Tag Archives: Pacific Salmon Commission

Another blown Fraser salmon forecast… runs “lower than expected”…

chinook circle black

Seems like another year of blown Fraser sockeye forecasts… maybe it’s not the runs that are ‘lower than expected’ and more that we can expect most forecasts to be higher than the runs expected?

News Release from the Pacific Salmon Commission today – below. Not only was the forecast wrong, the Fraser River is smoking hot – over 20 degrees Celsius (water temperature that is). With current weather forecasts and low flows, don’t imagine this will be getting any better any time soon.

And yet, the $26 million recommendations from Cohen Commission have disappeared like a PMO Chief of Staff…

Tuesday, August 6, 2013
The Fraser River Panel met Tuesday, August 6 to receive an update on the migration of Fraser River sockeye and pink salmon and review the status of migration conditions in the Fraser River watershed.
Although the migration of Fraser sockeye through the marine approach routes to the Fraser River has increased in recent days, it is still considerably lower than expected. This is primarily due to the lower than expected migration of Summer-run through the marine approach routes to-date. At the meeting today, the Panel approved an increase in the run size estimate for Early Summer-run sockeye from 400,000 to 452,000 fish. Their 50% migration timing through Area 20 is estimated to be July 22, which is one day earlier than expected. Current assessments suggest that the abundance of Summer-run sockeye is either lower than forecast or their migration timing is much later than expected. An in-season assessment of Summer-run sockeye abundance should be available by later this week.

The proportion of Late-run sockeye migrating through the marine assessment areas has increased over recent days.

DNA analyses continue to indicate that Fraser River pink salmon currently comprise a small proportion of the pink salmon presently being harvested in marine area test fisheries, which is consistent with the later marine timing of Fraser pinks relative to Washington and Canada South Coast (non-Fraser) pink salmon stocks.
On August 5, the Fraser River water discharge at Hope was 3,150 cms, which is approximately 26% lower than average for this date. The temperature of the Fraser River at Qualark Creek on August 5 was 20.5 degrees C, which is 2.8 degrees C higher than average for this date. Sustained exposure of sockeye to Fraser River water temperatures in this range may cause high pre-spawning mortality.

Doesn’t sound or look or feel like things will be improving for Fraser sockeye any time soon. Good thing taxpayers flipped a $26 million bill for a thousands of hours of lawyers, ‘biologists’ and a judge’s time…

And those that care about salmon… most definitely do not want to hear about Fraser Chinook this year… (some of the worst numbers on record in ‘test fisheries’ and yet some sport fisheries remain open for them… go figure…)

Probability means what?

"Friendliest Catch" (as in 'not')

“Friendliest Catch” (as in ‘not’)

Probability: “The quality or condition of being probable; likelihood.”

Probable: “Likely to happen or to be true.

These are a few definitions fronted by the Free Online Dictionary.

Generally, most of us use probable to suggest that this event, or that event: is probable. However, in fisheries ‘management’ on the West Coast of North America – and specifically salmon management – we now use probable in the opposite way. We now say that certain ‘forecast’ numbers are ‘probable’ to not occur.

Here’s an excerpt from the latest Pacific Salmon Commission news releases regarding Fraser Sockeye:

'probability' management

‘probability’ management

Thus, the suggestion is that there is a 75% probability that the run will not be at the 8.595 million level, and will in fact be below that.

So here’s a great way to make predictions sound fantastic “there is 100% probability that the Fraser Sockeye run will be at or below 40 million”. Say that every year and then down the road it sounds like you’ve been right every time.

Here’s my suggested new ‘financial’ management language:

new 'financial management' language

new ‘financial management’ language

However, this is my favorite quote from the news release, and hence the cartoon above:

low impact fisheries

“low impact fisheries”

Last time I checked… a dead fish is… well… a dead fish.

Won’t be long until we have ‘probability’ forecasts for ‘impacts’ of fisheries. And, yet, the great irony in all of this is that the ‘management’ actions only continue to grow as the ‘available’ catch shrinks. The classic human folly in natural systems…

The more we learn… the more we learn we don’t know. The more we don’t know… the more we figure we need to know, and thus “gentlemen, start your research engines…” – (rinse and repeat if necessary).

When it comes to most fisheries worldwide – as the allowable catch shrinks… the ‘research’ agenda, and ‘management actions’ grow. (rinse and repeat if necessary).

the more we learn

Somewhat good news: Spawning salmon levels rise Birkenhead River sees highest sockeye return in five years… yet co-opted “co-management”

A somewhat good news story about sockeye coming out of the Pemberton area near Whistler.

However, maybe mis-guided comments about “co-management”?

Spawning salmon levels rise Birkenhead River sees highest sockeye return in five years

The numbers are in from the Lil’wat Nation’s annual sockeye salmon stock assessment for the Birkenhead River. From the time the sockeye entered the river in late August to shortly after the counting fence was blown out by high water levels towards the end of the run in late September, a total of 193,547 sockeye were counted.

“It would certainly be the largest escapement (population) in the last five years,” said Mike Lapointe, head biologist of the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC). “The previous largest escapement is 2006, which is 266,000, and since then we had 93,000 in ’07, 19,000 in ’08, 54,000 in ’09 and last year, 128,000.”

Typically, 90 per cent of Fraser River salmon have a four-year lifecycle, but the Birkenhead is different in that there can be significant numbers of five- and six-year-olds as well. This is partly related to the fact that it’s a coastal stream and subject to high flash flooding. Because of these fluctuations in the spawning habitat, the populations have evolved to produce more than one age class.

What this means, said Lapointe, is potentially this year’s higher rate of return is because some of the salmon are from 2006.

“With Fraser sockeye, we talk of parent years as being important since they have a four-year lifecycle, then we’d be looking at the escapement four years ago, which was ’07 and that number was 93,000,” he said. “And so for the Birkenhead, it looks like this parent year has produced fairly well.”

But he won’t know how many have returned in 2011 as five-year-olds from the abundant 2006 brood until he examines the samples, said Lapointe.

The Mount Currie Fisheries Program works closely with the PSC throughout the year, closely monitoring conditions of the fish and river.

“Because this is the territory we’ve grown up in and we’re very responsible for, we also document environmental information like temperatures, differences we see in the river and things that catch our eye,” said Maxine Joseph-Bruce, fisheries program manager for the Mount Currie Band.

The collected data is sent to the PSC along with samples — a combination of scales and otolith, the ear bone in the fish. Both have rings on them for determining age, very much like rings that you could see on a tree, said Lapointe.

The annual sockeye count requires the installation of a counting fence across the Birkenhead to create a four-foot wide opening the salmon can pass through. Narrowing the river in this manner facilitates tracking the number of fish swimming upstream.

“We situate a working platform just up-river, about eight feet from the opening, and we count every single fish that swims through that gate,” said Joseph-Bruce.

This year, the counting bench was staffed by two people 24 hours a day, seven days a week — in eight hour shifts — from Aug. 31 through to Sept. 23, when the fence had to be removed due to heavy rain and clogging caused by fallen leaves.

“Kids visit from the local schools, Signal Hill and Xit’olacw, a number of tourists stop in, plus it’s a really positive approach to education and awareness about salmon in our valley,” said Joseph-Bruce. “Some people don’t have a clue that sockeye are returning to the Birkenhead.”

Lapointe added, “The program that Maxine is running is just such a terrific example of the co-management that can occur with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in terms of having folks that live in the area do the assessments.”

Joseph-Bruce recently attended a salmon ceremony at Pemberton Secondary School and said she would like to see such appreciation for the Birkenhead salmon spread to all local communities.

“They’re aware of this beautiful animal that comes back here… I’m really proud of our youth who are paying attention, and how we in this valley are pretty lucky our land gets fed by these wonderful salmon that return back,” said Joseph-Bruce.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Some great things in this article, and yet some gaping voids…

For example, as Mike Lapointe from the Pacific Salmon Commission mentions, this year’s return of just under 200,000 (to the river) is one of the better returns in several years — e.g, 2006 when the return (to the river) was a little over 250,000 sockeye.

The thing that is so rarely mentioned in any of these numbers…. what was the total run size estimate, before it got hammered by marine, mixed-stock fisheries opened by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Pacific Salmon Commission?

In 2006, for example, the marine exploitation rate (captured in ocean and Fraser mouth fisheries) was almost 30% of the total run size. The total estimated run size for 2006 was almost 600,000 sockeye — before fisheries in Canada’s waters opened on them.

In 2006, just over 175,000 Birkenhead sockeye were caught in fisheries, and a further almost 150,000 were “lost” en route.

_ _ _ _ _

For further comparison, the biggest run prior to that was in 1993 when the total Birkenhead run size estimate was over 1.7 million sockeye.

That year the marine exploitation rate was estimated at 85%: over 1.3 million Birkenhead sockeye caught in marine fisheries on the BC coast in 1993.

Only 245,000 sockeye made it back to the river that year.

So one must gather that the esteemed fisheries science of the last several decades suggests that we can take 85% of a population and expect it to produce the same size run at the conclusion of its life cycle? (4-6 years when it comes to Birkenhead sockeye)

_ _ _ _ _ _

Similar story in 1986.

Total run size for Birkenhead sockeye estimated at over 1.6 million.

Marine exploitation that year = 78% or almost 1.3 million Birkenhead sockeye killed in marine fisheries.

Number of sockeye that actually made it up river to spawnjust over 330,000.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Want to see some real dismal numbers, look at some other years of Birkenhead sockeye. Go back one year further…

1985

Total estimated run size: 144,000

Marine exploitation: 89% which equals, almost 130,000 sockeye caught.

How many made it to the river to spawn?

11,000.

_ _ _ _ _ _

In the year 2000 (after how many public inquires into sockeye issues? 3, 4, 5?)

Total Birkenhead run size estimate: 63,000

Marine exploitation: 65%, almost 43,000 Birkenhead sockeye caught in fisheries.

Total return to spawning grounds: 14,470.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

The newspaper story says it well.

Typically, 90 per cent of Fraser River salmon have a four-year lifecycle, but the Birkenhead is different in that there can be significant numbers of five- and six-year-olds as well. This is partly related to the fact that it’s a coastal stream and subject to high flash flooding. Because of these fluctuations in the spawning habitat, the populations have evolved to produce more than one age class.

So sockeye populations of various rivers have ‘evolved’ (over eons and changing conditions) to deal with wide-ranging environmental conditions.

Did they evolve to deal with having upwards of 80% of their total returning runs caught in mixed-stock fisheries in the ocean?

No.

They have enough challenges with mud slides (for example in the Pemberton area),

from Times Colonist

weather events, glacial run-off, spring and fall downpours, and the like, to contend with for simple survival. Let alone misguided fisheries management policies for upwards of 100 years that say, “yeah, go catch 80, 90% of those runs… they’ll be fine.”

The Birkenhead is one of only 19 Fraser sockeye stocks that has sufficient info to track in a year-after-year basis. And like so many other runs, this data is very time limited, the Birkenhead data only goes back into the 1980s.

What about many of the over 200 distinct Fraser sockeye stocks that once existed prior to the beginnings of cannery row in the late 1800s? The many 100s of stocks that had also ‘evolved’ various life strategies and characteristics to deal with local challenges and opportunities.

R.I.P.

… that’s what.

The mixed-stock, Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY — see free e-book on this site), fishery practices of the last 100+ years sent those runs the way of the passenger pigeon, dodo bird, and wooly mammoth… victims of ‘market sustainability & ecological prioritization.’

_ _ _ _ _

And thus… is counting fish at fish fences and recording river and environmental data: “co-management“?

As in Mr. Lapointe’s: “The program… is just such a terrific example of the co-management that can occur with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in terms of having folks that live in the area do the assessments.”

Now, I do want to be respectful, as my interactions with Mr. Lapointe have been good ones. He seemed to me, quite a nice fellow. However in attempting to be ‘hard on the problem, not the person’ — last I checked, co-management is about power relations, not “participating in assessments”… (not to take away from the fact that there is participation permitted in this case).

For example, some suggest co-management means:

A political claim by users or community to share management power and responsibility within the state.

Or,

The sharing of power and responsibility between the government and local resource users.

Or,

Power sharing in the exercise of resource management between government agency and a community organization…

Or,

A partnership in which government agencies, local communities and resources users, NGOs and other stakeholders share… the authority and responsibility for the management of a specific territory or a set of resources.

These all come from the book: Adaptive Co-management: Collaboration, Learning, and Multi-level Governance by Armitage, Berkes and Doubleday put out by UBC Press in 2007. (pg. 3)

_ _ _ _ _ _

When it comes to looking after wild salmon in Canada — I’m not sure that I’m aware of many (or any) effective “co-management” regimes, as in real sharing of “power” and “responsibility”… with First Nation or local settler communities.

Sure there’s funding handed out to count fish and record river temperatures… but true power-sharing? true partnership?

Hmmmm…

And how do we “co-manage” extinct wild salmon runs — such as the many that have disappeared on the Fraser system or up and down the BC coast?

What I am aware of is governments that insist, every time a case of aboriginal rights and title go to the highest courts in the land, vehemently deny that aboriginal rights and title exist.

And there’s one of the main problems… first people’s fishing rights keep having to be wrung through the adversarial and colonially-based legal system.

And the highest courts in the land repeatedly suggest: ‘yes, they do exist [the rights and the title] and everyone return to the negotiating table to figure it out’…

…that ‘power’ and ‘sharing’ thing… figure it out…

It’s not to say there aren’t efforts on these fronts (some of which that evolved from court cases)… just frustrating to see when terms get co-opted and watered down as if thrown into a muddied river in full fall freshet.

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

_ _ _ _ _

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).

When salmon folk lose touch…

You can't be serious...?

Sometimes when one is doing research on wild salmon, salmon ‘management’, salmon conservation, salmon rehabilitation, and the like… one may come across things that bring pause, and an occasional head shake…

Today, I was searching around for information on Chinook salmon. My path led me to the Pacific Salmon Commission; a place I often land in my salmon searches. Specifically, my search led me to a report titled:

Development of the Technical Basis for a Chinook Salmon Total Mortality Management Regime for the PSC AABM Fisheries. February 2011

(It’s down the right hand column of the home page… and only 218 pages).

I tend to be someone who often advocates for “meaning what you say and saying what you mean“. I have varying degrees of success at this, but always looking to improve.

One of my intentions for this website/weblog is to try and present a variety of views on salmon — specifically wild salmon and our rather tenuous relationship with them.

And so when I read a title that suggests that we are looking for a ‘technical basis’ to manage Chinook based on “total mortality”… it does leave me puzzling. Did we manage based on ‘partial’ mortality before?

Well… we based on AABM… which translates to “Aggregate Abundance Based Management“. I won’t get it into it now, but in essence, the AABM means we fish less when Chinook stocks are in trouble and more when they are in good shape.

I know… rocket science.

Part of the problem is that it is done by “aggregate” meaning based on groups of Chinook stocks up and down the coast (Alaska, BC and Washington) that have potential spawners counted through various methods… various methods of accuracy…

There is also ISBM, which is “individual stock-based management” where information from individual stocks is considered when making fisheries decisions.

The move to TM based fisheries… and no that’s not “trademark” as in:

“this is our fishery management regime… TM“.

It’s “total mortality”.

From what I can see it means that Chinook catch numbers will now also include undersize Chinook or otherwise that may incidentally die in fisheries. Some types of fisheries are permitted to keep undersize or otherwise fish (e.g. some net fisheries) — other aren’t (e.g. sport fisheries) and thus undersize or oversize have to be released.

Or in the case of sport fisheries, when there is an imposed limit — say 2 Chinook a day — one person in a boat may ‘limit out’ first, yet keep fishing. If they catch a bigger fish then the two their keeping for their limit, the smaller one goes overboard “for the seals”.

(this isn’t the case with all rec fishers, however, as one myself, I’ve certainly seen it happen often enough)

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As the Commission report describes it:

The TM management regime would estimate catch and the associated incidental mortality (IM) in a fishery, and constrain the fisheries based on defined limits to TM rather than LC [Landed Catch].

… [Total mortality] is the sum of the landed catch and the associated incidental mortalities from fishing…

Hey, now that makes sense, less try and account for all the fish killed in fisheries as opposed to just what shows up at the dock (e.g. canneries or otherwise)…

In other words, it’s sort of like a full accounting for what military folks like to call “collateral damage”… or that other innocuous fisheries term “by-catch”.

Almost all fisheries have size restrictions, so one can imagine the number of undersized fish caught, for example, in commericial troll fisheries… and by the time an undersize fish has been swinging around on troll gear for a awhile, it’s probably not going to do too well when it’s “released”…

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For your pondering:

In 2009, the total commercial troll Chinook catch in Southeast Alaska alone was almost 176,000

Seine Chinook catch was over 54,000 and

Sport Chinook catch was over 69,000

With a total Chinook catch in Southeast Alaska just under 300,000

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In northern BCover 75,000 Chinook caught in commercial troll fishing.

34,000 in sport fisheries.

On West Coast Vancouver Is. … commercial troll over 58,000 Chinook caught.

Sport fishery over 66,000 Chinook.

So throw in another 230,000 Chinook caught (or so).

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Not included here is the Juan de Fuca, Salish Sea/Georgia Strait, or Fraser River mouth catch numbers. Not much going on their commercially, but lots of sports fisheries.

Total 2009 Chinook catch numbers — on what the Commission calls ISBM fisheries — was almost 205,000 with over half of those caught by sport fisheries (approx. 116,000) and First Nation (approx. 53,000) the rest was test fisheries and commercial.

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The estimated “Incidental Mortality” (IM) — e.g. numbers not included in these numbers — appears to be estimated at close to 10%.  (…coincidentally, about the same approximate percentage of Chinook catch in BC, by First Nations…e.g. 12% as compared to the approximate 50% caught by sport fishers )

(And remember, much of these number are based on raging estimates)

Sport fisheries are only covered by creel surveys (e.g. interviews with fisherfolks) and estimates suggest about 10% coverage, as well as fly overs to count boats…

Ever dwindling though, due to funding cuts to Fisheries and Oceans monitoring and enforcement budgets.

So throw in another 70,000 (at least) dead Chinook into the equation.

(that’s almost the entire Fraser River Chinook run in some years…)

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So some of this “Incidental Mortality” stuff begins to make sense once the glaze is peeled back from one’s eyes in trying to read mulit-hundred page documents that have an executive summary that reads like this…

Pacific Salmon Commission Chinook Tech docs

I think I spent more time scrolling back to the Acronym guide… and my new ‘techno-bumpf’ translation app.

However, here’s my favorite part:

The CTC also formed a Total Mortality Work Group (TMWG) in 2003 to develop the technical analyses and approaches necessary to implement total mortality regimes. The TMWG made substantial progress on methods for translating the relationship between nominal landed catch and the abundance indexes (AIs) for AABM fisheries into TM units, but was not able to complete the work due to lack of consensus on the interpretation of the TM language in the Agreement.

The “CTC” is the Chinook Technical Committee within the Pacific Salmon Commission… of which there are 32 people.   I’m not sure how many of those reached “total mortality” to become part of that working group…

Maybe another name might be appropriate…?

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However, this incredible depth of scientific analysis, techncical committees of over 30 people for one species of salmon, and so on… certainly makes one start to ponder “what is being spent on total mortality working groups…” which largely guide “fisheries”?

As opposed to trying to design: “how do we get as many fish onto the spawning grounds as possible — working groups

how do we avoid having to go to capital expensive, concrete-laden, long-term expensive hatchery options… which often do more damage then good — Working Group

And… “how do we make sure those fish have healthy habitat — Working Group