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Author Topic: No value in Salmon says Ottawa (DFO)  (Read 2407 times)

alwaysfishn

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No value in Salmon says Ottawa (DFO)
« on: December 12, 2009, 06:53:30 PM »

Letter from Rafe Mair:

Scientists blast DFO over sockeye collapse

Last night, Simon Fraser University hosted a panel presentation on the Fraser sockeye collapse of 2009.

A group of scientists and field experts had gathered for two days to discuss the causes, impacts, and possible solutions to the salmon crash, and they Were now presenting some of their findings to the public.

I was expecting a polite and slightly sedate discussion among members of the scientific and bureaucratic elite, which I somewhat felt were part of the Problem rather than the solution in the salmon tragedy.

I changed my mind. To my surprise, I found myself participating in a powerful and genuine moment of reckoning.

A chart of the sockeye collapse (see figure below) was projected on the wall which demonstrated that the salmon's demise, although particularly
devastating in 2009, really started 15 years ago in the early nineties.

One after the other, the panel's scientists and members of the public stood up in front of that chart of almost totemic significance and delivered the same message: how in the world did we let this happen?

Particularly powerful was an exchange between former MP and Minister of Fisheries John Fraser, and former DFO top scientist Brian Riddell who
recently resigned from the Department over fundamental policy disagreements.

Fraser, who is retired, was not on the panel but talking instead as a member of the public. All this information about the sockeye, he said, was
available to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans since day one. Why did this not set any alarm bells, why did this not trigger more research? It
poses the essential question of who is in charge at DFO, Fraser commented.
It is incredible that a vast department like this could not explain that something was going wrong. Someone at the Department didn't do anything, he concluded.

Riddell responded for the panel. He said that there was no question DFO knew early on about the collapse. As years went by, he added, I asked myself: can I do more inside or outside of DFO over my career's remaining 10 years? And so I left. Ottawa was asking me: why should we give you more funding for Your salmon research when there is no value in the salmon? (At this point, the room went: gasp.) Ottawa has lost understanding of the value of the salmon, Riddell concluded. The people of BC carry great weight in delivering the message back to Ottawa about the salmon's value, but you are not there yet, he warned.

(Dr Riddell qualified this statement but it was not the fault of DFO and that he resigned because of the failure of Ottawa to take action.)

Mark Angelo, the chair of the panel, pointed out that DFO was invited to participate in the panel's work sessions but had declined the invitation,
Invoking the ongoing judicial review over the sockeye collapse. Angelo commented that DFO's decision was "unfortunate". He did not use the word
Stonewall, but his eyes said precisely that.

A member of the public described DFO as a "moribund" administration.

Many questions of the public were directed at salmon research and why more of it wasn't being done. Angelo's response was yet another ballistic missile fired at DFO: it bothers me, he said, that we don't have specific parameters in place right now to monitor the Fraser sockeye populations. Riddell jumped in: if we had the proper funding, we could get started on the research right away. We could take concrete steps such as tagging the fish. We can work with a lot of bright people across various organizations. But we need the cooperation of DFO on this. For example, the data on the salmon is a public resource, yet DFO will not release that data for 2009.

Translation for those not fully versed in bureaucratic lingo: DFO, you malfeasant bitch, either help us or step out of the way!

Alexandra Morton, who was not on the panel but participated in the two-day work sessions, best captured the spirit of the evening when the panel
invited her to answer a question about the impact of fish farms on the Fraser sockeye collapse. We simply don't know, she said. Fish farms and sea
lice could be part of the Fraser collapse or not, and there could also be many other factors involved such as viral infections. But what matters, she said, is that - finally - we are talking about this in the open and the law of silence has been broken.

I had come to this evening expecting a pasteurized lecture by the scientific and bureaucratic establishment of why it's okay to continue salmon business as usual. Instead, I found myself in the middle of a scientists' open revolt against the system. Life is like a box of chocolates, Forrest Gump used to say.

My particular admiration goes to Brian Riddell who could have decided to finish off his baby boomer career on a rather tranquil note, waiting for
retirement in a DFO corner office and then taking off on an uninterrupted string of oblivious Alaska cruises or whatever else it is that baby boomers do. Instead, he chose to step down, which in his world is the most direct form of civil disobedience.

What we need here is more Brian Riddells.
.................................................. ..................
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Disclosure:  This post has not been approved by the feedlot boys, therefore will likely be found to contain errors and statements that are out of context. :-[

skaha

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Re: No value in Salmon says Ottawa (DFO)
« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2009, 10:52:38 AM »

--free the peasants, let the bureaucrats speak.
--in order to preserve themselves they must rise up and revolt together.
--senior bureaucrats and ministers will lopp the head off any individual that does not agree with them, in particular in public.
--it should be mandatory for these moles to appear in public and defend their policies. They must be held accountable to the public and not just the politicians.

--I don't know him personally but why is it that Brian Riddell had to resign in order to Speak out !!  Why was he unable to influence policy from within the public service.
--I agree once a policy is in effect.. it must be followed or the bureaucracy would not function. There must be a way to present a contrary view without threat of unreasonable punishment.
--Personally I favor joint committee on important policy issues. Knowledgeable, informed, influential people openly discussing the policy and consequences. Concensus opinions outlining options and consequences expected as outcomes and thus presented.  Senior bureaucrats and politicians make the decision and must be held accountable for their actions. 
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Dave

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Re: No value in Salmon says Ottawa (DFO)
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2009, 03:06:23 PM »

Brian Riddell was my Division Head when I retired.  I donít believe he wanted to be a manager as that limited his time to do what he was/is so good at Ė being a great fisheries scientist.
I mentioned in a previous post the best people in DFO seem to end up as managers.   These people donít necessarily want to be there, but due to attrition and severe cutbacks in DFO funding, especially science, they are pretty much forced into these positions.  The ones I know that reluctantly did become managers truly thought they could bring about change (that is, increased budgets for research) but, it hasnít happened. 
The decline of West coast salmon is obviously a complicated issue and as Mairsí missive indicated, something DFO most certainly was aware of.  Unfortunately, when people like Riddell lobbied Ottawa  for increased budgets/people for research, they said no. 
Same thing happened on the east coast with cod; politics trumped science.  And, itís happening again here.
As Skaha posted, rise up people.  Demand  appropriate funding for this research before itís too late. 
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purple monster

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Re: No value in Salmon says Ottawa (DFO)
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2009, 09:16:25 AM »

it seems as the same pattern over and over again.  in my opinion, the goverment has every intention on reducing services and subsidies all over the map and in all department.  I fail to understand why every sector that needs proper attention and support are always on the chopping block.   Of course, politician dont want to loose votes by raising taxes, so let just cut all the services.  Soon, we probably will have a privatized goverment too.

 I often think that a few million sockeye lost or gone, means a few million farm fish sold.   God, I hope that I'm wrong.

My MLA is  Mr. Russ Hiebert himself,  not sure he really care about any of this, and I'm really not sure what side is on.  Is there any other source or office where our complaint should go to ?  What pressure can WE PUT ON AND WHERE???

A few weeks ago, I bump in to Darryl C. at the airport, and he told me that he was there for the commission inquiry, surely, they don't think that Darryl C. caught them all ???? (just a bit of humor in a sad case)
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mykisscrazy

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Re: No value in Salmon says Ottawa (DFO)
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2009, 11:17:04 PM »

Dave you got out in the nick of time
DFO Scientists are under a gag order imposed by the conservative govt
They are not allowed to speak with the media or present any of their research at any conferences until after the inquiry is over.
Hard to believe this is happening again (Netachako all over again)

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skaha

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Re: No value in Salmon says Ottawa (DFO)
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2009, 08:25:13 AM »

--It is important that people who have never worked for government services understand the pressure our Biologist and other research professionals are under while trying to do their jobs.
--I am often critical of MOE, DFO and other Government resource agencies, in particular with the timely release of information to the public domain.
--My criticism is of the culture of these ministries that fear the information they have if released will influence public opinion.
--The repression of information brings to mind  the emperor has no cloths as senior officials and politicians deny any knowledge that things were going wrong.
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Dave

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Re: No value in Salmon says Ottawa (DFO)
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2009, 03:28:28 PM »

Andrew, what a sorry mess the Department has become.  I used to be proud to say I was with DFO, now I'm embarrassed to admit it.  I feel sorry for all the DFO people who passionately care about this issue and are told not to voice their concern.   
A gag order on fishery scientists ...  that's scary.  Wonder what's next.
The good news is IMO, you and your academic team will be among the beneficiaries of this inquiry, funding wise.  And as Riddell suggests, the sooner this research starts the better.
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