PAT NEAL: Fish, orca and humans all doomed

WHEN I’M WRONG I’m wrong and I ain’t ashamed to admit it.

I used to think there was not one single living politician in America that gave a flying hoot about our salmon.

Sure, they’d say they’re going to do something about our endangered salmon when they’re running for election but once they got into office the money, power and the lack of term limits make our public servants forget who they work for.

Maybe that’s because our salmon and the rivers that produce them are worth more dead than alive to the myriad corrupt bureaucracies that mismanage our natural resources.

Fortunes have been made with the extinction of the North American bison.

Similarly, the “extinction for profit” business plan has worked equally well for our salmon.

With the invention of the Endangered Species Act our salmon are worth far more money as endangered species than as a high protein food source available to anyone with a fishing license.

Billions have been spent restoring fish habitat.

Our fishing regulations have become so complex in an effort to restrict fishing that many people have simply quit fishing in protest.

In spite of these measures our salmon populations continue to dwindle.

Meanwhile other countries that had no salmon such as New Zealand, Chili and Argentina have taken salmon eggs from our hatcheries and created world class fisheries in their rivers just like Washington used to be famous for.

In fact, you could not design a system more perfectly designed for the extinction of the salmon and our heritage of salmon fishing than is currently employed here in Washington.

The 10-year Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan is a prime example.

Somehow in an era of government transparency and public involvement this plan was secretly negotiated between the director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and 17 Treaty Tribes of Puget Sound then submitted to NOAA for approval without any input from the Fish and Wildlife Commission, advisory committees, public comments or explanation of how it’s expected to further restrict or eliminate Puget Sound salmon fisheries for the next decade.

Meanwhile, as our salmon continue to disappear, we protect the predators, the birds, seals, sea lions and the bull trout that are estimated to eat more salmon than the orcas and humans combined.

We’ve eliminated many of the fish hatcheries that could mitigate dams, habitat loss and over-fishing on the bogus claim that hatchery fish negatively impact naturally spawning fish.

Then there is our practice of dumping into Puget Sound every year thousands of tons of a chemical stew whose ingredients include but are not limited to sewage, drugs, pesticides, herbicides, personal care products and chemicals while ignoring the impacts on fish, orcas and humans.

All of which has convinced me our fish, orcas and humans are doomed.

Then I saw a paid advertisement in the paper last Friday asking Sen. Patty Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee to remove the Snake River Dams to bring back the salmon that would save the orcas from starvation.

It was so incredibly amazing to think that politicians would want to help the salmon to save the orcas from starvation, I almost didn’t notice there was no mention of the humans that depend on salmon for food.

That’s OK, I would support breaching every dam in the state of Washington if it would bring back the salmon, but it won’t.

Just look at the rivers with no dams that have no fish.

Until these same politicians can restore salmon on pristine rivers how can we trust them to restore the fish on rivers that have been dammed?


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal [email protected]

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