Canadian scientists propose nine step program to save waterways and fish


John Richardson
Tomorrow’s clean water depends on nine guiding principles, says UBC Forestry Prof. John Richardson. (Martin Dee/UBC)

A group of biologists from across Canada have proposed a nine step program to sustain healthy waterways and fisheries not only in this country but around the world.

The key to clean waterways and sustainable fisheries is for the management plan to follow nine guiding principles of ecological water management, according to John Richardson, a professor in the Dept. of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia, one of 15 freshwater biologists who created the framework to help protect fish and ecosystems into the future.

Fish habitats need waterways that are rich in food with places to hide from predators and lay eggs, according to the framework published on January 31 in the journal Environmental Reviews.
“Fish are strongly impacted when nutrients, sediments or pollutants are added to their habitat. We cannot protect fish without maintaining a healthy freshwater ecosystem,” Richardson,who led the policy section on protecting fish habitats, said in a UBC news release. Other policy sections addressed areas such as climate change and biodiversity.

Read the complete paper on the Environmental Reviews site.

Humans have put key waterways at risk because of land development and the loss of the vegetation along rivers and streams, Richardson said, adding connecting waterways are also critical for healthy ecosystems. “If fish can’t get to breeding or rearing areas because of dams, culverts, water intakes or other changes to their habitats, then the population will not survive,” he said.

With more pressure on Canada’s waterways, Richardson and his colleagues wanted to create a framework of evidence-based principles that managers, policy makers and others could easily use in their work. “It’s a made in Canada solution, but the principles could be applied anywhere in the world,” he said.

The paper says:

Freshwater ecosystems are among the most imperiled on Earth with extinction rates of freshwater fauna higher than for many other ecosystems and vastly exceeding historic background rates/ Freshwater is vital to humans, and clean water is rapidly becoming a limiting resource for many societies. The greatest threat to freshwater ecosystems is the loss or alteration of freshwater habitats through human development yet our societies and economy depend directly on the services provided by healthy freshwater ecosystems.

It also notes:

Most ecosystem services of fishes are supported by a diverse fauna, not by merely the few species directly favoured by humans. Humans live side-by-side with fishes and other aquatic organisms in watersheds, and we derive our quality of life from the health of these ecosystems.

The paper, which was supported in part by federal government financing, only touches on the controversy over the gutting of the environmental protection for Canadian waterways by the Harper government. It goes on to stay that the protests are not enough and more is needed:

Recent changes to Canadian fisheries policies have motivated responses by the public and the scientific community yet a broad contemporary scientific assessment of what is required to manage freshwater fisheries resources is lacking. A template of the core ecological concepts underlying sound fisheries policies, based on the best available science will support policy and management decisions and the design of monitoring programs to evaluate the success of these actions.

With more pressure on Canada’s freshwater ecosystems, Richardson and his colleagues wanted to create a framework of evidence-based principles that managers, policy makers and others could easily use in their work. “It’s a made in Canada solution, but the principles could be applied anywhere in the world,” he says.

Healthy freshwater ecosystems are shrinking and reports suggest that the animals that depend on them are becoming endangered or extinct at higher rates than marine or terrestrial species, says Richardson. Humans also depend on these ecosystems for basic resources like clean drinking water and food as well as economic activity from the natural resource sector, tourism and more.

The components of a successful management plan include:

  • Protect and restore habitats for fisheries
  • Protect biodiversity as it enhances resilience and productivity
  • Identify threats to ecosystem productivity
  • Identify all contributions made by aquatic ecosystems
  • Implement ecosystem based-management of natural resources while acknowledging the impact of humans
  • Adopt a precautionary approach to management as we face uncertainty
  • Embrace adaptive management – environments continue to change so research needs to be ongoing for scientific evidence-based decision making
  • Define metrics that will indicate whether management plans are successful or failing
  • Engage and consult with stakeholders
  • Ensure that decision-makers have the capacity, legislation and authority to implement policies and management plans.

These recommendations are based on nine principles of ecology:

  • Acknowledge the physical and chemical limits of an ecosystem
  • Population dynamics are at work and there needs to be a minimum number of fish for the population to survive
  • Habitat quantity and quality are needed for fish productivity
  • Connecting habitats is essential for movement of fish and their resources
  • The success of freshwater species is influenced by the watershed
  • Biodiversity enhances ecosystem resilience and productivity
  • Global climate change affects local populations of fish
  • Human impacts to the habitat affect future generations of fish
  • Evolution is important to species survival

Enbridge’s multi-million dollar ad campaign collides on the web with Alberta oil spill and fears about the water supply

As the people near Sundre, Alberta deal with an oil spill of up to 175,000 litres into the Red Deer River, there have been reports on Twitter all day of Enbridge’s pro-pipeline ads appearing alongside stories on the oil spill on news sites across Canada. For most of Saturday,  I didn’t see any Enbridge ads on the news pages I checked. Ad viewing is usually tied by algorithms to the specific viewer’s interests.

Tonight, an Enbridge ad did show up on my computer screen.  An unfortunate pairing of a CP story on  that  drinking water will be trucked into the affected communities. Alongside it the animated Enbridge ad promoting the Northern Gateway.

Enbridge ad accompanies a story on the Alberta oil spill

Water supply is a critical issue in the Enbridge debate, especially in Kitimat, BC, where the pipeline will cross the Kitimat River watershed and then follow the route of the Kitimat River to the planned terminal at the town’s waterfront. The environmental group Douglas Channel Watch says its studies show that a major rockfall or landslide could cut Kitimat’s water supply for up to four years, meaning the town would have to survive on bottled water for years.  Enbridge has said its studies and engineering will ensure the water supply is safe.

But it get’s worse.   I had written this story and went back to the original story to double check the facts and the URL   The page had automatically refreshed and a new Enbridge ad appeared as a banner ad. In the right-hand box where the previous Enbridge had been a few moments before, there is now an advertisement  promoting the safety of fracking.

Enbridge banner ad on Alberta oil spill story

Advertisers want interested eyeballs and various cookies and tracking mechanisms mean that these days that ads appear either in a story that is tied to the industry, in this case, oil and gas, or  tied to the viewers’ web history.

In all the years I worked in television news, there were always protocols for pulling suddenly and unexpectedly inappropriate ads from a local, network or cable newscast  when there was “breaking news.”

It’s a lot harder to do that for a web ad, but it can be done. It may that with Enbridge spending millions of dollars on ads, management was reluctant to stop the campaign cold.  But ads can e pulled. The fact the ads are running on the second day of the spill raises again the question of Enbridge’s managerial competence. After all, the American Petroleum Institute, the lobby group for the American energy industry, immediately stopped all pro-drilling ads within hours of realizing that the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico was a major incident.

(Note this site has no control over the Google ads which appear, which are even more than most ads, are tied to Google’s tracking of an individual’s viewing habits as well as the content of the story.  Major banner ads, like Enbridge’s, however, are usually booked through web ad agencies and can be pulled by clicking a mouse.)

And yes, when I checked the facts on the ad campaign, finding a story from May 30, in the Calgary Herald, the Enbridge ad was there as well.

In the story, picked up from the Vancouver Sun,  Enbridge spokesman Paul Stanway was quoted:

“You are going to see a much higher visibility for Enbridge over the next few days. In newspapers, in television and online,” said Paul Stanway, manager of Northern Gateway communications for Enbridge. “It’s become quite apparent that the debate has become a province wide issue.”

Calgary Herald web page with Enbridge ad

Note, due to those algorithms, if you click on the original pages, you may or may not see the Enbridge ads, just I didn’t see the ones earlier today that were linked to from Twitter.

How Kitimat harbour will look if both Northern Gateway and KM LNG go ahead


Detail of a map filed by Enbridge Northern Gateway with the Joint Review Panel showing the foot print of the proposed bitumen terminal and the LNG terminal.  The proposed BC LNG terminal would add a third terminal at North Cove (green text on this map)

A recent filing by the Enbridge Northern Gateway project with the Joint Review Panel shows just what Kitimat harbour and the service area will look like if the liquified natural gas projects go ahead and so does the Northern Gateway.

Three maps show areas where the two pipelines follow the same routes and where they diverge beginning just east of the service centre.  (Larger versions of maps pop up if you click your mouse)

532-EnbridgeLNG4-thumb-500x268-531.jpgIn this map, the Enbridge pipeline is yellow with a black outline, the LNG pipeline is red. Where there are yellow and red alternating squares, that means the two pipelines will follow the same route. Solid orange lines are paved roads,broken orange lines are unpaved roads and the green lines are power lines.

535-EnbridgeLNG3-thumb-500x265-534.jpgJust before the pipelines reach the service centre, they diverge, the yellow Enbridge pipeline following the road route around the periphery of the service centre, while the gas pipeline at first follows the route of the Pacific Trails Pipeline and then snakes off at the hydro substation.  The two pipelines then run parallel just off Haisla Boulevard across from the Rio Tinto Alcan plant. The green line beside the two pipelines marks a hydro line that would be build to power the facilities.

538-EnbridgeLNG2-thumb-500x265-537.jpgThe final map shows the Enbridge pipeline coming into the bitumen/condensate terminal with its large footprint, while the natural gas pipeline continues, crosses Bish Creek and then enters the Bish Cove KM LNG terminal.  If the BC LNG terminal is built at North Cove, just west of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway facility, a branch pipeline would go from the main gas pipeline down to that facility. (There were indications at the June NEB hearings that negotiations were under way on “sharing” gas “molecules” between the two groups).

541-EnbridgeLNG5-thumb-500x447-540.jpgFootprint of the Enbridge Northern Gateway plant.

Enbridge photo maps showing Northern Gateway and LNG routes in pdf format

Salmons’ extra large guts are a survival tactic

Coho salmon Based on the drawing from Silver o...

Image via Wikipedia

Environment Fishery Science

Salmon have extra large guts–up to three times larger than its body would suggest–that help it survive, scientists at the University of Washington say.   

The study “Excess digestive capacity in predators reflects a life of feast and famine”   is published in Nature.

A news release from the university calls the large gut a “previously unrecognized survival tactic.” Although fishers who gut a salmon may say that no one noticed how big the gut actually was as they threw it away, the same apparently applied to scientists as the article states:  “Despite …basic principle of quantitative evolutionary design, estimates of digestive load capacity ratios in wild animals are virtually non-existent.”

The study is by PhD student  Jonathan “Jonny” Armstrong, originally from  Ashland, Ore, who says he has been fascinated by salmon ever since he saw a Chinook leap out of the water when he was ten.

The study says that when the “foraging opportunities for animals are unpredictable, which should favour animals that maintain a capacity for food-processing that exceeds average levels of consumption (loads), The study  that piscine  [fish] predators typically maintain the physiological capacity to feed at daily rates two to three times higher than what they experience on average…”

“This much excess capacity suggests predator-prey encounters are far patchier – or random – than assumed in biology and that binge-feeding enables predators to survive despite regular periods of famine,” Armstrong said. Co-author and supervisor on the paper is Daniel Schindler, University of  Washington  professor of aquatic and fishery sciences.

“Guts are really expensive organs in terms of metabolism,” Armstrong said. For instance, maintaining a gut can require 30 to 40 per cent of the blood pumped by an animal’s heart.

Some animals have some capacity to grow or shrink their guts in response to changing conditions. For example, according to previous studies,  the digestive organs of birds that are about to migrate expand so they can eat more and fatten up. This is followed by a period when their guts atrophy and then, freed of the baggage of heavy guts, the birds take off. But this study shows  that many fish species maintain a huge gut, which enables them to capitalize on unpredictable pulses of food.

Ravens and crows, for example, are known to cache food far from where they find it. Fish can’t do that. “Unlike some other animals, fish can’t just hoard their food behind a rock in the stream and eat it later. They need to binge during the good times so that they can grow and build energy reserves to survive the bad times,” Armstrong says.

Armstrong is part of the university’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences  which has a field site at the Alaska Salmon Program’s Lake Aleknagik. Using a dry suit, Armstrong snorkeled the Aleknagik tributaries, swimming in waters as low as 5°C where he found out  the Aleknagik streams exhibited tremendous variation in water temperature, which inspired him to study how those temperatures affected the ecology of the streams.

In his initial studies, he looked at the effect of water temperature on juvenile coho’s ability to consume sockeye eggs. He says, “In cold streams, juvenile coho salmon were too small to fit the abundant sockeye eggs in their mouths. In warmer streams, the coho grew large enough to consume eggs, gorged themselves, and achieved rapid growth, and this suggested that small changes in temperature can have disproportionate affects on coho salmon production.”

 The “previously unrecognized survival tactic”  might apply to other top predators, such as wolves, lions and bears,  Armstrong says.

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