I've about given up reading the local newspaper, The Sun,
Bremerton WA., which is according to it's banner, "Serving West Sound".
The truth is, it doesn't. We only get this paper on Sunday, and only because
it does have most of the television listing. Most? Well, it doesn't bother to
carry Fox News.
Since the The Sun seems to be aggressively liberal,
I suppose I should not have been surprised at the two front page features
today. "Gorton's dam fight escalates" and "Salmon meeting shows county
where it needs to bone up."
Those of you on the east coast are probably
aware of the ordered removal, (and photos of Secretary of Interior
Bruce Babbitt there,) of the Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River
in Augusta Maine. A move cheered by the locals, and supporters
of increasing fish populations by removing barriers to the upstream
Believe it or not, the order to remove the
Edwards Dam, about the furthest one can physically
get from the Northwest corner of Washington state and still be
in the lower 48, has now impacted the removal of a dam in
One of the senators from Washington, Slade Gorton, (who just
happens to be chairman of the interior subcommittee of the Senate
Appropriations Committee,) tried to hold up the Interior Dept for a
'guarantee' that the Federal Government would not step in and force the
removal of other "private" (meaning not federal) dams. His tactics
didn't work, so he stopped the funding of a dam removal already
approved by the whole congress. One wanted by the
locals and state. Nice job Slade! That is not win-lose....that's
lose - lose.
What the hae. Story two. Seems a meeting was held last week, with
"a dozen scientists, volunteers and government officials" to find ways
for local residents to live here without ruining the streams and shorelines.
Gee, anyone hear of the Clean Water Act? Or the Shoreline Protection Act?
Or the ton of city, county, state and fed regulations already in place? One
of the so-called bad examples mentioned was a cut-and-trimmed lawn that
abutted a stream. Current regulations do require set-backs, and rightly so.
Properties existing prior to those regulations were exempt. Why not
enforce laws already in place?
Big deal. Yes, streams do need woody debris and vegetation. They need
shade and proper gravel conditions for spawning. But . . .
It does not matter what wonderful conditions are present, how fine
the water flow and clarity if the fish are destroyed by over fishing.
And the local paper can posture and moan all they want - it's their ink
after all, but the truth will be heard.
The truth is Salmon, all Salmon in the Northwest are
And what is being done? Bloody little.
One of the groups mentioned in the article was Hood Canal
Salmon Enhancement. A group of private citizens with remote site incubators
(RSI) on many small streams feeding Hood Canal, trying to increase the salmon
It looks like even the lowly chum salmon is like to be
listed as an "threatened species" next
year. That doesn't surprise me at all.
Here's why. For five years, JC and I, with the
help of some local residents stocked and maintained one of those RSI's.
It was hard work. Through high water, floods, silt, snowfalls, broken
water lines....we prevailed and each year, some 100,000 or more
chum salmon swam to sea. Over half a million fish.
Last year the first batch of chum salmon should have returned
to our little creek. JC and I were thrilled one morning mid-fall to receive a
phone call from the beach caretaker. We had returning fish! We dressed to
hike the stream, and sure enough there were fish. But we couldn't identify them.
Part of the reason we couldn't identify them was their size. A mature chum
salmon is 10 to 30 pounds. And have very identifiable side markings. These
fish very obviously were not chum. They looked like salmon but were maybe
14 inches long, and maybe weighed two pounds. We had never seen any
mature spawning salmon of that size.
It took catching one carefully with a hand trout net, getting
several photos of it, sending the photos to the state Fisheries Dept. to find
out what they were. Turns out they were coho, or silvers as they are called here.
We counted a total of eight. The fisheries guys figured they got lost, should
have been homing in several miles across the Canal.
Why the small size? They were the only fish that could
get through the mesh maze of gill nets directly off the mouth of the creek.
And the chum we planted? Out of the 100,000 nurtured and released
not one returned.
After that experience last year, the RSI was shut down.
No salmon were released in our creek this year. But off the mouth of the
creek this week, there were 6 gill net boats with their nets out. This in
exactly the place that "probably will be listed by the federal government
as a threatened species."
So what's the answer? It has to stop. Maybe
the only way to get the job done is for ALL fishing of salmon to STOP!
Commercial netting, of course, and all other fishing as well. That
includes the sports and fly fishing. And all tribal fishing. It has
Only then will there be an opportunity to see
what else must be done. But as long as the salmon are still fished,
we don't stand a chance.
~ Deanna Birkholm