Tag Archives: salmon farming

…bcsalmonfacts.ca begins the slippery slide down, down, down: Zombie facts, half truths, and connecting some dots.

Sadly, the bcsalmonfacts.ca off with a bang of “open transparency” and balanced discussion… may quickly be slipping down a fish-slimed slide of zombie facts succumbing to gravity, infested with blurry vision, landing head first in the sand.

(please stick with this longish post to see curious connections of PR-campaigns at end)

I suppose if we could all just ignore some realities out there in the ocean and bury our collective heads in the fish meal bag we would publish half-fact articles such as this:

Why You Need to Eat More Fish

Submitted by BC Salmon Facts

Why you need to eat more fish
January 11, 2011
BY THERESA ALBERT

We need to eat more fish. That’s the bottom line. Fish doesn’t just protect our hearts. Studies have shown other health benefits, such as lowered risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancers as well as eye, brain, and joint health improvements.

Fish contain oil that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have also shown improved symptoms in people suffering with mental and depressive disorders when they supplement with omega-3 from fish oil.

[bla, bla, bla, healthy, great fish…]

If you are like most people who do not live on a seacoast, you are likely getting only one serving per week, if that, so how should you get two more? And which seafood should you consume? The top three consumed in North America are tuna, salmon, and shrimp, so that’s a good place to start.

TUNA: The first, cheapest, and most convenient way of eating fish: canned tuna, is a moderate source of omega-3. Consuming one can per week of skipjack (sometimes called light, or flaked, tuna) will net less mercury than eating the larger, darker albacore (sometimes called chunk, or solid). Skipjack tuna is also cheaper. The other two servings should come from different oceans and different types of fish, to lower the risk of one toxin accumulating.

SALMON: Most people love salmon and it is an excellent source of omega-3. But which type should you choose? Remember that big exposé a few years back saying that farmed salmon had way more mercury than wild? There’s more to the story. The “wild” salmon that was chosen for comparison was a type that isn’t normally sold at the grocery store. It was so wild that most of us can’t buy it. It also turns out that the feed was skewing the mercury numbers. Since then the farmed salmon industry has made careful strides to monitor the fish feed more closely and measure the contaminants better.

But it’s farmed fish! Isn’t that bad? Think of it this way: this planet has way too many people on it and we are all going to need to be fed. It would be utopia if we could all move to the farm, grow our own food, and fish in ponds that are spring-fed with pollutant-free crystal waters. The dilemma is that we know we need to consume more fish for our health, but the oceans are having trouble keeping up with our relentless demand.

What are we to do? We need to count on farmers as we always have, and urge them to do their most conscientious job of getting food on our tables. All of our tables. If there is enough wild fish to go around without annihilating the species and/or habitat and you can find as well as afford it, go ahead. But don’t avoid salmon simply because you are afraid of the mercury bogey man.

SHRIMP: This popular shellfish has a moderate omega-3 rating but it is the number one seafood on the market. Some fear that it has too much cholesterol for weekly consumption but a serving of shrimp per week has little or no negative impact upon our cholesterol levels and it is an otherwise lean, omega-3 containing protein.

The World Wildlife Fund is currently working with the shrimp-farming industry to create better practices; so if you are going to buy shrimp, buy American for now until the rest of the world gets on board. The healthiest fish for us (and for the planet) are the smaller fish. Sadly these are used as bait or “chum” and include delicious species like herring and sardines. Both weigh in with as much, if not more, omega-3 as salmon and are cheap and plentiful. The bonus of eating these fish is that it helps to create a more sustainable fishing industry and healthier oceans for us and the planet.

From: http://bit.ly/dHg9hQ

How much fish do you eat a week?

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Reading this, garnered this response from my fingers on keyboard, of which I have posted on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website and is currently being moderated:

ummm, yeah, seafood is important folks — but maybe we need a gentle review of the reality of fish stocks around the world.

Here’s a link to the United Nations FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture website:

What does it suggest there?:

“75% of the major marine fish stocks are either depleted, overexploited or being fished at their biological limit”

Yes, tuna is cheap… at the supermarket. However, the true cost of making tuna cheap… not cheap. Tuna stocks around the world are in deep shit.

What does the UN FAO say about aquaculture?:

“Aquaculture is rapidly increasing its annual global harvest and seems to offer hope for increased food production. However, for some of the more than 210 farmed aquatic animal and plant species, 8 particularly salmon and shrimp, the methods currently used require high energy inputs and can cause environmental degradation similar to industrial/chemical agriculture or factory farming of livestock.”

Hmmmmm

what else?

“The high protein feed for farmed salmon is largely composed of ocean caught fish meal and meat offal from poultry and hog processing. Because of bio-accumulation of toxins in their feed, consumption of farmed salmon even at relatively low frequencies results in elevated exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like compounds with commensurate elevation in estimates of health risk.”

Interesting.

what about those shrimp sources?

“Farming of shrimp in Asia has lead to significant destruction of natural mangrove ecosystems.

Genetically engineered fish are being readied for commercial production in open net pens.”

Sorry, but it’s not a pretty picture out there. We can’t simply continue to bury our head in the fish feed and pretend everything is alright out there.

The fact that folks don’t want to heed the warnings that have been coming for years on the state of the ocean and world’s fisheries is the “silly and not helpful” part. (sorry to say).

Please state all the “facts” if you really want to be transparent on this website.

thanks,
www.salmonguy.org

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And, to be somewhat fair, there is some mention of some of the issues out there in the ocean… I did get a chuckle out of the “buy American in the meantime comment”… right, because if it’s made in America it means it’s more enviro responsible? (in some cases it may very well… however it still reeks of PR-speak)

And: “We need to count on farmers as we always have, and urge them to do their most conscientious job of getting food on our tables.” Come on…

Sorry, this is called an ethnocentric view, meaning: “the tendency to believe that one’s ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one’s own. The ethnocentric individual will judge other groups relative to his or her own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion.” (Wikipedia)

To Ms. Albert the original writer of this article: there is in the world, even today, a few folks that could be referred to as “hunter-gatherers”… they didn’t really ‘count on farmers as we always have.’

I’m not suggesting that the world’s population where it stands now could necessarily continue in a hunting-gatherer lifestyle… however, if we’re all about stating “facts” in an “open and transparent” manner then lets try our best to not simplify everything to the lowest common denominator and forget half the facts.

That’s like trying to make bread or cake with only half the flour… and we know what the result of that is… wet, sloppy, glop that we end out having to flush down the toilet.

(oh right, and let’s not forget the fact that there is this huge movement afoot in North America surrounding food security including: community gardens, 100-mile diets, organic farming, self gardening and so on, as opposed to chemical intense, industrial, genetically modified factory farming.)

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Curiously, if you follow the link to the article that “bcsalmonfacts.ca” decided to post, there’s a curious thing on the bottom:

Excerpted from Ace Your Health by Theresa Albert, Copyright © 2010 by Ezra Levant

[Jan. 23 update, quite curious to find out where blog posts travel to and who might be reading them… the joys of social media. I received this email Sunday Jan. 23 in relation to the information in this blog post below:

Hello Mr. Loewen,

I am writing from McClelland & Stewart, the publisher of Theresa Albert. You posted a blog entry on January 12, 2010 in response to an article Albert contributed to the Toronto Star’s Best Health website titled “Why  You Need to Eat More Fish.” The piece was syndicated by other media outlets but was initially published here http://www.healthzone.ca/health/dietfitness/diet/article/919804–why-you-need-to-eat-more-fish

Upon publication, the credit information for the source material of the excerpt contained a major typo – listing Ezra Levant as the author of Ace Your Health instead of Theresa Albert. This was a simple cut-and-paste error on the part of the Toronto Star. They pulled the format of the credit tag from a past excerpt (by Ezra Levant) to attach to this piece and substituted Theresa’s name and the title of the book in the appropriate places. Unfortunately, they missed one substitution and published the piece with “Ezra Levant” included. This was quickly corrected.

Ezra Levant had absolutely no involvement with this book. It is only fair to your readers to remove the portion of your article associating him with Theresa Albert’s opinions and research.

Thank you,
Josh Glover
Publicity Manager
McClelland & Stewart

Keep this in mind as you read the material below. However, also keep in mind the comment that the point here is not to make direct connections… it’s more to compare the PR tactics, as mentioned below. Simply seemed like a bit of a stretch of a coincidence… and sure enough it was. ]

Who is Ezra Levant?

Well… this is curious… he is “a is a Canadian lawyer, conservative political activist and media figure” and has a blog that he suggests is: “Opinions and articles by a conservative activist.”

And, well, if you read some of Mr. Levant’s posts, or his books, he’s on the same campaign, if not maybe assisting, PM Harper and “Environment” Minister Kent to sell “ethical” properties of the Canadian Tar Sands — (as opposed to the environmental merits… or lack of). As one of his blog posts asks, do we want oil from Saudi Arabia or Alberta?

Well… there is a part of me that asks: oil from Saudi Arabia has been fine for the last few decades, why not now? This is certainly not to suggest where my preferences lie on this issue — it’s more the whole: good for the goose, good for the gander thing. Nobody makes much of a stink about oil from the Middle East when oil reserves in this part of the world were less developed (not that I noticed anyways, I might be wrong…); now that we have increasingly developing oil reserves (e.g, tar sands and potential in the Arctic), let’s start riding the “ethical” train and painting those other sources with the bad, boogey-man brush.

Where were those ‘ethics’ a decade or so ago when that apparently ‘unethical’ oil was fueling much of North America’s ‘growth’?

_ _ _ _

Even more curiously, Wikipedia lists Mr. Levant’s recent work:

From 2009 until 2010, Levant worked as a lobbyist for Rothman’s Incorporated, a manufacturer and distributor of tobacco products.

Well, that is curious isn’t it? (maybe to some folks anyways…)

Everyone’s free to choose whatever career they like, and have opinions on whatever they like, and lobby for whatever they like (if they’re registered, that is).

For those folks out there that didn’t like my mentioning salmon farming, tar sands, and cigarettes in the same post — the connecting of the dots in this particular case starts to make those sorts of comparisons… not such a stretch. (and really, as mentioned in some comments, it’s not to meant to suggest a comparison of those actual industries… it’s more to compare the PR tactics).

This PR-spin mobile continues… and not one I plan to hang over my toddler’s crib.

BC Salmon Farmers engage and respond

It’s a flurry of activity on the salmon guy blog. I have a post yesterday commenting on the BC Salmon Farmers Association newest website: bcsalmonfacts.ca and the accompanying press release and coming onslaught of PR spin. I think it’s safe to say that I am somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to suggestions of the environmental inertness of open-pen salmon farming on the BC coast.

However, I do — and I did — express my appreciation that folks running the website just dove right into their ‘transparency’ efforts by posting my blog efforts as one of their first discussion pieces – with a response. You can visit their site, or read the reproduction here:

bcsalmonfacts.ca response to my post:

BC Salmon Facts says:

Jan 10 2011 5:49 PM

Hi David;

Thanks for visiting our website at www.bcsalmonfacts.ca. We appreciate your skepticism and believe that any subject should be open to challenge. We also believe that the source of the information be transparent – just like you have identified who you are on your blog. Because of this, The BC Salmon Facts campaign does not hide the fact that it is salmon farmers speaking up.

To our knowledge, BC salmon farmers have never thought our facts to be beyond challenge. But, shouldn’t the same be expected of critics? If salmon farmers feel that there is incorrect information about our business (fish meal use is one example, “dyes” another), then wouldn’t you expect us to speak up? Our goal with BC Salmon Facts is simply to assist salmon farmers in communicating.

You’re absolutely correct, motives should be clear, and then we can get down to discussing concerns, and the facts.

There is no arguing that all food production has some sort of impact, which has to be managed. We feel that we have listened to concerns, made important changes to our business, and are quite proud of the product we produce and how we produce it. Today, BC salmon farming is an important, viable business, producing a healthy product. Improvements will always continue.

As you probably know, salmon farms are open up for tours during the summer months. During the tour farmers often hear, “There are things I didn’t know about salmon farming until seeing it for myself – you need to get more people out here to see for themselves”. Well, it’s not easy getting 4.4 million BC residents out to a farm, so this campaign attempts to bring the farm to them.

We would encourage people to visit www.bcsalmonfacts.ca to discuss their concerns and, where they feel needed, challenge the content of the website. As you have said, “discussion…can be constructive…that’s why I started the blog in the first place.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Your opinion is important, so we have posted a link to your blog on our site, along with this response. Please feel free to provide your comments at www.bcsalmonfacts.ca

Sincerely,
www.bcsalmonfacts.ca

I have since posted a response on bcsalmonfacts.ca and will have to see if the moderator chooses to publish my response and if the discussion continues.

I do hand it to them. It’s not an easy place to be in for them, and they just jumped into the fire with it. Maybe it’s a bit late? Maybe not?

I’m also skeptical of comments such as the alluding to the poor-lowly salmon farmers needing some help communicating. Come one… the bulk of these are multi-national corporations with deep pockets… And, as with every publicly traded corporations, they have quarterly targets and analyst expectations to meet.

Yet, the invite to visit and learn more is a good one. Launching into the social media world is also a dangerous venture, yet can pay dividends (sorry for the pun).

One thing that is not going away any time soon… the hot nature of this subject, and I’m pretty sure it will continue to be a hot spring as the Cohen Commission scrambles for their May 2011 deadline (which doesn’t actually exist anymore).

bcsalmonfacts I applaud your efforts and, yes, I’m sure I would learn things with a visit to the farms and appreciate the invite. I  paid a visit to cattle feedlots in California some years ago and also learned a lot too, however, not necessarily things I wanted to learn. I can’t say I’m fully buying the farm yet.

One of the big challenges with understanding the impacts of salmon farming is that it’s all underwater — literally. It’s also potential migratory impacts, in that they might be coming and going impacts. And thus, the general public is left having to read battling science on the issue to try and draw their own conclusions.

Or, trusting that government agencies have the general public’s best interests at heart… of which the recent court case slamming the federal government for handing aquaculture to the Province proved was not the case. And now the cost of that court case, and the cost of developing all new regs, and then implementing.

Or, paying for things like the $5 million BC Pacific Salmon Forum (read B.C. “Pacific Salmon Forum” – $5 million air pie? on this site) which didn’t conclude much specific and then disappeared to gather dust on Ikea shelving units and soon on some internet server – and now funding another $15 million public inquiry.

Gets a bit tiresome.

As I’ve mentioned on various posts on this site and in a public session or two… maybe part of the answer lies in a Citizen’s Assembly similar to the BC Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform? Sort of similar to an impartial jury that explores all sides of an issue.

I also say “part of the solution”, because another fundamental aspect of this issue is the unsettled treaty environment with First Nations on much of the BC coast. That is not something that can be swept under the rug.

The discussion goes on…

Salmon farmers hire PR firms: “It’s about time the real story was told,” says the industry..

Small little press release running in the media yesterday:

Sure, your cheque is in the mail. Really.

An Initiative of the BC Salmon Farmers Association Invites the Public to Get the Straight Facts on Salmon Farming at their New web site, www.BCSalmonFacts.ca

“If it wasn’t so sad, it would almost be funny,” says Mary Ellen Walling, Executive Director of the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association. “Many people are being fed a diet of misinformation and that’s exactly why our members have launched www.BCSalmonFacts.ca, a new web site where we will separate myths from fact and set the record straight.”

In addition to the new website, members of the BC Salmon Farmers Association are also launching a television and print media advertising campaign urging viewers and readers not to believe everything they hear about farmed salmon without first checking the facts.

“At BCSalmonFacts.ca people will be able to separate fact from fiction,” says Clare Backman, Director of Environmental Compliance and Community Relations at Marine Harvest Canada, a member of the BCSFA. “It’s about time the real story was told.”

There are video clips and forums on the site with links to articles of interest. On the forums people can post questions and get straight answers. There is also a Facebook page and a Twitter feed.

So I suppose Backman figures that the general public won’t catch the bias involved in this initiative? Or the peculiar coincidence that the salmon farmers are under considerable pressure in the current Cohen Commission?

I tend to get a little chuckle out when I hear some company or industry association carry on about how they’re going to: “set the record straight.”

It’s a downward spiral. You are basically saying, hey general public you’re stupid, you’ve been duped, you don’t know how to do your own research and come to your own beliefs. You need to be spoon fed our farmed spin to really understand the issues.

BCSalmonFacts.ca is an initiative of three major salmon farming companies and two feed suppliers: Marine Harvest Canada, Mainstream Canada, Grieg Seafood, EWOS and Skretting, all members of the BC Salmon Farmers Association.

This isn’t all that different then say… the non-stick cookware folks launching a campaign to explain how “healthy” using their products is…

Or, those toy manufacturers that use lead paint on their products launching a PR campaign.

It’s called: SPIN. How can we spin this issue so people get muddled up on the truth…

Other case in point: Prime Minister Harper and new Environment Minister Peter Kent setting out on a campaign to “clean-up” the image of the tar sands. (coincidence, I suppose that Mr. Kent is a former TV anchor and reporter…?)

Peter Kent’s green agenda: Clean up oil sands’ dirty reputation

The oil sands have a new defender: freshly minted Environment Minister Peter Kent, who calls Canada’s tarry resource an “ethical” source of energy that should take priority in the U.S over foreign producers with poor democratic track records.

OK, great.

Rather than concentrate on actual environmental consequences: water use, incredible amounts of natural gas being burnt, greenhouse gas release coming out the ying yang,  immense pipelines, and so on and so on…

Let’s concentrate on the “ethical” component, on the “perception” and “reputation” of the tar sands… instead of the actual frigging impacts.

That’s right the “ethics”.

Hmmmm.

_ _ _ _ _ _

The BCSFA is the voice of British Columbia’s environmentally sustainable farmed salmon industry.

Farmed salmon is the province’s largest agricultural export and is recognized around the world as a naturally healthy and environmentally responsible product.

Ok, this is spin at its finest. Any of you out there who teach media communications, or Public Relations (PR), or professional spin mongering… this is good.

“Naturally healthy”… yeah, like McDonald’s Big Mac made from naturally healthy beef.

“Environmentally responsible”… yeah, I’m sure that catching food/forage fish off the coast of South America, grinding it into fish meal and shipping it to the BC coast is about as “enviro responsible” as it comes.

_ _ _ _ _

I suppose the one positive about this slick PR initiative launched largely by publicly traded corporations — its that it mirrors the great old cigarette company campaigns. Rumour has it that the Salmon Farmers Association and its associated companies have hired PR firms that have actually launched some of those old campaigns.

They are pulling out all the stops on this one: a slick website, newspaper articles and social media. It’s almost out of a textbook.

Oh right, it is.

Companies take huge PR hit due to poor product, or industrial accident, or other negative company consequence (BP anyone? and I don’t mean Boston Pizza — listeria (hysteria) meat — Mad Cow — avian flu — etc. ) … what to do?

(p.s. did you see a pattern there… industrial feedlots, not good)

Launch counter-spin PR campaign, hire slick spokespeople and get the word out that your product is “fine”, “responsible” and “ethical”… and even “environmentally responsible”. (yeah, well shitting in the woods is also environmentally responsible… as long as you bury it… just becomes a problem when a couple million folks start shitting in the woods)

Why are those pesky, panicky, illogical naysayers attacking our products, shouting their ills, and simply putting good blue collar folks out of work?

It just doesn’t make sense folks… look how ethical we are, look how responsible we are, look we put $$ into this local kids park… our practices are responsible, why can’t you just understand this…

“oh I know,” says CEO, President, top cheese… “let’s launch a PR campaign to clean up our reputation… Somebody get on the blower and find me a PR expert.”

_ _ _ _ _

My analogy: why is it that the companies and it’s PR-spin Association have to undertake these spin campaigns?

Would it be all that different than most folks resumes? …because I’m sure that everyone’s resume is exactly true.

Customer service as a teenager becomes: “customer experience engineer.”

Mens wear associate becomes: “Product line supervisor.”

Cashier at a grocery store, becomes “Financial exchange controller.”

Is it lying? No, it’s SPIN.

If “it’s time the real story is told” or spun, you know, like a good yarn — then what about the peer-reviewed scientific articles worldwide, coming from areas where salmon are farmed, that suggest: if you’re going to farm salmon, don’t do in open-pen feedlots — Or, absolutely do not farm salmon in areas where wild salmon populations might interact. What are those stories? Fairy tales, Dr. Seuss rhymes…

When an industry goes into full spin mode; it generally means a downward spiral of despair and insecure feelings that they are seriously threatened (if not, then why launch?). Once you have to go public, selling how great you are — as a person, or as a company — you’re on a very slippery, well-waxed, downward slope that is subject to one of the other things that is certain on this planet like death and taxes… and that’s gravity.

You can try and fight it… like plastic surgery or ‘augmentation’ for example… but it’s inevitable.

“open & transparent”… yeah, like my a#*… please stop the blather bumpf!

This is one of the emptiest of empty statements. I ask: why even bother?

This is what I call “democracy bumpf” — meaning, saying something without really saying anything at all, with some false pretense that you actually mean what you say.

I hear this phrase and groan every time, comfortable in my coming cynicism.

It’s right there with folks who half way through a conversation say: “I have to be honest with you…”

Oh great, what the hell have you been for the first half of this conversation… half honest, untruthful?

Here’s a fine example from the world superpower:

Transparency and Open Government

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

SUBJECT:      Transparency and Open Government

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing.  Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset…

Bla, Bla, Bla

Signed by, yup you guessed it…

This memorandum shall be published in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA

_ _ _ _ _ _

I was as excited as the next person about the hope and change that Obama represented… but come on… if things were so damn “open and transparent” then why are some American politicians calling for the ‘assassination’ of Julian Assange the founder of Wikileaks.

If things are so damn “open and transparent” then why even the need for Wikileaks?

And what the hell is a “system of transparency”?

(oh right… it’s called Saran Wrap… or a window…)

_ _ _ _ _ _

Or, there’s this fine piece of Canadian democracy-bumpf from April, 2006:

Through the Federal Accountability Act and Action Plan, the Government of Canada is bringing forward specific measures to help strengthen accountability and increase transparency and oversight in government operations.

This was introduced by Chuck Strahl, Conservative MP in Parliament in early April, 2006:

Canadians expect a government that will spend their money wisely and properly, Strahl said.  They also expect a clear set of rules that is fair, open and transparent.  The FAA [Federal Accountability Act] will deliver on all of these objectives to once again restore trust in government.

Uh, huh… how’s your trust in government these days? And fair to whom?

I tell ya… things sure feel more “open and transparent” since April 2006…

(yeah, whatever…)

And how does one “increase transparency”?  Open the window, I suppose, or take that frosting off the bathroom window…or take off the layers of saran wrap (but then we’d smell the truth of what lies underneath… moldy, smelly leftovers from a bygone era rotting at the back of the fridge…)

_ _ _ _ _

And, the democracy-bumpf blather continues:

In December — a few weeks ago — the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced its new Aquaculture regulations. (After, of course, their decision to hand over aquaculture regulation to the Province of BC a decade or so ago — had to be overturned in a legal court case):

As of December 18, 2010, the management and regulation of aquaculture in B.C. has transferred from provincial to federal jurisdiction.

DFO is committed to being open and transparent in its regulation and management of aquaculture in B.C.  In the coming months, information and data on sea lice levels, fish health and disease, production levels, antibiotic use, and other aspects of aquaculture production will be available on this website.

This must be some sort of mantra for senior government officials, as this was repeated in a press release captured in the Province newspaper in July:

Trevor Swerdfager, DFO’s director general of fisheries and aquaculture management, said the department will create a new section with about 50 new staff — including 10 to 15 new fisheries officers whose sole job will be aquaculture enforcement.

He said the new regulations will “substantially enhance the transparency of the industry” and that Ottawa estimates the cost of the proposed regulatory regime to between $8-million and $8.5-million a year, part of which will be recouped through “expected” licensing fees.

The new Pacific aquaculture regulations, which will be implemented on Dec. 18 when DFO takes official control, are to “ensure the proper management of aquaculture, particularly with respect to protection and conservation of fish and fish habitat, in an open and transparent manner.”

_ _ _ _ _

Sadly, I say horseshit… (a substance certainly not open and transparent)

Of course, language can be a curious thing. Read the wording again carefully: “committed to being open and transparent.”

Yeah… and you know those over 50% of marriages that end these days… those folks also “committed” to not ending their marriages and being “open and transparent” with each other. (you know… the old “in good and bad, sickness and in health, etc. etc…”).

There’s a pretty big difference between committing to be open and transparent and actually being open and transparent.

Just like the next sentence says “information and data…” — it certainly does not say “all information”…

But then someone might rightfully argue that maybe I’m a bit too cynical… maybe change will actually occur.

I just can’t help myself. With folks from all sorts of organizations running around touting “open and transparent” this; “open and transparent” that — I just keep asking: “well what were you before then?… closed and opaque? slightly ajar and foggy? open a smidgen, hazy and blurry?”

If you’ve got to spell it out like that, it simply begs questions of your past practices.

_ _ _ _ _

So, Puulease!

Next time you find yourself plopping “open and transparent” in any document, email, policy, best practice, benchmarking conversation, etc.: STOP!

Instead: say what you mean and mean what you say.

This bumpfy, empty, fluffy phrase has entered so many documents, so many organizations, so many folks day-to-day conversation — including the salmon world of enviros, small regional fisheries organizations, and so on.

If you find yourself saying it, or putting it in your latest PPoint slide, stop… then ask yourself: “as opposed to what?” and “if I’m saying this now, what does this say about how I/we used to do things?”

It’s no different than someone telling you near the end of your conversation that they now will be honest with you…

Salmon farmers… altruistic or claptrap?

Appears to be a pretty significant ruling yesterday coming out of the Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser Sockeye. Justice Cohen made a ruling on the production of salmon farming – aquaculture health records.

As outlined in the Commission ruling, back in July the aquaculture and conservation coalitions (granted “standing” in the Commission) requested documents pertaining to fish health in relation to salmon farming operations from the Province, federal government, and BC Salmon Farmer’s Association (BCSFA). The request was for data going back as far as 1980.

Here is paragraph 3 from the  ruling:

The BCSFA wrote to commission counsel on July 30, 2010, advising that it found the Initial Request “overreaching in its scope, both in terms of the kinds of documents requested and the period of time which the request covers.” The BCSFA expressed concern about the temporal scope of the Initial Request:
“We are concerned that expanding the timeframe of the evidence placed before the Commission will detract from the Commission’s process and will place additional financial pressures on all participants. As a practical consideration, the Commission should seek to limit the scope of the investigation to material times, which based upon our understanding of the Terms of Reference, would be within the last five to ten years.”

_ _ _ _ _ _

Hmmm… when I read this sort of stuff, I immediately have alarm bells going off (maybe it’s just me). Sure I have a bias towards “conservation first” when it comes to salmon… oh but wait… so does the federal department of fisheries and oceans… as a legislated mandate.

So my bias out in the open…

If BC Salmon farmers are so sure that open-pen salmon farming is not impacting BC’s wild salmon or the BC coast — then why not just be good ‘ol: “open & transparent”…?

You know, like the open-pen nets that they use to raise farmed salmon.

If the general public has “nothing to be concerned about” then why haven’t the fish health records been front and centre on the salmon farmers association website, or just openly shared?

See… the biggest salmon farmers on the coast are publicly traded companies — e.g. Marine Harvest. As a result they have to have an open book policy when it comes to finances.

These finances have to be shared quarterly and openly reported. Now, of course, most of us are well familiar with the ability of some companies to ‘cook’ the books, like a badly poached salmon — (remember Enron and Arthur Anderson?)

So why is it then… that when asked for fish health records, the BC Salmon Farmers Association took the altruistic approach:

‘oh gee… you know, we think that would just be too much work for the Commission, and the lawyers, and everyone involved. There’s much more important things to focus on, and we really don’t want to burden you with ALL that silly information…’

I call “Bullshit”… and I haven’t even filled out my bullshit bingo card yet.

I take this as akin to phoning Telus and getting the automated response: “your call is important to us, please stay on the line…”

If my call was so frigging important then why don’t you have more people (e.g. in some foreign country) to answer my fricking call!

Don’t patronize me… don’t even bother having some robotic voice bullshitting me… Just tell me the truth: “sorry, we’re really busy, we’ll be with you as soon as possible… and in the meantime we will pay you $1 per minute for your time on this call and credit your next bill… because your time is more important than our time”.

(of course they wouldn’t do this, because then Telus, or Bell, or Rogers, or [enter company name here] would be paying their customers more than the $5/day they’re paying the folks answering the phones.

_ _ _ _ _

“Customer service” rant aside…

Should we really be led to believe that the simple reason for not sharing fish health data from salmon farms all along the BC south coast is because it would produce too much paper?

Better yet, the BC Salmon Farmers Association proposed:

In its letter, the BCSFA proposed providing the commission with “aggregated data for the years 2007 to 2009 from the Fish Health Documents with a report summarizing and explaining the raw data …”

Apologies BCSFA, but I take that to suggest in this day of public relations spin to suggest: “we will weed out the bad info and give you the good stuff.”

Why the hell would the BCSFA give anything to the Cohen Commission that might implicate them, or even raise questions? That’s akin to suicide.

Instead, it appears the BCSFA would like to practice their own form of “closed containment” rather than “O-Pen”…

_ _ _ _ _ _

When I read this sort of stuff, it starts to hark of cigarette manufacturers denying the health consequences of smoking, (or the current PR spin being mounted by the Tarsands operators in Alberta suggesting their operations are rather benign…).

Rumors suggest that BC Salmon Farmers have hired PR and marketing firms that have, or do, work for cigarette sellers.

I must say, it starts to make sense when I read this sort of claptrap.

Does the BCSFA really think that the general public — and Commission lawyers, and others — would buy the fact that they have nothing to hide, yet would much rather just present “aggregate” data (that they choose) only from the last two years rather than just open the books for the last decade or so?

Come on… even the logging industry on coastal BC has openly come out over the last decade and said: “gee, we need to change our practices”…

___________________________________

Update

I don’t know if it could be said much better than this morning’s post from Seth Godin:

The appearance of impropriety

Marketing is actually what other people are saying about you.

Like it or not, true or not, what other people say is what the public tends to believe. Hence an imperative to be intentional about how we’re seen.

It may be true that the effluent from your factory is organic, biodegradable and not harmful to the river. But if it is brown and smelly and coming out of an open pipe, your neighbors might draw their own conclusions.

I know you washed your hands just before you walked into the examination room, but if you wash them again, right here in front of me, all doubts go away.

Yes, Ms. Congressperson, I know that lobbyist is your good friend, but perhaps someone else should host you on vacation.

Your brother-in-law may very well be the most qualified person on the planet to do this project for us, but perhaps (unfair as it might be) it would be better marketing to hire the second-most-qualified person instead.

Sneaking around is a bad strategy. You will get caught. Ironically, it’s also a bad strategy to not sneak around but appear to be.

You will never keep people from talking. But you can take actions to influence the content of what they say.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Yes… indeed.

Salmon culture, culturing salmon, and enculturation.

In some ways we can see the power of salmon culture in the conclusion to Alexandra Morton’s “Get out Migration” walk along Vancouver Island to protest open-net salmon farming. On Saturday the walk concluded in Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. Estimates suggest about 4,000 people attended the conclusion to the 500-km walk, with over 8,000 signatures collected on a petition to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to move salmon farming to land-based closed contained systems to protect wild salmon from sea lice and various diseases.

With some irony, it is the ability to culture salmon that has led to salmon farming practices. Furthermore, culturing salmon in hatcheries has been done in North America since the 1800s; and it has now become huge business with over 5-billion baby salmon pumped into the North Pacific every year from hatchery operations around the Pacific Rim. Almost all of these started with the goal of increasing harvests…

This past week at the State of the Salmon 2010 Conference: Ecological Interactions of between Wild & Hatchery Salmon in Portland, Oregon — culturing salmon in hatcheries was the topic of discussion.

The purpose of the conference was to bring an international crowd together to discuss potential interactions, and as suggested in the welcome letter in the conference program:

…step back and critically review what we know about the scale and magnitude of interactions between  wild and hatchery salmon…

Curiously though, an article came out in the Seattle Times on May 5th, the second day of the conference, discussing the gathering.

Oregon conference discusses protecting wild salmon

An international conference of scientists and fisheries managers meeting in Portland this week is looking at less-studied impacts of hatchery fish on wild salmon — disease, predation and competition for food — and how to overhaul a hatchery system that may hurt wild salmon more than it helps.

The article has a “hatcheries-are-bad” slant, which was certainly not the consensus at the conference. Here are some competing messages that I heard sitting in on various sessions:

  1. A Japanese scientist pointed out that hatchery salmon are a very important source of healthy seafood. (Somewhere between 90-95% of Japanese commercially caught salmon are from hatchery and salmon ranching efforts).
  2. The Russian government is sitting on over $2 billion ready to invest in substantially expanding hatchery operations in Russian portions of the North Pacific coast.
  3. Alaska takes a lot of pride in their over 2 billion baby salmon pumped into the North Pacific and places like Prince William Sound where 90-95% of the commercial catch is salmon ranching efforts. In Southeast Alaska, goals for spawning salmon are easily reached in most streams and yet large salmon hatchery and ranching operations continue.
  4. Canada is ramping down hatchery operations in many areas. (however, I know of several sport fishing proponents that would like to see hatchery operations ramped up significantly).
  5. Western U.S. states — Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California — are having raging debates about ramping down or ramping up. “Conservation” hatcheries are apparently important components of trying to protect salmon runs listed under the Endangered Species Act. Representatives of tribal organizations highlighted the importance of hatchery operations to keeping salmon returning to their areas.

And, thus, some rather interesting discussions in various sessions. One principle hard at work was enculturation from the variety of cultures represented at the conference — from various countries’ cultures to regional cultures and differences (e.g. Alaska compared to lower 48).

Enculturation is defined as:

the process by which an individual learns the traditional content of a culture and assimilates its practices and values.

Jonah Lehrer is a Rhodes scholar, contributing editor for Wired magazine, wrote the book Proust was a Neuroscientist, has a blog — Frontal Cortex — as part of scienceblogs.com (thanks for the forward Simon). He has a great post: Enculturation and Wall Street — the post starts:

The process of enculturation doesn’t just afflict middle-aged scientists, struggling to appreciate a new anomaly. It’s a problem for any collection of experts, from CIA analysts to Wall Street bankers.

Carrying Capacity & Salmon fishing

Sharing the river. Should I be smiling...?

Seth Godin, marketing guru and general ponderer, has a fitting post today on carrying capacity — and many folks might consider pondering the message. Here are a couple key points:

An organization with eight people in it might be happy, profitable and growing. The same business with twenty might be on the way to bankruptcy.

Ideas, markets, niches and causes have a natural scale. If you get it right, you can thrive for a long time. Overdo it and you stress the inputs…

Your industry might have room for six or seven well-paid consultants, but when you try to scale up to 30 or 40 people on your team, you discover that it stresses the market’s ability to pay.

Yesterday, my website was picked up by a British Columbia Sport Fishing discussion forum that is focusing on the issue of potential sport fishing closures to protect the Fraser River early-timed Chinook (the 4-2’s). If you haven’t seen earlier posts on my site here, or seen the numbers, this particular population of Fraser Chinook is on a death spiral and has been for several years (over four years by Fisheries and Oceans own estimates).

Right now, these Chinook are also migrating from the North Pacific to the Fraser River. At this moment, they are migrating right past the BC capital city of Victoria through the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

And, yet Fisheries and Oceans Canada has deemed that Chinook stocks around British Columbia are healthy enough to support coast-wide sport fishing openings on the ocean — from Haida Gwaii to the mouth of the Fraser River.

However, First Nations and others are asking for a complete fishing closure  to allow these early-timed Chinook through to the spawning grounds of which basically every last fish of these runs needs to finish their life. Scarier yet, there is even a major hatchery (Spius Creek) that support this early-timed Chinook run — and the run is still in deep trouble.

Reading through the particular Sport Fishing discussion forum — one can see that many individuals are taking serious issue with the fact that sport fishing openings that they rely on for their businesses may have to be closed — and should be closed based on the early-timed Chinook numbers. Angry individuals are lashing out at targets for their blame — and fair enough, many of these folks have probably run thriving businesses for several years based on a finite resource.

One thing is clear… numbers and statistics coming out of Fisheries and Oceans are unreliable, full of holes, and dependent on various computer models and equations. DFO’s own numbers suggest that early-timed Chinook can only sustain an exploitation rate of 8-11% while productivity remains as low as it has been for over four years. Last year (2009), DFO numbers just released suggest that 50% of the run was killed (with 30% of that attributed to two marine sport fishery areas).

(It should be pointed out that the south-east Alaska commercial fishery is allocated a certain percentage of Chinook as part of the Pacific Salmon Treaty. Of course, DFO maintains that all of these early-timed Chinook migrate along the continental shelf before coming inland and thus don’t impact Fraser Chinook)

(oh yeah, that’s out where the Pacific Hake trawl fleet is busy, along with other industrial trawl fisheries… just fish for thought).

Varying levels of accuracy or not — 50% of the run killed is absolutely unacceptable. It doesn’t even matter at this point who caught what percentage. The bottom line is that DFO is failing miserably in protecting a vital public resource that countless individuals (and other critters) depend on.

And worse yet, this massive federal bureaucracy with over one hundred people responsible for looking after wild salmon maintains ignorance:

  • “we don’t know what it is…”
  • “ocean productivity is down… it’s not us.”
  • “it’s definitely not salmon farms…”

It is, thus, unfortunate, to read various discussion postings, comments on media stories and so on, that point fingers at First Nation fisheries as the culprit — or carry on about equal access for all, or “one fishery for all” as the federal Conservatives call it.

Quick numbers: historically the commercial fishery is responsible for over 90% of salmon catch in BC, sport fishery 3-5% and First Nation fisheries 3-5%.

As Godin, suggests in his post:

An organization with eight people in it might be happy, profitable and growing. The same business with twenty might be on the way to bankruptcy.

I draw an analogy with the U.S. banking sector and what has happened over the last few years. For many years the banking sector was ‘happy, profitable and growing’. Then it got carried away and when that particular business sector reached “twenty” — bankruptcies ensued en-masse.

The difference with wild salmon… there are no “Tarps”.

Troubled Asset Relief Programs (TARP). And even if there was — interventions are incredibly expensive; just ask the Alaskan or Japanese salmon ranching programs…

Over the last decade or two, the sport fishing sector has grown on a scale similar to fish farming — somewhere around 2000%. (Actually, fish farming since the 80s is probably closer to a 2,000,000% growth rate.)

When I was a kid growing up on Haida Gwaii (once referred to as the Queen Charlotte Is.) sport fishing as a business was a tiny sector. It’s not to say that lots of folks weren’t sport fishing. I was on a river or on the “chuck” (ocean) basically every weekend from the age of 3 to late teens — mainly fishing for coho.

Sport fishing lodges and the like were just not a huge business — yet.

Now… sport fishing lodges on the west coast of Canada are booming businesses — dotting the BC coast like the salmon canneries and whale stations of old. Or, the logging camps of past decades. (do you sense a pattern?)

Along with this corporate consolidation, tonnes of small mom-and-pop sport fishing businesses; eking out a living on a seasonal sport fishing clientele.

Curiously, it seems to be a similar tract as the commercial fishing industry (or whaling industry before that) — which has largely gone the way of the U.S. banking sector. Only the big and ‘vertically-horizontally integrated/ corporately consolidated‘ have survived. Most of the mom-and-pop operations (i.e. like small regional banks) driven out of existence.

Exactly as Godin suggests:

Ideas, markets, niches and causes have a natural scale. If you get it right, you can thrive for a long time. Overdo it and you stress the inputs…

Sport fishing and sport fishing businesses relying on wild salmon (or hatchery salmon) also have a natural scale — just as commercial fisheries do. There may be room for several businesses built upon the backs of wild salmon; however there is not room for corporate concentration and consolidation.

There is not room for rough estimates that suggest:

  • a peak day off the west coast of Haida Gwaii with 400-500 sport fishing boats in the water;
  • off the Northwest Coast, West Coast, and southwest coast of Vancouver Island with maybe 1000 (?) sport fishing boats in the water;
  • Johnston Strait and Georgia Strait with 200-400 (?) boats;
  • Central BC Coast with ?? hundred;
  • allocations of Chinook to the Southeast Alaska commercial fishery; and so on.

Godin:

Your industry might have room for six or seven well-paid consultants, but when you try to scale up to 30 or 40 people on your team, you discover that it stresses the market’s ability to pay.

I would hope then — and as an avid sport fisherman myself — that maybe the sport fishing business sector and associations might enter those tough discussions about “scale”…. about how many ‘businesses’, along with how many ‘food fishers’ (my general focus for sport fishing) can be supported by current salmon runs in B.C.

Maybe go have some discussions with sport fishers and sport fishing business-owners along the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California who haven’t seen an opening in a little while… with any openings almost entirely focussed on hatchery runs.

We all need to remember that we’re basically after the same thing: salmon. Sadly, of which, are declining at rapid rates and have been for at least my generation.

And, of which, we’re not the only ones that depend on them — as demonstrated in my picture above.

Recipe for: Fisheries and Oceans Non-confidence cake

I think there might be a cake in the works (I’ve included a mold to bake it in). Some evidence of this can be seen in Alexandra Morton’s current walk to Victoria to protest the impact of salmon farming on BC’s wild salmon, recent court cases that have found Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is failing in their responsibilities, and a variety of other factors.

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on the current denial stage surrounding B.C. wild salmon, and the post from Saturday: Is it time for a vote of non-confidence in Fisheries and Oceans Canada which was a follow-up post to early March: Is Fisheries and Oceans Canada breaking laws? — I am curious whether a non-confidence vote is brewing?

www.spruceroots.org

This idea is not a new idea. In early 2001 on Haida Gwaii (formerly referred to as the Queen Charlotte Is.) close to 20% of the adult population of the islands marched on to the British Columbia Ministry of Forests office and filed a vote of non-confidence. Over 600 ballots were cast that day and marched to the doors of the Ministry. (click the picture to read story).

[If you can’t read the placard it states: “MOF You’ve taken everything but the Kitchen Sink“]

The red stumps are part of the “Red Stump Brigade” which can still be found stuck into the ground near various Haida Gwaii driveways.

As John Vaillant suggests in his good read of a book: “The Golden Spruce: A True story of Myth, Madness, and Greed“:

“Out in Haida Gwaii, the rain keeps most fires at bay and coastal timber is far less susceptible to bug infestations that are devastating the interior. It is humans and things they carry with them that remain the greatest threat to the islands. A terrible irony is that, philosophically, Hadwin was in sync with much of the local population: in December 2000 an interracial group of islanders staged a protest — essentially, a no-confidence vote — against the Ministry of Forest’s handling of logging in the islands. There hadn’t been a demonstration of that kind in a decade, and this one was the biggest ever: 20 percent of the islands’ adult population participated. Since then there have been some striking changes not just in the way logging is practiced but in the status of the islands themselves.”

The irony that Vaillant is referring to is that “Hadwin” — Grant Hadwin — is the individual who cut down the revered Golden Spruce (an incredibly rare tree, the only one of its kind on Haida Gwaii)  in early 1997. He was trying to make a statement against industrial logging. Hadwin disappeared off the coast of BC not long after the incident.

It was a twisted approach to protest…however… is it all that different than suggesting that farming salmon in open-net pens on wild salmon migration routes is a good way to protect wild salmon?

Here ares some ingredients that might be proposed for a:

DFO Non-confidence Cake:

1. One half cup of not knowing one’s percentages very well.

The 2009 DFO Integrated Salmon Management Plan – last season – listed Fraser River early-timed Chinook as a “stock of concern” with the following conservation objective:  “to implement management actions that will reduce the exploitation rate approximately 50% relative to the 2006 [33.9%] to 2007 [54.4%] period.”  This means the objective was to reduce exploitation to approximately 22% (half of  average [44.2%] of 06 and 07).

  • Estimates just out from DFO suggest exploitation rate last year (2009) on early-timed Chinook were 48.7%. Not only did they not reduce by half — exploitation was actually almost 5% higher than the average.

(Disclaimer: this might actually be one cup, as opposed to 50% of one cup, or it might be two cups – hard to know when percentages are so confusing and which Ministry is measuring)

2. One overflowing cup of very effective lobby efforts in Ottawa

DFO’s own numbers suggest that exploitation rates on early-timed Chinook need to be 8-11% during times of low productivity like we are experiencing right now, and have seen for at least the last four years. Last year, the ocean sport fishery in Juan de Fuca alone — is estimated to have caught almost 12% of the Chinook destined for the Nicola river. This means this particular sport fishery alone is catching what DFO deems sustainable for the entire population.

  • Local estimates suggest that on peak fishing days there are well over 500 (maybe closer to 800) sport fishing boats in Juan de Fuca (from Victoria, B.C. up the Vancouver Island coast to Port Renfrew).
  • The Chinook sport fishery is open coast-wide in BC right now, despite terrible forecasts for this coming year and terrible returns of early-timed Chinook over the last four years.

3. Two cups of not being able to follow your own “recipe”

DFO’s Wild Salmon Policy explicitly defines what is meant by Conservation — the primary goal of salmon management:

Conservation is the protection, maintenance, and rehabilitation of genetic diversity, species, and ecosystems to sustain biodiversity and the continuance of evolutionary and natural production processes.

This definition identifies the primacy of conservation over use, and separates issues associated with constraints on use from allocation and priority amongst users.

Yet, when it comes to Fraser early-timed Chinook there are no conservation goals — only percentages attached to ‘constraints on use‘ as demonstrated in the statement:  “to implement management actions that will reduce the exploitation rate approximately 50% relative to 2006 to 2007.”  This is not a conservation goal, this is a constraint on use – which, coincidentally, was failed upon miserably; placing Nicola River Chinook (i.e. early-timed Chinook) on extinction watch.

4. A good dose of completely flawed computer simulation model based on less than 10% of a population.

See posts regarding Fraser River Spawning Sockeye Initiative (FRSSI). FRSSI simulates Fraser River sockeye populations based on information from only 19 stocks — despite there being over 200 separate Fraser sockeye stocks.

This model is like trying to make a cake and only using 10% of the ingredients and then wondering why the heck the cake didn’t turn out as expected — or collapsed like a rusty lawn chair…

5. Three litres of very flawed economics, budget planning, and misuse of funds.

See post: $2 for one wild salmon… do you see a problem?

Further evidence? I was at a meeting late last week of approximately 50-60 people discussing DFO’s pre-season planning. When it came time to give DFO feedback they showed up at the meeting with 13 staff. That’s right, 13 staff when 2-3 would have sufficed. Many of these staff had taken at least two flights to get to the meeting, rented cars, and were there for two days staying in some hotel. What’s the estimated cost of that type of frivolous spending?

Directions for Mixing and Baking:

Bake these ingredients in a bureaucratic malaise of about 10,000 employees, an east coast Minister with a distinguished career in Revenue Canada, and decades of Royal Commissions, public inquiries, and Auditor General reports.

Suggested icing?

Lemon-Inaction Glaze (for enhanced tartness)

(Future recipes to come…)

Did Fisheries and Oceans take a head shot in the hockey game?

Ok, I recognize they’re an easy target… DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada) that is. If we continue with the hockey analogy; DFO is the player that keeps coming through the neutral zone with their head down – puck in their skates or something.

Defenceman on the opposition steps up and puts their shoulder pads right on the chin. DFO is lights-out on the ice… stretcher… pink spots in vision next day… career might be over… loss of memory…

See, that’s what I’m getting at… the memory loss.

Last night, I’m searching online for various documents related to sockeye lakes in British Columbia. I’m particularly interested in learning about sockeye lakes in the upper Skeena River area — Bear Lake, Sustut, Johanson. I’m also just looking for general sockeye research as I applied for “standing” in the Cohen Commission investigating the Fraser sockeye collapse.

(my chances of being granted standing are probably about as good as my current chances at making the NHL…)

compliments of Skeena Independent Science Review

And I find a Fisheries and Oceans report from 2001 discussing sockeye rearing lakes.

Factors Limiting Juvenile Sockeye Production and Enhancement Potential for selected BC Nursery Lakes

And in the introduction to the report it quite clearly states:

Numbers of anadromous salmon returning to spawn in lakes and streams from Alaska to California have declined dramatically since the early 1990s (Ricker 1987; Gresh et al. 2000). Causes of the reduced escapements vary, but commercial harvesting, industrial development, and habitat degradation have all had substantial impacts….(my emphasis)

In recent years, the effects of these reductions in salmon escapements on freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems have received considerable attention. The importance of marine-derived nutrients to the productivity of lake, stream and terrestrial ecosystems is now well documented… It is generally accepted that a major effect of reduced anadromous salmon spawners is the oligotrophication of many lakes and streams, with a corresponding reduction in productive capacity.

…The productive capacity of most B.C. sockeye nursery lakes has been, and continues to be, degraded because a substantial proportion of returning adults are harvested in various fisheries and thus prevented from contributing their nutrients to their natal streams and lakes…

In other words, we have systematically created a sockeye death spiral.

For thousands upon thousands of years, sockeye that spawned near B.C. lakes died, the nutrients from their bodies fed the surrounding ecosystems (water and land), and fed the lakes that baby salmon spend their first year to two feeding on small critters. Less nutrients from thousands upon thousands of tonnes of nutrients (parents carcasses) means less small critters… less small critters means less baby sockeye… less baby sockeye means less returning adults.

That’s my definition of death spiral…

And, yet, here is a response from federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea to a letter sent to her with concerns about salmon farming on the B.C. coast:

I understand your concerns, and appreciate the opportunity to assure you that one of the highest priorities of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in Pacific Region is the conservation of Pacific salmon stocks.

I will provide some broader context on these issues, and outline specific actions the Department is taking to protect and conserve our wild salmon.

The coastwide scope of the decline that has occurred across all Pacific salmon species suggests that this decline is associated with much larger ecological events than localized salmon farming.  These events include climate change and changes in ocean productivity along our West Coast.

In addition to recognizing the impact of global changes, DFO also understands potential impacts of local conditions.

Sincerely,

Original Signed By

Gail Shea, P.C., M.P.

Maybe the rookie minister just hasn’t had time to be fully updated about the issues surrounding salmon declines… like scientific reports from her own ministry pointing to the “substantial impacts” of “commercial harvesting, industrial development, and habitat degradation”.

Maybe the hockey analogy isn’t a fair one for the honourable minister from Prince Edward Island… maybe that tofu pie in the face a month or so ago left her with post-concussion syndrome.

She’s confused about “potential local impacts” and “substantial impacts due to log it, burn it, pave it”…

It would sure be nice if we could get past the awkward niceties that resemble asking that girl to dance at the first grade 8 dance.

Why can’t we just state the obvious and get on with making real changes before we repeat the cod fiasco? Instead there is collective post-concussion syndrome going on within the federal ministry responsible for looking after salmon — now and for our kids…

http://www.sfu.ca/biology/faculty/reynolds/documents/Skeena_Science_Review_2008.pdf

when fan blades are jammed with poop… pull the plug.

Yesterday, I posted on deafening silence vs. nattering nothingness — largely in relation to the outcomes of the Supreme Court of British Columbia decision Ahousaht Indian Band and Nation v. Canada (Attorney General) or Nuu-chah-nulth decision regarding fisheries rights. In essence, the courts ruled that the Nuu-chah-nulth have an aboriginal right to sell fish commercially – which flies in the face of limiting First Nation fisheries to strictly “food, ceremonial and social purposes.”

Not only do the Nuu-chah-Nulth have the right to sell fish commercially — that the federal Fisheries Act infringes on their rights at an operational and legislative level. Madame Justice Garson found that many of the avenues for the federal Fisheries Minister to make unilateral decisions were flawed and unfounded. The ruling gave the parties two years to negotiate terms for how this would change.

As mentioned yesterday, the resounding silence from the federal government and Fisheries Minister following the decision — was impressive. The decision came down in early November 2009, not until the second week of February 2010 did the Fisheries Minister actually send a letter to the Nuu-chah-nulth (after multiple letters from Nuu-chah-nulth leadership); a letter that sounds like it was blathering nothingness suggesting the Fisheries ministry had not figured out how to move forward on the issue.

I am speculating here, but maybe it was because Fisheries Minister Shea was too busy in China in early January promoting the seal industry, and meeting with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters because they are an “important stakeholder and partner with whom we currently work together on many initiatives relating to fish and fish habitat in Ontario” (yeah, Ontario a  hotbed of salmon activity), and the various announcements in relation to Canada’s economic action plan.

In actuality, I think it is because there is so much shit in the fan at Fisheries and Oceans Canada these days that the air circulation for its 10,000 plus staff might be a little stagnant.

Fisheries and Oceans often find themselves with fecal matter flying towards the proverbial fan — it’s a darn difficult set of tasks, complex issues, and heated stakeholders and rights-holders involved in many aspects of the resources they are tasked to look after. In other words — they’re a big target. However, governing parties of the day have little long-term view. What’s the point? — especially in these days of minority governments.

Sadly, though the myopic or short-sighted view seems to be a plague upon the federal Ministry — that and the fact that they seem to lose good staff as if jumping from a sinking ocean-liner, and have an aging workforce that is set to cause attrition faster than avian flu in a Fraser Valley chicken farm. As, really, what’s the point of studying fisheries management these days and hoping for a lifetime career in a government ministry that’s about as seaworthy as a bathtub right now.

In February last year, the British Columbia Supreme Court issued a ruling in regards to the legislation that guides salmon farming in British Columbia: Morton v. British Columbia (Agriculture and Lands). Morton being Alexanda Morton the marine biologist who lives in the Broughton Archipelago between Vancouver Island and the mainland — where a significant concentration of salmon farms have developed over the last decade to two. Also plaintiffs in the case along with Ms. Morton were:

  • the Wilderness Tourism Association,
  • Area E Gillnetters Association, and
  • Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association of BC.

The issue at hand was that Ms. Morton and other plaintiffs were claiming that the Province of British Columbia — specifically the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands — does not have the jurisdiction to manage finfish (salmon) aquaculture in B.C. waters.

See, in 1988, the federal government (Fisheries and Oceans) and the Province of BC concocted an agreement handing over management of salmon farms from Fisheries and Oceans to the Province. The Province of BC maintains that its “farming” and thus the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Wrong!

This case had to go right back to the Constitution Act of 1867 (formerly known as the British North America Act). The Constitution Act divided powers between the Federal Parliament and Provincial governments with Sections 91 and 92. As Justice Hinkson said in his ruling for this case:

[107]        The respective powers of Parliament and the provincial legislatures are set out in ss. 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867. Neither Parliament nor a provincial legislature can expand its jurisdiction over the classes of subjects in ss. 91 or 92 by passing legislation which purports to do so.

So the feds and province screwed up royally back in 1988 — basically they broke constitutional law from what I can see. The problem is that, as you may have read in posts over the last month to two, salmon farming has grown astronomically in BC waters since then — anywhere from 500-2000%. All of this guided by legislation that is not valid.

[193]        … Given the specific enumeration of the management and protection of the fisheries in s. 91(12) of the Constitution Act, 1867, the national resource of the fisheries in not a matter that should or can be left to a level of government other than Parliament.

Justice Hinkson was left in a jam. He found the current provincial legislation invalid; and that the federal government had no legislation to guide salmon farming; it was:

[188]… constitutionally invalid…

[198]        The absence of sufficient legislation to regulate fish farms could well be more harmful to the public than the perpetuation of the impugned legislation.

His only choice was to give the federal government a year to develop adequate legislation — meaning that it should have had this legislation since 1988. In the meantime, the status-quo would hold otherwise there would be no legislation (i.e. “more harmful to the public).

In a follow-up appeal process in January of this year, Justice Hinkson ruled that there would be a one-year ban on any new salmon farm licenses until the federal government (Fisheries and Oceans) could develop adequate legislation. The federal government didn’t even participate in the first court case.

(there are some other really curious aspects to this case surrounding “public” and “private” fisheries and the argument over what constitutes “standing” (e.g. see Cohen Commission and lack of definition — I’ll save these for another post, this one will already be long enough)

This instigated brown stained blades on the DFO fans… that was last spring.

Then this summer the complete blown forecast on Fraser sockeye by Fisheries and Oceans. In early November, the Prime Minister’s office announced a public inquiry into the issue:

“The Government is establishing a public inquiry to take all feasible steps to identify the reasons for the decline of the Fraser River sockeye salmon population,” said the Prime Minister.  “It is in the public interest to investigate this matter and determine the longer-term prospects for sockeye salmon stocks.”

I find some of this rather disturbing. On one hand it is good that a public inquiry has been a launched — however, how the hell is a Supreme Court Justice and a team of lawyers supposed to determine “the reasons for the decline”?

Isn’t that the job of Fisheries and Oceans? Isn’t that why they have an over $200 million budget for fisheries management and another $100 million or so for research?

The “longer term prospects”?

They’re not good Mr. P.M.

It has been determined that this year’s run was so small it won’t be able to produce a similar size run for the future. This is called a death-spiral….

Stockwell Day also informed us in the press release:

“This is a significant and important issue for BC fisheries industry,” said Minister Day.  “Our government is deeply concerned about the low returns of sockeye salmon to the Fraser River and the implications for the fishery.”

Well, Mr. Day, granted you actually represent a BC constituency, I’m rather appalled.

There is no fishery. There has been no fishery for three years on Fraser sockeye. The “implications” are: No damn fishery for the foreseeable future. This isn’t a “significant issue” — this is a flippin disaster.

One individual in the BC interior – Priscilla Judd –  has taken it upon herself to distribute canned salmon to impoverished interior First Nation communities (see Georgia Straight article). Communities that have depended on the yearly return of salmon for thousands of years. Some estimates suggest that pre-European contact, First Nation individuals on the Fraser were consuming over 500 kg of salmon every year. Now that’s healthy.

Now, it’s 0 kg in many cases. There is no fishery. That’s devastating.

Unfortunately, the Terms of Reference for the public inquiry – the Cohen Commission –  are clearly laid out:

…conduct the Inquiry without seeking to find fault on the part of any individual, community or organization, and with the overall aim of respecting conservation of the sockeye salmon stock and encouraging broad cooperation among stakeholders.

There is one organization, and one organization only, tasked with making sure that wild salmon are well looked after. That organization is Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

If the Prime Minister says all “feasible steps”; is not one of those steps potentially the fact that Fisheries and Oceans dropped the ball? Not just dropped the ball, but utterly and completely mismanaged how the ball was even in the game in the first place… or was counting the wrong score; or plain and simply at the wrong game.

In the Nuu-chah-nulth case the Madam Justice had no problems “finding fault”.

In the Morton case, the Justice had no problem “finding fault” and suggesting it get fixed tout de suite.

There is a history of courts of law finding fault with the approach of Fisheries and Oceans Canada — as well as inquiries, Attorney Generals, and Royal Commissions. Some that in the 1990s were even officially called: “Here We go Again”.

The other day, March 2, federal Fisheries Minister Shea issued a quiet press release stating that all fisheries negotiations as part of treaty negotiations in British Columbia would be deferred until the Cohen Commission into the Fraser River sockeye declines is complete:

“The Government of Canada is deferring the negotiation of fisheries components at treaty tables in British Columbia that involve salmon, pending the findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River. The deferral of fisheries related negotiations will allow for treaty negotiations to be staged so that fish chapters in treaties can be informed by the findings and recommendations of the Inquiry.”

I’m not sure if Minister Shea has looked at the geography of B.C. or of treaty negotiations. First off, I can’t imagine there isn’t anything more fundamental to treaty negotiations in most BC First Nation communities than fisheries. Secondly, not every Nation of the over 200 First Nations in BC is located on the Fraser River.

Why would the Gitsxan, or Tahltan, or Tsay Keh Dene be affected by the Commission’s ruling on Fraser sockeye? (Tsay Keh isn’t even in a Pacific drainage, it’s in the Arctic drainage.)

Even the Terms of Reference for Cohen Commission repeatedly state, for example:

B. …to consider the policies and practices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (the “Department”) with respect to the sockeye salmon fishery in the Fraser River.

C. to investigate and make independent findings of fact regarding:

i.  the causes for the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon…

And really, if the Cohen Commission finds that the “current state of Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks and the long term projections for those stocks” is absolutely dismal — what would some communities have left to negotiate? (I understand there are other important components, however my experience has been fish are central)

Even the BC Treaty Commission frames the fisheries issue as such:

Fishing Issues
Integral to First Nations’ Culture
First Nations have for thousands of years sustained vibrant and rich cultural identities profoundly linked to BC’s land and waters. It is said that the Nisga’a, people of the mighty river, are so connected to fish that their bones are made of salmon. Living in balance with the land and the water is an integral part of First Nations’ cultures, and fishing is regulated by longstanding cultural laws around conservation and preservation for future generations.

Justice Hinkson in the Morton case has a great observation:

[109] … the very functioning of Canada’s federal system must be continually be reassessed in light of the fundamental values it was designed to serve.

Sadly, it appears that the “fundamental values” of the federal fisheries system are lost. The complete destruction of North-Atlantic Cod was one of the first indicators.

That same federal system is arguing in courts of laws, denying in courts of law — the highest courts of the land — that coastal First Nation societies were not fish-based cultures, didn’t trade with other Nations, and have no commercial interests in fish or salmon.

It appears that maybe the “light” in the hallowed halls of the federal Fisheries ministry is being filtered through brown excrement… excrement that has been hitting fan blades and spraying across windows.

This is more than just shit hitting the fan. This is a full on shit storm.

In times of vastly shrinking public service budgets, red-numbered federal and provincial budgets, and court cases that are slapping a Ministry upside the head… the thought of a public inquiry headed by a judge starting to poke and prod into:

the policies and practices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with respect to the sockeye salmon fishery in the Fraser River – including the Department’s scientific advice, its fisheries policies and programs, its risk management strategies, its allocation of Departmental resources and its fisheries management practices and procedures, including monitoring, counting of stocks, forecasting and enforcement,

… has got to have some senior Fisheries bureaucrats seriously considering early retirement.

I will not be surprised to see an exodus from that Ministry faster than a cat hitting water. There is a fundamental shift afoot — and the shift is going to hit the fan real soon.

I might suggest that rather than carrying on this constant legal wrangling based on the act of ‘deny, deny, deny’ — why isn’t there a serious investigation into how First Nation societies up and down the Fraser River co-existed and co-managed salmon resources?

It was also done on the Columbia, the Yukon, the Stikine, and so on. Ground-breaking new approaches and management systems that actually work will not be coming out of bureaucratic behemoths.

Bureaucratic behemoths appear to need a serious slapping from the highest courts before they institute change — and even then, as demonstrated by Minister Shea’s silence on the Nuu-chah-nulth case… legal facts still don’t spur meaningful action.