Monday, 1 July 2019

Daniel Pauly – Vanishing Fish

Danial Pauly is the Nobel Prize level scientist from UBC who has done the Sea Around Us program/document/computer systems that put together global fish catches from 1950 to 2010. He has just had a new book out, that summarizes his stellar career and catch stats: Vanishing Fish – Shifting Baselines and the Future of Global Fisheries.

This book moves rapidly over five decades and all over the world where he has lived and worked in the fishery stats world, particularly the tropics. He has somehow managed to live several lives in multiple places with his greatest achievement to put different scientific areas together that had little previous interaction, figure out computer models to track catches and execute them. He has done several different modelling systems over the years, the Sea Around Us being where you can enter his world: It has nifty graphics on its home page. Go take a look.

Other issues included his term ‘shifting baselines’, the tendency of each new generation, in his case, science people, to consider what came before them as the baseline, rather than go back to the beginning to see how much really has been lost. An example would be east coast cod over the centuries, as interestingly put together by Mark Kurlansky, in Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. The 500-year history is a cool read, which includes how black people ‘came’ to America, sugar plantations, and rum.
Shifting baselines means that each new generation has a faulty picture of where the fish resource was, and thus whatever solutions they have are wrong. 

Historically, fishing has had three major features: utilizing near shore waters and moving out until they drop into the abyss; developing different methods of fisheries to exploit deeper and deeper water, and the species found there; and moving into uglier species once the catch of what was wanted could no longer be caught, and further and further away from home port. And fuel subsidies have distorted effort.

Along with this there were a whole range of problems with the stats, and putting the stats together: commercial fishing demersal trawling methods destroyed the ocean floor, or benthos; ignoring discards; ignoring artisanal and sport fisheries; and, vast over reported catch from China, which lead to higher and false estimates of fish abundance. Along with this are the distorting effects of subsidies for fleets, tropical countries that were decades behind in the science and governance structures of Europe and North America. 

Additionally, fleets were developed with billion-dollar bank projects. They then moved all around the globe catching other people’s and global fish. EEZs means ‘exclusive economic zones’, meaning 200 miles offshore, in both Canada and the States, but now up to 270 nations. ‘Agreements’ which allowed distant fleets to plunder African, Ghana for instance, stocks lead to crashing numbers around the world. 

An example of how specific the coalesced global stats could be, Pauly’s project determined that Norway had destroyed the Jack Mackerel stocks off Chile, and on far Pacific, pelagic stocks of the same species. Here is the graph of that collapse:

The Sea Around Us determined that 19 of 20 global fish stocks of ‘reduction’ fisheries were collapsing, poorly managed, or both. It is the reason, after trashing them, fish farm companies now have to move to single cell algae, maggots, soybean and other materials to feed their carnivorous salmon.

Pauly points out that so-called ‘reduction’ fisheries destroyed distant stocks to make feed for agricultural species like cows, hogs, chickens, fish. Yes, even species that had never eaten a fish, have been stuffed with them, rather than catching these small, pelagics for third world humans. They are instead used to fatten up ‘meat’ for first world mouths, since only they can afford them.

The other kind of fisheries are for ‘direct human consumption’ and the sad commentary is that fully 25% of all global fish are for reduction fisheries. An additional 25% are discards, meaning unwanted fish that are killed while catching the intended target and are simply dumped overboard, rather than be required to be landed for human use. And more recently, ‘high grading’ which is the reprehensible turfing of dead target fish already caught, when the fishing boat comes in contact with larger members of the target species. Terrible.

Moving back to Pauly: the list of brought together subjects includes meshing ecology with biology, subjects that a non-specialist would think were always meshed, but not so. Pauly attended conferences around the world and worked in more places than all the rest of us put together. Perhaps his single best quality, is that he has a mind that can see what conceptual outcome is required, find a way to add together the various fields, including developing and meshing technical languages, rigorizing the data, holes and figuring out data that don’t exist.

Pauly is well connected with other scientists, which allows him to work with tons of distant people with good minds. The references number 702 and an alarming number bear his name. I say alarming because how come the rest of us haven’t done the same?... probably not a good thought train to move along the many miles. Or laziness, at least that has the shifting baseline of our sloth, as in the definition of a rationalization includes that it has to be made in our favour.

Pauly makes short forays into North American fisheries subjects, NOAA and DFO. He covers the Miller, Viral Signature work, so important to the Cohen Commission third session, which Cohen reconvened to cover disease. She showed that PRV, er, a Viral Signature affected up to 90% of Fraser sockeye, so badly that they failed to spawn, even if they made it back to their tributary. In other words: “The smoking gun.” The look on her face, when coaxed to say the words, is indelible in the mind.

Additionally, he went with Alexandra Morton to catch salmon fry in the Broughton Archipelago in shallow bays near shorelines. In 2001, for example, the escapement fell from, as I recall, 1,470,000 pink salmon to just exceeding 100,000, an absolute collapse. Pauly then, briefly mentions that he was alarmed to be in a meeting with DFO scientists, who, were trashing her personally saying she had ‘spiked’ the lice data.

Pauly also discusses ITQs, individual vessel quotas, TAC, total allowable catch, and how DFO uses those concepts and stats to divvy up potential catch among commercial, sport and First Nations. Anybody on the SFI, SFAB, WSAC, PSC and other technical committees would benefit from this book.

Vanishing Fish is clear, direct, succinct. It has an unmistakeable self authenticizing tone. Pauly comes across as a unique mind, with unique contacts, putting together unique minds and subject matters. It would be nice if there were many more of him. If would do humanity good. Read this book.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Robson Bight Rubbing Stones for Orca

Hi Doug Donaldson/Claire Trevana/John Horgan

I spend up to 50 days a year in Vancouver Island’s back country, and have done so for the past 25 years. Very few people do what I do.

In the Tsitika River area, which is beside Schmidt, what I see is lots of clearcutting on steep slopes, between it and the Eve River on the Tsitika Main. Schmidt is between the two.

My experience is that forests hold moisture, whether rain or snow. When the forest is gone, and in such rocky territory, rain moves off in a flood that hits river courses hard, but also dwindles to next to nothing in a few days. Canyon rivers all over the Island go through this flood/no-water cycle.

Both through increasingly dry summers, and floods, of winters of heavy precipitation events, river courses take it hard. The Tsitika, for example, between the two bridges below the highway, is water trickling through big boulders between floods. Much of this length is open and hot in summer.

I have walked down to the Catherine Creek entrance from both directions, Catherine and Tsitika. I can tell you that between pools, in summer, the river doesn’t exist. Catherine can be devoid of water, with boulders the size of your car as you stand on its bridge and look downstream to a dry gulch devoid of logs. Floods just push logs through, destroying habitat, rather than scouring out around rootballs and creating fish habitat.

Increasingly in summer, rivers are too hot, have low oxygen and poor quality fish habitat for much of their lengths. Floods on the other hand wipe out redds, or bury eggs, and blow fry out of high gradient rivers.

I have been going back to some side streams – where all the coho come from – for decades. And what I see, is that logging, even with its 100M boundary, simply destroys these important bodies of water, more so than rivers they flow into, and are even more easily destroyed, with gravel, but particularly lack of water.

As coho spend a year in side streams, ones that dry out completely mean the extinction of the coho run, in one summer. It is that simple and that unforgiving.

So, how about putting more care into protecting the fish, and the orca stones? The area has some real rough country. I passed over an avalanche one May when transiting between the Eve/Tsitika watersheds. Some of the peaks are almost vertical in this area.

The other result from logging, is that the gravel washes out when roots no longer hold it in place. It can take 100 years to flow through a river that has flat land in its course to the ocean. Most Van Isle rivers fall into this class. And I am watching millions of tons of gravel move down rivers. 20 miles can take 100 years, and the gravel destroys habitat as is gets blown on freshets, particularly the insect nymphs that comprise the food source for fish: stoneflies, caddis, Mayflies and so on, which need rocks with algae to grow on, not small gravel and silt.

Please help the Robson Bight area. It is one of our gems and needs your help.

I have read the comments by government people in the article, and can tell you that they have no idea what happens to Island rivers in real time. Their assurances mean nothing. If they want to come with me someday, they would gain a new understanding of what rivers actually go through.


DC Reid

Sunday, 9 June 2019

DFO’s 2019 Fraser Chinook Plan

After all the meetings, wrangling, head shaking and unwilling capitulation, this year’s plan for Fraser chinook has been released by DFO. The June 7 letter is addressed to:

First Nations Chiefs, Councillors and Fisheries Representatives
Sport Fishing Advisory Board
Commercial Salmon Advisory Board
Marine Conservation Caucus

Earlier, COSEWIC released a report, including 13 Fraser chinook stocks: 7 are assessed as Endangered, 4 as Threatened, 1 as Special Concern and only 1 was deemed Not at Risk.

See:  In addition, productivity of many of these populations has declined to the point where fewer offspring are returning compared to the parent generation and the populations will continue to decline even in the absence of fishery mortalities unless conditions improve.

I will return to this bold faced section below as it is the whole point here.

How bad are things? This bad: Only 490 natural origin Chinook returned to the Nicola River (Spring 4-2s) in 2018 from a parental generation of 7,122 Chinook.

And the plan takes the following into account: “Achieving these conservation objectives is our highest priority and requires significant actions in commercial troll, recreational and First Nations fisheries in times and areas where at risk Fraser Chinook may be encountered. Fraser Spring 4-2 and Spring 5-2 Chinook return to spawn from early March through late July, with migration peaks in June through the lower Fraser River. Summer 5-2 Chinook have later timing and return to the Fraser River to spawn from late June to August with a peak in late July.”

The overall plan is: “While conservation of at risk Fraser Chinook is the primary objective in managing the resource, the Department is also committed to respecting Constitutional and Treaty obligations to provide priority for First Nations harvest opportunities for Food, Social and Ceremonial and Treaty obligations after conservation requirements are met. Conservation measures will constrain First Nations Chinook harvest opportunities while at risk Fraser Chinook or other stocks of concern (e.g. Early Stuart Sockeye) migrate through fishing areas. Prior to July 15th, the Department is permitting very limited Fraser River FSC fishery opportunities to harvest small numbers of Chinook for ceremonial purposes which is consistent with the overall management objective for fishery mortalities near 5% for these stocks. In addition, new restrictions in commercial and recreational fisheries are intended to support increased availability of not at risk Summer 41 Chinook for First Nations fisheries harvest opportunities during August and September. These restrictions include an extended closure of the commercial troll fishery in Northern BC until August 20 which is intended to pass through not at risk Summer 41 (South Thompson) Chinook that typically comprise 20-30% of troll harvests to the Fraser River. The Kamloops Lake commercial demonstration fishery targeting South Thompson (Summer 41) Chinook will also be closed. Recreational salmon fisheries in southern BC will remain at reduced limits of 1 Chinook per day after the Chinook non-retention period ends (i.e. after July 14 or July 31 depending on area) and recreational fisheries in the Fraser River will remain closed until at least August 23.”

So, what is the plan? The rec-fish plan, which is what we care about, is:

Recreational fishing: Management measures are identified where at-risk Chinook stocks may be encountered, including:

• Non-retention of Chinook in Queen Charlotte Strait, Johnstone Strait and Northern Strait of Georgia until July 14; a daily limit of one (1) Chinook per person per day from July 15 until August 29, and two (2) Chinook per person per day from August 30 until December 31.

• Non-retention of Chinook in the Juan de Fuca Strait and Southern Strait of Georgia until July 31; retention of one (1) Chinook per person per day from August 1 until August 29, and two (2) Chinook per person per day from August 30 until December 31.

• West Coast Vancouver Island offshore areas (seaward of 1 nautical mile from the surfline) will have non-retention of Chinook until July 14 followed by a limit of two (2) Chinook per day from July 15 to December 31. West Coast Vancouver Island inshore waters will remain at two (2) Chinook per day.

• Fraser River recreational fisheries will remain closed to salmon fishing until at least August 23. After that date, opportunities for species other than Chinook will be informed by in-season abundance and other conservation issues (Coho, Steelhead, etc.). Reduced Fishing opportunities may be provided in tributary areas during times and locations at-risk Chinook stocks would not be encountered.

• An overall reduction in the total annual limit for Chinook that can be retained per person in tidal waters from 30 to 10.”

For, in season updates, look here:

And after the season, DFO will be looking into: “The challenges facing at-risk Fraser River Chinook salmon stocks are multi-faceted. The road to recovery requires a long-term view and the collaboration of First Nations, multiple levels of government and all interested parties. DFO will be following up with First Nations, the Province of BC and stakeholders to establish a process to address a broad range of issues that are impacting Chinook stocks, including: land and water use issues; fish habitat issues; the role of hatcheries to support rebuilding and the potential for mark-selective fisheries targeting hatchery-origin fish; how predation by seals and sea lions may be affecting Chinook salmon; and other concerns. Establishing a process to have these important discussions will play a vital role in determining how best to steward this resource going forward and what options may exist to further address the social, cultural and economic importance of these Chinook stocks. This will require everyone to work toward identifying mutually-beneficial solutions and ensuring conservation objectives are met to provide for future opportunities. Further information will be provided on this process in the near future.”

The major issue, and what my boldfacing was about, is that this process is: after 50 years of managing salmon into this depressed state, DFO expects to continue forward, doing the same things and thus manage salmon into extinction. Once they are finished off, there is no need to do anything.

The major item is always: freshwater habitat restoration. We all know that to foster wild salmon, the best thing to do, is protect and restore habitat so that nature can do its thing. Along with this we need to develop epigenetic hatchery output so that enhanced fry are as near to wild as possible. Some of this work has already begun, but the point here is that pretty much DFO’s whole focus is ratchetting down fishing mortality, rather than putting more fish in the sea.

My post on a plan is here, and has received more than 10,000 page views, netpens of sterilized chinook every year for the next ten years, while we are doing epigenetic hatchery work, and fixing and preventing habitat from being lost as the next best thing: This is a five minute read.

Go read that for a base plan to move forward. And then consider that the $142M by DFO and $40M by the BC govt should find most of the cash used for freshwater habitat restoration and beginning to make changes that addresses climate change. I am working on this one.

Note that the money is skewed toward ‘innovation’, ‘new technology’ and ‘an Indigenous component’. You need to apply for $$ hitting those buttons, while trying to do the most important thing which is freshwater habitat restoration. The post is a two minute read with a link to the DFO site on accessing the cash: