|No hatcheries, no salmon
You cannot fix a car unless you admit what's really wrong with it.
OMED: With the recent announcement that because the stocks are at record lows, our coastal waters will be shut down for commercial bottomfishing in September, the last nail is halfway hammered into the coffin lid of Oregon's inshore fishing industry. Salmon are just about the last hope for this ancient, honorable and local profession. (Illus: Lingcod)
What you're about to read
has to do with the destruction and potential salvation of a billion dollar
industry in the Pacific NW. Perhaps
the most profitable one we've had from a production cost vs. profit standpoint.
The dirty little state budget secret
The governor of Oregon, John Kitzhaber, recently announced that one of the things he is going to do to make up for the coming budget shortfall, is cut Oregon's hatchery program. Four major facilities will be shut down.
There is no budget shortfall in Oregon. The hatcheries don't have
to be shut down. The proposed Republican budget for the next biennium
(two year period) is two billion dollars more than the budget for
the last biennium. Would you have to cut expenditures if you got
a two billion dollar raise?
Why do we need those four hatcheries?
Have salmon forgotten how to have sex? Where did all the salmon go? I hear the runs are big these days. Don't the seals eat all the salmon? Why don't they just farm salmon like they do wheat?
Two hundred years ago, the streams, rivers, bays and inshore
waters of Oregon had so many salmon in them that you didn't need bridges.
If you were good at walking on slippery things, you could cross on the
backs of the salmon. The salmon season was any time they were around.
The bag limit was as many as you could lift to carry home.
Well, you say, it's El Nino, and Asian fishing fleets and
Sea Lions. And the damned Indians stretch nets across the creeks.
We had nothing to do with it.
Here's something you didn't know.
See for yourself. Look at the feature articles.
Tree Farmer Magazine
talks of their profession as though it was forestry. It isn't. Their
quite logical and human goal is to provide "practical how-to and hands-on
information you can use to get the most out of your woodlands." .Is
a farmer interested in "Timing and use of fertilizer?" Of course
he is. Does a farmer care about "Eliminating destructive forest insects?"
Of course he does. The problem with those two items, from a wild
fish standpoint, is that salmonids didn't evolve in artifically fertilized
streams, and they eat insects for a living.
The photo at the left is a link to its source -- the
Happy Valley tree farm, where according to the owners, "the closer the
trees grow to each other, the less canopy each tree will have. As the trees
sprout upward, their lower limbs will fall off, called self-pruning. The
Udells will cut out the dominant tree in each group, in what they call
"top thinning," leaving the rest to mature."
Now look at the photo to the right. Different kinds of trees, broken standing trunks that support insect life, deep shade for the fallen dead trees, moss, bushes and ferns that store and release clean water to nearby streams like a reservoir. That is a forest.
I will not here go into the technical reasons why agriculture killed the wild salmon runs -- other than to say that it did, and that it is easy to prove..In fact, I'll prove it with one sentence. It we packed up and left, in 20 years the woods would look like the photo on the right, and the wild fish would be back. (Somewhere inside, you know that's true. You've seen national parks. You've seen television programs about Alaska. You know the difference between a wilderness and a farm. You may be many things, but you're not stupid.)
Things used to be one way, and there were lots of wild fish. We came and changed things, and now there are hardly any wild fish. Many people think it was the dams that killed all the wild runs. The problem with that line of reasoning is that rivers that are not dammed are also almost empty of wild fish -- even local wild fish, like trout. You hardly ever see Asian fishing fleets, ocean conditions or Sea Lions on the East Fork of Dairy Creek, which is where I live. The wild trout population, the coastal cutthroat, is barely hanging on. The owners of the nurseries, farms, private residences and summer cabins along this creek constantly modify the streambed and banks, and remove natural bank foliage and trees that fall into the creek. That ain't how a stream works, and is the reason why the fish aren't there. There isn't an Indian in sight, folks. The residents of this valley are all white, just like me.
The salmon were here in abundance before we
got here. We came to farm. The salmon are gone because we changed
all the forests into farms. When you change things, things change.
I'm not saying we shouldn't have come and I'm not saying we should turn
the place back into a giant national park. What I am saying is that
we should face the truth. You cannot fix a car if you refuse to admit what's
really wrong with it.
Hatcheries are salmon farms. (We're damn good at farming.)
In the opinion of those who are in charge of this
publication, if $500 million in federal funds can be set aside to subsidize
farmers of the Klamath Basin (and that's exactly what the new farm
bill does), then $100 million must be set aside for the other farms in
Oregon. The ones that grow salmon.
It's simple, folks.
It ain't the same as wild rivers full of bright fish,
and it does come with a risk of mass fishkills by way of diseases.
The fish farms of northern Europe, Scotland and Scandinavia lost billions
of dollars worth of salmon last year from just such a sudden plague.
But, they didn't lose all of their fish, and are rebuilding their stocks,
again. In the final analysis it's a lot better than no fish at all
-- and that's what we're going to get if we close those hatcheries.
The guy down there on the coast whose boat is tied
to the dock has a right to make a living, too. He's been left out
of the equation for decades.
ADDRESS TO THE NATIVE FISH SOCIETY
© 2002 Oregon Magazine. Images are links to their source. Trout illus by OMED PhotoIllustration, "money field) by Kim Lamb of the Wallowa County Chieftain (C) 2001
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