks have been crashing.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, for which she works, wanted the information made public.

There is great public concern about the future of salmon.

And when Science, a leading research journal, published the findings in January, it notified 7,400 journalists worldwide and advised them how to seek interviews with Miller, who leads a $6-million salmon-genetics project at the federal Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo.

Then the Privy Council Office in Ottawa – the top bureaucrats – stepped in and muzzled Miller, Postmedia News reported this week. She was ordered not to talk to journalists or speak publicly about her team’s research.

Those in control in Ottawa also ordered the Fisheries Department not to issue a news release about the study, saying that it “was not very good, focused on salmon dying and not on the new science aspect.” (The research identified a genetic marker associated with increased death rates for Fraser sockeye and “raises the possibility” that a viral infection might be to blame.)

The gag order remains in effect more than six months later.

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From UPI.com:

Canada said to be silencing scientists

OTTAWA, July 27 (UPI) — A leading fisheries scientist studying why salmon stocks have been crashing off Canada’s West Coast has been muzzled by a government department, documents show.

The documents show the Privy Council Office, which supports the prime minister’s office, stopped Kristi Miller, who heads a $6 million salmon genetics project at the federal Pacific Biological Station on Vancouver Island, from talking about her work published in the research journal Science, Postmedia News reported.

The journal notified journalists worldwide and encouraged Miller to “please feel free to speak with journalists.”

Documents obtained by Postmedia News under the Access to Information Act show major media outlets were making arrangements to speak with Miller but the Privy Council Office said no to the interviews.

The office also blocked a Fisheries Department news release about Miller’s study, saying the release “was not very good, focused on salmon dying and not on the new science aspect,” the documents show.

The Harper government has been reining in federal scientists whose work is financed by taxpayers and is often of significant public interest, Postmedia said.

Researchers are now required to submit to a process that includes “media lines” approved by communications officers, strategists and ministerial staff in Ottawa, Postmedia said.

The government’s control over communication is “really poisoning the science environment within government,” said Jeffrey Hutchings, a senior fisheries scientist at Halifax’s Dalhousie University.

“When the lead author of a paper in Science is not permitted to speak about her work, that is suppression,” he said. “There is simply no ifs, ands or buts about that.”

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Don’t think this story sounds familiar… go back and read the various accounts of the collapse of North Atlantic Cod. Here’s a decent little summary I found online, from the peer reviewed Canadian Journal of Communication.

Silences and Lies: How the Industrial Fishery Constrained Voices of Ecological Conservation

by Carol Corbin — Vol 27, No 1 (2002)

…As the fishery industrialized over the course of the twentieth century, those who worked in the industry became increasingly segregated. Distinct discursive realms emerged, among them “fishers’ vernacular,” “scientific language,” “product talk,” and DFO’s “official word.”

There was little dialogue between the groups and little collective opposition to the overfishing. DFO’s “official word” claimed that the stocks were strong despite protestation to the contrary from several fishers’ groups and DFO’s own scientists.

The outcome for the region was economically and ecologically devastating.

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However, I suppose we should listen to the “official word” from the technocrats within some of these institutions that suggest all is good in the hood…

“Scientist muzzled over missing-salmon study”

Is this not deja vu all over again?

I am curious what the lengthy commenter “Brian” who apparently works for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has to say about this one…

The Province/Vancouver Sun, 26th July 2011

 Scientist muzzled over missing-salmon study

Privy Council Office gags B.C. biologist, dismisses her findings, blacks out documents

Margaret Munro (Postmedia News)

VANCOUVER — Top bureaucrats in Ottawa have muzzled a leading fisheries scientist whose discovery could help explain why salmon stocks have been crashing off Canada’s West Coast, according to documents obtained by Postmedia News.

The documents show the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister’s Office, stopped Kristi Miller from talking about one of the most significant discoveries to come out of a federal fisheries lab in years.

Science, one of the world’s top research journals, published Miller’s findings in January. The journal considered the work so significant it notified “over 7,400” journalists worldwide about Miller’s “Suffering Salmon” study.

Science told Miller to “please feel free to speak with journalists.” It advised reporters to contact Diane Lake, a media officer with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Vancouver, “to set up interviews with Dr. Miller.”

Miller heads a $6-million salmon-genetics project at the federal Pacific Biological Station on Vancouver Island.

The documents show major media outlets were soon lining up to speak with Miller, but the Privy Council Office said no to the interviews.

The Privy Council Office also nixed a Fisheries Department news release about Miller’s study, saying the release “was not very good, focused on salmon dying and not on the new science aspect,” according to documents obtained by Postmedia News under the Access to Information Act.

Miller is still not allowed to speak publicly about her discovery, and the Privy Council Office and Fisheries Department defend the way she has been silenced.

But observers say it is indefensible and more evidence of the way the government is undermining its scientists.

“There is no question in my mind it’s muzzling,” said Jeffrey Hutchings, a senior fisheries scientist at Halifax’s Dalhousie University.

“When the lead author of a paper in Science is not permitted to speak about her work, that is suppression,” he said. “There is simply no ifs, ands or buts about that.”

The Harper government has tightened the leash on federal scientists, whose work is financed by taxpayers and is often of significant public interest — be it about fish stocks, air pollution or food safety.

In one high-profile case reported by Postmedia News last year, Natural Resources Canada scientist Scott Dallimore had to wait for “pre-clearance” from political staff in the minister’s office in Ottawa to speak about a study on a colossal flood that swept across northern Canada at the end of the last ice age.

Researchers, who used to be free to discuss their science, are now required to follow a process that includes “media lines” approved by communications officers, strategists and ministerial staff in Ottawa. They vet media requests, demand reporters’ questions in advance and decide when and if researchers can give interviews.

Environment Canada now even has media officers in Ottawa tape-recording the interviews scientists are allowed to give.

Yet transparency as well as open communication and discussion are essential to science, Hutchings said, and Ottawa’s excessive control over communication is “really poisoning the science environment within government.”

“An iron curtain has been draped over communication of science in the last five to six years,” he said.

The Privy Council Office and the Fisheries Department said Miller has not been permitted to discuss her work because of the Cohen Commission, a judicial inquiry created by the prime minister to look into declines of the famed Fraser River sockeye salmon. She is expected to appear before the commission in late August.

The Privy Council Office has “management responsibility” for the commission and decided Miller should not give media interviews about her study because of the ongoing inquiry, said PCO spokesman Raymond Rivet.

“Fisheries and Oceans Canada is conscious of the requirement to ensure that our conduct does not influence, and is not perceived to be attempting to influence, the evidence or course of the inquiry,” department spokeswoman Melanie Carkner, said in a written statement.

Hutchings doesn’t buy it, saying he finds it “inconceivable that the Cohen Commission would have viewed the communication of brand new scientific information as somehow interfering with its proceedings.”

To Hutchings, the muzzling of Miller is “all about control — controlling the message and controlling communication.”

The government released 762 pages of documents relating to the Miller study to Postmedia News. Many passages and pages were blacked out before they were released.

The documents give a glimpse of the way media strategists, communication specialists and officials control and script what government scientists say — or, in Miller’s case, do not say —about their research.

The documents show the Fisheries Department wanted to publicize Miller’s study, which raises the spectre of a mysterious virus killing huge numbers of Fraser River salmon before they reach their spawning grounds.

In November, two months before Miller’s findings were published in Science, Fisheries Department communications staff started preparing “media lines.”

The lines said Miller’s findings “demonstrate unequivocally that salmon are entering the river in a compromised state and that survivorship can be predicted based on gene expression more than 200 kilometres before salmon reach the river.”

Miller’s team has not yet identified a culprit, but her Science study said one possibility was a virus associated with leukemia, which can be transmitted from fish to fish.

Reporters from Postmedia News, CBC and many other media, including Time Magazine, asked to speak with Miller after receiving the Jan. 9 notice from Science.

The documents show DFO communications staff firing off a series of “URGENT” emails as they tried to get clearance from Ottawa for Miller’s “media lines” and the OK for her to speak with reporters.

They eventually got approval from DFO’s deputy minister and the federal fisheries minister’s office but then had to go “to PCO for sign off,” the documents say.

“You need to write a note for hot-button approval,” Rhonda Walker-Sisttie, director of DFO public affairs and strategic communications in Ottawa, told the Vancouver communications branch by email, advising them to use the “PCO template for media requests.”

As the reporters’ deadlines loomed, Terence Davis, DFO’s Pacific regional director of communications, implored Ottawa to clear Miller to talk.

“If we are unable to set up a technical briefing or interviews for later today, the opportunity for DFO to gain the profile we would like for Kristi’s work may be lost or very much diluted,” Davis said in one email.

“We are pushing hard,” Walker-Sisttie assured the Vancouver communications office.

Then, weeks after the department learned Miller’s findings were to be published in Science and several days after 7,400 journalists were notified about the study, the PCO decided not to let Miller talk about her findings and their significance.

“PCO has decided that we can only respond in writing,” Walker-Sisttie reported from Ottawa. Another explained: “Kristi was not approved to provide interviews.”

The reporters, who the documents show were baffled and miffed by DFO’s inability to get Miller on the phone or on camera for interviews, filed stories based on her highly technical Science report and interviews with some of Miller’s colleagues at the University of B.C.

Miller is still not allowed to speak about the Science report, which she wrote in a Nov. 12 memo “reflects only a fraction of what we know.”

But Miller will finally be able to discuss her work in late August, when she is scheduled to testify at the Cohen Commission.

Hutchings said government communication strategists are likely now busy telling Miller: “Here is what you can say. Here is what you can’t say. Here is what we want you to stick to. Don’t talkabout this.”

“I’d be amazed if she is not receiving such quote, unquote ‘advice,’ ” said Hutchings.


When is it that publicly funded institutions can start muzzling publicly funded civil employees from releasing information rather vital to the public interest?

trouble at the DFO henhouse?

sinking ship?

So what happens in the federal Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans when colleagues call out their own? …When employees/scientists call out other employees/scientists?

Is this something the ol’ Human Resources dept. deals with?

And what does it do for public confidence when a publicly-funded government institution has their employees bickering?

A memo released as evidence within the Cohen Commission into Fraser sockeye declines suggests a little trouble in the henhouse… (in the list of evidence released July 8th — exhibit #1342)

Hargreaves and Beamish memo 2003

'... i agree with the criticisms of DFO'


Not that this sort of squabbling is surprising… however, this Ministry has a pretty important function. One is left wondering who’s running the show?

no association, personally or professionally

‘…not a good team player…’

how dare you.

I didn’t realize “science” was a team game…

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The Cohen Commission is into a summer break now, however there could be some more interesting DFO memos etc. How many other non-‘team players’ aren’t pulling the line?


how do you spell government cluster#$%* ?

quality urban salmon habitat?

In flipping through a web search, I came across a BC Court of Appeal decision from last week: Yanke v. Salmon Arm (City) there is also a quick summary of the case at the large Canadian law firm Blakes.

B.C. Court Limits DFO [Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans] Authority in Riparian Area Development

In short, Mr. Yanke constructed a building within a streamside protection and enhancement areas — otherwise known as the “riparian area” — of Shuswap Lake near Salmon Arm, BC.

The issue as stated in the BC Court of Appeals judgement is: “whether construction of the house, as proposed, would violate the Riparian Areas Regulation, B.C. Reg. 376/2004 under the Fish Protection Act, S.B.C. 1997, c. 21.”

These regulations are Provincial regulations established by the BC Ministry of Environment (MOE). As stated on the MOE website:

The Fish Protection Act is a key element of the British Columbia Fisheries Strategy to save our fish stocks before it’s too late .

…Protecting riparian fish habitat, while facilitating urban development that exhibits high standards is a priority for the Government of British Columbia. Good quality urban streamside habitat is essential for ensuring healthy fish populations.

[I’ll reserve comment on the immense bumpf-y-ness of this fluffy, meaningless underlined statement]

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The comment section of the Blakes’ summary tends to wrap the issue well:

The Court of Appeal decision has confirmed that the deference paid to the DFO in British Columbia by local governments when approving developments near water bodies is unsupported in legislation, and the MOE’s development of agreements and Guidebooks has not helped to end the confusion over the actual role of the DFO [federal Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans].

Curious, kind of sounds like some of the struggles underway at the Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser sockeye — e.g. What does DFO do? What is it supposed to do? What does it have the authority to do?

And more clearly — what is it supposed to be doing, and why isn’t it doing it?

Similar to the recent court decisions that overturned a decision by the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans to grant authority of salmon aquaculture to the Province.

Ooops, sorry folks… wrong decision — said the courts.

_ _ _ _ _

The Blakes summary:

In a recent decision of importance to project developers dealing with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), the B.C. Court of Appeal has agreed with the analysis of the Supreme Court of British Columbia just a year ago, which exposed the institutional fiction that the DFO may reject development proposals that do not cause a harmful alteration, disruption or destruction to fish habitat (HADD).

…the Court of Appeal explicitly confirmed the lower court’s analysis of the role the DFO plays (or does not play) under the provincial Riparian Areas Regulation (RAR), and the mistaken reliance by municipalities on the DFO to approve or disapprove of projects in riparian areas. In doing so, the Court of Appeal said the practices of the various government departments (DFO, the B.C. Ministry of Environment (MOE) and the City of Salmon Arm) appear to be based on a scheme not found in any legislation.

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It gets better…

From the BC Court of Appeals decision:

The Legislation

[13]         The legislative framework that governs this case is part of a cooperative effort between federal, provincial and local governments to preserve and enhance fish habitat. The provisions that we are concerned with regulate and restrict the use of land adjacent to watercourses.

The Appeal decision goes on to explain how the legislation was developed by the Province and how it shifted and changed in the period between the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Streamside Protection Regulation evolved into the Riparian Areas Regulation, which suggests:

[17]         The Riparian Areas Regulation establishes “riparian assessment areas” which, in the case of a lake, extend 30 m. upland from the natural boundary (or “high water mark” as defined in the regulation). No development can take place within a riparian assessment area except in accordance with the regulation.

[19]         In addition to the prescribed assessment methods, the Provincial government has published the Riparian Areas Regulation Implementation Guidebook to assist local governments, landowners, developers, community organizations and qualified environmental professionals. The guidebook sets out policies and practices that go well beyond those established in the regulation. The Attorney General concedes that the Guidebook does not have legislative force. To the extent that it sets out requirements that go beyond the legislation, therefore, those requirements are not legally enforceable.

And here is essentially the crux of the matter, and the government cluster#$%@:

[25]         It appears that the Ministry of Environment, in consultation with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Union of B.C. Municipalities, has developed a detailed (though not entirely consistent) regulatory framework for administering the Riparian Areas Regulation. This framework is reflected in the Riparian Areas Regulation Implementation Guidebook, in an agreement styled “Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement Respecting the Implementation of British Columbia’s Riparian Areas Regulation” and in a document published by the provincial government entitled “Variances to the BC Riparian Areas Regulation”.

The regulatory framework described in those documents prohibits all development within streamside protection and enhancement areas. It allows the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to adjust the boundaries of a streamside protection and enhancement area by way of a “variance” and allows a local government to make minor adjustments to the area by a process known as “flexing”.

Unfortunately, the elaborate regulatory framework described in those documents is not supported by the Fish Protection Act or the Riparian Areas Regulation, and therefore has no basis in law.


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As the Blake summary suggests:

… it is helpful that the Court has confirmed DFO’s limited role in riparian developments by providing clear direction to local governments and the province to avoid deferring decision-making to a federal entity with no authority to approve the work, and to not unilaterally diverge from the requirements of the RAR [Riparian Areas Regulation]. The hope is that municipalities will now follow the law, and stop insisting that DFO approve a project before they confirm it complies with the RAR.

Some concluding thoughts from the Court of Appeals decision:

[26]         It is not clear why there came to be such a dissonance between the statutory provisions and the regulatory framework that is actually applied. What is clear, however, is that the Court must be guided by the legislative provisions rather than by the Guidebook, the Intergovernmental Agreement, or provincial government publications.

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The saddest part of this whole thing… riparian areas in BC are basically up for development as long as an “environmental professional” says so. One has to wonder if these “professionals” take into consideration ‘cumulative impacts’ of all riparian habitat development or is it only site specific to the development at hand?

What do you think the cost of this court case was to taxpayers? Through lower courts, to BC Supreme Court, to BC Court of Appeals and Attorney General of BC is on the hook for Mr. Yanke’s costs too…

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death of a thousand cuts

wild salmon habitat… death of a thousand cuts… (paper cuts).


how do you spell ‘sinking ship’? “D…F…O”?

sinking ship?

In wandering around information on the Cohen Commission website (inquiry into declines of Fraser River sockeye), one can find some pretty interesting stuff… that is… I suppose if one is into this sort of thing…

Along the left hand column of the website is the navigation bar — under the “Hearings” tab is a link to “Exhibits”.

There are now over 1000 exhibits. Some with no shortage of pages. I hope that someone is able to do some “key stats” work for the Commission upon its completion. (you know… like baseball stats, or other sports stats.)

Early in the exhibits is information on the structure, plans, budgets, etc. of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

Quite an organization… over 11,000 full time equivalents (FTEs), and an internal structure that resembles a decent size military… in hierarchy and command structure…

Unfortunately, as with all large bureaucracies, it also resembles an obese threatened puffer fish, ready to explode at the seams.

Worse yet… it also resembles a Canadian tar sands operations… sucking up more resources to keep the operation going then actual production — or achieving objectives.

The giant sucking sound is now the sound of resources being consumed to fix, ‘restructure’ and simply ‘control’ this unwieldy behemoth — granted it is most likely one of the smaller “public service” ministries.

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A read through some of the ‘organizational’ material submitted to the Cohen Commission as “exhibits”/evidence, rather quickly demonstrates a ministry in deep shit.

Looking through the Department’s “Integrated Business and Human Resources Plan for 2010-11“.

Fisheries and Oceans Departmental Plan_integrated business and human resources plan

and the 56-page “Report on Plans and Priorities” raises some curious comparisons and thoughts…

Here is a look at annual expenditures — past and forecast for the next while.


And so the annual budget has been over $2 billion annually. Apparently, this is going to be cut by about $200 million over the next 3 years, along with a slight increase in employees, then a decrease…


Combine this with some stats from the shorter integrated planning document…


globally competitive fisheries?

That, apparently commercial fisheries, aquaculture and processing generate about $5 billion in economic activity.

Now, the definition of “economic activity” is a rather broad definition… and… so, here’s a ministry with annual expenditures that are 40% of generated “economic activity”…

…granted there’s also the $7.5 billion or so apparently generated by sport fisheries, however, there is not a significant amount of DFO time or resources spent monitoring these fisheries — at least not in BC (some, but not much).

And there’s even a big disclaimer in the report outlining how DFO shares monitoring and enforcement of the recreational fishery with provincial and territorial governments.

And the “economic activities” generated certainly are not generating revenue to keep the DFO Ministry operational…

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The integrated and human resource business planning document outlines some other curious issues in this Ministry.

...numbers that matter...??

As outlined in the document, this Ministry has a serious problem upcoming. The “Age Distribution” box (top right) showing 40% of their workforce at 50 years or older and that 40% of their workforce is retiring by 2014 (bottom left pie chart).

There’s also this other curious little anecdote that the Ministry wants to cut down hiring time:

“reducing the average time it takes to staff a position to 133 days by implementing components of the national approach to resourcing…”

Wow… if they want to cut down to 133 days — what is it at right now?

So there are over 11,000 full time equivalents in the Ministry — 40% of the workforce is due to retire in less than 5 years (so somewhere around 4,000 to 5,000 people) and the time for hiring new people is going to be cut down to just over 4.5 months…

And yet, the first chart above shows $300 million in budget cuts coming — just as guidance, not as reality — it could be much worse. The Pacific region alone is talking about $50 to $60 million in cuts this year alone.

So how is the Ministry going to do succession planning?

In any business, you don’t just send one person off to retirement and seamlessly ‘integrate’ a new person into the role left and so on… all the way back down the chain.

And so if the Ministry is even successful in cutting hiring times to 4.5 months — that’s still a rough average of say 200 new hires every quarter (4 months) of every year for the next 4 years (and that’s just 4,000 new people to replace the 4,000 to 5,000 lost to retirement).

And don’t forget the classic Peter Principle at work here…that “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his [or her] level of incompetence”, meaning that employees tend to be promoted until they reach a position at which they cannot work competently.

And all of this in a budget slashing environment… gee, sounds like a real secure career choice, and smooth functioning Ministry that’s only responsible for all of Canada’s coastlines (and more).

What else is in the “numbers that matter” above?

In the top centre pie graph is the “FTE’s [full time equivalents] by strategic outcome”. The violet box is “IS” or Internal Services at 18%.

So 18% of the folks working within DFO are simply concerned with the internal workings of the bureaucracy. (Granted, if one did a much more in-depth analysis of people’s time spent working on, stressing about, and dealing with internal staffing, internal politics, and just general internal crap… it would equate to a lot more than 18%).

What is the costs of this I.S. (internal shit)?

Well… that’s outlined in a “financial information” chart.

financial information...?

First thing to point out is that whomever did this chart, maybe didn’t do a very good job of editing.

If you look at the pie charts and accompanying tabular chart below, we’d be led to believe that “Internal Services” (in the purplish color) is responsible for 18% of Capital by SO (strategic outcome)? — the lower left pie chart… but in the table below IS Capital expenditures are more like less than 1% of Capital (e.g. $0.4 million – or $400,000).

…and that Safe and Accesible waterways — the dark blue — is responsible for 81% of capital costs in pie chart, but only 7% in the table.


Seems there’s some confusion as to which pie chart should be “G & C” (Grants and Contribution) and which chart should be “Capital”. I’m guessing the pie charts are about right… and the table is wrong.

And sooo…the conclusion is that Internal Services are costing the ministry about 20% of its resources — capital including human — in just a financial perspective. Would be curious to determine what all these internal services truly cost in terms of lost productivity, etc. etc.?

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This 80-20 split in expenditures, costs, etc. between internal vs. external… starts to make me think of the Pareto Principle

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Business-management consultant Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population; he developed the principle by observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.

It is a common rule of thumb in business; e.g., “80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients”.

Hmmm… so might we conclude that 20% of this Ministry is costing it 80% of its budget?

Or… 80% of the costs are coming from 20% of the Ministry?

Or… that this 20% of “Internal Services” is getting 80% of the work done?

Doesn’t really matter.

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Bottom line is — on so many levels — this Ministry is a “sinking ship” and in need of serious restructuring.

Right now it’s tag line could be: “come work for us… we’re slashing budgets, increasing workloads, and operate in a massive military-like bureaucracy… and we blow 20% of our budgets on fiddling internally…”

“… oh yeah, we also protect fish… sometimes… as we did ‘manage’ the North Atlantic Cod into oblivion…”

“… but come work for us anyways..we need YOU…”

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… don’t matter how many ‘career fairs’, ‘recruitment rallies’, and ‘university schmooze fests’ you attend with fancy displays (part of “integrated business and human resource strategy”), and beer bongs, and free t-shirts… it’s still a broken ministry.

(all of this said of course with respect to those individuals trying hard to actually keep this ‘ship’ from settling in Davy Jones’ locker… keep up the fight, cuz the basic numbers sure aren’t pretty… or, worse… not always quite right… if a Ministry that is supposed to keep very careful track of fish caught can’t get basic numbers on expenditures correct… where else are ‘numbers’ being fumbled?)

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Fair enough to those that say: “gee, big bureaucratic behemoth… easy target… stop the DFO bashing…”

It’s not a personal thing, it’s simply that so much more efficiency and effectiveness could be realized with a much different operation. Yet, we’re always limited to the two to four year timelines of elections and changes in politicians for any political will to be built to exact change.

And, even when changes are proposed or mandated by Royal Commissions, public inquiries and so on… change comes at the speed of an advancing glacier in Greenland. (oh wait, there aren’t any…they’re retreating…).

For wild salmon — Pacific or Atlantic — change is a must; and rapid change.

The changes they currently face are certainly faster than evolutionary time scales…

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

form Flickr_alinnigan

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

Ottawa left endangered sockeye unprotected

Salmon recovery team left out of loop

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The first article published on May 31 suggests:

A unique population of sockeye salmon identified in 2004 as facing “a high probability of extinctionwasn’t given protection under the Species At Risk Act because the federal government was worried about the cost of shutting down fisheries

… Documents filed with the Cohen Commission of inquiry this week show DFO officials knew in 2004 that the Cultus population, which has declined 92 per cent over the past 15 years, could go extinct if commercial, native and recreational fisheries weren’t curtailed.

The sockeye spawn in Cultus Lake, near Chilliwack, about 100 kilometres east of Vancouver. When adult fish return to spawn, they co-migrate in the ocean and Lower Fraser River with larger runs of sockeye that are headed to other watersheds. [sound familiar — read posts most recent posts on this site]. Cultus fish, which look identical to other sockeye, are often killed in nets set for other runs of salmon.

A government assessment in 2004 concluded the Cultus population, which has unique genetic and biological characteristics, collapsed largely due to overfishing.

Despite such efforts, the Cultus sockeye population, which historically averaged about 20,000 a year, has fallen to a four-year average of just 1,000 spawners.

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This is called mixed-stock fisheries — and it has to stop.

Not only have largely gill-net fisheries, and also seine-net fisheries, focusing on the larger, appearing healthy runs of sockeye captured other endangered stocks like steelhead or coho — they also captured and continue to (when open) capture sockeye from endangered smaller sockeye stocks from other rivers within the Fraser.

I can’t say this enough times… DFO (along with the Pacific Salmon Commission) only have enough information for NINETEEN Fraser sockeye stocks. Rough estimates suggest there was once over TWO HUNDRED distinct and unique Fraser sockeye stocks.

That is in other words… DFO and Pacific Salmon Commission are “MANAGING” Fraser sockeye with information on less than 10% of all the stocks.

How would you feel if you’re pension fund was MANAGED by fund managers that only had enough information to track 10% of the stocks held within their mutual funds or pension plans?

How would you feel getting on a plane and flying to a destination that the pilot only had 10% of the information required to land?

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Let’s follow this logic further…

The article states:

…John Davis, who retired in 2008 as DFO’s associate deputy minister of science, said in testimony at the Cohen Commission, Monday and Tuesday, that the socio-economic impact of shutting down fisheries, just to protect the small Cultus run, was considered too great.

He said listing under SARA would have led to widespread fishery closings costing $126-million in lost revenue over four years.

hmmmm… yes…let’s follow the logic…

The “socio-economic impact of shutting down fisheries, just to protect the small Cultus run was considered too great…”

One might assume that “socio” suggests ‘social’ — well, in fact it does. A dictionary definition suggests: “socio: denoting social or society.”

So what we’re talking about here is the social and economic impacts of closing the fishery would be too great? (because when you say “socio-economic”… you’re just lazily saying “social and economic” in a nice bumpfy, academic way).

The article continues:

At the inquiry, Mr. Davis said the government tried to balance the potential environmental losses against the financial gains associated with keeping fisheries open.

“Clearly the department wanted to do the right thing,” he said.

But under cross-examination by Brenda Gaertner, a lawyer representing the First Nations Coalition, Mr. Davis acknowledged that at the time the government did not assess the “social value” of the Cultus fish to aboriginal communities. The coalition represents 12 bands that have standing at the Cohen Commission.

“I don’t think there’s a way of putting value [on the social importance of salmon] … I wouldn’t know how to value that,” he said.

Ohhh, ok… so DFO didn’t really look at all the “socio”-economic considerations… or any for that fact…

It took a cursory look, and just as this department always has… and should have learned already in the North Atlantic Cod collapse of the 1990s… that not listening to scientists that shout: “stop industrial-scale fishing damn it!”

… and…

… not considering the long-term economic costs of collapsed fish stocks… is actually far more expensive in the long-run.

And not just in economic terms — in those pesky, un-measurable “social” terms as well.

And who bears the burden… well… the young folks of today in every community — along with all of the potentially devastating ecological consequences of losing what ecologists like to call a “keystone”… a key part of the puzzle… a key food source for all sorts of organisms… including the next generations of wild salmon.


As stated in great DFO wisdom…

…listing under SARA would have led to widespread fishery closings costing $126-million in lost revenue over four years.

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Potential lost revenues of $126 million… Based on what?

Some computer model in Ottawa that utilizes tiddlywinks and Yahtzee scorecards for economic equations?

Looking at DFO’s own information on their Catch Statistics page the landed value of the Fraser sockeye commercial fishery in 2004 — combining Fraser River commercial catches with all of the South Coast (not all Fraser sockeye) was approximately $14 million.

In 2005: $1.7 million

In 2006: $24 million

In 2007: $135,000 (yes that’s “one hundred thirty five thousand”)

In 2008: $158,000

My math ain’t great… but that’s what… less than $30 million landed value for Fraser sockeye… over 4 years… after the 2004 decision to not list Cultus sockeye…

Where the hell did the potential losses of $126 million come from

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


from Flickr_MarxFoods.com

…many numbers seem to come from some la-la never-never land equation dreamed up in the creative suites in the depths of some Ottawa hallway, where the only salmon people see is on their bureaucratic convention lunch menu hosted across the street from Rideau Hall…

“wild Pacific Salmon flambe in sundried tomato cream sauce”

(i don’t actually know what’s across the street from Rideau Hall, it just popped out)

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And the absolute sad, pathetic irony of all this is that DFO did have to end out curtailing sockeye fisheries to protect smaller, weaker stocks — in 2009 with a near full shut down of every sockeye fishery and even in 2010 the “miracle” year… the apparent “record-breaking” year… commercial fisheries still had to be shut down to protect weak stocks.

When will this ministry learn?

When will the culture change?

When will the name change from “Fisheries” and Oceans to “Fish & Oceans”?

Or… The Department of Fish in Oceans… has a nice ring to it.


Salmon History 101

Came across this 1991 news article: “Wild Salmon need more help” from the Spokesman Review regarding an agreement of the day for Japan to stop using their “curtains of death” — the multiple-miles long drift nets that caught anything that swam into them.

There are several other similar articles in various newspapers around the same time — including the New York Times.

A fitting quote from the top of the second column:

As the region struggles to restore wild salmon runs it will consider many tactics, but one that has not received enough serious attention, due to an excessive preoccupation with dams, is controlling fish harvest.


1991 article

And more fitting to the posts of this past week…


Just as drift nets cannot distinguish between dolpins and squid… gill nets cannot distinguish between hatchery raised salmon… and the far less numerous wild salmon in need of protection [or small endangered stocks vs. larger healthy stocks migrating at similar times]. The nets kill both. And when gill nets are out, they remove fish from the river at an extremely efficient rate.

Some salmon runs are small enough, that a few seasons of unluckily timed gill netting could eradicate them.

Want proof?

Ask folks in the Skeena River where 90% of the Skeena sockeye run now comes from the enhanced, man-made spawning channels of the Babine run.

Or, ask on the Fraser River, where DFO only has enough information to track nineteen sockeye stocks — when estimates suggest there were once over two hundred different distinct Fraser sockeye stocks.

Or, ask around Rivers Inlet. Where did those darned sockeye go…?

Wild salmon needed more help in 1991… Now 20 years later, they need more help then ever before. They haven’t seen threats like they do now, since about…

…the last Ice Age…