Tag Archives: Pacific salmon

Rivers Inlet sockeye salmon “test positive for ‘lethal’ virus linked to fish farms”

Hayward, former BP CEO

Remember this guy?

Tony Hayward, former CEO of BP (British Petroleum).

When the BP oil spill first began in the Gulf of Mexico and he suggested:

It’s relatively tiny compared to the very big ocean…

“We will fix it. I guarantee it. The only question is we do not know when,” Hayward told the Guardian [British newspaper]. “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.”

Gulf of Mexico oil spill map... "just little"

 

can BC sportfishers relate?

Mouth of the Fraser someday? or Skeena?

 

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The point here is that CEO’s of large corporations just say the darndest things sometimes…

(the darndest stupidest things… albeit…)

Word out today in the Vancouver Sun that the ISA virus has been found in some Rivers Inlet sockeye salmon.

ISA — otherwise known in its non-acronym (onius) verbage as: Infectious Salmon Anemia. You can read about it at Wikipedia, for example, or search for more “scientific” sources. (Maybe my professional colleagues that comment on this site will pass along some good links.)

Bottom line on ISA, it can be real nasty, real fast. Just ask the salmon farming industry in Chile from their experiences over the last few years. (nasty…).

Here’s the Sun article:

Wild sockeye salmon from B.C.’s Rivers Inlet have tested positive for a potentially devastating virus that has never been found before in the North Pacific.

Infectious Salmon Anemia is a flu-like virus affecting Atlantic salmon that spreads very quickly and mutates easily, according to Simon Fraser University fisheries statistician Rick Routledge. The virus detected in sockeye smolts by the Atlantic Veterinary College in P.E.I. — Canada’s ISA reference lab — is the European strain of ISA.

“The only plausible source of this virus is fish farms,” said Routledge.

B.C.’s aquaculture industry has imported more than 30 million Atlantic salmon eggs over the past 25 years, mainly from Iceland, the United States and Ireland, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

No, no, I’m sure the ISA virus now ‘discovered’ in the North Pacific came through the waterways of Canada, like other viruses that came from Europe…

The article continues with reassuring information from the transnational corporation that dominates the BC coast (and Chile’s for that fact):

B.C. salmon farms conducted 4,726 tissue tests for ISA over the past eight years and every one has come back negative, according to Ian Roberts, a spokesman for B.C.’s largest salmon farming company, Marine Harvest. Another 65 tests conducted in the past quarter were also negative.

“As far as we know [Marine Harvest] is clean of this disease and we want to keep it that way,” said environmental officer Clare Backman. “Just because it is present in these Pacific salmon doesn’t mean it’s a health issue … Pacific salmon are not as affected by ISA as Atlantic salmon.” [my emphasis]

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Hmmmmm…

The article also states:

B.C.’s aquaculture industry has imported more than 30 million Atlantic salmon eggs over the past 25 years, mainly from Iceland, the United States and Ireland, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

My math often struggles… but a little over 4,000 tissue samples over 8 years, against over 30 million imported eggs, and against how many farmed salmon raised on the BC Coast in the last decade?

What sort of percentage is that?

Let’s just say small… very small. miniscule. You know, ‘a drop of oil in a big ocean…’ kind of small.

Isn’t this sort of like saying I don’t believe in molecules because I can’t see them…

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Read the history of ISA at Wikipedia. It’s sort of like flu season (and ISA is compared to influenza). It starts with one small, little piddly cough, in one person (amongst millions) and then within weeks it has spread through a population of millions, by planes, trains, and automobiles… and whatever other vectors.

Kind of like Chile experienced with ISA, which was not just ‘Atlantic salmon’ that they were raising. There were also Pacifics.

In its path, influenza often kills the more weak and infirm… (hmmm… like many of BC’s unique salmon populations…)

And so, we’re to take comfort from (former DFO employee) Clare Backman in the new corporate role in suggesting: “hey we don’t see it… so it’s not a problem for us…”

(kinda like tsunamis… not really a problem until they hit land)

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Maybe this will be all for not and we really should just relax and not be shouting about epidemics, and the like — like avian flu, or SARS, and so on and so on…

Unfortunately, I tend to be one that questions a lot… especially multinational corporations and their representatives when they start saying: “nothing to see here… move along… nothing to see here” and complicit governments that parrot the same lines.

Maybe there is nothing to see here and this is just a few salmon with a little niggly cough hanging out in Rivers Inlet…

Any thoughts out there?

 

 

Salmon fisheries of the North Pacific high seas?

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A curious find at the local university library this week: “Salmonid Ecosystems of the North Pacific“.

inside page

It was compiled in 1980.

In the preface, it suggests:

Some stocks of salmonids have been fished heavily since before the turn of the century, and most have been heavily fished since the 1930s. Freshwater spawning and nursery habitats have also been degraded by land and water use activities. Most natural populations have declined from the combined effects of overfishing and environmental damage.

The preface also discusses the explosion at that time of artificial propagation, such as salmon enhancement (e.g. hatcheries) and massive ‘salmon ranching’ programs in Asia and Alaska. The big question on the books for this symposium was the impact of these efforts on the North Pacific.

Essentially: did pumping out a pile of artificially propagated salmon have a negative impact out in the ocean? Or, was the continued practice going to have a negative impact?

Kind of like asking if you drop an ice cube in a swimming pool whether it changes the temperature…

Or whether farting in a gymnasium changes the inside air temperature…

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The first paper is by Dr. Randall Peterman, a common presence still to this day in salmon discussion in B.C and in the now wrapping up Cohen Commission into Fraser sockeye declines.

In the intro to his paper, Peterman suggests:

The catch of salmon (Onchoryncus spp.) in both British Columbia and all Pacific rim countries has dropped 50 percent in the last forty years.

And so salmon species were absolutely hammered by human fisheries from the late 1800s through the early 1900s coupled with… what might be called rather lax environmental standards…

And yet…

Under the guidance of government ministries, we continued on this path in B.C.:

take, take, take --- 80% take of total annual Fraser sockeye run

Every year, year after year, take anywhere between 60 – 80% of what was the estimated run size. All in a practice of Maximum Sustainable Yield. A fine practice largely supported by fisheries scientists everywhere.

Even with esteemed scientists such as Dr. Peterman (prob. pretty young in that day) suggesting: “hey look we’re already seeing a 50% drop in the catch rates…”

It has to be continually pointed out… this is 60 – 80% of the run taken in domestic fisheries. This does not account for the high seas.

The Magnuson-Stevens act which granted Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of 200 miles offshore to coastal nations didn’t kick in until 1976. That means that until that time there were any number of international and domestic fishing boats plying the North Pacific for fish.

Remember the term “curtains of death” … these referred to drift nets that could be as long as 40 km and caught everything in their path. These weren’t banned until the 1980s by the United Nations.

And yet, even a Vancouver Sun article in 2008 discusses the challenges in still catching offenders using outlawed drift nets.

B.C. important base in drift-nets search

From May to October, surveillance planes from Canada, Japan, Russia and the U.S. search that immense body of water for illegal drift nets.

Drift-net boat crews put out the banned nets at dusk and pull them in after dawn, to try to avoid being seen from the eyes in the sky above them.

The nets – some as long as 40 kilometres – are an efficient but indiscriminate way to remove target and non-target fish during those six months, when the North Pacific’s frigid waters are warmest and fish populations peak.

Depleted stocks of salmon in North America and Asia aren’t the only victims…

Yeah… this a bit more like trying to measure the impact of an ice cube dropped in your hot tub…

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The 1980s book, has an article that provides a slight glimpse into the impacts of high seas fisheries in the middle part of the last century.

high seas fisheries salmon catch

As the caption suggests: this is the catch of sockeye salmon by commercial fisheries of the then-USSR, Japan, U.S., and Canada from the 1920s through the 1970s.

This is the “reported” catch of those fisheries.

And yup, that’s over 40 million sockeye caught on the high years.

Now of course, the offended fisheries scientist will probably jump in here and say, but those were mostly Alaskan sockeye…

I’m guessing the research wasn’t all that advanced to tell us exactly where the fish came from. I’m also guessing that maybe Cold War relations didn’t really facilitate American scientists or observers on Soviet fishing boats…

It also needs to be pointed out that this is the “reported catch” of salmon in fisheries that reported them… what about the other high seas and domestic fisheries that don’t and didn’t need to report salmon by-catch?

By-catch being the fish thrown overboard dead and squashed and unwanted. When one is targeting Gulf of Alaska pollock they don’t want dirty salmon polluting their catch…

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Sadly… there is next to no mention of this issue in Cohen Commission material — but for five clauses in one of the twenty-one Policy and Practice Reports.

With reference to the North Pacific Anadromous Stocks Convention, which did not come into force until 1993 and only includes (as quoted in the Cohen Policy report):

The parties are Canada, the US, Japan, South Korea, and Russia. China participates informally in this convention, but is not a party to it.

The high seas are essentially considered “common” property, which means you gotta boat, you go fishing…  and considering the Vancouver Sun article from 2008 suggesting that high seas illegal drift net fisheries were still a problem…

And maybe I’ll just make casual mention of the fact (from the Cohen policy report):

The primary purpose of the North Pacific Anadromous Stocks Convention is to prohibit targeted fishing of anadromous fish stocks outside of the parties’ EEZs.

Yeah… I’ve heard a few folks use that excuse: “…but… i wasn’t ‘targeting’ them…it was an accident”

The convention delimits a zone, called the Convention Area, within which this prohibition applies. Under the treaty, only incidental catch of anadromous species is permitted within the Convention Area, and any incidental catches must not be retained, except for scientific research

Great… more by-catch thrown overboard.

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But there is more…

The convention creates the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission. The goal of the Commission is to promote the conservation of anadromous species in the North Pacific and the enforcement of the convention. While it does not play a fisheries management role, the Commission is mandated to determine scientific research projects, conservation measures and enforcement issues. Parties also commit to promote cooperative scientific research in the North Pacific.

In other words… no teeth… this is just about marketing… er… umm… I mean “promotion”.

It’s akin to the idea of governments promoting the idea of personal savings as a good idea… but knowing just as good ol’ Dubya Bush said after 9/11… everyone needs to be good Americans and get out there and shop…

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This type of “policy” language is where many problems lie.

Seems many folks figure because we write something down on paper and say “this is the regulation/policy/law” that that then becomes actually enforced, enforceable, and makes any difference whatsoever.

Like the bike helmet law in BC…

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And more unfortunate… it seems that the Cohen Commission into Fraser Sockeye (aka. “the commission to end all salmon commissions”) largely limited itself to only looking as far back as about 1990 when it comes to Fraser sockeye.

That’s only about 4 or 5 life cycles for a Fraser sockeye. (what if we did fruit fly research that way… “hey folks, we’re only going to look at a 40 to 50 day period…”

And sadly, the story written for Fraser sockeye declines had some significant plot developments at the turn of the century through to the 1980s.

A good hundred years of profit and plunder… and blunder…

A similar storyline as almost every fish stock around the world subject to industrial fisheries… and industrial fisheries science and industrial society politics.

Sadly, much of the science simply justifies the fisheries.

As well as, simply supporting more writing of policies and procedures and best practices and benchmarks and strategic plans and… and… and…

And yet on the ground… or in the water for that sake… the small coastal communities and people that live in them bear the brunt of the burden.

The brunt of the burden when the fisheries starting getting cut back… and even more brunt of the burden when fisheries all but disappear, because now it’s time for conservation

And when the discussion starts about “what to do…?” they’re told to sit quietly at home, or in the back corner, and let the “experts” figure it out for them…. and then read the thousands of pages of documentation that tells them why the experts are right… (just like they were last time…last decade… and the decade before that…)

Maybe it’s time for a change on how things are done.

More Citizen’s Assemblies… less expert forums, and policy and practice reports, and technical reports, and expert testimony, and bumpf-filled excuses and justifications…

Don’t get me wrong, the experts play a part… it’s just that they probably shouldn’t write the story.

 

“Elwha River salmon, steelhead better off without hatcheries” (and the problem with ‘benchmarks’)

"Benchmarks" (in flux) table... "could you get me a new coffee?" asks the manager on the right...

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This is a rather interesting article out of a Seattle paper:

With the dams being removed, a massive hatchery program threatens to impede effective use of the millions spent to open up the river and help salmon and steelhead runs recover.

… interesting if you’re into this sort of thing. Although I suppose it’s more opinion piece than article… as it carries a clear bias.

This summer, the longawaited dam removal on the Elwha River finally gets underway, marking the culmination of a two-decade effort toward restoring salmon to one of Washington’s most pristine rivers. The Elwha, in many ways, is a chance to rewrite history, undoing a century of destruction wrought by two dams that block migrating salmon from 90 miles of their historic habitat.

By all accounts, removing the dams from the Elwha watershed is an extraordinary opportunity, one that will bring about the rebirth of a river, which was once home to some of the largest Chinook ever documented and where a 65-pound salmon was more the norm than a rarity. Throughout their evolutionary history, wild salmon and steelhead have recovered from a range of catastrophic disturbances.

Curious language this…”rewrite history”… “recovered from catastrophic disturbances“.

“Rewrite history”… maybe a bit of hyperbole here… does that mean colonization of the Pacific Northwest? the massive commercial fisheries of the last 120 years or so? (probably not…)

On one hand, ‘catastrophic disturbances‘ is about exactly right though…

As, much of north-western North America was under a kilometre or so of ice some several thousands of years ago. Theories suggest that during the last period of great ice sheets — some 12K to 18K years ago — wild Pacific salmon hung out south of the Columbia River all the way down into Mexico; northwestern Alaska, Yukon, and current Bering Sea in the area known as Beringia; and in various ice-free refuge areas (e.g. northeastern Haida Gwaii, Brooks Peninsula on western Vancouver Is., etc.).

The salmon runs ‘recorded’ since European contact were still potentially on a ‘recovery’ track as the landscape ‘recovered’ from so much ice, melt, and glacial retreat.

So…  “recovered from catastrophic disturbance”?

See, “recover” means ‘to restore to a normal state’ or ‘to get back again’.

What is the ‘normal state‘ for salmon in any particular river?

How do we know when wild salmon populations have “recovered“?

What’s the “benchmark”? (as scientists and corporatists like to say)

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The article continues:

Despite the capacity of these fish to recover naturally, state, federal, and tribal fisheries managers are poised to squander the opportunity. They’ve opted to build a $16 million hatchery that will flood the river with more than 4 million juvenile salmon and steelhead each year, including more Chinook and steelhead than are released on the entire northern coast of Oregon.

This is despite 20 years of research demonstrating conclusively that hatchery fish are a major contributor to the decline of wild salmon in our region.

Now there’s a hotly debated statement…

Last spring I attended an international conference in Portland, OR hosted by “The State of the Salmon” organization: Ecological Interactions between Wild & Hatchery Salmon.

Ecological Interactions postcard

This very issue was batted back and forth across the North Pacific and north and south up the western North American coast.

Folks in the lower 48 largely curse hatcheries. Folks in Alaska sing the praises as they have multi-million dollar investments in ‘ocean-ranching’ programs.

Folks in Japan absolutely rely on hatchery/ocean-ranching programs for about 95% of their domestic catch.

And the Russians are apparently sitting on somewhere near $2 billion to start massive hatchery programs along their coastline.

(And Canadians… well… we just apologize and say “maybe this, maybe that”… “ooops sorry, my fault…your salmon spawned with mine, but i’m still sorry”)

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The article:

Domestication alters salmon so dramatically that a recent study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) revealed that even when hatchery fish are only one generation removed from the wild, wild fish produce approximately twice as many offspring as their hatchery counterparts. The current plan on the Elwha will domesticate a majority of the remaining wild salmon in the basin, reducing their productivity, and threatening their ability to build locally adapted, abundant wild populations.

Despite all the public interest, decisions on the Elwha recovery plan have been made largely without public input, driven instead by the millions of dollars set aside for a misguided and counterproductive hatchery. Meanwhile, research and monitoring critical in tracking the progress of the recovery remains woefully underfunded. The recovery plan claims that hatchery releases will be phased out as wild fish recover in the watershed, yet to date no benchmarks for wild recovery have been set, giving hatchery managers a blank check to continue harmful hatchery programs in perpetuity.

Oh, oh… there’s that benchmark thing. Scientists and ‘managers’ and money managers love benchmarks. (and of course there’s that ‘decisions made without public input’ thing as well…)

The problem with ‘benchmarks‘ when it comes to wild salmon populations is the point I raised above… how do we know when things have “recovered”?

What is the ‘normal state’ for salmon in the Elwha?

Or for any river for that fact… the Fraser, the Columbia, the Skeena…?

So where do we establish the ‘benchmarks’?

And what the hell does benchmark mean? (visit an older post to see)

‘Setting a benchmark’ is a term from carpentry, for building tables and chairs… not for setting arbitrary numbers to define success in ‘rebuilding’ salmon populations… (or measuring corporate success for that fact…)

And the bigger problem with ‘benchmarks’… they’re always based on the past.

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The point here isn’t necessarily to criticize the writers of the article or the points they make, as many I tend to agree with… more to question the assumptions that lie behind much of the statements made.

(and for a continued interesting read, if you’re into this sort of thing, read the comments to the article).

The assumptions that lie behind this article, are very common assumptions in the salmon world.

They are prevalent in the current $20 million+ federal public inquiry: Cohen Commission into Fraser River sockeye declines. For example, how can we know the extent of the devastation that humans have wrought on Fraser sockeye populations if we have no ‘normal state’ to compare against?

… or can’t ever agree on what a normal state was? Let alone what the historical populations were in the 20th century.

How do we set “rebuilding goals” or “restoration benchmarks” (beware of preceding bumpf…) — if we don’t know what a steady state might be?

Oh right… we’ll use our assumptions to measure “productive habitat” — for example, this many metres squared of gravel means this many fish will successfully spawn, and this many young will return as adults…

yeah whatever… I call bullshit.

We just don’t know.

In the last 150 years, we have intervened to such a scale, around every corner, across every inch of water that wild salmon inhabit, that we just don’t know what “normal” is.

Was it ever ‘normal’… or… is constant flux — normal?

If we’re “benchmarking” how stable do you think your table would be if someone kept changing the length of the other three legs?

Or, if while you’re cutting to one benchmark, someone is shaking the sawhorse wildly back and forth, or the piece of wood you’re trying to cut?

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There comes a time when I agree with the sentiment of some of the comments to this particular article.

Leave well enough alone.

Rivers of the Pacific Northwest can become naturally dammed by debris flows and mudslides and volcanoes. Eventually the dam releases and all the gravel and sediment blasts downstream. Fish populations are mutilated for years, but eventually a certain dynamic equilibrium (e.g. constant flux) is met, fish populations thrive, bears are happy, etc.

Hatcheries are essentially little more than warm milk and cookies.

They’re comfort food to make us feel better after obliterating fish species in the first place… or simply to support an economic benchmark.

Wild salmon runs recovered from Ice Age(s)… they’ll probably recover this latest scourge as well.

 

 

 

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

spawning chum

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is this allowed to occur?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greg Taylor
SkeenaWild Conservation Trust
August 5, 2011

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”…

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www.gapingvoid.com {Hugh MacLeod}

 

 

“Why Ocean Acidification Matters to You”

A pretty decent article at the Tyee on ocean acidification

I’m not always a big fan of constantly reporting on the bad news… but then… when talking about wild Pacific salmon it’s pretty tough sometimes to report good news.

The ocean acidification discussion is a nasty one. In essence, as we continue to pump carbon into the atmosphere the ocean absorbs it and as more is absorbed, we get acidification… not good for coral reefs, shelled critters, and otherwise. (about the only thing it might be good for… jelly fish)

When baby salmon swim out of their home streams and start migrating up the Pacific coast towards the North Pacific they rely a lot on small shelled critters as one of their main food sources. Slight rises in acidification have drastic consequences on the small shelled critters — and thus a major wild salmon food source at key times of their lives.

There’s another article at the American Fisheries Society: Ocean acidification causes negative effects on fisheries

…highlights how some changes may be coming for some of the starts of one of the only T.V. shows I tend to watch: Deadliest Catch.

…the acidification process in the Arctic, Bering Sea, and Gulf of Alaska is developing faster than expected. Some predictions made for the acid levels said corrosive effects shouldn’t become evident until 2050 or 2100.

As well as the Gulf of Alaska being a pretty key part of most BC wild salmon migrations…

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Search the term online and there is a mass of articles dating back several years on this issue.

One key similarity between all the articles…?

Almost all of them suggest that any ‘computer modelling’ on this issue… has been wrong. Various scientists suggest that ocean acidification is occurring at a rate anywhere between 10 time to 50 times faster than any ‘models’ predicted

Wonder if any of the salmon “scientists” are working these into their computer modelling programs?

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.

_ _ _ _ _

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?

_ _ _ _ _

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _

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

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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)

_ _ _ _ _ _

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.

 

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…

_ _ _ _ _ _

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _

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!

_ _ _ _ _ _

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _

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.

_ _ _ _ _ _

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?

_ _ _ _ _

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.

_ _ _ _ _

(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).

NEW E-BOOK… 1 Fish, 2 Fish: Do you really want to know about Maximum Sustainable Yield

New e-book on Maximum Sustainable Yield

Today is the release date for the first e-book on this site. It’s not a long one, however, maybe informative.

1 Fish, 2 Fish: Do you really want to know about Maximum Sustainable Yield

Here is a sample from page 1…

Page 1: How (not) to “manage” fish…

Please share this document with anyone — or send folks to this site to download. (Please comment at will.)

And please consider making a contribution to support this site, and future publications — look along the right hand side of this page for the PayPal link.

Maximum Sustainable Yield — A sure Recipe for Wild Salmon Extinction.

And stay tuned for more e-books coming soon.

slippery secret salmon science society

is this the secret?

Announcement: the Slippery Secret Salmon Science Society (S5) is hosting Seance Saturday (S2)…

It’s called S5 + S2 = ??

If you can answer the question you win a new neutron microscope…

(remember your secret spawning salmon handshake…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve been reviewing various kernels of information on the Cohen Commission. One can surf through the Executive Summaries of some of the technical reports — only one of the reports is available to download (Project 9 – Effects of climate change on Fraser River sockeye salmon).

Some others are hidden in transcripts as “evidence”. Others are not available yet. And one — Project 11 – Fraser River sockeye salmon: status of DFO science and management — is apparently not going to be done. At least according to the most recently posted status report:

Commission counsel have decided not to present project 11, Fraser River Sockeye SalmonStatus of DFO Science and Management, into evidence. The financial information requested by the commission’s researcher for project 11 could not be obtained in the time frame needed to complete the intended analyses.

Further, the Commissioner has heard or will hear direct evidence on the issues covered in the technical report. In particular, the Commissioner will hear evidence directly from DFO witnesses on these issues during the final hearing topic, “DFO Priorities & Summary.”

Hmmm… the report that would most likely shine the light on the biggest culprit in Fraser sockeye declines slinks off into oblivion.

Might some surmise this is because the small world of salmon scientists didn’t want to open the can of worms and potentially affect their chances of securing contracts with the only show going out there — the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?

(I wouldn’t want to be so cynical… however, some may not find it a huge stretch…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

A couple of curious things I’ve noticed in reading the Technical Reports:

1. Each report has two reviewers — comments and responses from reviewers and report authors are recorded at the end of the documents.

Now, one should probably conclude that this is meant as a quasi-peer review process — the great leveler of scientific literature. Oddly, though, many of the reviewers are some of the authors of other Commission technical reports. And more oddly, some of the reviewers are co-authors of other papers with the authors of the technical reports that they are reviewing.

Is this really a transparent, open method of reviewing and providing critical feedback?

Or, is this the ‘secret’ society of salmon scientists…?

Is the world of salmon experts really so small that something as important as the science review for the Cohen Commission resembles a tight-knit Conservative Party climate change fundraiser in Calgary (the heart of oil and gas co. headquarters)?

Even reading through one of the better technical reports — Project 9 – Effects of climate change on Fraser River sockeye salmon — one reads about the past in-depth research done by these two researchers paid for bythe Pacific Salmon Commission and DFO

Did you read in yesterday’s post how a “seance” is sometimes known simply as a: “sitting of a society”?

Is this “scientific” work simply a seance of a salmon society?

2. The bulk of the reports appear to simply be literature reviews. Some go so far as to hypothesize qualitative matrices (“the matrix”) and so on that organize literature reviews into some sort of quasi-scientific view of the salmon world.

And, there is a whole lot of: “due to limited data…” and “lack of data…” and “lack of data limited testing for cause and effect…” and “Due to our inability to rigorously test for cause effect relationships…”

And so on, and so on…

And take a guess at what the bulk of the recommendations are…?

We need more research…”

We highly recommend research priorities focus on…”

more research…” “More Research…” and (you got it) “MORE RESEARCH…”

Is this not akin to police doing investigations on themselves and concluding no wrong-doing…or… more investigations required?

Or, politicians recommending their own raises and increases to expense accounts…or increased terms?

Ok… maybe a bit of a stretch… and not necessarily similar — simply intended to make a point… there is some irony in scientific researchers saying they need to do more research — when that’s what brings home the bacon.

Some of this should potentially be taken with a big truckload of salt… we can research EVERYTHING further… or summarize research further, or review research, or identify gaps, or… or…

The other danger of this approach is that it makes implementing real change — rather difficult.

Why implement change when “we just don’t know… we’re not sure… the apparent evidence is not conclusive.”?

It’s not all that different… than say… cancelling elections and simply basing governments on poll results. Or, waiting until Inuvik, NWT experiences green Christmases before implementing real climate change policy…

Watching election coverage last night, Elizabeth May the Green Party leader and first elected North American Green Party candidate quipped: “the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic was built by professionals…”

Granted, that apparently god was directing Noah’s building plans… however, the Titanic was most definitely deemed unsinkable by the pros…

_ _ _ _ _

Now, I recognize these technical reports for the Cohen Commission are meant for the privilege of Justice Cohen himself.

The commission established a scientific research program to enhance the Commissioner’s understanding of the science behind the decline of Fraser River sockeye. The commission contracted with qualified and experienced external scientific researchers to study a wide range of technical and scientific issues designed to address potential causes for the decline. (from Apr. 27 Status Report)

My quick look-up of the definition of “enhancement” suggests: “To make greater, as in value, beauty, or effectiveness; augment.” So I’m guessing the Commissioner might have augmented knowledge, or more effective knowledge, or even beautiful knowledge of salmon science… or… errrr… ummm… the apparent incredible “lack of data”… “limited data” … and the mass of opinions in the slippery salmon science society suggesting “more research required” .

Let’s hope that this augmented knowledge sees past the slippery secret society to suggest real meaningful change — because if real change is to be dictated by scientists… then we’re going to be waiting a lot longer than the great bovine herd return… (errr… homecoming of the cows…)

Plus isn’t science supposed to be “objective”… e.g. “presented factually”… and how do we do that if we don’t have ALL the data? all the “facts”? the “truth”?

_ _ _ _ _ _

I recognize this is a little tough on the scientific institution… there is a valuable place for science, and I’m prone as the next wild salmon guy to quote my gumboot biology textbook… however, healthy wild salmon runs aren’t really about SCIENCE… They’re about politics and political will.

There are a heck of a lot more scientists involved in stating that climate change is here, here to stay, and one of the greatest threats to humankind… there are scientist declarations… scientists warnings… scientists sit-ins… scientist hunger strikes — stating that climate change is here, and it could be devastating.

But show me the life altering policy changes at the political level… show me a current sitting politician (not a previous politician flying hundreds of thousands of kms a year touting the dangers of climate change…) that is making the hard decisions to stem the tide…

Even this Cohen Commission report #11 states:

Overall, the weight of the evidence on the adverse effects of recent warming on survival of some individual life stages, as well as its possible cumulative effects across life stages, suggest that climate change has been a possible contributor to the observed declining trend in abundance and productivity of Fraser River sockeye salmon over the past 20 years.

And so if climate change is having a negative effect… what difference do any other changes make, if most world governments refuse to make changes to the things causing climate change?

So where is the research reports for the Cohen Commission on political decision-making? — a literature review of all the political decisions that have endangered salmon runs (or cod… or sturgeon… or whales… etc.)?

Science plays a part… yes… but politics rule the game…

And how are you salmon folks feeling about the new majority rule here in Canada (put in with about 40% of the popular vote)? Think it’s going to get better for wild salmon out there?