Tag Archives: Fraser sockeye

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'

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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.

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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.

Awesome.

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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).

 

Public hungry for salmon info?

hungry public?

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Two stories ran this past week that raised my curiosity.

One in the Globe and Mail:

Cohen commission’s calm hides turmoil behind scenes

The article focuses on the “undertaking of confidentiality” that all Cohen Commission participants had to take before participating in the Commission.

Alexandra Morton has suggested she needs to be released from the undertaking to release important information on salmon viruses that may be impacting, or could hugely impact, BC’s wild salmon.

But in counter submissions, the B.C. government and the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association argued that it is important for the commission to maintain confidentiality so that evidence can be presented fairly and in context during the hearings.

The BCSFA argued that releasing documents before they become exhibits “would promote a media trial that would distract the public from the commission’s work.”

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Distract the public from the Commission’s work” ?

If a poll was done right now in BC… how many people would suggest they’re following the Cohen Commission?

If the public is so voraciously consuming the Commisson’s multiple hundreds/thousands of pages of reports, evidence and information then why not televise the hearings on CPAC or otherwise?

It could be like an OJ-trial spectacle…

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Another related article ran in the Tyee — BC’s independent online news stop:

Is a Virus Ravaging BC’s Sockeye?

The government’s position seems to be that releasing scientific data to ignorant, sensation-hungry reporters will only confuse matters — as if decisions on a major public resource could be made behind closed doors.

There it is again… this assumption that the media and public is absolutely glued to this issue.

In some ways– yes… in many ways– no.

And most definitely not waiting with bated breath for some ‘complicated policy prescriptions’ or ‘core policy drivers’ to begin dealing with the issue of salmon declines…

medicated public?

And the even better assumption (my favorite) that the media and public is “ignorant” of these issues.

‘just leave it with us professionals… we know what’s best’

(and my response: “well… if you know what’s best then why didn’t you do that in the first place…?”

the deathly language of wild salmon…

 

exhausting language?

There has not been a post here in a bit… a slight break… severe exhaustion of the reams of “specialist” salmon language. In discussions of salmon; it is never-ending.

I’ve been reviewing various studies, following salmon stories online, participating in a few meetings, reading the odd book —

Four Fish -- by Paul Greenberg

(this one of which is decent storytelling, but not much different then any other chapter of a book on the issue…)

…and just have not been able to pull a post together on the subject.

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Today I came across material out of the University of Oregon — The Salmon 2100 Project. Inasmuch as I find the spirit of the project a positive one… the language is at times exhausting; and too oft repeated everywhere one turns to read about wild salmon…

One of the ‘chapters’ is titled:

Wild Salmon in Western North America: Forecasting the Most Likely Status in 2100

But how can it be that the recovery prognosis is poor when the direct causes of the decline are reasonably well known, have been studied in great detail, and the public is generally supportive of reversing the long-term downward trend?

The answer is captured in a simple policy statement of fact:

Effecting any change in the long-term downward trend of wild salmon is futile in the absence of shifts in the core policy drivers of this decline.

It is the core policy drivers [pictured above] —the root causes—that have determined the status of wild salmon and will continue to determine that status through this century.

Habitat alteration, dams, water withdrawals, fishing, hatcheries, and many more, are simply the ways in which the core policy drivers have been expressed. Intended or not, by focusing on these highly visible, but secondary factors, government agencies have instituted a patchwork approach to salmon restoration that has distracted attention away from the less obvious, but fundamental core policy drivers.

I certainly agree with the patchwork approach, as documented in a post some time ago.

Is this blanket wet?

However… “core policy drivers”… wow, where do I sign up for this campaign?

Core Policy Driver #1 — Rules of Commerce
The first core driver is an overarching one and, like everything else in salmon science and policy, difficult to rigorously quantify as to its influence on wild salmon. It is:

The rules of commerce, especially trends in international commerce and trade as reflected in increased market globalization, tend to work against increasing the numbers of wild salmon.

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Ironically the document points out some of challenges in getting “the public” interested…

…it may not be so much that the public (whomever that is?) is not interested —– it’s that the damn discussion is inaccessible.

Try and frame a wild salmon pep rally around core policy drivers & rules of commerce and see how many average folks show up…

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It isn’t much different at the Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser River sockeye. The number of pages accumulating at that process should pretty much keep the BC pulp and paper industry in business for quite some time… or the dam-building business to keep producing the power to fuel the electronic databases of information…

In the end I don’t really see a nice succinct 20-page document coming out of that process, with clear ideas about stemming the downward trend.

Especially if terms such as this dominate the process…

complicated policy prescriptions

It’s not really that complicated… here’s a dictionary definition to assist…

fish·ing

–noun

1. the act of catching fish.
2. the technique, occupation, or diversion of catching fish.
3. a place or facility for catching fish.

fish

plural ( especially collectively) fish, (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) fish·es, verb
1. any of various cold-blooded, aquatic vertebrates, having gills, commonly fins, and typically an elongated body covered with scales.

And so if one engages in the verb — to fish — that means, generally, removing and killing those cold-blooded critters, commonly with fins and scales…

One dead fish, means one less spawning fish… less spawning fish means less offspring… less offspring means less returning mature adults… more fishing… more dead fish… less spawners…

And you catch my drift (pardon the pun)…

Fortunately, like many critters on this planet, salmon are pretty darn hearty, tough creatures. They’ve survived ice ages, volcanoes and mass climate changes… but now they fight a heckuva battle… dwindling numbers, increasing pressures.

Little less of the verb “to fish” and we might just see miracles… instead of hiding behind “core policy drivers” otherwise known as “lack of political will”…

.

www.gapingvoid.com {Hugh MacLeod}

 

 

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…?

_ _ _ _ _ _

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _

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.