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The crisis in Canadian fisheries [audiorecording] Walters, Carl 1995

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552553Carl WaltersTHE CRISIS IN CANADIAN FISHERIESProfessor Carl WaltersFisheries Centre and Department of ZoologyUBCNovember 25, 1995Biographical Note: Since coming to UBC in 1969, Dr. Walters has worked mainlyon Pacific salmon and other marine fisheries, with emphasis on the developmentof methods for managing sustainability in the face of high uncertainty and limitedinformation. He has been active in public debates about management and conser-vation of Pacific salmon, and has advocated major changes in management ap-proaches to meet biological and institutional requirements for conservation.This paper will provide an academic perspective on the status andfuture of Canadian fisheries.  It tries to draw some lessons aboutwhat the people of Canada will probably have to do if we want tomaintain those precious resources.  Fish touch all of us in Canada.There are a very few Canadians who are not deeply interested in oneway or another in fish — whether  fish to eat, fish to catch for recrea-tion, fish as an industry, or fish as the basic support for key parts ofour culture.  I do not think that any Canadian was untouched threeyears ago with the closure of the East Coast Cod Fisheries and theenormous social and economic devastation that caused for people inNewfoundland and the Maritimes.  The key principle I will followhere is that when we talk about fisheries, we are talking about a pub-lic resource, a heritage to all Canadians and to our children.  Much ofmy work and my perspective is drawn from the notion that we de-serve better.Much of this presentation is drawn from my attempts to un-derstand the data represented in Figure 1.  This figure compares trendsin harvest of the two most valuable fisheries in Canada.  On the eastcoast, we are looking at about 100 years of history of the Newfound-land Cod Fishery, from 1880 until it was finally closed in 1992.  Instark contrast is the history of our salmon fisheries on the Pacific554coast where not only have catches been sustained, but in the lastthirty or forty years we have actually seen increasing abundance ofsome salmon stocks.  We need to stop and ask how it could be thatthese two situations could diverge so dramatically.  How could it bethat in a system that has the same system of governance, the samepublic policy conservation objectives, the same laws, the same mas-sive Fisheries and Oceans bureaucracy, we could end up with twosuch starkly different outcomes?  And we must also ask whether thePacific Salmon, B.C.Northern Cod, NewfoundlandCatch   (1000s  tonnes)Catch   (1000s  tonnes)020406080100120020040060080018801880 18901890 19001900 19101910 19201920 19301930 19401940 19501950 19601960 19701970 19801980 19901990YearFIGURE 1555Carl Walterseast coast outcome is in our future here in British Columbia.  Wecannot explain this monstrous difference as being due to any of thesimple things you read about in newspapers, like massive fishingtechnologies and the power of fishermen to destroy the resources.Our British Columbia salmon fishermen, since at least 1930, havehad the technology to destroy our salmon resource in BC in about aweek or two of fishing, radically faster than the cod resource wasdestroyed, yet it is has not happened.Further we cannot explain the cod-salmon difference as be-ing due to simple matters of salmon being visible and easy to count,or because they come into streams to spawn.  They come into streamsto spawn after we do the damage to them, after they are harvested.So the best we can do with salmon from a knowledge perspectivethat is different from the east coast, is to know a little sooner howbad a job we did.  Being able to count salmon in spawning streamsdoes not help us to manage them except by making it a little easier tosee over many years how many spawners are needed for good pro-ductionWe also cannot explain the difference between BC and theeast coast just by the enormous biological diversity of our salmonpopulation.  If you look at a map of BC, and blow up any part of ourprovince like Vancouver Island, what you see is an extraordinarilynetwork of streams and waterways — most of which support salmonthat are genetically adapted to the particular conditions they find inthose streams.  We guess that there are roughly three to five thou-sand genetically distinct races of salmon in British Columbia.  Youmight argue that the big difference between us and Newfoundland isjust that we have so many stocks of fish.  Well, that’s not true at all,because we do not manage all of those thousands of stock separately.Instead, what we do is to harvest them mainly in a few very largeareas when they’re mixed together off the west coast of VancouverIsland, or in the Georgia Strait, or up by the Queen Charlottes.  Andpractically nothing that we do is aimed at trying to maintain thatextraordinary diversity.  In fact, we are gradually eroding the diver-sity away over time, managing a few populations well and most verypoorly.  If I had been able to draw a picture of it to show the situation556here in BC, I think a good image to provide you might have been oneof you driving out to Fraser Valley, and seeing a beautiful new fac-tory with two floors.  Behind this factory is a large line of trucks—with their engines roaring, horns honking — and it is clear that there’sa great deal of industrial activity going on in the plant.  You see abeautiful big sign at the front of the factory saying: BC Toy Com-pany, with the slogan underneath: “Pursuit of Excellence.”   A signat the door directs you: “inquiries upstairs.” Instead of a factory,what you see on this second floor is dozens and dozens of desks withadministrators, and accountants, and managers sitting at their com-puters exchanging e-mail.  And as you ask them what this factory isabout, you go from desk to desk and all you can get is shrugs — noone seems to know what is happening.  So you decide to explore alittle further and you walk downstairs.  There you find a factory floorwith just a few dozen people in it,  working frantically with faultyequipment that is breaking down all the time, desperately trying tomake the system work, hopelessly inadequate in terms of the task,equipment and facilities.  But they are producing a few cartons oftoys, and each time a carton of toys comes off the conveyor belt theyrun with it out to the loading bay where there is a mad scrambleamongst the truckers waiting there.  And the box is grabbed by thenearest trucker and he roars away.  And there is a man standing onthe loading dock with a clipboard in hand and a big smile on his faceand you think, oh maybe this person knows what is going on.  Whenyou ask, he replies  “Well, I’m the union shop steward, aren’t wedoing a wonderful job for providing employment for truckers here inBritish Columbia.”  So you move on to the truckers and ask themwhat they think about this situation.  They say, “Well, there’s toomany truckers out here, but this is a wonderful lifestyle — we’re freeand easy, we can travel as we wish, we have the freedom of the landlike fishermen have the freedom of the sea.  This is a wonderfulsituation for us and while it doesn’t really provide a great deal ofemployment, Canada’s social safety net takes care of that problemfor us.”   So what we see in British Columbia hidden behind themagnificent diversity of fisheries opportunities is a system that ispathologically unhealthy in terms of social and economic structure.557Carl WaltersPeople who write about sustainability, a word that I have neverreally quite been able to understand even though I am supposed to bea scientist in that field, really talk about two things.  They talk aboutecological sustainability, the maintenance of biodiversity and thehabitats for producing organisms that we enjoy by limitation of theharvests that we take.  But they place equal weight, and rightly so,on economic management — on self-sufficiency, on community-based and localized management systems that can deal with the com-plexity in nature down at the scale where we see it developing, andon avoiding unnecessary waste.  Well maybe here in British Colum-bia we are not doing too bad on the ecology side of sustainability.We certainly are not doing well on the economic side.  I will returnto that issue later.Now let me review in general what we know about why fish-eries collapse.  There have been enough of these horrible disastersaround the world.  The first really big one was the Peru Anchovyfishery that collapsed in 1970 and 1971, virtually destroying theeconomy of the nation of Peru.  This was every bit as bad a disasteras our Newfoundland Cod collapse.  And there have been enoughsuch disasters that we can actually develop a fairly elaborate tax-onomy of them, which is not saying much for our ability to managesustainably.  When we cut through the complexities of that taxonomythere are really three things that go wrong in different circumstances.The first and perhaps most widely recognized is failure in the gov-ernance system — failures of our administrative and bureaucraticsystems to manage effectively even when adequate information isavailable. The second is much less well known to the public: badscience.  I will show you what to someone in my profession is theworst possible nightmare that could ever happen.  I will show youthat the Newfoundland Cod disaster was caused in part by my ownparticular scientific speciality of stock assessment — the errors thatwe made.  Third, there are cases, the easiest cases really to deal with,that just involve bad luck.  And let me talk about that a little bitbecause it had something to do with difficulties in developing goodpolicies.There are enormous changes going on the world around us558— the marine climates that produce fish and the fresh water climatesthat produce them are undergoing violent changes, both natural andman-made.  The effects of these huge changes on abundance of fishare confounded with the effects of our management; that is, whenwe see a population of fish collapsing in nature, we very often can-not tell, until the collapse is well along at least, whether it was causedby something natural or something we did, and whether remedialactions have changed the course of the collapse in any significantway.  The effects of changes in the environment and the impacts offishing and other human activities all compound and confound oneanother.  So a major discipline in fish research in recent years hasdeveloped to study what is called “fisheries oceanography,” to basi-cally document the massive changes in the carrying capacity andcapability of the oceans.Figure 2 shows that the capacity of the north Pacific Oceanto grow salmon has fluctuated through this century by a factor ofalmost three, with huge ups and downs on decadal time scales.  Whenwe see the down side of one of these massive fluctuations, we cannotYear1900 1920 1940 1960 1980Catch (1000 tonnes)750650550450350250Ocean Capacity Index98765432FIGURE 2559Carl Walterstell in principle whether the decline is due to something wrong in theway we manage, or to nature getting back at us.  We have tried todeal with a lot of that natural variability with technological fixes —we have tried to use hatchery production systems to stabilize sur-vival rates of fish in the ocean.  It hasn’t worked at all, as you can seefrom Figure 3 which shows hatchery releases into the Georgia Straitof juvenile salmon that support one of our more valuable BC fisher-ies, a recreational fishery for Coho salmon.  Over the last 25 yearswe have increased the number of fish released from hatcheries to beabout equal to the wild production of Coho salmon by all the hun-dred odd streams that produce them around the Georgia Strait.  YouHatchery Smolts Released (/10)0500,0001,000,0001,500,000197119711973197319751975197719771979197919811981198319831985198519871987198919891991199119931993YearTotal Coho Catch0500,0001,000,0001,500,000Number of FishNumber of FishFIGURE 3560can see in the figure how well we have done from that programme;catches of Coho salmon in the Georgia Strait have not increased atall, and in fact have even declined in recent years. Environmentalfactors are often blamed by those who want to keep our hatcheriesgoing despite this catastrophic failure. As scientists we simply can-not say this is wrong; we cannot reject the hypothesis that we havejust been unlucky, that hatcheries, perhaps if we just keep them go-ing for a year or two longer, will start working, and it is all a just amatter of us being patient with our hatchery administrative systems.So bad luck causes us big problems because it makes us unable toreally say what is causing some of the changes that we measure.Bad governance could arise in principle from just plain in-competence.  I think we have examples in fisheries here in Canadawhere the people who are managing and administrating our fisheries— largely people trained as biologists — just do not understand howto step beyond the fish and understand fisheries as systems that in-volve both people and fish. We also have things going wrong thatyou see everyday in the newspapers involving the capture of ourmanagement agencies by industry.  Our fishing industries here inCanada are some of the most vociferous interest groups that any poli-tician would have to face.  These interest groups are extraordinarilyeffective at disinformation campaigns, at the “not me” business.  Youcan hardly pick up a newspaper with a quote from a Canadian fish-ing interest here in Vancouver, without seeing that fishing interestblame someone besides themselves.  If you are a commercial fisher-men, you blame habitat destruction, you blame sport fisherman, andyou blame natives (those are the three scapegoats for commercialproblems these days).  If you are a sport fisherman, you blame na-tives, and habitat, and commercial fisherman.  It just goes on and onand on like that.  Government administrators are barraged with thiskind of disinformation.What happens in our decision making system in the face ofuncertainty about environmental effects and disinformation cam-paigns?   Decision makers are faced with a hard choice, to conservefish (cut back on fisheries), or to wait and see in hopes that the prob-lem will correct itself.  Decision makers know that decisive action561Carl Walterswill bring outcries from industry (Figure 4).  And yet we as scientistscannot assure them that decisive action will really do any good.  Ifthey wait and see, they will get support from fishing interest groups.And there is always the possibility that nature will take care of theproblem, that it was caused by an environmental factor.  If you lookat this decision choice objectively, I think you will see that it is actu-ally fully rational for ministers of fisheries and fisheries bureaucratsnot to act decisively in the face of advice and warning — it is mucheasier, much simpler, and much safer from their perspective to wait.That is especially true when by waiting to see, you may pass theburden of the decision on to your successor, so you do not have tofeel the brunt of it at all.Probably the best example we have locally of what happenswhen this kind of indecision problem is repeated over and over againhas been with British Columbia’s most valuable fishery (Figure 5).The most valuable fish is not our commercial fishery, it is the recrea-tional fishery for Chinook and Coho salmon in the Georgia Strait.The total economic value of that recreational fishery, bringing inIndecision as rational choiceWait and SeeTake Decisive ActionSure outcry from interestGroups, unsure conserv-ation effectSupport from interest groups,problem may correct itselfFIGURE 4562tourist dollars from Americans, easily exceeds the total value of allof our commercial salmon fisheries.  Well, that Chinook stock iscollapsing and we are almost sure that the basic reason for this col-lapse is overfishing.  We are almost sure, in fact, that the stock hasbeen over-fished since the mid-1970s.  I do not think there is disa-greement among scientists about this at all, but as the collapse hasproceeded (to something in the order of ten percent of the fish thatwe had just a couple a decades ago in the Georgia Strait), our gov-ernment, instead of taking any serious action, has put on a series ofwhat we call “band-aids.”  These are silly little pseudo-conservationmeasures like closing the spring commercial troll fishery (which ac-tually increased the harvest by making it more attractive for sports-men to go out); a sports spot closure that protects salmon for a fewweeks at a time so they are caught a little later in the year than theywere before;  a twenty-six inch size limit that protects Chinook salmonfor an extra three weeks or four weeks each spring before they reachGeorgia Strait Chinook Stock0500,0001,000,0001,500,0002,000,0002,500,0003,000,0003,500,0004,000,00019601963196619691972197519781981198419871990199319961999200220052008YearVulnerable Stockgrowth=2growth=10growth=20high prodFIGURE 5563Carl Waltersthe size when they can be harvested.  Nonsense regulations like theseprovide the political appearance of decisive action, without the sub-stance needed to do any real good.Now we cannot say exactly what is happening in situationslike this.  We can pin down fairly precisely for the period where wehave accurate statistics, from 1975 to about 1990, what the stock ofChinook salmon was actually doing — we have pretty accurate esti-mates of the percentage of fish being caught and what that catchrepresents in terms of abundance.  But we do not know what went onearlier.  We don’t know how severely the stock was collapsing be-fore we started to gather good information, and when we do not havethat longer history we cannot, in consequence, say very much whatthe future will bring, particularly if harvests are reduced.  Almost allof our scenarios and calculations indicate that the stock is going toremain very low or continue to collapse into the future unless some-thing major is done.  But we cannot prove that, and as long as wecannot, there will excuse for inaction.Scientists who do the assessments (the estimates of abun-dance of salmon or cod off Newfoundland) are not in any way ac-countable for the mistakes that we might make.  There is no onus onus to do a good job.  We make lousy statisticians — those of us whothought we were going to be working on fish when actually we workon population statistics, every bit an area of statistical study as anything in the field of statistics.  And we have been woefully irrespon-sible about investment in information gathering in fisheries.  So howhave we paid the price for these things?  Let us take a look at theanatomy of the collapse of the cod stocks off Newfoundland.  Figure6 displays cod stock changes since 1962 and shows a collapse downto a low in the late 1970s, then a bit of stable period, then a completecollapse in 1992.  This “backcalculation” of the stock history is notdisputed;  we know pretty well how big the was because practicallyall the fish that were there each year were caught that year or a fewyears after.  But what happened off Newfoundland was that the codstock had been harvested and fairly stable by an inshore fishery thatpersisted for about three centuries.  Foreign trawlers arrived off ourcoast in the late 1950s; they were able to fish out at the edge of the564continental shelf where Newfoundlanders had not been able to go,and to fish on spawning aggregations of cod.  Their harvests reachedenormous peaks and started to collapse in the late 1970s.  In 1977,Canada took over extended jurisdiction on the east coast (the 200mile limit) and we ousted the foreigners.  There was a window ofopportunity for just a few years, between 1977 and about 1980, whenwe could have recovered from the nightmare caused by the foreignfishing.  It was generally felt amongst people in Newfoundland andby a lot of scientists that the stock had been grossly depleted.The general view in government at the time was that therewould probably have to be a very long and painfully slow period ofbuilding the cod stock.  But did we get those things?  No.  In 1980-82courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer,  we got a thing called “enterpriseallocation,” in which you and I helped a couple of major Canadiancompanies build a whole new offshore trawl fleet to replace the for-eign fleet.  So we went back out to sea and basically repeated exactlywhat the foreigners had done to us. We took high catches for aboutFIGURE 6NORTHERN COD SPAWNING BIOMASS ESTIMATES0500000100000015000002000000250000060 70 80 90YEARWalters 1993 VPANAFO 1980NAFO 1981NAFO 1982NAFO 1983NAFO 1984NAFO 1986CAFSAC 1989CAFSAC 1991565Carl Walterssix years through the 1980s and then catch started to fall.  In 1992,the last year of the fishery, our fleet removed as much as seventypercent of the total stock of cod left in the ocean, in two months.Over the course of 1992 some estimates suggest they removed overninety percent of the remaining stock.  Today, off Newfoundland,the cod stock is at one tenth of one percent of its abundance in 1950.That stock is very likely not going to come back in our lifetime.How could this happen?  How could we, with the incrediblewindow of opportunity that occurred between 1978 and 1980, havefailed so badly?  Well, one argument you might see from Canadianofficials was that no one was paying attention to the scientists.  Thatis absolute nonsense. The recommended harvest by Canadian scien-tists was very close to the actual catches taken in the fishery.  Thefishery took fewer fish, not more, than the scientists recommended.It is not that the scientists were ignored.  In fact, the fishermen ofNewfoundland took the Canadian government to court in the late1980s to try to force closure of the fishery; the government won thecase and kept the fishery open for a few extra years.  So somethingwent very badly wrong, not in the governance of this system — theallowable harvests were followed pretty exactly — but rather in theassessments of the state of the resource and its capability for with-standing harvest.  While the stock was collapsing, managers receivedthick reports from scientists, with vast tables of numbers, statistics,reviews, and analyses all pointing towards a recovering cod stockthat would soon be healthy.  It is very difficult to dig through such abarrage of information.  But what did that information produce?  Fig-ure 6 shows what the stock actually did.  The declining line showsour best back-calculation of how many cod were actually in the sea.The peculiar little lines pointing away from the actual population arethe scientists’ estimates and projections of stock size for differentyears.  The peculiar line that begins to shoot upward for 1979 startswith the scientific estimate of the cod stock just after we took overextended jurisdiction — this estimate was three times higher than itshould have been.  Follow that line for the scientific projection ofhow the cod stock was going to recover under the enterprise alloca-tion fishing plan.  For each year after that you see a similar peculiar566sequence of estimates and projections.  There is a gap about 1985 to1990; this is there simply because the government stopped publish-ing estimates.  During the early 1980s, a few scientists were respon-sible enough to look back and to see that they had, in fact, beengrossly overestimating the stock.  This caused a considerable debateand hesitancy about publishing any assessments until the cause ofthe errors could be determined.  But by 1991 the assessment systemwas back on line, continuing to make exactly the same mistakes asrecently as one year before the fishery closed.  So they not only over-estimated the abundance of fish; they also did not seem capable oflearning that they were making the mistake and of doing better in thelong term.We have been able to reconstruct how and why this mistakewas made.  It turns out that scientists were trying to use the successrates of commercial fisherman to provide an index of abundance ofthe cod.  These commercial success rates did not drop very fast asthe stock collapsed, because commercial fisherman are very good atfinding the last fish.  And when the scientists made this rather sillyassumption, that the commercial fisherman were searching the worldat random, they of course overestimated how much was left.  An-other thing they did, and that I find even more bizarre, is that notuntil the late 1980’s did they look carefully at the relationship be-tween the reproductive success (we call “recruitment”) of the codand the abundance of spawning cod.  It was a matter of deeply helddogma — and still is by some scientists — that cod product millionsof eggs and so their reproductive success or recruitment does notdepend on how many adults there are.  Staring the scientists in theface over much of the cod collapse were data showing a very dra-matic and profound relationship between how many adults there wereand how many babies they produced — something that any schoolchild should be able to tell you we should expect.  So, not only didscientists overestimate the abundance of fish, they violently overes-timated the reproductive capacity of the cod in the face of harvestingand depletion.So, to summarize what happened on the east coast, scientistsmade serious errors by using a bad abundance index and failing to567Carl Waltersrecognize probably the most serious concern that any biologist in-volved in the management of fisheries should have — this thing called“recruitment overfishing,” not allowing enough fish to spawn.  Theseare not subtle errors.  They are the kind of things that warnings havebeen published in fisheries textbooks since about the 1930’s.  Yet,our management system was unable to learn those basic lessons.Looking to the future, Figure 7 shows a pathetic best guess of howthe cod stock will rebuild if it is not fished at all.  We know it needsto be built up to about a million tons of fish, and it very likely willnot reach that level before near the middle of the next century, if atall.  The projections hint that few Newfoundlanders alive today willbe able to live in an outport and fish for cod.Unfortunately, we are seeing a move today in fisheries man-agement all around the world to try to essentially adopt the samekind of management system that led to the cod disaster.  That man-agement system is what’s called an “output control” or a “quota man-agement system” that relies on scientists estimating the abundanceof fish and then using their estimates of abundance to decide what aFIGURE 7 - Northern Cod Rebuilding0 200,000 400,000 600,000 800,0001,000,0001,200,0001990 2000 2010 2020 2030YEARrecruitmentExploitable Biomassage 7+ biomass568safe allowable harvest is each year. This approach is simply not go-ing to work.  We have no indication that the things that went wrongwith the cod fishery can be corrected by any economical investmentto gather more information.  It is a problem we are going to have tolive with.Let me return to the striking difference between B.C. andNewfoundland, and try to answer the question why it is that we havesalmon left in British Columbia.  We have a technology out therethat is every bit as destructive as in Newfoundland.  I think the fun-damental reason here is an extraordinarily simple one.  It is that wemanage our pacific salmon, not by knowing or pretending to know,or being so arrogant as to think we know, how many fish there are inthe sea.  We manage them, instead, by what is called “exploitationrate management.”  That is, when a run of salmon approaches a fish-ing area, what we do instead of having the whole ocean open to fish-ing is to have very short, concentrated fishery openings.  So if youhave been around Steveston, or the mouth of the Fraser, you willnotice that every summer, on Monday mornings or Sunday eveningssometimes, there is a twelve hour or twenty-four hour fishery open-ing.  What such fishery openings do is to cut massive holes in thestock of fish. Figure 8 shows the depth the holes we think were cutby three openings that occurred in 1992 on the Sockeye run enteringthe Fraser River.  Now the key thing about the way we manage salmonis that, without ever knowing how many fish are involved in the totalrun, without every knowing the area under the curve that measurestotal abundance passing Mission, we can be pretty confident aboutwhat percentage of the run will be removed when we cut holes in theabundance curve by having small fishery openings.  Traditionally,we have had very stable exploitation rates over the years in our salmonpopulations, because of this hole cutting or exploitation rate methodof management.  What that means to the salmon is that, if the salmoncome back in low numbers in some year, the catches are automati-cally reduced because, when you take the same percentage of smallerstock, you take fewer.  So we cut back automatically on our harvest-ing when there are fewer fish, and we take more when runs are large.That basic feedback confers a resilience on our salmon populations569Carl Waltersand our management system that is simply not there in a situationlike Newfoundland.Once in a while, we also make big mistakes with salmonmanagement, generally in situations where we have what is called a“gauntlet,” in which we harvest a run of salmon at a whole series oflocations along the coast.  Last year, we very nearly lost the AdamsRiver Sockeye run.  We came within one twelve-hour fishery open-ing of destroying the most magnificent fishery resource in BritishColumbia.  The way that happened, is that as the Adams run ap-proached the coast here in B.C., it made landfall around Noyes Is-1992 Fraser Sockeye Run02000040000600008000010000012000016-Jun 26-Jun6-Jul16-Jul 26-JulDateDaily Number of Fish0"Hole"caused byfish in gMissionCount ofEscaping FishCatchFIGURE 8570land in Alaska and off the Queen Charlottes, and in those fishingareas a substantial number of sockeye were harvested before we hadany idea of how many were there.  We had a pre-season forecast ofaround seven million fish, but we really didn’t know; and the fisher-men, as the fish concentrated against the coast, handily caught a couplemillion of them.  Then, as the fish migrated down the coast, theycame in through the Johnson Straight where another three-odd mil-lion of them were harvested by a very intense purse seine and gillnetfishery.  Now, all this is perfectly normal.  We have been doing thiskind of harvesting every year for a long time and have gotten awaywith it.  We cut holes in them in the Johnson Strait, just like I showedyou on the Fraser.  But we have had, in recent years, a progressivelymore complicated allocation — a progressively stronger demand onour scientists to provide more accurate assessments of abundance,and to use those to provide more and more small fisheries, and allo-cations of fish, to natives, to gillnetters and to everybody.  So, biolo-gists were forced to use numbers from the harvest in the JohnsonStrait to make an estimate of the absolute number of fish that werepooling from the Adams River run at the mouth of the Fraser River.Ordinarily, we would not try to harvest very much at the mouth ofthe Fraser from the Adams run, because these fish sit at the rivermouth in a very concentrated mass and are very vulnerable to over-harvesting.  But this last year, our government decided that insteadof the traditional way of doing things, they would use this estimatethat the biologists had produced and go ahead and have an openingor two at the mouth of the river.  They had the first of those, and itbecame really obvious that they had virtually destroyed the run bythat point.  So they stopped the second opening.  But the key thing isthat we had violated the basic principle of managing by exploitationrates, and we had become arrogant about our ability to estimate thenumber of fish.All this appeared in the newspapers in a very peculiar way —the overestimate that biologists made (about two million more fishthan actually passed the Johnson Strait), was widely called in thenewspapers “The Missing Two-Million Fish.”  These fish were not“missing” at all; rather, there was a stock assessment error — a sci-571Carl Waltersentific error of a kind that we inevitably will make when we aredealing with highly variable populations in a highly variable envi-ronment with incomplete data.  It is the style of management thatreally went wrong, not the assessment system.  We cannot run acomplex gauntlet fishery safely when there are too many interestgroup allocations to meet.  We cannot  satisfy the interests of northcoast native fishermen and south coast native fishermen and trollersand seiners and gillnetters, and all the other interest groups that cla-mour for our attention today with salmon.  We have got to haveflexibility and make the fisheries smaller and safer, or we will nothave them before very long.The fixed exploitation rate concept is something that just abouteverybody can understand — if you don’t want to catch more thanten percent or fifty percent of the fish, don’t expose more than thatpercentage to the risk of harvest.  If we can take a lesson from thesalmon, we have a very simple principle upon which we can start tobuild safer and sustainable systems for managing fisheries through-out the world.  So, I see great hope in the lessons we can learn fromour Pacific salmon.  The hope, actually, goes a little bit beyond that.When we look closely at fisheries that have persisted for a long timearound the world (such as tuna, or cod before offshore trawling), wemost often find that much of the stock is in places where it is uneco-nomical to pursue them.  Most harvest is taken close to coasts.  It isas though there were a closure over much of the ocean to the harvest-ing.As an aside, there is something else we have discovered re-cently.  We have been looking from a theoretical point-of-view atsimple fixed harvest rate strategies, and we have discovered they areprobably the best possible way for us to deal with the huge environ-mental changes that are going on in the ocean as well.  We have usedcomputer models to represent the kind of violent, long term changesin ocean carrying capacity that have been documented in recent yearsin the North Pacific.  We told the computer to calculate for us whatthe best number of fish to allow to spawn would be each year, know-ing the entire future.  So we pretend that we know what future envi-ronment will actually occur.  The result from the computer model  is572that if we really knew what the future was going to bring, then wewould follow what is called an “anticipatory policy” — we wouldstart to cut back on our harvest just before periods of high oceancapacity in order to have lots of young fish going out into the oceanat just the right time to capitalize on that production opportunity.  Inother words, we would use our ability to make predictions about thelong term to improve the performance of the production system. Butconstant percentage harvest rate gives a simulated harvest perform-ance about 95% of what we could get if we actually knew what thefuture was going to bring. What happens is that the natural trackingor feedback capability of a simple harvest rate policy lets the stockbuild up and go down as the environment becomes better or poorerfor production.  The simple policy is not quite optimum — it doesnot quite build up the population as rapidly as it should — but in aworld where we are not likely to ever know what the future is goingto bring in terms of climate, it certainly is a good second best toperfect knowledge.I have now pretty much finished the fisheries/scientists/bi-ologist part of my talk and I want to speculate about that factory herein British Columbia — the factory that has far too many fishermanchasing the available stock to fish, that is hideously inefficient froman economic point-of-view, and is hideously wasteful.  I personallythink the key to our future is not so much the way we manage ourharvest biologically, but rather what we do with that economic mon-ster.  Around the world today, the developed countries put moremoney into our fisheries than come out.  The fisheries agencies’ man-agement costs, combined with the cost of harvesting, exceed the valueof our fisheries throughout the developed world.  That means we, astaxpayers, are carrying the burden of sustaining a system that cannotpay for itself.   This is not fair to us and it is certainly not sustainablein the long term as we begin to find other pressing needs for publicfinancial resources.  Our salmon fishery is a catastrophic loser.  Itbrings in a gross of about 250 million dollars a year to commercialfishing.  The operating costs each year to the industry, the costs forkeeping their boats, and operating them, and hiring crew and burn-ing gas and chasing each other around the ocean, use up more than573Carl Waltershalf of that income immediately.  It costs us somewhere between 70and 100 million dollars, depending on how you partition the Depart-ment of Fisheries and Oceans budget for this region, to manage thefishery, to run around and enforce and enhance and all the other pub-lic management functions we pay for.  And then we pay the fisher-men an additional 60 million dollars of seasonal unemployment in-surance.  So, when you add the plusses and the minuses, our currentcommercial fishery is operating about 40 million dollars in the hole.So anything that a commercial fisherman tells you is his netearning is coming not from the resource, but rather from your pocketand my pocket.  The key reason for this is that we have something inthe order of 3 to 4 times the number of commercial fishing vesselsout there than we should.  Perhaps the best signal of this is whatscientists see when they examine the harvest rate, the percentage offish that are removed from the water each year in different areasalong the coast in relation to the number of boats fishing.  [See Fig-ure 9].  What the scatter of dots in Figure 9 says, is that, over a verywide range of number of boats showing up at fishing areas, we har-vest the same percentage and same number of fish.  We have manytimes the capacity out there than is needed to harvest what is avail-able.  What this means in a fishing area like the Johnson Straight orat the mouth of the Fraser River, is that most of the time, when afisherman is out there burning up fuel, burning up time, he is notreally fishing at all.  He is sweeping water that has already beenswept by the person who was there a few minutes before him.  Whena gillnet opening occurs now at the mouth of the Fraser River, weestimate that something like 80 percent of the sockeye salmon in theriver are removed in the first few hours of the opening.  So, most ofthe time that you see the boats sitting out there, they are literallysitting idle.  The cost is there for all of us, but the production, thevalue, is not.So what I claim must be a key step to the future for Canadi-ans, to begin to recapture the values of the fishery resource and tomanage it more wisely and safely, is to drastically cut back the sizeof the commercial fishing fleet, and to begin to implement cost re-covery systems.  I calculate that Canada could end up with some-574thing like a net positive value of about 90 million dollars that couldthen be put into the very real and enormous costs of producing andprotecting the fish.  Right now, we have thousands and thousands ofpeople catching fish, and a few overworked people producing them;we should have a few hundred people catching the fish, and thou-sands producing and protecting them.  And this we can do fairlyeasily if we can break the deadlock that our current licensing systemhas on access to harvesting.  Simple spreadsheet calculations can beused to show how the future might look under tactics like putting alanding tax on the harvest (as in the forest industry), and then usingthat landing tax to buy back or get rid of fishing licenses. Such cal-culations indicate that we could reduce the size of the fishing fleetby about 60 percent over the next ten years with a landing tax smallerthan the royalties we now impose on the forest industry.  A landingtax somewhere in the order of 20 percent would do the job quitenicely. We would be left with a leaner, smaller, safer fishing indus-try, that would really be earning a living – with fishers left in theindustry genuinely being able to say they are employed in it, ratherthan seasonally and partially employed in it.  Over time, the tran-FIGURE 9575Carl Walterssient in earnings versus cost would not all be positive.  There wouldbe a substantial loss period, during which the public would have tocontinue to provide income assistance for at least the costs of transi-tion, retraining, and all the other things that are going to happen whenan industry loses a large part of its employment.  But it strikes methat if we are talking about a future for Canadian fisheries, the longterm gains in financial resources and human resources made avail-able to produce and protect the fish is well worth the transition cost.In summary, my vision of the future is that we will changeour fisheries in two very fundamental ways.  The first is to requireindustries to pay for themselves, to force the recognition that thepublic, the owners of the resource out there, should not bear the costsof protecting and maintaining our own resource in the face of thedamages that potentially are brought on by industry of others.  Andsecond, I think we need to develop very clear standards of safety andhusbandry — what we are willing to live with in terms of our gov-ernment bureaucracies, their inefficiencies, their errors, and theirscientific mistakes.  I think we can begin to move this way in fairlysimple steps.  The whole matter of industrial reorganization, the buy-back programs and the other alternatives for reducing the sizes ofour fishing fleet here in B.C. are already underway.  There is a roundtable process, in which the fishing industry in B.C. is looking veryhard at ways to help to pay for itself and to reduce its size to a man-ageable level.  I think we need to begin to recognize that we havebeen making gross scientific blunders — a good part of the reasonfor those blunders is hopelessly inadequate investment and informa-tion gathering — and a key reason for not making that investmentand information gathering is that the public can not afford it anymore.But with a sensible, sane, and smaller fishing system, we can beginto make those investments in information that are so badly needed.And then, finally, I think that we need a lot of just plain down-to-earth standards for safety and design in our regulatory systems, justmaking sure that the holes that we cut in the stocks are acceptablysmall.


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