I grew up in Alaska where we fished for sockeye, coho and chinook salmon. I know the difference when trying to land each and prefer the of flavor of chinook and coho to sockeye.
But discussion on salmon flavor sugguests one species of salmon may be more valuable than another. Are we capable of making such decisions and accurately calculating the broad contributions a species makes, or losses suffered if that species dies off?
But this discussion misses an important factor - salmon have a life cycle of 4 or 5 years. Thus when a salmon species has a low population in a particular year that species may not rebound to stronger numbers 4 years from now unless action is taken today.
Speaking of fish marketing techniques, it blows my mind that people are all the sudden buying Tilapia, and it is showing up in restaurant menus like it's the next best thing. The agriculture (FFA) teacher at my high school raised these fish in aquariums in the green house, and it's the same fish that they are trying to get people to raise in 3rd world countries for a cheap food supply. I won't eat the thing.
800 fish as a record number? A few years ago Bonneville Power had an ad in The Oregonian that said around 1900 the total Columbia salmon runs were approximately 300,000,000, or three hundred million. 800 is good news but still a pitifully small amount.
I think Tom Ford's numbers are at least a magnitude off. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council estimated a Columbia River run size at Bonneville of 11 to 16 million fish. As I recall, that number is now down to around 2.5 million fish. Perhaps, Mr. Ford is talking about total run size including the lower river but the number still seems too high.
Those are not my numbers.
The numbers were provided by the Bonneville Power Administration in a newspaper ad I believe sometime in the mid 1990s. I don't know if that is available to search at The Oregonian or at the Bonneville Power Administration. I would think that the BPA would have records of their past advertising and the information used to compile their numbers.
I kept that ad for awhile because the numbers are so astounding but I no longer have it.
I wonder if BPA would be willing to talk about their numbers and where they got them.
Remember, 1900 was pretty early in the development of the fisheries and canneries.
I emailed Mr. Doug Johnson at the BPA Newsroom about that number:
Hi Mr. Johnson:
Today I was listening to a Think Out Loud program on OPB titled "Fishing for Clarity", and I posted on their website that I had seen a BPA ad in The Oregonian back in the mid 1990s (if I recall the date correctly) in which the BPA said that around the year 1900 the Columbia River salmon runs totalled around 300,000,000, or three hundred million fish. I was challenged on those numbers. I had saved that ad for some years because the numbers are so astounding compared to the present but I no longer have it.
So my questions to you are; does the BPA have records of old media ads and can you email OPB: Think Out Loud and I a copy of that one or provide a website location of it; is it possible to find out where and how the BPA came up with those numbers, and have those numbers been updated and how and why and because of what sources?
Mr. Johnsons reply:
"Mr. Ford, according to one of our employees who has been here a very
long time, 300 million seems unlikely. The The Northwest Power and
Conservation Council's oft-quoted figure is to return to the storied
pre-Columbian runs estimated at 10 million to 16 million fish. The
10-16 million number is in all sorts of documents, for example, the
paragraph from the executive summary of the (current) 2000 Council Fish
and Wildlife Program, below:
"Beginning in the late 1800s and increasing from the 1930s on, there was
a large decline of salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River and its
tributaries, from an estimated peak of 10-16 million adult fish
returning to the basin each year to about 1 million in recent years.
While loss of habitat, harvest, and variable ocean conditions have all
contributed to this decline, it is estimated that the portion of the
decline attributable to the construction and operation of hydroelectric
dams in the Columbia River Basin is, on average, about 5 million to
about 11 million adult fish. Hydroelectric dams also adversely affected
resident fish and wildlife in the basin."
Whether the runs were ever as high as 10 to 16 million is unknown, but
I've certainly never heard anyone claim they were higher than that.
As for the ad, we have no recollection or a copy of it. So, I think
your next stop should be the link above. Please let us know if you need
Bonneville Power Administration"
And my reply:
Thanks for your reply, that council report was quoted at the TOL website to challenge the number I thought I had remembered and now it looks like I might have misremembered. I also emailed The Oregonian about that ad but I have not heard back yet. And of course even if they find a copy, the three hundred million number could have been a typo. I'll likely just eat my words on this.
Thanks for your time and efforts;
Tom D Ford"
So it looks like I was wrong. Sorry about that.
I also emailed the Oregonian advertising dept. asking for help in finding a copy of that ad.
As a life-long sports fisherman, I learned many years ago that "the fishing is always good, but the catching is sometimes slow." We paid $800/day in March and again in April to try for Spring Chinook on the Columbia. We were skunked on the first outing and netted two on the second. I had given up on landing a "Springer" this year, but fish never cease to amaze me...
I ended up landing several Springers in June -- theoretically long past their return window. Local lore says the Springers were late this year due to high snow pack...
But the bottom line is that nobody, even our dedicated NOAA and DFW biologists, are still making educated guesses on the size, health, and timing of all salmon runs.
Although millions of dollars of effort have been spent on recovering Snake River Sockeye salmon, the states of Washington and Oregon, called for a commercial gillnet season on these sockeye below Bonneville.
Pretty incredible that at the first hint of recovery the states allow a directed harvest. When there's ONLY 800 fish returning to Idaho, every single one matters. There is no surplus.
I wonder how the gentleman from Idaho feels about that below Bonneville commercial gillnet season?
I wonder if the OPB host knows this?
Here is some clarity for you. The arrogance that leads humans to "manage nature" is shear folly. Counting any species is very sad. Long gone are the day when there were too many (of any species) to count.
Lost cause my friends.
It seems to me that nature, over billions of years of changes and evolution has in essence conducted natural scientific experiments to achieve a dynamic balance between all species, and so when mankind contemplates changing anything in/of nature mankind ought to sit down on our collective butts and just study for however long it takes, what nature has already accomplished.
Mankind is really just a dilettante in learning about nature and what nature has managed to do and we ought to be very careful about trying anything different.
We could learn from "civilizations" in history but will we?
Ocean conditions vary, sometimes considerably, from year to year. Chinook usually spend from 2 to 4 years in the ocean while I read that sockeye usually spend from 1 to 2 years in the ocean. So the large sockeye returns this year are the result of smolts that went into the ocean in a different year than the smollts for this years chinook run. If they went into the ocean in a different year, then they encountered different ocean conditions. That may be a singificant part of the answer to your question of what is going on with "salmon".
Your guest mentions that the hatchery production of sockeye has increased, I'm pretty sure the hatchery production in Oregon of chinook and coho has decreased from 20 some years ago when large numbers of salmon were being caught.
I'm glad that this guest acknowledged the elephant in the room, that the dams are allowed to "take" or kill around 90% of the fish.
Are divisions among user groups like non-fishing environmentalists, sport fisherman, tribal fisherman, and commercial fisherman hurting the overall recovery of poplutions by fighting among each other instead of working together for a common goal of more fish
Apparently despite homework, your team keeps getting it wrong. The so-called lesser species sometimes known as dog salmon (not dogfish, a kind of small shark) is called chum, not "chub" salmon. They also happen to be the most endangered and least common of all species in the Columbia River.
Now, all Pacific salmon species are of equal biological value. Let's remove the commercial or sportcfishing nterests. (And the importance, culturally and biologically, to all native peoples of this region is another story all together.) They all fulfill an equally valuable ecological niche, in our river systems, in the ocean...and on land. Maybe one of your smart interns will google "salmon forest" and learn something about the amazing role that salmon protein, fat and other compounds have historically played in all the forests and soils that are within the watersheds of the rivers & creeks of the Pacific NW, of "Salmon Nation"...in addition to the biology of the waters, in terms of invertebrates, water plants, and of course the vertical layer of predators in the water and on shore (and in the air). Now, there is a meaningful discussion for you to consider.
As usual in these kind of discussions -- about what happened to the natural wealth of the Northwest, poor us! -- we dance around the source of the problem: We overused, overfished, overlogged, overbuilt, overplowed, overdammed the entire region. Salmon habitat was continuous from ocean to the smallest springs in the natural forests far up into the mountains and on into Idaho and British Columbia. Most of those forests have been logged, and agricultural uses wiped out the rest. Don't forget also we dammed the entire upper Columbia with Grand Coulee in the 1930s --- basically murdering the largest salmon run! Even blaming everything on the ocean is now blaming ourselves, since our own OSU oceanographers have been showing fish and seabird problems are often tied to rising atmospheric temperatures from human causes. We did this, and now we have to live with it. If we really care, with more knowledge available today, we can try to back off some of these destructive ways of living and working. I recommend this book: Salmon Without Rivers - Jim Lichatowich
Not only should we back off our destructive ways, but can we unwind some of the destruction? Can we take out the dams, control human populations, all those things needed to restore some semblance of balance?
Because nature will do it if we won't, and nature has a history of eliminating self destructive species like mankind, remember, nature bats last!
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