Tag Archives: Fraser salmon

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.

BUT NO…

As stated in great DFO wisdom…

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

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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…

Upper upper Fraser River sockeye: Recipes for Extinction 2011

 

Sockeye salmon in spawning channel, Nadina River Spawning Channel, Houston, British Columbia

This is a continuation of the last post — outlining the current Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Pacific Salmon Commission cookbook recipes for decimating troubled Fraser River sockeye stocks.

At the moment there is a $20 million (or so) judicial inquiry investigating the 2009 shockingly low returns of Fraser River sockeye.

One may not need to look too much further then the current cookbook approach to “managing” troubled sockeye stocks from the upper Fraser River.

These stocks are being “managed”/cooked into oblivion.

One might suggest it’s akin to throwing fish and steak on the same bar-b-q at the same heat and cooking the fish the same way as the steaks. The result…?

hockey puck fish… not much good to anything or anyone.

If the current DFO method of “managing” Fraser sockeye, specifically upper Fraser sockeye is not a Recipe for Extinction… then someone let me know what it is…

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The last post…

…explained how the Bowron River and Nadina River sockeye that spawn in the eastern and western reaches of the upper Fraser River face dismal pre-season forecasts for 2011.

These two runs are grouped into the “Early Summers” which include several stocks from all across the Fraser watershed that all migrate into the river at approximately the same time. These sockeye stocks have been ‘grouped’ for “management” purposes.

(e.g. it is easier to devise ‘fishing plans’ on an aggregate of stocks that migrate into the river at similar times… as opposed to carefully trying to protect smaller, endangered runs).

Some of the other Fraser sockeye stocks that co-migrate with the Bowron and Nadina stocks are larger, healthier stocks that have relatively decent productivity in recent years and decent pre-season forecasts.

As a result, the aggregate total of all the runs combined means some limited fishing may occur on the Early Summers — however this means that the potential total allowable mortality predicted and permitted for the Early Summers in potential fishing plans could potentially wipe out an entire troubled sockeye run like the Bowron or Nadina or both.

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Late Stuarts and Stellak0 — Summer grouping

There is a similar story for the Late Stuarts and Stellako sockeye runs.

 

upper Fraser sockeye -- Summer group

These two stocks of Fraser sockeye are grouped into the “Summers” — an aggregate based on run-timing a bit later into the Summer (hence the name).

DFO Fraser sockeye pre-season forecast -- Summer group focus

 

There is a very concerning picture here.

Let’s look at the 50% probability pre-season forecast for the Summer stocks:

Fraser sockeye forecast -- Summers - 50p prediction

Summers -- 50p forecast

 

This shows a total run size forecast for the four “Summer” stocks — all grouped together — of a little over 1.4 million sockeye.

The Chilko run (west of Williams Lake) is looking pretty decent with some green boxes in productivity and a run that appears to be within range of average (“mean”) run sizes.

The 50% probability suggests a run size of a little over 1.1 million, comprising almost 80% of the total “Summer” group returns.

The other Summer stocks…?

not looking so good!

The Late Stuart is showing a 50p pre-season forecast of only 41,000.

This is well below the mean run size on all cycles of well over 500,000.

And even on this cycle year, a mean run size of over 80,000.

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Similarly for Stellako.

A 50p pre-season forecast on this stock of only 79,000.

The mean run size on all years is over 460,000.

Worse yet, 2011 should be an up year with a cycle average of just under 600,000!

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Things don’t look good on these stocks…

…even…

…even if they were left entirely alone and no one went fishing.

However, DFO and the Pacific Salmon Commissionin their great wisdom — are proposing fisheries on the Summer aggregate/group that will allow up to 57% mortality on the overall group run size.

At the 50p forecast of 1.4 million fish — this equates to a potential catch of well over 800,000 Summer-run sockeye.

Yeah… that’s right… 800,000 sockeye are proposed to be caught as part of pre-season fishing plans.

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Let’s take another look for a second at those numbers….

The total run size forecast for the Summer-grouping of Fraser sockeye at the 50% probability level is: 1,414,000.

Pre-season planning by DFO and the Pacific Salmon Commission is suggesting a target of 57% exploitation, which equates to over 800,000 Fraser Summer sockeye dead.

That means that — theoretically — both the Stellako and Late Stuart runs could have the entire runs captured in fisheries — as they only comprise together less than 10% of the total Summer grouping run size.

Their total run size is 120,000.

(remember this isn’t what is predicted to reach spawning grounds — this is just predictions for reaching the mouth of the Fraser).

With a predicted fishery exploitation of 800,000 — doesn’t seem all that difficult to consider that fisheries might catch every last Late Stuart and Stellako sockeye, or 120,000 sockeye.

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Quesnel River stocks — Summer group

Not only that — factor in the one other “Summer” group stock — the runs that return to the Quesnel River (e.g. the famed Horsefly and Quesnel Lakes runs). The 50p forecast on these is only 153,000 (just over 10% of total Summer-run size)

And thus the potential fishery exploitation rate of 57% of the Summer group — over 800,000 fish — could potentially eradicate three of the four Summer stocks.

(these three runs comprise only about 20% of the total Summer group)

(And it must be remembered, as well, the “management adjustment” — or death en route to the spawning grounds — such as hot water, drought, disease, and so on, is not even factored in here… these fish face a gauntlet of threats trying to reach spawning grounds — let alone avoiding fisheries that are targeting a 60% exploitation rate)

How is this not a recipe for extinction?

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This is the absolute absurdity of mixed-stock fisheries…

…DFO’s aggregate management (groups of stocks based simply on run-timing — not health of the stocks or geographic distribution), and a “salmon management system” that is based on limited information and fisheries-first — not conservation goals.

Worse yet… ask DFO if they have “escapement objectives” for runs like Stellako, Late Stuarts, Nadina, etc. — this means how many spawners do they guess they have to get onto the spawning grounds for each sockeye stock, just to meet conservation objectives (e.g. survival of the individual runs)?

They don’t know.

The escapement objectives for Fraser sockeye are also done by the aggregate groupings — e.g. Early Summers, Summers, etc. — so if particular runs like the Stellako and Late Stuarts disappear… it doesn’t really matter if other stocks within the groupings remain somewhat healthy.

Worse yet, DFO and the Pacific Salmon Commission only have enough information to track 19 individual Fraser sockeye stocks.

Estimates suggest there might have once been over 200 individual Fraser sockeye stocks, utilizing over 150 different spawning areas. (Other estimates suggest that total run sizes once reached numbers of over 160 million Fraser sockeye on a yearly basis…).

How is this current system not a recipe for extinction?

This cookbook has already cooked, baked, poached, decimated… call it what you want… numerous small, distinct Fraser sockeye stocks.

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(Cohen Commission… hope you’re reading this… and looking into this vital issue… if this Recipe for Fraser Sockeye extinction does not come out in final reports… it’s largely a wasted $20 million — and we can all start writing the eulogy for upper, upper Fraser sockeye).

upper Fraser River sockeye 2011: DFO Recipe for Extinction

adapted from Cohen Commission tech report #2

It might be with some irony that today the Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser River sockeye is conducting hearings into fisheries Monitoring and Enforcement. There is probably little question that better Monitoring and Enforcement could assist Fraser sockeye stocks; however, on a cost-benefit analysis between ‘good management‘ vs. ‘monitoring, enforcement, & compliance‘ would there really be much comparison…?

Let’s look at this coming year’s sockeye forecasting and pre-season planning (2011): As the Recipe for Upper Fraser Sockeye extinction is plain as day

Below is a rather complex chart produced by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that documents the “recent productivity” of 19 (of the over 150) distinct Fraser sockeye stocks.

The 19 sockeye stocks in which DFO actually has enough information to utilize are further grouped into four run-timing groups (Early Stuart, Early Summer, Summer, and Late Summer).

These can be seen down the far left hand side — Column A. (I will break this chart down further with specific focus on some key numbers and columns).

 

DFO 2011 "Recent Productivity" Fraser Sockeye Forecast

First off, the Early Stuarts, one of the furthest upstream migrating Fraser sockeye — Northwest of Prince George in the upper Nechako drainage (Stuart River is main tributary — see map above), is in deep trouble.

In essence, what column “I” suggests is that the historical ‘mean run size’ for the Early Stuarts — based on all cycles — is 311,000.

On the 2011 cycle (Fraser sockeye predominantly run in four-year cycles) the mean run size is 172,000.

Columns “K” to “O” give the ‘probability’ of various forecasts.

Column K is the “10p” forecast suggesting that there is a 10% chance (or 1 in 10 chance) that runs will be at or below this number — for Early Stuarts that’s 6,000.

The standard generally used in pre-season forecasting is the 50p or 50% probability forecast which for Early Stuarts is 17,000 (column “M”).

So the Early Stuart median for all cycles is 311,000 — for the 2011 cycle-year it is 172,000 — however for this year the 50% probability pre-season forecast for 2011 predicts a run size of only: 17,000.

Even the best-case scenario (90p — 90%) predicts a run-size of only: 42,000.

(Note: Last year 2010 — the apparent big record year — the Early Stuarts met the 90p pre-season forecast and had an estimated return of 100,000).

However, raise any questions on the Early Stuart sockeye and DFO will say “but we’ve been in conservation mode on these fish for decades”. Yet, even just as far back as 1997 — the total run size of the Early Stuarts was estimated at almost: 1.7 million sockeye.

And yet that year the estimated catch was over 770,000.

Worse yet, an en-route loss is estimated at over 630,000.

Only an estimated 260,000 reached the spawning grounds. A mere 15% of the total run.

And then this year the best case scenario suggests only 42,000 as a total run size, not even what might reach the spawning grounds — some 1000+ km upstream…

Hmmm. wonder why we there’s a problem…?

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Estimated Returns and Historical Productivity

So, yes, the Early Stuarts have been in trouble for quite some time — however, it seems like this is akin to a flu-bug in the upper watershed. Trouble for upper Fraser sockeye seems to be contagious..

In the “Early Summer” grouping there are two sockeye stocks with enough information for “management” purposes — the Bowron (returns to Bowron River east of Prince George, and northeast of Quesnel) and the Nadina (returns to upper Nechako River, west of Prince George and southwest of Fraser Lake).

Here are the numbers blown up from the above chart:

2011 Fraser sockeye forecast: Bowron and Nadina River runs.

This half of the chart shows the estimated Effective Female Spawners (EFS) in columns “C” and “D”.

The “BY” stands for Brood Year. Therefore, 2007 is the Brood Year (BY) for the majority of returns this year: 2011 — as sockeye largely have a four-year life cycle. However, some years and some runs have more five-year old sockeye return as well. Often this is in the range of approximately 20-30% of the total run. And thus column “D” is the estimated Effective Female Spawners of 2006.

And so in 2007, the estimate suggests there were 1,100 Effective Female Spawners (EFS) and in 2006 there were 600 for the Bowron.

For the Nadina there were an estimated 1,000 Effective Female Spawners in 2007 (the main brood year for this year’s 2011 returns) and 4,500 EFS in 2006.

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The next columns — “E” and “F” are estimates of the productivity of each Effective Female Spawner over an 8-year time period (column E) and 4-year time period (column F).

For a population of any critter each female (effective female spawner) must average a productivity of 2 progeny that live to become reproductive adults — ideally an average of one male and one female — just to maintain any population with no growth or depletion.

The Bowron has an estimated productivity of 2.4 (over 8 years) and 2.1 (over 4 years) returning adults for each female spawner (the numbers in red boxes — red meaning bad/stop ).

estimated productivity of Bowron sockeye stocks

This means that the Bowron stock of Fraser sockeye is barely replacing itself at current productivity.

The Nadina is faring a little better with estimated productivity over 8 years of 3.0 (in the red box) and over 4 years of 4.6 returning adults per effective female spawner (in the yellow box — meaning, caution).

estimated productivity of Nadina sockeye

Sockeye salmon enhancement facility, Nadina River, British Columbia

 

(It should be noted that the Nadina sockeye largely utilize man-made spawning channels… and they are still in trouble…).

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The next set of numbers further along the right on the chart are rather revealing as well, here’s a clip with columns C-H taken out:

 

Fraser sockeye forecast_2011 Estimated probabilities for Bowron & Nadina stocks

Columns “I” and “J” are showing average “mean” runs sizes for these various runs as an overall average of all years previous — “all cycles” column “I” and the four-year cycle that includes 2011 column “J”.

For the two runs of concern — Bowron and Nadina — one can quickly see that the difference between the average run sizes and the various probabilities of run sizes this year — there’s a big discrepancy.

(And it must be pointed out that this is estimates of Total Run Size returning to the Fraser which may be targeted for fisheries — not the total run size that is predicted to reach, or reached, the spawning grounds.)

As mentioned earlier the 50p or 50% probability forecast is the one most commonly used during pre-season forecasts. For the Bowron that’s 5,000 estimated as a total run size (as compared to a mean average of all years of 39,000) and for the Nadina 12,000 (as compared to a mean run size of 80,000). (Remember, total run size predicted, not what’s estimated to reach the spawning grounds).

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Recipe for Extinction

The Bowron and Nadina River adult sockeye stocks migrate into the Fraser River approximately the same time as several other stocks that migrate to different parts of the Fraser River. The other stocks are listed in the chart above — names like Fennell, Gates, Pitt, Raft, etc. These stocks are spread from the upper, upper Fraser through the upper Thompson River, right down to the lower Fraser with the Pitt.

All, most likely, quite genetically distinct from each other — however, simply grouped because of run-timing. These are called the Early Summers for exactly that reason. Convenient for fishing plans… maybe not so convenient for conserving genetic diversity of stocks… or even conserving stocks themselves…

If you look through the various other runs within the Early Summers grouping, a few are looking relatively healthy, with 50% forecasts suggesting run sizes a little larger then the mean averages. There is even some green in the productivity and EFS boxes.

Total 50% probability pre-season forecast for all Early Summers is 453,000. With a few healthy runs… this means potential fisheries targeting this Group.

At the present time apparently DFO and Pacific Salmon Commission is considering fishing plans that would target a 40% exploitation rate on these Early Summers — which suggests that close to 200,000 of these Early Summers could potentially be targeted in fisheries.

For the Bowron and Nadina sockeye runs, this could mean total disaster.

There are only a total of 17,000 total fish at the 50% probability pre-season forecast for both these runs combined — and this is just fish forecast to reach the Fraser River, not the actual number forecast to reach the spawning grounds, which for these two runs is over 1000 km up the Fraser River.

These 17,000 potential fish could easily be swallowed in fisheries targeting other healthier Early Summer stocks.

Or, let’s say even conservatively that these targeted fisheries only catch half of the Bowron and Nadina returning runs — 8500. Conservative estimates suggest that 40% or more of these fish will die en route or prior to spawning. If that occurred there would still be 90% of the total run wiped out.

This is all considering fish on paper… which is the problem here.

The Recipe of Extinction for upper Fraser sockeye stocks is: mixed stock fisheries based on fisheries management plans that manage to the Aggregate Groups (only four) and do not discern between endangered individual, genetically distinct runs — such as the Bowron and Nadina stocks.

(let alone the 130 or so unnamed Fraser sockeye stocks that don’t have enough information to be considered by DFO or the Pacific Salmon Commission).

Tomorrow?

We consider the Late Stuarts and Stellako, two more Upper, Upper Fraser River sockeye runs that face a worse scenario as part of the Summers group of Fraser sockeye.

They are the Recipe for Extinction — Chapter 3.

Cohen Commission: “No data means no answers, sockeye inquiry told”

Dead sockeye -- Flickr "Watershed_Watch"

That’s the headline on Hume’s article today in the Globe & Mail.

The lack of hard data on the ocean environment has become an important issue to a federal commission investigating the collapse of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River.

Repeatedly, scientists testifying at the Cohen Commission have said they don’t really know what happens to salmon once they have left fresh water and headed out into the “black box” of the Pacific Ocean. They have complained about a shortage of data, or no data at all, and have said there are limited funds available for research.

Well… it’s not just the ocean environment that has a lack of data. Pretty much every life stage of Fraser sockeye has big black boxes of little to no data. (hard or soft…)

Sure some life stages and critical habitat have been studied more than others, and some folks think they know — but then of course they don’t know what they don’t know, and sometimes they think they know what they don’t know… and so on…

The cold hard reality that Justice Cohen is going to be faced with — or is already faced with — is that we just don’t know. For example, we don’t know how many sockeye juveniles leave the Fraser every year, we don’t even know how many juvenile sockeye leave the majority of the 150 rearing areas where they spend some time as babies.

(DFO only looks at two rearing lakes in any detail… or depth.)

What we know of the population dynamics of Fraser sockeye — and wild salmon in general — is limited to about the simple fact that we know they swim in water… when compared to all of what we don’t know.

No amount of systems theory, chaos theory, or computer modelling is going to shed much more light on things either.

Not only do we not know much about sockeye we know very little about the rest of the dynamics surrounding them. Just as the article suggests:

One of the papers filed with the commission identifies a “hotspot” in Queen Charlotte Sound, for example, where more than 10,000 sharks gather on a main salmon migration route – but nobody knows why the sharks are there, how long they are there, or what they are feeding on.

Black bear cub with sockeye -- Flickr: Gillfoto

Gee… this sounds like grizzly bear research in BC. Or black bear research. Or eagle research. Or coastal wolves research. Or mink research. Or osprey research… or… or…

We simply… just don’t know.

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If we can’t even predict our own brain patterns, then why do we think we can predict behavior and nature of wild salmon runs?

(for example, does anyone have an explanation on what the heck happened last year? — with 30 million or so returning sockeye to the Fraser. We’ll never know…)

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We call it ecosystem-based planning or ecosystem-based management… but we don’t know shit about the ecosystem…

Management is defined as: “The process of dealing with or controlling things or people”.

News flash… we can’t control wild salmon… but we sure as hell can control people if need be… (look at the great federal Conservative crime plans…)

Planning is defined as: “The process of making plans for something” .

Well… what are we making?

An ecosystem?

(well… that’s what the engineers of things like “no-net less to habitat” policies would have us think… we can just “re-create” ecosystems better than Mother Nature did in the first place over millenia…)

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One of the definitions of plan suggests: “A systematic arrangement of elements or important parts; a configuration or outline” .

Hmmm… so what are the “important parts”…? And what are we trying to “configure”? And how can we know what we’re trying to configure if we don’t really know much about things in the first place (e.g. the “black box” of the North Pacific)?

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The article continues:

The knowledge gap caused Tim Leadem, a lawyer representing a coalition of conservation groups, to wonder out loud Thursday if the Cohen Commission will ever get a definitive answer on what caused the Fraser River sockeye population to collapse. The commission was appointed in 2009 after only one million salmon returned to spawn instead of the 10 million expected.

“What was the cause of the 2009 decline?” Mr. Leadem asked a panel of scientists testifying about the impact of predators on salmon. “I expect at the end of the day … [it will be an inconclusive] death by 1,000 cuts.”

Gee. Maybe Mr. Leadem has seen my cartoon:

Salmon... death of a thousands cuts

I sense a certain frustration or defeatism in that comment…

Yes, Mr. Leadem it is a thousands cuts or so… but the worst ones, the mortal ones for some sockeye runs — have been inflicted by us.

Through direct action (harvest)… or inaction (how’s that enforcement of the Fisheries Act going?)

Pick your killer; our knives are sharp. We’ve filleted Fraser sockeye runs faster than the old terribly named: “Iron Chink” used in salmon canneries.

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Article continues:

Mr. Leadem noted most of the science teams that have presented papers to the Cohen Commission have concluded by saying more research is needed.

“This is perplexing,” he said. “If we are depending on science [for guidance], where are we going to find the funding? And who’s going to be pulling the strings and saying what science goes forward?”

Mr. Leadem said it appears scientists “are in a world where you are scrambling for dollars” while facing a growing list of questions.

“Yeah, we are scrambling for research funding and it is going to be the nature of science that there are always more questions that need answering,” said Andrew Trites, a professor and director at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre.

EXACTLY MY FRIGGING POINT!! (thank-you Dr. Trites).

We don’t have to depend on just science for the “answers” — because it won’t have any.

It might be able to provide gentle guidance, or thoughts, or an ‘answer’ here or there — however, at its fundamental core answering one question through science only opens up two more questions. It’s like the mythical beast Hydra — cut off one head, and two more pop up to replace it.

And so, when it comes to “fisheries” science,  it is not really a practice of “truths” and “facts” — and cannot provide all the “answers”. At its heart it is a practice of questions and theories… and analysis of things that we will never understand (e.g. the ocean).

We don’t have all the answers for how our brain works, yet we still function on a day-to-day basis. We still design teaching curricula for our children and send them off to school. And, amazingly, we can actually function and “think” on a day-to-day basis without knowing everything about our brains…

We don’t know the “answers” for the magic of how a child comes into being in the meeting between sperm and egg… We don’t know the “answers” about how we develop a soul, or even the magic occurring between our brains, hearts, lungs and every other organ working in unison. It’s a true magic mystery…

Yet we still carry on day-in and day-out…

_ _ _ _ _ _

The article:

Mr. Justice Bruce Cohen, the B.C. Supreme Court judge who is heading the hearings, asked if there is an overall strategy for addressing the many unanswered questions about the ocean environment. “Within DFO and within the larger community of science … is there an overarching body that does a macro analysis of all the science that’s taking place? Who’s going to draw the agenda? Is this a scrambled situation … or is there actually a game plane here?” he asked.

“My perception as an academic . . . in terms of fisheries management … I don’t feel there is a game plan,” replied Dr. Trites, who appeared on a panel with John Ford, head of cetacean research in the Pacific for Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Peter Olesiuk, DFO’s head of pinniped research.

No… no game plan indeed.

There never has been — and never will be (with all due respect).

And even if there was… what difference would it make?

“Salmon management”… “fisheries management” is a game of politics — not science.

Science can provide some gentle guidance — however it is certainly not the game plan.

(Just like “science” isn’t the game plan in the Vancouver Canucks’ current run at the Stanley Cup — it assists, but is not the plan).

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Our relationship with wild salmon is simply that… A Relationship.

What is that… a ‘relationship’?

Well… dictionary.com suggests: “The way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.”

Just like the relationship between our hearts, minds, and lungs… the relationship between white blood cells and our immune system (our most ancient of systems)… the relationship between children and parents… the relationship between dogs and owners…

What does connected mean?

Joined or linked together;

Related by family.

Hmmmm…..

And curiously, even in mathematics it means:

Not decomposable into two disjoint nonempty open sets.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Salmon and people are both concepts and objects…

And… well… here along the Pacific Rim — we are connected. We are in a relationship.

And unfortunately, this is not a balanced relationship. This is not an equal give-and-take relationship.

We’ve been more on the taking end…

take, take, take... over 80% for 100-years or so...

When people get married, or make commitments, or talk about their relationship — they don’t look to science, nor even tout the latest studies or research, or engage in a peer-review process…

If you talk to a couple that’s been married for 60 years, they don’t tell you about how the marvels of science kept them together.

No… they generally talk about the hard work… the commitments… a knowing… and call it cheesy, or hairy-fairy… but there’s also (as the song says) “a whole lotta love…”

If salmon are as important as certain surveys suggest (e.g. more important to BC’ers as French is to Quebecers) — not that we need surveys to tell us this — then why this great reliance on science… on data… on research…?

The article concludes:

Lara Tessaro, junior commission counsel, later asked the witnesses to name the DFO managers who are directing scientific research in the Pacific, a line of questioning that suggested the issue may be revisited as the hearings continue.

I think most of us know the answer to that question… (and unfortunately, from what it says in the recent Commission status update, we won’t be getting  Project 11 – Fraser River sockeye salmon: status of DFO science and management

(which was to include an analysis, including an economic analysis, of DFO activities in Fraser River sockeye management since 1985;  DFO science and research expenditures related to Fraser sockeye; and  an analysis to evaluate DFO’s ability to meet its stated management objectives relative to Fraser sockeye since 1985).

The great department of Oceans sails a rudderless ship… and will it be exposed as to just how rudderless?

I’m curious to hear the answers to this and who’s at the helm (or not, or will it be like the story of the Queen of the North..? including the stifling of the truth…) — Yet, I sure hope that in the multiple thousands of pages that are being produced by the Cohen Commission that a little more time gets spent on plain language to describe our relationship with wild salmon.

Our connectedness… and how the relationship needs to improve… drastically.  And “data” is not the answer… it’s simply a tool, one piece of the equation… one piece of the relationship… one piece of the connectedness.

salmon science… a body of “facts” and “truths”?

data gaps?

Science” : the intricate process of saying a lot with a variety of charts of graphs and concluding… well… not much at all…

Oddly enough, dictionary.com suggests that “science” is sometimes mistaken as “seance” .

A seance being some spiritual communing with the dead; a ‘sitting’ — (which is the actual French roots of the word).

And as such, a seance is also defined as: “a sitting of a society”.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Now the definition of science suggests it is:

a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws.

A fact: “Knowledge or information based on real occurrences.”

And truth: “Conformity to fact or actuality.”

Or: “A statement proven to be or accepted as true.”

And some suggest:“Perhaps the most general description is that the purpose of science is to produce useful models of reality”

Reality…?

Hmmmm.

So what happens when science and its practitioners enters the unknown?

Well…sometimes… it makes shit up

(…or models it with “expansion lines” and algorithms…).

Or… simply states all sorts of disclaimers, qualifiers, and other forms of political speak.

Or… gift wraps affirmative statements in crinkly, fancy ambiguity and obscurity with lovely bows of contradiction and inconsistency.

All of these sent priority post with a hefty invoice for reassurance.

_ _ _ _ _ _

I’ve started reading through the various scientific and technical reports of the Cohen Commission into Fraser River sockeye declines. At least the ones I can find…

In August 2010, the Commission announced an “ambitious scientific research program to help the Commissioner understand the science behind the decline of Fraser River sockeye.”

After disbanding the initial pre-eminent scientists panel formed in the early days, the Commission announced 12 Research projects back in August 2010:

Project 1 – Diseases and parasites

Project 2 – Effects of contaminants on Fraser River sockeye salmon

Project 3 – Fraser River freshwater ecology and status of sockeye salmon Conservation Units

Project 4 – Marine ecology

Project 5 – Impacts of salmon farms on Fraser River sockeye salmon

Project 6 – Data synthesis and cumulative impact analysis

Project 7 – Fraser River sockeye fisheries and fisheries management

Project 8 – Effects of predators on Fraser River sockeye salmon

Project 9 – Effects of climate change on Fraser River sockeye salmon: literature compilation and analysis

Project 10 – Fraser River sockeye salmon production dynamics

Project 11 – Fraser River sockeye salmon: status of DFO science and management

Project 12 – Sockeye habitat analysis in the Lower Fraser River and the Strait of Georgia

Back at the time that these projects were announced and the pre-eminent science panel disbanded — the Commission was still on timelines to be wrapping up right now — May 2011. As such, the researchers were given very tight timelines: “In most cases, the researchers will provide the commission with a progress report by November 15, 2010 and a final report by January 31, 2011.”

In other words… science doesn’t only need to state facts and truths about reality… it needs to be fast.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Now since then… the Commission has been extended a year; however the scientific reports were still rushed — and it shows in reading some of them.

(And if you suffer from insomnia… three of the  reports I’ve seen comes in at a pithy 120+ pages each… and when it doubt, and in a rush… list as many references as possible).

_ _ _ _ _ _

Now that I’ve stirred up the scientific ire of a hypothesizing hornets nest…

Does this make sense to you?

This is from Project Report 12 – Fraser River Sockeye Habitat Use in the Lower Fraser and Strait of Georgia, which you have to dig out of Commission transcripts, it’s not available on the main webpage.

Our review and analysis involved compiling available data from various technical reports, primary literature and online sources of potential factors or measures related to human development and activities in the lower Fraser and Strait of Georgia.

A statistical analysis of the association of human activity and potential impacts on sockeye habitats and, in turn, on Fraser sockeye productivity was not possible in this review due to the limits on the nature and extent of data available for human activity and in particular the lack of quantitative information on sockeye habitats.

So, the information doesn’t really exist… this is confirmed further in the report:

An approach reliant on quantitative measures of changes in sockeye habitats was not possible for this report due to the lack of quantitative data available on the extent and quality of sockeye habitats across the lower Fraser River area, lower Fraser watersheds (Harrison, Chilliwack and Pitt Rivers) and the Strait of Georgia.

There you have it… the information is not there, not available, not collected and so on. Yet… yet… this ‘scientific’ report which maxes out at 60+ pages of report and another 50 pages of fluff, suggests:

Overall, the development of major projects and resource restoration efforts during the period 1990 – 2010 has resulted in a net gain of sockeye habitat and these gains have been substantially added to through efforts to restore historically lost or damaged fish habitats.

Ohhh… so there’s “lack of quantitative data available on the extent and quality of sockeye habitats across the lower Fraser River” yet the report then goes on to suggest that there was a “net gain of sockeye habitat” and goes on further:

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.

So… no data on the habitat… but apparently that habitat is “improving”?

The habitat protection strategies used in the lower Fraser River and Strait of Georgia, appear to be effective at supporting sockeye habitat conservation. More broadly, a hypothesis that the declines in Fraser River sockeye production over the period 1990 – 2009 are the result of habitat impacts from project development is not supported by the net habitat gains that have occurred over the 1990 – 2010 period.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

How the heck does this work?

There’s not enough data on human activity and there’s not enough data on sockeye habitat; yet, these folks can conclude that all’s well… all’s good in the hood… habitat protection is working, and so on…

Where the heck is the systematic arrangement of “facts” and “truths” that are supposed to represent “science”?

And what did this report cost? Apologies to the writers of this report and the apparently ‘well-respected’ firm that authored this report… but this makes little sense…

(and how much work has this firm — Golder & Associates done for DFO over the years?)

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

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

1950s

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

The report focuses on coho runs in certain Oregon streams:

Oregon streams

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

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

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

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

Pollution?, Hatcheries?, Logging?, Waterflow?

Remember this report is from 1950.

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

Factors implicated:

Negative factors

_ _ _ _ _ _

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

Logging impacts... "disturbance of ecological balance"

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

Remember this was 1950…

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

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

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

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

lumber production to salmon populations

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

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

“Discussion”

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

Logging companies

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

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

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

Hard bit of info to pick up…

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

Hmmmmm….

Same answer many folks have provided for generations…

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

Trees hold hillsides up and stream channels up.

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

 

just "natural"

 

west coast of Vancouver Island near Brooks Peninsula

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

I think the point is clear…

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

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

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

Have you been to Coos Bay, Oregon lately?

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

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

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

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

“This is boom-and-bust…”

“We are upsetting the ecological balance…”

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

“don’t rock the boat…”

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

and so on, and so on, and so on…

_ _ _ _ _ _

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

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

And… where the heck are the salmon?

_ _ _ _ _ _

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would we treat our households this way?

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

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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

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

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

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

_ _ _ _ _ _

Fundamental changes are required in our relationship with wild salmon…

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

The story that starts: Once upon a salmon

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

It generally ends in:

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

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

Fraser Chinook — “Recipe for Extinction” website

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

The accompanying website is here.

Recipe for Extinction

3 cups of Department of Fisheries & Oceans inaction.

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

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

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

1 cup of chasing the last fish…

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

_ _ _ _ _ _

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

Fraser early-timed Chinook survival and exploitation rate

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

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

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

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

But do you see a problem?

_ _ _ _ _ _

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

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

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

But wait… do you see the survival rates?

They fell by 8 – 9 times.

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

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

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

_ _ _ _ _ _

Do you see the last bullet point circled in pencil?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The website has a “Take Action” page…

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Wild salmon catch — is it worth it?

sockeye catch San Juans

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

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

With 5,774,694 of those being sockeye.

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

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

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

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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

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

_ _ _ _ _

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

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

That’s about $1.33 per pound.

_ _ _ _ _

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

My question: Is it worth it?

_ _ _ _ _

And this is directed in so many different ways…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_ _ _ _

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

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

It’s more to ask the hard questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE paper then one could ever imagine.

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

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

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

Meeting after meeting, after meeting…

meaning…

More PAPER.

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

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

WHY?

For a $1.30 a pound?

_ _ _ _ _

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

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

_ _ _ _ _ _

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

fish circle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dead zones, etc.

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

And what is a “department” anways…?

Free dicitonary online suggests it is: ”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making salmon zoos …

There is no mystery folks — when it comes to salmon declines.

http://www.salmonguy.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/IMG.jpg

death of a thousand cuts

If we stopped putting these endless amount of efforts into “research” and trying to find an apparent ‘smoking gun’ in why salmon are declining… and simply looked at history — it might be so much more revealing.

Salmon have suffered massive declines throughout their range because of inaction, lack of political will, and far too many reports documenting the issues with no one ensuring “recommendations” are actually implemented, monitored, evaluated, and improved (if need be).

A federal government policy intended to ensure there is “no net loss” of fish habitat in Canada is failing to achieve its goal, a panel of experts from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has testified.

This the opening to Mr. Hume’s article today in the Globe and Mail.

Fisheries habitat being steadily eroded, panel told

In 1986, the government established a habitat management plan that stipulates that when fish habitat is damaged by development, then an equal or greater amount of habitat should be created or restored nearby, as compensation.

But three DFO experts appearing Monday at a judicial inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River all agreed fisheries habitat is being steadily eroded, because the habitat provided in compensation often doesn’t match in size or productivity the habitat that has been lost to development.

Patrice LeBlanc, director of Habitat Policies and Practices, from DFO’s headquarters in Ottawa, said it is hard to know exactly what the overall net loss is.

“We do lose some habitat,” he said in responding to questions from Brock Martland, associate commission counsel. “I’m not sure if it’s 10 per cent or 50 per cent – we have no true way to measure.”

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This is not new news. (no offence intended to Mr. Hume, however, I think he well knows this from his reporting over the years. And like other articles glad to see salmon getting so much mainstream press these days…)

Lower Fraser River -- Vancouver Sun article 2009 (click photo to read)

The Auditor General of Canada pretty much said the same thing a few years ago in the release of another damaging report on DFO and Environment Canada:

Efforts to protect fish habitat have been inadequate

Ottawa, 12 May 2009—Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada cannot demonstrate that they are adequately protecting fish habitat as the Fisheries Act requires them to do, says Scott Vaughan, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, in his Report tabled today in the House of Commons. His Report notes that in the 23 years since the Habitat Policy was adopted, many parts of it have been not been implemented by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The audit found that there is limited information on the state of fish habitat across Canada. Fisheries and Oceans Canada does not know whether its actions are achieving a net gain in habitat, the long-term objective of the Habitat Policy.

“The Fisheries Act is among the most important laws of the federal government intended to promote environmental protection and conservation,” said Mr. Vaughan. “I am concerned that many of the issues identified in our audit have been raised repeatedly over many years, and they are still unresolved.”

And well… the list goes on and on and on…

In 1997, the Auditor General of Canada pretty much wrote the same thing.

Chapter 28—Fisheries and Oceans Canada—Pacific Salmon: Sustainability of the Resource Base

Main Points

28.1 Canada’s ability to sustain the Pacific salmon resource at the present level and diversity is questionable given the various factors influencing salmon survival, many of which are beyond its control. While Fisheries and Oceans has built up major salmon stocks, others are declining and many are considered threatened. There is evidence that habitat loss is contributing to these declines. However, no overall status report on salmon habitat is available to assess the impact of habitat loss on the resource.

The physical habitat base is being eroded

28.23 While the overall number of salmon returning to B.C. waters is increasing and some major stocks are rebuilding to higher and sometimes record numbers, the numbers and strengths of some individual stocks are declining and are cause for concern. The causes for these declines are complex and include natural processes, such as cyclic changes in ocean productivity and marine survival, alterations of freshwater productivity, both natural and man-made, and human influences, such as fishing and habitat alteration.

Habitat loss is a major problem and, in fact, the Department estimates that loss of habitat probably accounts for 20 to 30 percent of the disappearance of small stocks of salmon in B.C. For example, the development of the City of Vancouver has resulted in 70 percent of the Fraser River estuary’s original wetland system being altered, mostly by diking and drainage projects, and approximately 50 percent of the estuary’s delta habitat being lost to development since 1880. Such changes have resulted in the documented destruction of streams and the subsequent loss of salmon.

_ _ _ _ _ _

I think my math is OK — 1997 is over a decade ago.

Where’s the report documenting the big changes that DFO made regarding these recommendations? And more importantly where’s the on-the-ground monitoring, evaluation, and improvement on these recommendations?

You know… feedback loops… those key components of any well-functioning system…

And so… if even DFO numbers (e.g. estimates) suggest that habitat loss could be accounting for 20-30% of the losses of small stocks (e.g. those key components of biodiversity) — why wasn’t drastic action taken?

In 1997 House of Commons (another “Standing Committee) reports it was suggested:

The pacific salmon is a valuable resource for the citizens and communities of British Columbia as well as for Canada as a whole. The commercial salmon fishery was worth $265 million annually during 1986 – 1995. A recent survey indicated that the recreational fishery generated more than $228 million in direct expenditures by anglers in 1990 alone. Many Canadians, especially the citizens and communities in British Columbia, have expressed a strong interest in, and commitment to, preserving this important resource for the use and enjoyment of generations to come.

And so the standard monetary-economic valuation is fronted, without mention of the value of salmon to First Nation communities (culturally, economically, etc.)… Regardless, the numbers stated still suggest a value of about $500 million or so between the commercial and sport sector for salmon fisheries.

Thus… if estimates suggested habitat loss was accounting for somewhere around 20-30% of small salmon stocks population loss — wouldn’t that suggest drastic action, simply with an economic impetus?

No.

Instead… here we are in 2011; another multi-million dollar judicial inquiry which has the same things being reported that have been reported for the last 10 decades.

What is that?

Look after the salmon habitat for the salmon… and the salmon will look after you and the habitat.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Don’t overfish; and don’t destroy habitat.

Simple principle.

Worked for eons pre-contact…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Operating under the assumption that we can do this:

"no net loss" of habitat? Vancouver Island Highway

See that giant red stump in the right of the top photo… hmmm. Kind of hard to restore that in a “no-net loss”-kinda-way.

Also kind of hard to restore this in a “no-net-loss” kinda-way:

Vancouver Sun

We’re probably better off simply setting up something like this for salmon — similar to the Oregon Zoo:

Salmon zoo

Because we sure as hell aren’t listening to all of the warnings that have been coming since the end of the 1800s. Stop destroying habitat and stop overfishing. This message was repeated from California all the way up the coast to Alaska and across the Pacific Rim.

Yes, ocean conditions, climate change and otherwise have an impact — are they the “culprit” though?

No, we are.

Would some politicians and bureaucrats within the ministry responsible for “conserving” salmon and their habitat please stand up and actually do something.

There are only so many more forests to produce the eco-green, forest stewardship certified, 100% recycled material paper that these report, after report, after testimony, after standing committee, after judicial inquiry, after congressional hearing, after auditor general report, after special committee, after enviro, after… after… after…