Tag Archives: salmon research

policy unframed…

clever little comic in Prince George Free Press this week. Apparently, I’m not the only one with Enbridge marketing burnout… it’s everywhere, online, on CBC Radio One and Two… and it’s exhausting… and… well… laced with some pretty heavy BS-bitumen.

Prince George Free Press illustration - March 21, 2014

Prince George Free Press illustration – March 21, 2014

This 2nd is a small 6×6 piece that I did yesterday as a challenge from my significant other for an upcoming local art show that will be all 6×6 pieces…

policy unframework 1

policy unframework 1 (crayon and acrylic pain on canvas)

 

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

What is non-measurable and non-predictable will remain non-measurable and non-predictable no matter how many PhDs you put on the job…

quotes from Taleb's "Antifragile: Things that gain from disorder"

quotes from Taleb’s “Antifragile: Things that gain from disorder”

A fantastic book that I recommend for all fisheries scientists (and otherwise) out there. Nassim TALEB1-300x300Nicholas Taleb’s “Antifragile: Things that gain from Disorder” – just recently released.

There’s a pretty decent review at Scientific American that sums things quite well:

…he’s brilliant, funny and fearless and tackles consequential topics. What are the limits of science? Of understanding and prediction? Given our limited ability to know and control the world, how should we live our lives? How can we prosper in spite—and even because—of life’s vicissitudes?

A former derivatives trader, Taleb made his reputation by bashing conventional economics and finance, but his scope has always ranged far beyond Wall Street. His Big Idea is that life inevitably serves up surprises, or “black swans”–from AIDS and nuclear weapons to the 9/11 attacks and the internet—that our necessarily retrospective models of reality cannot foresee.

…Here is how he sums up his message in The Wall Street Journal: “We should try to create institutions that won’t fall apart when we encounter black swans—or that might even gain from these unexpected events… To deal with black swans, we instead need things that gain from volatility, variability, stress and disorder.” That is what Taleb means by “antifragile.” He offers some suggestions for achieving antifragility in government, business and other spheres: “Think of the economy as being more like a cat than a washing machine.” “Favor businesses that learn from their own mistakes.” “Small is beautiful, but it is also efficient.” “Trial and error beats academic knowledge.” “Decision makers must have skin in the game.”

Taleb has a decent editorial in the Wall Street Journal this past November:

Learning to Love Volatility: In a world that constantly throws big, unexpected events our way, we must learn to benefit from disorder, writes Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Several years before the financial crisis descended on us, I put forward the concept of “black swans“: large events that are both unexpected and highly consequential. We never see black swans coming, but when they do arrive, they profoundly shape our world: Think of World War I, 9/11, the Internet, the rise of Google.

I also recommend Taleb’s earlier book from 2007, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. The review on Amazon sums it well:

A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.

This certainly sounds like the 2010 return of Fraser sockeye… the big one. And in turn the ‘collapsed’ run of the year previous.

There are some pretty good YouTube clips of Taleb speaking. He’s known to be volatile and unpredictable at times. In one of his calmer appearances, he has a great comparison between plane crashes and bank failures…

He suggests that when a plane crashes, generally people die – however, we learn from those crashes, which in turn reduces future plane crashes.

Yet when big banks crash and fail, we don’t learn from those events and in fact, more big banks fail more regularly.

Taleb suggests, as the handwritten quotes above suggest, that we spend far too much time and resources trying to predict things, that we can’t in fact predict.

Hmmmm. like salmon runs? for one.

And two, predictions of how many salmon can be caught from those badly predicted run sizes… yet retain the ‘health’ and ‘resilience’ of these runs, or collection of salmon runs which comprise the Fraser sockeye runs?

And so on, and so on.

We know that the concept, and formulaic practice of determining Maximum Sustainable Yield in fisheries is a highly failed, flawed, and screwy model. It should be banished, yet it still dominates ‘fisheries management’…. [see free E-book in right hand column]

…that term in itself a misnomer… it implies we can ‘manage’ the fish, and in turn the ‘fishers’ that target and bonk them… the latter being somewhat more ‘controllable’… ‘manageable’….

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wading through Justice Cohen’s reports, evidence (or lack of…), and 1000+ pages makes me think of Taleb’s quote above: ‘the limit is mathematical, period, and there is no way around it on this planet. What is nonmeasurable and nonpredictable will remain nonmeasurable and nonpredictable no matter how many PhDs you put on the job.’

And like banks and politicians — no one is held accountable for making bad or wrong predictions based on complex spreadsheets and formulaic equations. As Taleb essentially asks: what if we held scientists accountable, would we continue to get the same bullshit models and faulty prediction regimes? He suggests that far too few ‘predictors’ and ‘spreadsheet makers’ are ever held accountable for their ‘predictions’.

What if fisheries scientists and predictors and prognosticators were held accountable for their predictions? and risk models? and so on…?

Would we all of a sudden see a massive simplifying of this ever-increasing ‘science’ which is not really a ‘science’. Similar to economists, fisheries scientists can predict future salmon runs with as much accuracy as the prognosticators predicting where financial markets will close next Wednesday…

They/we can’t.

So why do we continue to waste millions and millions of dollars on faulty science, predictions, consultants, law professionals, and so on.

As has been pointed out in recent posts, and many past posts, wild salmon inhabit far too many vast areas (e.g. the North Pacific) of which we will never, ever be able to make accurate ‘predictions’ about. So why flaunt and flit about suggesting that we ‘understand’ things that we don’t…

It’s kind of like lying on one’s resume then getting the job, or taking performance enhancing drugs for decades and yet maintaining innocence, or lining one’s own pockets or those of their friends while an elected politician…

“Our track record in figuring out significant rare events in politics and economics [and natural systems] is not close to zero; it is zero.”

Assessing the salmon evidence… cost and costs?

cost of Justice Cohen's recommendations?

cost of Justice Cohen’s recommendations? (# Recommendations from Volume 3 report)

In reading through Justice Cohen’s 1000+ pages reports, there is quite a bit of positive recommendations, ‘conclusions’, etc. — however there are some glaring contradictions, and sad disappointments.

Justice Cohen explains his weight given to evidence in Volume 2 of the Cohen Commission Final Report: The Uncertain Future of Fraser Sockeye – Causes of the Decline:

Assessment of the evidence
In the field of law, lawyers and judges ask whether the evidence led at a trial “proves” the case. In a civil trial, the plaintiff must prove his or her case on the balance of probabilities – that is, the judge or jury must be satisfied that the plaintiff’s version of events is more likely than not true. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove the accused’s guilt to a much higher standard – beyond a reasonable doubt.

In this Inquiry, I have not conducted a trial, and in relation to making findings of fact regarding the causes of the decline, it would not be appropriate in my view to apply either the civil or the criminal standard of proof set out above. Rather, I use terms that express likelihood or degrees of certainty to describe the strength or weakness of the evidence, as did many of the authors of technical reports and other witnesses who testified during our hearings. (pg. 103)

The good Justice suggests in the 2nd volume:

It is not, in my view, a matter of choosing one potential cause over the other [for Fraser salmon declines]. Given our limited understanding of how the many identified stressors actually affect Fraser River sockeye and how regional processes affect many different sockeye stocks, prudence dictates that neither be ruled out.

The available evidence has identified a risk that both Fraser River–specific stressors and region-wide influences may have contributed to the long-term decline. Regrettably, that is as far as the evidence takes me. However, there are things that can be done to fill in knowledge gaps and progress toward finding cause-effect relationships.

Sadly, I think this is the great mis-guidance of our time… as well as a great contradiction. Plus a ‘limited evidence trail’ that cost some $25 million to write up.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Here’s a true “cause-effect” relationship…  Catch Fraser River sockeye, bonk on head, dead fish.

Cause of death: catching and bonking…

Effect? Dead fish.

Not complicated. Quite simple really.

‘Climate change’ and Fraser sockeye? Human-altered salmon habitat and large salmon run declines?

Well… the ‘arguments’ for this will rage until the last sockeye comes home… and… well… moo’s like the cows that came home too…

And thus there’s all this legal talk by the good Justice of “available evidence” as well as the complex, Donald Rumsfeld (Dubya Bush’s former Secretary of Defense) ‘absence of evidence, not to be taken as evidence as absence‘, etc. As aren’t we essentially looking for ‘weapons of mass destruction’ of Fraser salmon…?

But what about ‘presence of evidence’ to be taken as ‘evidence of presence’? (well that may be likely or probability is high… and enter other wiggly, slippery words here…)

Climate change is one of those sticky ones… sure the ‘climate’ is changing… but is that ‘climate’ as in the entire global — if so, how do we prove or proof the evidence? Is there evidence of presence… like on a criminal trial burden of proof? or a civil? or Justice Cohen’s ‘probably likely’ tests used in these reports? [and no offence intended, this is a complex subject... higher burdens of 'proof' or 'evidence' would have meant no report.]

When it comes to climate change, these are debates raging around the world, with deniers and climate change gurus alike. My point is not to pick a side… but to point out the obvious… if we humans (especially those esteemed peer reviewed scientists) can’t even agree that climate change is occurring or not, and that human activities are the cause, or at least accelerating what may be occurring naturally since the last ice age…

…then how are we having these theoretical discussions about theoretical impacts on things like ‘Fraser sockeye’ — from the ocean to the natal stream…?

And how do we separate out the historical reality that during the last big glacial advance, say some 10,000 or 12,000 years ago… wild salmon barely existed between north of the Columbia River and somewhere in Alaska and the Yukon (e.g. Beringia)… theories suggest some salmon were living as far south as areas in Mexico during the big glacial advances.

If that’s the case… then wild salmon have done just fine re-colonizing after cataclysmic events…  And if that may (or may not) be the case… then do we really need to spend $26 million (or so), largely on lawyers, legal realm experts, and supposed ‘salmon experts’ (who essentially bickered with each other and ‘their’ research agendas) — and trying to implement a slew of recommendations that will probably cost some $500 million or so to actually implement…

[Note: completely theoretical number... disclaimer... i'm not a government economist prone to making grandiose economic predictions...like fighter jet cost budgeting...or niggling about cliff diving off the famed Fiscal Hills located near Washington, DC]

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

See it’s commentary such as this – below – that drives me batty:

Only a few studies have explored the relationship between temperature and survival of immature sockeye salmon in the open ocean.

Oh, Ok…. so if we do more studies on the temperatures of the North Pacific and the ‘relationship between temp and survival’… we’re going to be able to better manage the relationship between ourselves and wild salmon?

Hmmmm. Let’s ponder that…

salmon… North Pacific… survival… temperature…

so are we measuring the temperature at the surface… 5 ft down… 15 ft down… (I know that whenever I swim in the North Pacific temperatures can range dramatically in a 30 ft radius, especially if there’s whales peeing in the area…)

How about where in the North Pacific…? it’s kind of big…

Survival…? Hmmmm. How?

Or better yet… how, accurately? Or wait… is it precision…?

… or accuracy…?

We can’t even get accurate counts of spawning salmon in a river 20 feet wide… and say 10 feet deep… let alone an ocean some several thousands of km wide and miles deep… full of salmon… well… from all across the Pacific Rim…

This is akin to trying to accurately measure the water displacement in my bathtub when a speck of dust lands in it… or better yet, tracking that speck of dust from my bathtub drain, some 800 km upstream of the mouth of the Fraser River, downstream, out to the Pacific, and how it impacts a gray whale migrating from Baja Mexico…

Yea…ok…

Page 77 of Volume 2 report:

During the evidentiary hearings, Dr. McKinnell testified that Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections for future climate are difficult to represent in terms of the finer-scale climate, such as climate changes that will occur in British Columbia and what the response of the marine ecosystem will be in the northeastern Pacific Ocean.

Hmmm.

These consistent theories that suggest developing more theories, devised by professional theorists, will assist in devising a theoretical ‘management’ strategy (aka theory), implemented by more professional theorists, adhering to the initial theorists’ theories to catch theoretical salmon… just doesn’t hold a lot of water. Especially, when it’s all said and theoretically done… the Minister still has the unfettered power to overrule the theorists and make decisions that make more sense to the other professional, practitioning theorists… the economists.

So no matter how much we continue to debate, argue, protest, whine, snivel, shout, cry and kick&scream and then delay doing things… because of absence of data… or… is it absence of evidence… or is it evidence of data absence…

No… it’s ‘high likelihood’ and certain certainty or is it just likelihood and certain evidence… likelihood of data absence, or evidence of data likelihood…?

ah, I can’t remember… however, one things for sure… if you’re in the salmon theorizing field (and it’s a pretty small one) chances are pretty good that your job security, or research contracts are looking pretty decent.

Oh wait… under the current Canadian governing regime, only if it’s researching fish that supply a ‘fishery’…

Likelihood that the evidence of absent data gets filled in near future by present evidence and theory…? Low.

Likelihood that $$ continues to be wasted on theoretical processes that result in preconceived, unfettered decisions…? High.

Likelihood that even if evident data gaps got filled with evidence and data-gap filler, that our ‘management’ of salmon fisheries, salmon habitat, and slowing ‘climate change’ or ‘climate change impacts’ will occur…? Low!

(cost of that opinion… well… FREE).

“Wild Salmon Are Not Holding Up, Study Finds” – New York Times

Really… is this type of result all that surprising?

NY Times photo from article

Wild Salmon Are Not Holding Up, Study Finds

Since 1964, the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery in California has supplied the watershed with four to 10 million juvenile Chinook salmon each year. The hatchery began the practice as a way of countering the effects of dams that block migration and making sure that the salmon population remained viable. But recent research shows that the massive influx of hatchery-raised fish is masking the fact that wild fish populations are not holding up.

“Without distinguishing hatchery from wild fish, the perception is that we have healthy salmon surviving in a healthy river,” said Rachel Johnson, a fish ecologist affiliated with the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the lead author of a new paper published in the journal PLoS One.

[this is a problem across western North America where wild Pacific salmon roam]

Most hatchery-raised fish are unmarked, but Dr. Johnson and her colleagues navigated past this obstacle by using a new technique that measures sulfur isotopes deposited in salmon ear bones, or otoliths. Chemical elements from food and the environment accumulate in otoliths over a salmon’s lifetime, giving scientists a way of determining an animal’s origins and movements.

In this case, Dr. Johnson differentiated between wild and hatchery-reared salmon by detecting traces of a domestic diet in the latter population’s otoliths. After adult fall-run Chinook salmon returned to the river and hatchery to spawn, the researchers collected otoliths from over 1,000 carcasses.

Wild fall-run Chinook salmon typically stay in freshwater for three to six months after birth and then migrate out through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and into the ocean, spending up to three years there before returning to their native river to spawn. Hatchery-born fish, on the other hand, are usually trucked to the bay, bypassing obstacles like freshwater pollution, low water levels and predators that their wild counterparts consistently contend with.

While a set number of hatchery fish make it to sea each year, Dr. Johnson says she suspects that wild population dynamics vary from year to year, depending on conditions.

Those population dynamics were surprisingly skewed for the 2004-5 season, when the researchers carried out their work. Of around 12,000 fish that returned and spawned in the Mokelumne watershed, most were hatchery fish that went directly to the hatchery. About 1,500 fish spawned in the Mokelumne River itself, but just 10 percent were actually born there. All in all, only 4 percent of the total spawning population were of natural origin.

Researchers are unsure exactly why natural populations have such low survival rates, but they suspect that water degradation, pollution and overfishing all contribute. Hatchery fish themselves could be having an impact, too: recent studies have found genetic and behavioral differences in hatchery-born and wild salmonids. Hybrid offspring of hatchery and wild fish may have a lower chance of surviving and reproducing than purely wild offspring do.

Artificial propagation aimed at aiding the recovery of endangered or threatened species is a controversial topic in ecology. Researchers and policymakers debate whether simply producing more animals of a dwindling species is an acceptable means of sustaining populations. “The ultimate goal for habitat restoration is that we are helping fish rebuild in a natural environment, not intervening in such an extreme way,” Dr. Johnson said.

[Salmonguy note: "restore" habitat...? is that really possible at this point in time? 'restore' to what? "restore" salmon runs... restore to what?]

Fall-run Chinook salmon are listed as a species of concern, but this label results largely from a lack of data on their their populations. Although managers set a goal of doubling the numbers of wild salmon in the Mokelumne River, until now it has been impossible to estimate how many naturally occurring fish are present.

[also a real problem across western North America where wild Pacific salmon roam]

Dr. Johnson, who is currently based at the Bay Delta office of the federal Bureau of Reclamation, emphasizes that she is not anti-hatchery, but that more awareness and monitoring of the salmon situation is needed to determine why wild salmon stocks are not replacing themselves and whether salmon populations can survive if the hatcheries are (hypothetically) shut down.

Mass marking of all hatchery fish — like clipping a fin — would make this job easier, and many hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest are already doing this.

Globally, the number of hatchery-produced fish of salmon and other salmonids has skyrocketed over the past 20 years,” Dr. Johnson said. “Even though this study was done on the Mokelumne River, I think it’s a broader issue for salmon conservation.”

You bet, Dr. Johnson, you bet…

And only set to grow if Russia is able to put their $2 billion in cash to work in building salmon hatcheries in the far east of that country on the Pacific side. Japan is already pumping out over 95% of their annual commercial catch as hatchery salmon… And Alaska’s billions of “salmon ranching”… and Canada’s 600 million or so hatchery salmon…

Old Vitus Bering & George Stellr are probably rolling in a grave somewhere… (early European ‘explorers’ and naturalists working for Russian Navy in 1700s — you can see their ‘graphiti’ all over the North Pacific)

SALMONGATE! Testimony today and yesterday at Cohen Commission demonstrating DFO and Canada Food Inspection Agency willingly hiding salmon disease from public.

An email entered as evidence at the Cohen Commission today (#2110) from a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) employee, Joseph Beres, states (in relation to the DFO and CFIA public relations efforts to stifle news of Infectious Salmon Anemia on the Pacific Coast in wild Pacific salmon):

 It is clear that we are turning the PR tide to our favour…one battle is won, now we have to nail the surveillance piece, and we will win the war… Concentrate on the headlines, that’s often all that people read or remember. Both the “Top Stories” and the “Related Pieces”.

This appears to be in support of a press release on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans website dated Oct. 24, 2011 stating, and this is a direct quote from the DFO press release:

 In short, there has never been a confirmed case of ISA in British Columbia salmon – farmed or wild.

It would appear that, in short, this is an absolute and complete LIE.

(aka: “An intentionally false statement.”)

I did a quick search for what it means when public service/civil service employees lie. Came across a curious quote:

Sir Henry Taylor argued that though the first principles of morality in regard to truth are plain and definite, the derivative principles, and their application in practice are not so: ‘… falsehood ceases to be falsehood when it is understood at all levels that the truth is not expected to be spoken.’

[the other mind blower in here... do public service employees not understand that emails can be requested under Freedom of Information or otherwise... are there not courses on "don't say stupid shit on email"?]

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

An article in the LA Times in early December coined the phrase: SALMONGATE.

Did Canada cover up deadly salmon virus? Report suggests yes

Call it Salmongate. The deepening controversy over who knew what and when about a deadly virus that may or may not have been detected in West Coast salmon would be obscure fodder for biologists if there weren’t so much at stake — the health of the West’s dwindling stocks of wild salmon, for one. And Canada’s $2.1-billion fish farming industry.

Testimony today at the Cohen Commission into Fraser River salmon declines — being streamed out on social media, as there is no public streaming of the hearings — as well as on an article relased on the Globe & Mail website just a little while ago, is demonstrating willful misleading of the public and international trade partners.

And not just misleading the public, but intimidating various individuals trying to get this information out to the public and into scientific circles so immediate action can be taken:

Federal agency accused of intimidation over salmon disease

Scientists who uncovered the first signs that infectious salmon anemia is present on the West Coast have found themselves shunned and intimidated by federal government officials, the Cohen Commission has heard.

Dr. Kibenge said shortly after SFU went public he was called by government officials who had questions about how his lab operated.

Dr. Kibenge told the Cohen Commission, which is inquiring into the collapse of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River, that he initially thought the CFIA was interested in finding how his lab could work co-operatively with a DFO lab they use for ISA testing, in Moncton, New Brunswick.

But he said after officials arrived, he realized they were really more interested in finding faults with his operation as a means to undermine the credibility of his ISA virus findings.

His lab is one of only a handful certified by the World Organization for Animal Health for ISA testing and he is a recognized expert on the virus.

Mr. McDade suggested to Dr. Kibenge that had he reported negative results for the ISA virus, he wouldn’t have been subject to any CFIA scrutiny.

“I agree, yeah,” he said. “Negative findings are very easy to deal with. . .it’s the positive findings that are difficult to accept.”

Dr. Kibenge’s lab in 2007 confirmed the first occurrence of ISA in farmed Atlantic salmon in Chile, where the virus triggered a disease outbreak that killed millions of salmon.

The Cohen Commission has also heard that Molly Kibenge, Dr. Kibenge’s wife, had found evidence of the ISA virus in 2002 and 2003 while doing research at the Pacific Biological Station. But DFO denied her request to publish that research, saying her findings were in doubt because another lab failed to repeat her findings.

_ _ _ _ _ _

If heads don’t roll over this, I’ll be floored.

Infectious Salmon Anemia is listed right up there with foot-and-mouth disease, mad cow disease, and others — as diseases that need to be reported to the public and to trade partners… immediately.

Denial is not an option.

Plus, with ISA on the coast, and senior government managers purposefully misleading superiors on this issue, and then the story coming to light, and DFO and the CFIA spend their time mounting a credibility attack and public relations campaign — as opposed to immediate direct and affirmative action to act upon the disease.

Maybe there is an imminent shake up coming to a government ministry near you…

 

Editorial: It’s not the time to gut [Department of] Fisheries

Here’s an editorial from the Victoria, BC Times Colonist the other day:

Editorial: It’s not the time to gut Fisheries

With declining salmon stocks and concerns about fish farms and the impact of climate change, we are going to need to more knowledge than ever before. This is not the time for a dumbing-down of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Yet the federal government has sent letters to 400 DFO employees, including about 200 scientists, warning them that they could be affected by a pending “workforce adjustment,” the usual term for a large-scale termination of employees.

In other words, the government is looking to get rid of some of its experts, just when they will be needed the most. Remarkably, officials within the department insist that it is still determined to have strong fisheries research — research that would be more difficult to complete without enough staff.

The department’s stated mission is to deliver safe and accessible waterways, healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. It will be guided, it says, “by the principles of sound scientific knowledge and effective management.”

The federal government pledged in the 2011 budget to cut costs in the department through a strategic review, and further cuts might be coming next year. The government wants to find another $4 billion to cut from its annual expenditures.

It would be foolish to think that governments exist to provide employment, or to provide services that are not really needed. It is just as foolish, however, to believe that governments can keep cutting bodies and slashing spending in a desperate attempt to keep taxes low.

There is a rational limit to cutting; beyond that point, ideology is being allowed to prevail over common sense and effective, efficient government.

We could mention Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s use of a government helicopter to save him a short commute by car, or Treasury Board president Tony Clement’s liberal spending on a single Ontario electoral district under the guise of G8 security needs. But those would be cheap shots.

Instead, we will note that the Cohen Commission, which was set up to examine the reasons for the decline of the Fraser River sockeye salmon, is widely expected to call for more research and more information — not less.

The government might believe that it can rely on independent researchers and laboratories, but that would be wishful thinking. For consistent, objective research, the federal government needs to set the standard.

If it guts its research offices, it would be hard to restore them when common sense returns. The top scientists would have moved on — and being logical thinkers, they would not risk giving up their new roles to go back to a department that is little more than a political football.

This is a critical time for our oceans — a time when smart people should be cherished, not shown the door.

_ _ _ _ _ _

It’s often a curious thing when the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is everyone’s whipping puppy on many fronts, then news of layoffs come and folks start saying: “no, no, no… not layoffs… we need those employees.”

Sure brutal timing for the folks getting layoff notices… nothing like that pink slip coming a couple weeks before Christmas. Way to go Grinch Harper.

I suppose the swifter kick in the nether regions comes on top of stories like this today from the Globe and Mail:

MacKay spent $1,450 a night while staff settled for $275 hotel rooms

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is accusing Defence Minister Peter MacKay of living like a king while attending conferences in Europe.

The watchdog group has uncovered hotel bills through access-to-information laws that show the minister spent $1,452 a night for a two-night stay at a luxury hotel in Munich and $770 a night for three nights in Istanbul, Turkey.

So MacKay is apparently getting picked up by rescue helicopters from posh fishing lodges on the taxpayer bill, and the Conservative government is sprucing up the Muskoga region with $50 million spent building gazebos and however much spent on building a fake lake for a G-20 summit, and the other excesses in Conservative MP Tony Clement’s riding.

I can simply add on here that I’ve attended enough ‘fisheries-related’ meetings where DFO will arrive with upwards of fifteen staff members, which ends out being half of what was already attending the meeting from other organizations. So a meeting of say thirty representatives all of a sudden balloons to forty-five when DFO arrives. Sometimes DFO folks have taken two flights by jet, rented a car, got hotel rooms, etc. so that the numbers can simply be ballooned.

It often makes little sense — and they continue to do it, even though it’s been suggested many times that there really isn’t that much need for that many Department employees at some of these meetings. And, in fact, it can take away from the productivity of the meeting. Simply running through introductions ends out taking more time then required.

So, yes, very unfortunate for those receiving pink slips — Yet, at the same time just more disconnection notices within the civil service of Canada and Provinces, and complete disconnect amongst politicians.

Why not cut the bonuses and salary increases of senior bureaucrats, cut down their travel budgets and expenses and keep some scientists and conservation staff working…

Plus, senior DFO bureaucrats seem to have a hard time listening to their scientists in the first place… look no further then the North Atlantic Cod collapse, or… or…

“Road to Nowhere” — Come on inside… takin’ that ride to nowhere..

Talking heads...management institution...

To really appreciate (or maybe not) this post you need to have this link, with music going in the background…

This is an old popular song from the band Talking Heads: “Road to Nowhere

.

 

http://youtu.be/JtdBtZOG17E

The lyrics for the song start like this:

WELL WE KNOW WHERE WE’RE GOIN’

BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHERE WE’VE BEEN

AND WE KNOW WHAT WE’RE KNOWIN’

BUT WE CAN’T SAY SAY WHAT WE’VE SEEN

AND WE’RE NOT LITTLE CHILDREN

AND WE KNOW WHAT WE CAN’T

AND THE FUTURE IS CERTAIN

GIVE TIME TO WORK IT OUT

.
We’re on a road to nowhere

Come on inside

Takin’ that ride to nowhere

We’ll take that ride

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See… the thought process behind comes from this definition of “management” :

definition of management?

“… to manage oneself as a pre-requisite to attempting to manage others…”?? (hmmm)

(including other things…?)

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“Management,” rather obviously comes from the root: “manage”:

"to manage"...

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Much of the thought process for this line of illustrations came from school research, and reading an essay by Edward Said, an English literature academic, professor and critic: “Said was an influential cultural critic and author, known best for his book Orientalism (1978).”

This from his collection of essays “Reflections on Exile” and the essay “Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies, and Community“:

The most impressive recent work concerning the history, circumstances, and constitution of modern knowledge has stressed the role of social convention… for example, the shift of attention away from the individual creator to the communal restraints upon personal initiative. Galileos and Einsteins are infrequent figures not just because genius is a rare thing but because scientists are borne along by agreed-upon ways to do research, and this consensus encourages uniformity rather than bold enterprise. Over time this uniformity acquires the status of discipline, while its subject matter becomes a field or territory…

[e.g. BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHERE WE’VE BEEN]

Along with these goes a whole apparatus of techniques… to protect the coherence, the territorial integrity, the identity of the field, its adherents and its institutional presence. You cannot simply choose to be a sociologist or a psychoanalyst; you cannot simply make statements that have the status of knowledge in anthropology; you cannot merely suppose that what you say as a historian (however well it may have been researched) enters historical discourse. You have to pass through certain rules of accreditation, you must learn the rules, you must speak the language, you must master idioms, and you must accept the authorities of the field — determined in many of the same ways — to which you cannot contribute.

[e.g. BUT WE CAN’T SAY SAY WHAT WE’VE SEEN]

In this view of things, expertise is partially determined by how well an individual learns the rules of the game, so to speak…

[e.g. AND WE KNOW WHAT WE CAN’T.... say, or do...]

And most telling in Said’s questions:

Is it the inevitable conclusion to the formation of an interpretive community that its constituency, its specialized language, and its concerns tend to get tighter, more airtight, more self-enclosed as its own self-confirming authority acquires more power, the solid status of orthodoxy, and a stable constituency? What is the acceptable humanistic antidote to what one discovers, say, among sociologists, philosophers and so-called policy scientists who speak only to and for each other in a language oblvious to everything but a well-guarded constantly shrinking fiefdom forbidden to the uninitiated?

This doesn’t sound like a particular fishy government ministry fiefdom (and many closely attached organizations) that is about to, or in the middle of, facing a mass shortage of staff due to retirements and early retirements…?

You want in to that ‘fiefdom’ (e.g. policy scientists… [what a phrase]…),  you better be versed in the lingo, the idioms [A form of expression natural to a language, person, or group of people], the games, the politics, and the methods of moving up the bureaucratic ladder (e.g. the Peter Principle).

Otherwise known as “don’t rock the boat.”

You also better be well-versed, and completely adherent (like crazy glue) to the references and ‘science’ that got us here… you know the things like Maximum Sustained Yield, strategic imperatives, benchmarks, ‘ecosystem-based planning’, and so on…

And… you better have PowerPoint nailed down.

And, know the secret handshakes, and day rate and per diem gravy train intellectual copyrights…

As someone wise-cracked recently too me:

DFO is the least biologically diverse bureaucracy – a small gene pool of scientists that has aged but not recruited young stock…

Diversity would also suggest a wide range of approaches, ‘professionals’, non-professionals, ways of valuing and working from local and community knowledge…

Not government department imperatives, strategic plans, and management objectives.

Time for a Change. (?)

Or as one of the ‘doctor’ toys my kids play with asks: “Time for a Check-up?”

I spell Maximum Sustainable Yield… e-l-e-p-h-a-n-t

the things we don't talk about... is that snuffleupagus?

Does this make any sense?

There is one thing out there that killed anywhere between 60-80% of the total Fraser sockeye run (and others) — year after year after year.

Us.

Through largely marine-based, mixed stock fisheries.

Planned, research-based, intentional, government-backed, scientifically-based, institutionally-supported, democratically-elected endorsed.

Purposeful. No mistakes, no apology. year after year after year.

Some might call it wild salmon stocks genocide, some might call it good policy and good science. (some did, some do).

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We have essentially taken one of the world’s greatest salmon rivers, and world’s greatest salmon runs, and reduced it to a mere shadow of itself — in just over 100 years.

There was once over 200 distinct and unique Fraser sockeye stocks. Individually-adapted and evolved stocks unique to the specific tributaries and streams where they returned year after year. Some small sockeye like the Nadina, wayyyy upstream west of Prince George and closer to the Skeena River then the mouth of the Fraser, or some larger sockeye, with their home streams closer to the mouth of the Fraser.

All specifically unique for the conditions they’d lived in for eons.

The ministry tasked with ensuring these fish don’t go the route of oblivion, that these stocks don’t go extinct… Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

How many unique and distinct Fraser sockeye stocks do we have now?

Nobody can say…

Maybe half what it used to be, or less?

And yet, the ‘experts’ continue to look for the “smoking gun” that is causing runs to collapse — like the 2009 Fraser sockeye run, or Rivers Inlet, or… or…

Up and down the BC coast, un-named, un-’researched’ sockeye runs that have gone the route of oblivion.

It’s not a mystery, really.

We killed upwards of 80% of these returning runs… every year… for several human generations.

By misguided policies, that have now become elephants in the room that most people pretend doesn’t exist, yet they have a tough time taking notes because of the imposing shadow blocking their vision…

International conferences are upcoming in the near future to discuss wild salmon resiliency in the face of coming rapid changes (e.g. receding glaciers, more water demands for agriculture and so on, and rapidly changing climates). Most likely there will be more bumpf words then a gathering of teenage video-”gaming” aficionados… things like adaptive, and strategic and ecosystem-based, and conservation-based.

Elephants do make great backgrounds for PowerPoint presentations though… so maybe these conferences and gatherings and think-tanks will have ground-breaking PowerPoint slides…

Unfortunately, elephants, as one website suggests: “much like their predecessors, these two species [Asian and African elephant] are facing a grim future… heading to another human-propelled extinction.”

Personally, I’d rather see the extinction of PowerPoint presentations… than wild salmon or elephants.

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

Hayward, former BP CEO

Remember this guy?

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

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

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

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

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

 

can BC sportfishers relate?

Mouth of the Fraser someday? or Skeena?

 

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

(the darndest stupidest things… albeit…)

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

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

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

Here’s the Sun article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hmmmmm…

The article also states:

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

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

What sort of percentage is that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any thoughts out there?