Coastal Salmon & Steelhead Primer on October 22nd

Please join me for a discussion of the salmon and steelhead in coastal rivers from the Necanicum to Elk River on Saturay, October 22nd.
Please join me for a discussion of the salmon and steelhead in coastal rivers from the Necanicum to Elk River on Saturday, October 22nd.

I’ll be at the Caddis Fly Shop on Saturday from noon – 2 PM to present a status report on 7 species of anadromous salmonids – with emphasis on spring and fall chinook, summer and winter steelhead, and coho salmon. I’ll also speak to chum salmon and coastal cutthroat.

My baseline will be graphics that are shown in the recently (2015) Coastal Multispecies Salmonid Conservation and Management plan.

Some of the graphics in this executive summary provide a great basis to discuss the status and trends in our salmon and steelhead populations on the coast from the Necanicum to Elk River on the south coast.

How many of you presently have a good idea regarding the hatchery vs. wild ratio for each species of hatchery and wild salmon and steelhead on the coast, by river and overall?

How many of you presently have a good idea regarding the trends in number of hatchery smolts released by species over the last 40 or so years?

How many know how the abundance of wild coho, chinook, and steelhead compare on the coast and in individual rivers?

These topics and more will be some of the key questions I’ll try to address on Saturday.

The Multi-species Coastal plan is unique — but I’m pretty sure that the underlying status and trends in these species are not at the forefront of most angler’s thinking.

Well, how can we pretend to be conservation minded when we don’t pay attention to the fish that we pursue, the same fish that ODFW is managing through the Multi-species plan?

I invite you to join me on Saturday, I’ll do my best to share what I know, and what I do not know, about these marvelous salmon and steelhead.

Jay Nicholas

PS: I’ll be using the same graphics I used at Royal Treatment Fly Shop last Saturday, but I’ve re-ordered the graphics and each of my presentations (being spontaneous) will have a slightly different emphasis. Want to question the impact of hatchery fish in our coastal rivers? This is a good place to have the discussion.

Reflections on being a Fish Biologist

Memo to Jim LIchatowich, dated May 5, 1980.
Memo to Jim LIchatowich, dated May 5, 1980.

Good Morning to my friends, followers,  and those seeking solace or wisdom browsing the Internet this fine day.

I wanted to share a Memo from the very small file of work related items I have saved over a lifetime career as a fisheries scientist.  I’m not the nostalgic type, not entirely so anyway, but I have saved a very few items and may share a few more in the future.  Most of what passes across our desks is junk not worth saving anyway, but this is one I’m really glad I still have.

My friend Jim Lichatowich sent this memo to me in 1980, shortly after he had received it from an anonymous person, thinking Iwas the original writer (creator?) of said memo.  This would indeed have been consistent with my behavior, but honestly, I don’t remember now If I crafted the memo or not.  I wish I had, because I love it.  But I’m not certain.  It could have been any of several people who worked in the Research Section of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife like Reg Reisenbichler, Dan Bottom, Pete Lawson, and there were others of similar intellect and spirit capable of this genius.  If anyone knows, I’d sure like to know, because I’m not comfortable claiming the idea for this memo for my own, as much as I admire the thought.

For those who are faint of eye, I’ll re-write the memo here.

I share this memo, and reflect on it regularly, because it has a ring of truth that resonates for me still.  I believe that we know quite enough to make choices and take management actions that will be good for the future of wild and hatchery Pacific Salmon.  I think we still stand a good opportunity to secure a future where salmon and people thrive.  This is probably getting to be a too-much used phrase on my part, but it’s the best I can do. I’m tired of hearing fishery biologists implying that if only we had more data, better monitoring, and the like, well then of course we would have the clear answers that are needed to make good decisions.

Sigh.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Date:  May 5, 1980

To:  Jim Lichatowich (Pretty sure Jim was Research section Chief back then)

From: Genesis

Subject: Creation

In the beginning God created black boxes and fishery biologists.  And tho’ there was light, fishery biologists were kept in the dark. And it was good.

And God created salmon so they could swim into and out of black boxes and confuse fishery biologists.  So the biologists fin clipped and tagged and released many slam into black boxes, and when they emerged on the other side revered them and cut off their snouts and took off their scales.  And the fishery biologists remained in the dark.  And it was good.

And God created interest groups to inspire the fishery biologists.  So the biologists clipped more fins and cut more snouts and took more scales and released many times more salmon and worked up a furious sweat in the darkness.  And it was good.

And God also created oceanographers, limnologists, ecologists, and other deviants and outfitted them with penlights to look int the darkness.  the batteries were very weak.  Ad they crept through the darkness and occasionally saw a flicker from their tiny lights.  And what they saw was very conflicted and humbling. And the lights were very weak.  And sometimes they only thought they saw.

And the fishery biologists’ eyes were very sensitive to the light so they put on their sunglasses.  And they clipped fins and cut snouts, and took scales and released many more salmon.  And it was dark.

________________________________________________________________________

May your day be bright and sunny.

Jay Nicholas, June 25, 2015

Life in the Nestucca River, April 2015

Wild Juvenile Chinook in Nestucca River during April, 2015.
Wild Juvenile Chinook in Nestucca River during April, 2015.

Much of the time when we are fishing our focus is very narrow.  Sometimes, it is startling to see what is going on in our coastal rivers.  The photo above, not so very good an image, taken with cell phone last week, shows (I think) a dozen juvenile chinook salmon suspended in a little pool at the river’s edge.

The Nestucca and all of our coastal rivers are alive right now with these tiny little salmon, and soon the coho and steelhead fry will join them as they continue to emerge from the gravels.  To be sure, there could be a few steelhead fry out already but I’m pretty sure that most of these little fish were chinook, but of course I can’t be sure.

Just wanted to share this image and the thought, in hopes that our rivers may  always support vigorous runs of wild salmon, trout, and steelhead. Let’s hope that those who follow us in fifty and a hundred years see as many (or more) little fish in the rivers as I did just recently.

I noticed a steelhead carcass in the water near the Three Rivers boat ramp. I expected that crawfish would be picking on the meat at night, but I was surprised to see a cloud of Chinook salmon fry hovering above the carcass with little fish picking at the meat. This is not something I expected from juvenile chinook here in Oregon, and I was really pleased to be able to see it first hand.

If you are a salmon conservation advocate, student of the historical record of salmon conservation, or simply a person passionate about the future of wild Pacific Salmon, you might find Conversation With A Salmon of interest.

JWN

Not Dead Yet

Jay Nicholas Dec 2014 selfie on river

That’s right folks, I’m still here; just been busy as all get-out and fishing my tail-off, and tying flies, and writing, and – get this –  publishing some books.  Not real fancy official books like you would get in the media commercialized press, but straight from the head to the heart, to the hand,  to the book, with little editing in between to sanitize the content and ensure that it is in tune with whatever convention in style in the fly fishing industry military industrial complex this moment.

Books?  Yes indeed books.  In fact I have just published five books related to fly fishing via Create Space and these are available on Amazon as both print and Kindle e-Books.

Five down, one to go in the next two weeks and two to follow shortly in January and more in 2015 should good fortune and the luck of the draw allow.

Here are the five book titles published so far:

Jay Nicholas Fly Fishing Book of Revelation

Fly Fishing Book of Revelation: the Ultimate, Irreverent, Illustrated Fly Fishing Glossary – this is a 340 + page spectacular coffee table book that takes on the definitions and legacy of over fourteen hundred give or take a few words, terms, phrases, and concepts related in some manner to fishing and fly fishing in specifically.  You will laugh, cry, burp, and roll your eyes as you read this book. Forewords by Misha Skopets and Randy Stetzer will hypnotize you into purchasing this book and that will be the beginning of the end. As with many of my books, there is an element of memoir to this one, and although this is featured as a fly fishing glossary, there are many elements of lure, bait and catfish noodling techniques referenced along with notations as to the ethics of fishing beads, jigs, center pin reels, and bobbers while pretending to fly fish ha ha. Are you an anger?  You’ll love this book.  Do you work with an angler, date an angler, are you married to an angler, is a parent or child an angler?  You’ll find insight to the inner workings of said angler’s mushy brains in this bold tome. Apologies in advance to any person, product, or angling practice that I may seemingly have offended ‘tween the pages of Book of Revelation.

Jay Nicholas Super Flies B:W edition

Super Flies: this is a 6×9″ black and white book featuring a genuine authentic Nicholas sketch of the 52 greatest trout flies, steelhead flies, salmon flies, sea-run cutthroat flies, and half pounder flies ever in the entire world especially in the waters that I fished here in Oregon starting back in 1962 or whenever that was.  This is the artist edition of Super Flies. Foreword by Rich Youngers, Oregon FFF Fly Tyer of the Year in 2006.

Jay Nicholas Super Flies - Cplor

Super Flies – Color: I started with the text for the previously noted book, deleted part of the text, added new text, switched around a few flies, edited some of my childish word usage, and replaced the artist renditions of each fly with genuine and original Nicholas Macro Photographic  representations of the 52 flies.  Most of these flies pictured are fresh from the vise in 2014 BUT tied in vintage style on vintage half century old hooks like Eagle Claw 1197-B, 1197-G, and Mustad lord save us in this new day of fancy materials and hooks and threads.  Close to 150 color photos of flies, fish, tackle and a few people grace this full color large format book.  And if you fished with me years ago I may have told a story about our trip that reported me catching more and larger fish than anyone else and also related how I personally invented most of the good fly patterns out there and you are naturally free to believe any of my drivel or simply be entertained or write a review contesting my account of the events as may please you upon such reading.

Jay Nicholas Sea Flies book

Sea Flies: this little beauty has a ton of color photos of 24 saltwater flies that I have tied and fished offshore Pacific City Oregon in the last three seasons.  Well, actually only 23 of the 24 are tested on live fish but the 24th fly is so promising and unique that I just had to include it in this book because I am convinced that it will be a monster fish catcher in 2015.  Jack Harrell wrote the Foreword for this book and Jack is the experienced fly angler, friend, and mentor who first got me to sea to fly fish the mighty Pacific ocean three years ago.  This book features flies that are assuredly superior in their ability to draw bites from salmon, black rockfish, lingcod, and albacore tuna.  Short and to the point, the photos and fishing stories laced with a little about these fine fish will entertain angler and tyer who aspire to fish the salt or who wish to see what other crazy salty anglers are up to these days.

Jay Nicholas Tarpon Sketch

Sketch: This is an over two hundred page thriller that has little text but contains the best of my sketch collection drawn from images I created between maybe 2008 and 2014.  Factual and fantastical flies, fish, and fishing gear are all here with titles and minimalist text.

I am working on making these available at your local fly shops but so far any anxious reader may 1) order print or e-Book directly through Amazon, or 2) contact the Caddis Fly Shop because I’ll be there on the front end of a statewide tour (ha ha ha  ha) on Dec 12/13 and 19/20 to accept pre-orders and personalize books with signature, a chatty note, and a Nicholas vintage-style fly in a little sealed plastic bag that you can save for posterity or fish – your choice.

After a year and a half of this website being inactive, I have no idea if anyone will even find this new post, but if you do, stay tuned please, I hope to continue producing fresh original books as long as I’m able and I have several more in me.

But this is plenty for now, I’ll follow up with more on the next books to be published shortly.

Thanks so very much to all of my readers for your patience and support. These books mark a very important stage of my life, and it feels great to get them out for others to enjoy.

Jay Nicholas, December 9, 2014

Saving Salmon and People – In the Next Century

Image

The following is the chapter I contributed to the Salmon 2100 Project, edited by Robert Lackey, Denise Lach, and Sally Duncan.  The book was published in 2006 by the American Fisheries Society.  I recently received a request for this chapter from an individual professionally involved in salmon and steelhead management.  I wonder if he will think me a nut-case when he reads this.  Hummmmmm.

I re-read the chapter just this morning and, overall, my views have not changed much in the last six years since this was published.  Sadly, I have not seen much progress with respect to the suggestions I made in this chapter.

Tempus fugit.  Wikipedia tells us that this phrase, written thousands of years ago by the Roman poet Virgil, conveys the idea that “time flees irtetrievably, while we wander around, prisoners of our love of detail.”

I invite you to browse the chapter that follows, and see if you agree, or disagree, and decide if there are ways you can help save people and salmon or whether you even care.

JN, June 29, 2012

________________________

 

Saving Salmon – and People – in the Next Century[1]

Jay W. Nicholas

 Introduction

The invitation to contribute a chapter to this book was deceptively simple and ever-so enticing:  describe what must be done to ensure that significant, sustainable runs of wild salmon will persist in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and southern British Columbia) and California in 2100.  Be brutally honest, be candid, be clear, and speak from the heart in describing what must be done if society really wants wild salmon to persist.

OK.  Here goes.

I believe that the effort to sustain wild salmon in the region is as dependent on swaying public opinion as on science, law, management, or restoration.

Excuse me?

I actually believe that saving salmon (as something more than a museum piece) depends on emotion more than objectivity, on the heart more than the mind.  I believe that human society can choose to sustain wild salmon in much of the Pacific Northwest and California – or could choose not to sustain them.  It’s that simple.  The cost of saving salmon is likely to be significant (see Lackey Chapter 3).  The benefit is also likely to be great.

Is sustaining wild salmon the highest priority for the region?  Not at all.  Social issues like education, health care, crime, infrastructure maintenance, clean water to drink, food to eat, and employment certainly rank higher for most people than sustaining wild salmon.  These and other issues of high social and environmental importance will receive a large and well-deserved amount of attention, money, and effort.  Still, our society will continue to possess considerable discretionary resources available for other, more personal causes.  Save the whales.  Save the seals.  Save the redwoods.  Save the tweetie birds.  Why not save the wild salmon?  Why not save the forests, the fields, the estuaries, and the rivers – the sort-of wild places – that define the Pacific Northwest and California today?  Why not save the opportunity to breathe fresh air and see salmon leaping up rivers?  Why not?

I do not believe wild salmon will be abundant and thriving in all watersheds across the region in 2100.  Humans are planet changers.  Period.  The future that lies ahead for both salmon and people will be shaped by the magnitude of the human population and the sum of choices people make as the number of people in the region grows. I believe that the futures of salmon and people are intimately connected.  Our futures will be shaped by the global economy, and by global climate.  But our futures will also be shaped by the choices people make as we live our lives as individuals and as families in our local communities.

A future with 50 to 100 million people in the Pacific Northwest seems rather ominous to me.  I imagine a future that is not very safe for people or for salmon, a world of making do with environmental leftovers.  I can still imagine joy, beauty, purpose, opportunity, and choice.  I just imagine that options for both people and salmon will be much more limited than they are today.  This future will bring great challenges dealing with the basic human business of survival:  earning a living, finding a home, taking out the trash, eating supper, going to the doctor, getting to work and home at the end of the day, raising a family, educating the kids, going to the park, having some fun on days off from work, keeping crime rates tolerable, paying the doctor bills, paying to get the roads repaired, and so on.  All of these concerns will certainly exist in our children’s future, with or without wild salmon.  The future will surely make it harder and harder to find rivers that behave like rivers once did, to find quiet alongside streams, to find salmon lying in the pools or digging their nests in gravel bars.

Wild salmon depend on watersheds and oceans where they can live their lives.  The actions required to maintain healthy watersheds and oceans are often typecast as an exorbitant luxury that would only serve the needs of a tiny segment of human society.  I disagree. I believe that functionally healthy watersheds and oceans are actually essential to sustaining the earth’s ability to produce food to eat, wood for shelter, water to drink and irrigate crops, and air to breathe.

Well now, look at that.  We need what the salmon need.

Before I get started, I need to get something off my chest.

Just what makes salmon experts the final authority on what the future will bring anyway?  Remember, after all, that salmon experts have been acting like they were in charge and everything was under control since the late 1800s.  They wrote scientific papers, officiated, and pontificated while the salmon declined.  They told us we could have all the salmon we wanted from hatcheries.  They told us how we could have maximum sustained yield.  They explained in great detail how fish ladders and other new gizmos would make dams in the Columbia fish-friendly.  Hah!  Some of the salmon experts may know a lot about fish.  But they don’t know beans about what the world of 2100 will look like.

Sure, there are population trajectories, there are energy-consumption trajectories, there are water use trajectories, and there are crime trajectories, and human disease trajectories and earthquake trajectories.  Should we ignore these?  Nope. But we should not be paralyzed by these trajectories either.  We make choices, each and every one of us, choices that determine which trajectories will actually come to life.  Get the facts and make the choices.  The future is up to you, not just the salmon experts, to determine.

Setting the Stage to Consider Sustaining Wild Salmon

I had a conversation with my five-year-old son last summer.  We were sitting in our car, in a parking lot, taking a break from grocery shopping.  It was a hot day for Western Oregon.  We sat in the car and sipped cold drinks.

Son – Dada, will there ever be no people on earth?

Me – (Surprised at the seriousness of the question) Well, I suppose so.  Yes, eventually.

Son – When?

Me – A long, long time from now.

Son – While we are still alive?

Me – No.  Long after you and I are gone.  And after your children are gone.  Millions of years from now.

Son – Why would there be no people on earth?

Me – (Not wanting to talk about nuclear winter, asteroids, or other unpleasant possibilities) – The sun will eventually burn out and the earth will be a cold ball of ice.

Son – How could people still live here?

Me – They couldn’t.  Nothing could live here when the sun burns out.

Son – What would all the people do?

Me – (Not wanting to admit that the entire human race could just perish) – Well, they could build rocket ships and travel to another planet like earth and live there.

Son – How could the new planet be just like earth?

Me – It probably wouldn’t be just like earth.  But it would have oxygen and not be too hot or cold, and have water, and plants, and critters, and have food to eat, and places for people to live and for children to play.

Son – You know, Dada, if you were playing or fishing, a million years wouldn’t seem like a very long time.  (He knows me.)

Me – Yes, time passes very fast when you’re having fun playing or fishing.

We sat there for a while in silence.  Then he started again.

Son – Dada, will there ever be no salmon on earth?

Me – I don’t know.

Son – Could there ever be no salmon on earth?

Me – I don’t know.  I suppose so.

Son – Why would there be no salmon?

Me – Well, people could catch too many, or we could change the rivers so much that the salmon could not lay their eggs and have safe places to live in the streams before they go to the ocean.

Son – And litter and make culverts that block fish too?

Me – Yes.  That would be bad for the fish too.

Son – Dada, will salmon be here as long as people live on the earth?

Me – I don’t know.

Son – Will salmon be here as long as our family is alive?

Me – Yes.  I think so.

Son – Dada, is your job to help salmon stay healthy?

Me – Yes.  Yes it is.

Son – What should people do to keep salmon alive?

Me – Well, it’s complicated.

Son – But what should people do, Dada, please tell me.

So I told him, in words I thought a five year old would understand.  I told him in words that anyone would understand.  I tried to be accurate and fair.

Me – Don’t catch too many fish.  Don’t straighten the rivers too much.  Don’t block the streams with culverts the fish can’t swim through.  Don’t build dams that the fish can’t swim over.  Don’t take too much water out of the streams.  Don’t cut down all the trees along the streams.  Be really careful with putting hatchery fish into streams.  Don’t put too much mud or bad chemicals into the streams.  Don’t  . . . . . . . . . .

Son – Dada, can we go to a park and play now?

Me – Yes.  Of course we can.

We went to a park where there were trees for shade, but the conversation and Lackey’s annoying forecasts of salmon scenarios in 2100 continued to haunt me. I began to think about what I would say to my son if I thought he could understand the complexity of the world that I see.  My son knows that I am supposed to help save salmon.  He simply expected me to do my job.  My plea – well, it’s just so complicated – was not sufficient reason to avoid answering the question.

How would I answer if God asked my opinion?  What would I tell people if I thought they would listen and consider doing what I asked?  How could I plead to save wild salmon in a world that is becoming increasingly more complex socially and economically, where development pressures are growing day by day, where it seems that everyone wants the same resources that salmon need to survive?  How could I say what I believed without being branded as too radical, too weak, misguided, compromising, unrealistic, or just plain – you know – crazy?

The answer came to me, as they say, in a dream.  A salmon spoke to me:  a wise old chinook salmon.  She spoke to me of her fears and hopes for the future. Here is what she said.

Dreaming of Salmon

You come to me and ask what must be done to save salmon across the Pacific Northwest and California.  To ensure that salmon are sustainable as wild runs across the region in 2100.  You tell me that there will be millions more people here.  You tell me that humans will continue to worship money and manufactured things above natural things, above spiritual and cultural values.  You tell me that humans will not wish to share the streams, the forests, and the waters that sustain our young.  You tell me that humans are obsessed with concerns for their own prosperity, that they will have little regard for our prosperity, for our future.

All this talk makes me very sad.  This talk fills me with fear for the future of salmon.  And it fills me with fear for the future of your children.  You describe a future world that is dark for salmon and, I think, dark for your children as well.  Humans are great and powerful, yet you are not so wise as you pretend.  You depend on the earth, the sky, and the waters to sustain you, just as salmon do.  Yet I fear humans believe they have outgrown any need for the natural world.

Very well.  You ask what must be done.  I will answer to you.

I will try to speak for all salmon, but I remind you that we are still many species, many populations, in many rivers.  I ask my brothers and sisters to forgive me if my words are clumsy or if I am simply wrong.  Do not believe that I speak for God.  I can only tell you what I have come to believe, not knowing if this is right or just.  But hear me, at least, and consider my words.

First – your actions must enlist support for our cause.

You must speak gently and firmly to win over people who have misguided ideas about the effort to sustain wild salmon.  From time to time, you will hear humans talk about efforts to sustain wild salmon.   In the course of their conversation, they will make statements that are just plain wrong, or that are not fair, or that only tell one side of the story.  Here are three examples of short sighted or unfair statements that you must confront in a constructive manner.

1.  Huge sums of money are being spent on salmon recovery. Humans have extracted uncountable riches from the land, the waters, and the creatures that populated this region.  Our homes have sustained humans and bought you great prosperity. It is unfair to complain about money that is being spent to secure a future for salmon.  Remember, neither salmon nor humans can breathe, eat, or drink money.  It is time to pay back a small fraction of what you have taken to build a future that will benefit both people and salmon.

2.  Sustaining wild salmon requires draconian restriction of private rights.  Everyday human life involves innumerable restrictions on behavior.  Obey traffic laws, pay taxes, meet school requirements, stand in line to get tickets, pay for water from the tap, pay to flush the toilet, wear clothes, don’t use offensive language, don’t pick flowers in the park, don’t litter, don’t walk on the grass, stand behind the security line, submit your luggage for screening, buy a fishing license, meet the minimum building codes, don’t locate that industrial factory in this neighborhood, don’t dump that trash in the river – and on, and on, and on.

Humans, most of them, accept a vast set of restrictions on individual behavior and enjoy the rewards of the restrictions – a safer, more orderly, more predictable society, city, neighborhood, classroom, and workplace.  Humans obey the rules and restrictions that society has established.  Is it draconian to make someone pay taxes for the military even though they personally are not threatened with invasion by a foreign country?  Is it unfair for someone to pay taxes to support elementary education even though they do not have children?  The answer to each of these questions may be yes or no depending on the individual’s perspective.  The same may be said of restrictions that may be needed to sustain wild salmon in the face of an escalating human population; some may find them inappropriate, but it is not fair to refer to these restrictions, alone, as draconian.

3.  People’s lives would be no poorer if our Pacific Northwest and California rivers could no longer sustain wild salmon.  Look at the inner cities in the densest population centers of the world.  Look at the inevitable disparities between the few, the rich, the privileged and the multitude of impoverished souls that eke out their existence in high-density populations.  Are the predicted increases in human population really coming to the Pacific Northwest?  I can’t say.  Has human society been bold enough to tackle the population bomb issue?  No.  Would there be social and economic consequences to limiting human population growth?  Surely.

Today, you have scenic vistas of rivers, lakes, forests, farms, beaches – and you have wild salmon.  You have jobs and space to live, jobs and recreation, jobs and salmon. Salmon still swim through Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco.  Many people live here because there are still rivers, beaches, farms, forests, and salmon.  Don’t be so quick to dismiss the value people place on these intangibles.  Where are you going to go, where will your children go, if millions of people gobble up the clean air, rivers, forests, beaches, and salmon?  Alaska?  Northern Canada? Do you think they want you up there?  Not likely.

Tell people how their lives would be different, how their children’s lives might be different, if the region changes so much that wild salmon can’t survive here.  Paint them a picture.  Let it sink in.  Then encourage them to make choices that will be good for salmon and for people.

Celebrate salmon images in your everyday lives.  All creatures are beautiful.  Sadly, many humans have become so distant from the land and the waters that they only appreciate the beauty of artificial things – trinkets created by man.  Spread word of our beauty.  Spread word of how we salmon have lived here with humans for 10,000 years.  Spread word of how our bodies have sustained humans and otters, eagles and seals, raccoons, forests, and mayflies.  Spread word of our beauty in images – in writing, film, and stories.  Teach your children of our beauty.  Teach your leaders, voters, and business owners.  Salmon must have a strong constituency.  Without it we will perish.  With each year, human thoughts and lives are further removed from a world that can sustain salmon and people.


You must provide abundant new opportunities for humans to see wild salmon.  Today, the best place for people to see salmon is in a hatchery, at the viewing window of a dam that restricts our journey, or wrapped in plastic at one of your grocery stores.  This must change.  You must invest in constructing many viewing sites where humans can go to see us in the wild:  see us digging our nests in the gravel; see us leaping at rapids and falls; see our young in their home streams leaping at insects at twilight; see us surging upstream through the riffles on the first fall rains.  We must live in the hearts and minds of humans as they make their daily choices of how they work, how they spend their money, how they build their homes and families, and make compromises that affect the survival of wild salmon.

Why should humans choose to make any sacrifice to sustain wild salmon if they think we live only in hatcheries?  Help them understand that watersheds nourish us, and that we, in return, nourish the watersheds. Bring people to our homes.  Let them see how we live and die.  Tell them what we need to survive.  When humans know us throughout the year as part of their families, they may choose to save us.

Cease your bickering.  Many humans who are most dedicated to securing a future for wild salmon behave as isolated angry spirits, arguing over what must be done to save wild salmon.  Many of these humans are sincere but unrealistic. They engage in fights that cannot be won.  They waste energy, waste resources, and create bad feelings among humans who might be sympathetic to our cause, but who turn away from our need because of the anger and hatred they see being expressed.

Some humans say that a grave injustice has been done to the land and the waters that are the home to salmon.  Some people say that the injustice must be set right.  But salmon see that much of what has been done – is done forever.  Battling with ghosts of the past will never secure our future.  Do salmon think that it is wrong for humans to take our homes from us?  Yes.  Has it happened to other creatures, other peoples?  Yes.  Will the injustice ever be erased?  Not likely.  Cast these thoughts to the wind.  Live in the present and strive for what future can be secured for salmon and humans, together.

Speak with a single, clear voice.  Many humans already respect the needs of salmon.  All too often, these humans gather into little separate groups instead of banding together to speak with a single clear voice.  It seems that many of these groups have become more concerned with sustaining their own viewpoints, their own distinct identities, their own sense of power, than they are with securing a future for wild salmon.  These groups often do not agree with one another, so each speaks to their own agenda.  The humans who care little for our future are confused; they do not know whom – or what – to believe.

Human nature respects leadership.  Do you think that the little chattering voices of the groups trying to save salmon will be strong enough to change the present course of human development?  Do you think that many little voices will be respected when they tell different stories, make different demands, and argue among themselves?  Put your differences to rest and sing a clear, positive song of a future that is livable for salmon and people.

You must speak of salmon with your children.  Education is the greatest hope for your future, for our future.  Without each new generation of humans sympathetic to our needs, we are lost.  Teach your children how to value life, how to value the land and the waters and the creatures of the earth.  The existence of forests, marshes, beaches, and rivers can heal human souls.  These are the homes of the salmon.

Those of you who are not Native American tribal people must support the Tribes.  European humans have been in the Pacific Northwest for only a few centuries.  Native Americans have lived among the salmon for at least 10,000 years.  The Tribes have memories of living and dying with salmon that deserve great respect, memories that carry great value in planning for the future.  Both tribal and non-tribal people live here now, and each of you has powerful tools to serve the future of wild salmon.  Your united action is needed to secure our future.

Don’t trust in science or government to save salmon.  Your human science and technology, alone, will never be enough to sustain salmon in the next century.  Humans play games with science just as they play games with words.  You study us.  You study the rivers, the forests, the seals, the waters, and the dams.  What happens then?  Different humans tell different stories about these studies – stories that confuse and mislead.  But who is to say who is telling the truth and who is misleading?  These stories serve only to distract and delay effective action.

Those of you who wish to secure the future of wild salmon must put your own differences aside, decide what you believe, and temper your belief with great humility.  You already know enough to choose between actions that will secure the future of wild salmon and actions that will most jeopardize our future.  Be clear about what you think and what you say.

And never trust government to save us.  Need I explain?  Government is essential to human existence.  Government provides law and order to replace chaos and anarchy.  Government workers do their best to make decisions and take actions that are consistent with their assignments.  But government, like science, has no soul.  Government, like science, must constantly be watched, trained, counseled, re-organized, and, occasionally, challenged.

I present you, I know, with a great dilemma.  I tell you that science is important, but say don’t trust science blindly.  I tell you that government is needed, but urge you not to trust government blindly.  This is the challenge of being human, a free soul living in a democracy.  This is the great challenge of thinking and evaluating and choosing for yourself.  This is the challenge of maintaining balance between the group and the self.  Humans want simple answers to complex problems.  But what humans want is often not possible to achieve.  Sustaining wild salmon will require compromise and sacrifice in many ways, just like most aspects of your daily lives.

The solution is to swim in the sea of resources that can guide your journey to a future where wild salmon will survive with humans – science, government, common sense, emotion, love, art, money, business, passion, individual preferences, choice-making, commitment to the future of the earth and all of its creatures, commitment to our children, commitment to local communities – the list goes on and on.  Listen to scientists.  Listen to government.  Listen to community members and leaders.  Listen to your parents.  Listen to your children.  Listen to your conscience.  Listen to your heart.  Think.  Dream.  Then act.  Act positively to sustain a world that will nurture wild salmon and people.

 

Next, you must change some of your laws and practices.

You must prepare for the time when humans do not hunt salmon.  Hunting of salmon by humans is an ancient and honorable tradition, as ancient as our history together.  It is in our nature to bring nutrition and life from the sea to the land, to nourish all the creatures and the streams where we come home to spawn.  For the present you may continue to hunt us.  But the time may come when the land and the waters have changed so much, when we are abundant in so few places, that it will no longer be possible to celebrate the hunt.  You will need then to simply celebrate our existence and strive for our survival together.

You now have industries built around hunting salmon.  You hunt us in the ocean and in our home streams when we return to create a new generation of salmon.  The hunt has been part of the dance between humans and salmon for thousands of years.  It is in our blood.  But the world has changed.  The land and the waters are not as productive for salmon as they once were.  Much of our productive capacity is now taken from us by a changed landscape, instead of by the spear, the net, and the hook.

Many humans place great value on the hunt.  For some, the value is deeply spiritual, for some the value is economic in nature, and for some, the hunt is recreation.  All who participate find value in the hunt.  Just understand that there may come a time when your pursuit of us will be more than we can bear.  Understand that humans who depend on us for money to sustain their families may need to find new means of support.

Many humans will cry out in anguish at the thought of ending the tradition of the hunt.  Perhaps that time will never come.  Salmon also hope that the time never comes, for if it does, it will mean that our survival is at great risk, that our number has grown very small.  We shall see.  We cannot force you to abandon the hunt.  You must listen to the voices within your own heads, the voices of reason, of conscience, of needs and wants.

Reduce your reliance on hatcheries to support fishing a little, and never count on hatcheries to sustain wild salmon.  You delude yourselves about what hatcheries can and cannot do.  Hatcheries have been dangerous toys.  Some hatcheries have done little for salmon or humans.  Others have created a few fish for you to hunt – always at great cost.  Hatcheries have allowed you to pretend that the land and the waters were healthy.

Today in the Pacific Northwest and California, salmon can survive in hatcheries and in many of our home streams.  But if the day dawns when salmon can only survive in hatcheries, we – salmon and humans – are lost.  That dark day would prove that humans have not respected the earth that we both depend on.  That day would reveal the squandering of your children’s heritage.

Should you close all your salmon hatcheries?  No.  Many should be maintained, a few should be closed, and a few new hatcheries should be built to replace hopelessly out-dated or poorly placed ones.  But all hatcheries should be operated with a clear understanding of what they can and cannot do to sustain wild salmon in streams. Many should be operated at a smaller scale, and with different brood stocks.  Each hatchery should be managed in concert with a local council of citizens who are committed to sustaining wild salmon in their watersheds.  All hatchery fish should be marked so that all can know their true abundance.  Some hatcheries may be operated to keep salmon from disappearing from watersheds above dams.  Some hatcheries may be operated simply to provide salmon for hunting.  But the business of all hatcheries should be guided by concerns for sustaining wild salmon.

Your laws to protect endangered species (ESA, SARA) must evolve, as salmon have, to be more effective in the future.  This suggestion will chafe many humans who have already committed to sustaining wild salmon. Endangered species laws were intended to protect us, yet I believe that, as written, these laws may soon be our undoing.

The endangered species laws and the threat of listing have caused humans to devote new resources to monitoring, to restoration, and to education.  Many of these changes are good and have helped salmon – and we are grateful for the work that has been done so far. Still, to this day, humans squabble over whether the future of salmon is in doubt and whether endangered species laws should protect them, or not.

But I now fear that these laws serve more to divide and distract people than to protect salmon.  Too many humans are engaged in a fight over which salmon species should and should not be protected under law – rather than engaging in work that will benefit both humans and salmon in the next century.  The laws are admirable – presuming that all species are valuable and that accommodations will be made to preserve each and every one of them from extinction.  But the world is changing at a frightening pace.  The resources are not available to do what must be done for all.

How could laws meant to protect us cause us harm?  If people believe that a law will act for them by forcing the changes necessary to secure our survival – will they not go about their business thinking that their work is done?  Will they not go back to their jobs, their families, and their worries, thinking that salmon are safe because of the Endangered Species Act and the Species At Risk Act – safe without their needing to do anything more?

Many sincere humans believe that laws are powerful enough to save us. To these people I say – look to the sun, the wind, and the waters; look to the molten rock inside the earth; look to the passing of 10,000 years; look at how humans have changed the face of the region in the last two centuries.  These things are truly powerful; your endangered species laws are not.  It is presumptuous to believe that a law will prevent the salmon’s extinction in the Pacific Northwest and California.

The sad truth is that many species may indeed become extinct or shrink to a tiny number. How can this not be true, I ask you?   How can this not be true given the number of humans that are spreading across the land and their appetite for the same resources that sustain us?  You humans cannot educate all of your own children or protect them from harm.  How will you possibly protect all of the creatures and plants in the natural world?

So I tell you that your endangered species laws need now to grow so that they encourage rather than threaten, allow for compromise, and reward those humans who help us. Watch closely. Laws alone will not save wild salmon.  People who care about wild salmon are the only ones who may be able to sustain us.  People who build support for preserving healthy watersheds will sustain us.  People who dream of leaping salmon will sustain us.  People who are willing to give up something to nurture the earth for their own children will sustain us.  And in sustaining us, they will preserve much of what people love about western North America:  the forests, the productivity of the land, the rivers, the lakes, the estuaries, the soil, the water – our homes – for wild salmon and for people.

Be prepared to sacrifice some salmon populations to save others.   It is painful to say this, but I believe many salmon populations will perish in the next century. Changes already come to pass and changes on the horizon are so great that some salmon populations surely will be sacrificed to meet human needs.

Struggle to save the salmon as if you were trying to save your own children – in reality you are.  Grieve with us for the salmon tribes that will die.  Grieve with us for generations that will not survive.  But do not batter yourself against waterfalls that cannot be leapt by even the strongest.  Resolve to focus your efforts where they may be most effective.  You cannot save all of us. Save some of us.

If I could wish away the hordes of humans who are intent on paving the land and gobbling up our waters, I would.  The salmon were here for thousands of years sharing the land and the waters with Native Americans.  Everything has changed in the last two centuries.  Everything.  We are no longer free to live where we have for 10,000 years.  The world can never be changed back to the way it was. More change will come.

Humans behave as if they will always rule the land and the water, as if their needs will always be met with their science and their technology.  Perhaps they are right, perhaps not.  There may come a time when humans will be greatly humbled.  There may come a time when humans will find it necessary to live in a different sort of balance with the land and the waters and the creatures of the earth.

The coastal rivers of all your so-called states and provinces, from California to Alaska, are likely to be our last stronghold on this continent.  Many of the coastal rivers on this continent are smaller streams in more remote areas.  Many of these streams are not so close to large centers of human population.  Most of these do not have dams that block our migration.  These qualities are their saving grace.  These qualities give us the greatest hope that we will be able to survive in the next century. The true stronghold of salmon in the next century, though, may be in Kamchatka, Russia, far from here.

Be prepared to lose wild salmon in rivers above many dams.  Continued pressure by humans to change the face of the land and the waters that sustain salmon, and reluctance to restrain humans from hunting us, may make it impossible to survive above large dams that kill us as we try to migrate to and from the ocean.  If we could have our way, we would breach these dams.  They are an insult to salmon.  But we see that human society has become accustomed to many things that dams have brought and, indeed, accustomed to the idea that you cannot prosper without all the dams.

Salmon have lived more than 10,000 seasons here in the region.  We have seen great floods, great fires, great volcanic eruptions, and drought.  The dams will live out their lifetime, eventually.  Humans may rebuild them, or they may not.  We hope desperately that wild salmon and people will both outlive the dams.

I will speak to you of three great rivers that salmon sing of.  You know them – the Columbia, the Sacramento, and the Fraser.  Of these three, we have the most hope for our survival in the Fraser.  The largest rivers were once home to the greatest abundance and diversity of salmon.  But most of the great rivers are now a terrible sadness to salmon.  Great rivers are centers of commerce and wealth to humans, but most of the great rivers have become cruel places for salmon to live.  Many of the salmon populations that once thrived in these great rivers are already gone, forever.  We ask you to do what you can to let us persist in these great rivers, to do what you can to allow us to reclaim part of our homeland.

Be prepared to let some of our populations slip into the past so that you may save others in the future.  The loss of living creatures is not to be accepted without serious consideration.  But such sacrifice is what we salmon have come to know in our lives.  We bury millions of our eggs in the streambed knowing that most will perish before returning to begin our cycle again.  We ascend the rivers and leap at the falls by the thousands, knowing that many will not reach our homes.  This is our way.  As the human race becomes more abundant and takes more of our resources, we will need to retreat.  Salmon will need to get by with less land, less water, fewer home streams.  It is up to humans to determine how little we will be left with, how many or how few of our populations will survive.

You must steel yourselves to create a new balance between salmon and creatures that prey on us.  It is offensive to speak of this need among humans who cherish wild salmon and who strive to secure our future.  Many humans care deeply for all living creatures and wish to see a return to the natural balance among salmon, seals, bears, otters, cormorants, and others.  We have lived in harmony with predators for thousands of years when there were only Native Americans in the region.  But the world has changed at the hand of your industry.  The land and the waters are not as productive for salmon as they once were, yet humans still hunt us.  In favorable ocean years when our numbers are not so scarce, there are a sufficient number of us to feed the seals and all the other creatures.  I fear that there may come a time when salmon will need humans to hunt some of the wild creatures that hunt us.

Understand that I do not ask this lightly.  And do not think that we mean disrespect to any of the creatures that hunt us.  Each creature must strive to eat and survive, just as humans do.  The seal, the otter, the merganser – each is simply trying to survive as it has in the past.  It is the natural way of all wild creatures.

But the world today is a different place than the world where salmon lived for more than ten thousand years.  We are striving to adapt to this new world and simply ask that humans be prepared to hunt some of the creatures that also hunt us – if it seems necessary to sustain our populations.

You must consolidate public and private land ownerships and limit human development in certain watersheds.  The region is broken into patches of land owned and managed by citizens, state agencies, local governments, the federal government, and Tribes.  This pattern of land ownership makes no sense in our world, and cannot support a sustainable future for wild salmon. You must create a new model of land stewardship that will serve salmon and people better than the existing pattern has. Salmon need watersheds large enough to support our life cycle at critical times of the year.  Your disorganized pattern of land ownership must be replaced with one that will better serve the needs of salmon and people.

Imagine land stewardship where many people work together, respecting watersheds that sustain wild salmon and people.  Imagine a future where management of many public and private lands in whole watersheds is negotiated to support salmon, forestry, agriculture, and recreation.  The future I ask you to imagine will require large-scale land trades and stewardship agreements.  These changes will be complex and contentious, but must occur if wild salmon are to be sustained in the next century.  Decisions will need to be made about where wild salmon will be allowed to thrive.  You will need a plan, a map, and a schedule. You will need to make up your minds and convince politicians to approve the plan.  This process will cause uproar, but it must be done.

Finally, you must undo some of the changes you have made to the land and the waters over the last two centuries.  You humans have worked hard to change the shape of the land in ways you thought would accommodate your communities.  You dammed and straightened our rivers.  You cleared our rivers and estuaries of the trees that sheltered our young in winter.  You drained and filled wetlands for your farms and cities and roads.  You have changed the world to suit your needs, without thinking of us.

You must learn to understand how your actions in changing the earth, in the long run, are not healthy for people or for salmon.  Your disregard for the needs of the earth’s creatures will create a world that will not be able to sustain your children.  Humans will likely go on changing the land and the water.  But you could choose to make concessions and restore a little of the world that we both depend on.

Some of your dams should be removed.  Many of the culverts under roads should be improved to give salmon free access to our homes.  You should use water from our streams more wisely and protect us by screening more irrigation diversions.  You should replant trees along many streams.  You should breech many diked areas in estuaries and allow the ocean and the rivers to reclaim the marshes.  All these things may be done in moderation.  We do not ask humans to breach every dike and open every culvert to our migration.  We do not expect every stream to run clear and cold in summer.  We will be grateful for every part of the natural world you choose to protect, every piece that you restore.  Salmon will be grateful and so will your children.

I must go now.

I know you feel disappointed somehow. Perhaps you expected me to reveal secrets that you could have used, secrets to help you save us.  I cannot.  There are no secrets that can save us.  I doubt even that much of what I have said here has come as a surprise. 

If you could only understand one thing it would be this:  Your behavior towards people, the way you conduct your affairs of human relationships, is as important to saving salmon as any trick of your science, technology, or management.  This is the only truth that seems secret to humans:  that the spirits and the futures of salmon and people are more closely linked than you think.

So consider this one idea.  Consider that it might not be nearly as difficult to save wild salmon as some people make it out to be.  Consider the possibility that a true commitment to a healthy world for your children, and a respect for your parents and neighbors, might just create a future where both salmon and people can thrive together.

Please understand that salmon cannot choose.  We can only struggle to survive every minute of our lives.  We journey thousands of miles in danger, in darkness, in drought, and in storm, because we must.

Humans struggle to survive just as we do, but humans can do so much more than salmon.  Humans can love.  Humans can wonder about the future.  Humans can believe in things they cannot see, or taste, or touch – in possibilities.  Humans can choose actions that will make the earth a better place.  This is what you must do.  This is what you will do, because you are human.

Epilogue

So there you have it – one more view of what must be done to save wild salmon.  One more little chattering voice.  Emotional.  Straight from the heart, with a little cerebral tempering.  Not all that scientific.  People need what salmon need, so saving wild salmon really isn’t a luxury after all.  And you know what?  It is achievable.  We can do it if we choose to. We can save salmon and we can save ourselves – if we choose to.  Really.  So have faith and get out there.  Build a future that is bright for salmon and people.

My older son doesn’t ask about the future of salmon.  He is busy making his way in the world, building his life and his family, getting by from day to day, like most of us these days.  My young son continues to ask me, now and then, if the salmon are going to be OK.  Will salmon be in the rivers when he has children?  I say – yes, son.  Am I telling the truth?  I think so.  He hasn’t yet asked about salmon in the lives of his children’s children, or theirs.  He’s only six now.  The answer to his unspoken question depends on all of us.

[1] The opinions and views presented here are the author’s own and do not represent views of current or past employers.

Residency and Anadromy in O. mykiss, May 25, 2011

BTW, this here fish is a hatchery steelhead that was released into the South Santiam in April or May, and was still hanging out in the river in September, where it gulped a size 16 Renegade and was then released back into the river to compete with wild rainbow, cutthroat, and chinook juveniles.

Wow, what a complex question, that faced by a rainbow/steelhead trout which is now actually a member of  Oncorhynchus, not as it formerly was, of Salmo, and as such is a member of the Pacific Salmon family.

What was the question?  Oh yes.  I am a little O mykiss (rainbow) living in Hood River.  My mom and dad might have been anadromous (like they swam to the ocean and came back) or they might have both matured somewhere in Hood River, mated and produced me.  But now, gosh darn it, I have this strong impuse to head off downstream myself, swim out into the ocean and migrate way up between Alaska and Russia in the Alaskan Gyre (Google that if you will), hang out for a few years, and then come on home to the Hood.  (play on words?)

This blog ain’t gonna answer the question completely, as this would take more time and dilligence than I have at the moment.  But here is the deal.

O. mykiss is good at exploiting habitat and ecological opportunities.  Some fascinating research in Kamchatka indicates that rivers with very fertile feed production tend to produce more “residency” in mykiss, although a proportion of the rainbow do practice anadromy (as if they need practice) and head out to sea and back, thusly becoming steelhead.

Conversely, the anadromous life history was more common in rivers where we would consider food production to be on the stingy side.  This makes sense.  If there isn’t much to eat, then let’s go to sea, grow, make lots of big eggs, and then come home to spawn.  If on the other hand, there is a ton of food in the river, then why bother?

One cool aspect of this tendency to express fundamentally an anadromous or resident life history, with lots of interbreeding among both “types” of fish, is that it shows how O. mykiss can exploit significantly different ecological conditions by mostly staying in the river to mature or mostly going to sea to mature.

But I ramble, as per usual.  Go to southern CA, at the extreme southern edge of where steelhead persist these days.  Little streams.  Harsh warm climate.  Unpredictable stream flow patterns.  And on top of all that, a few impassable dams.  O. mykiss persists above these dams, sending some number of little fish downstream over the barrier each year, and amazingly, if there is water in the creek, there may be two,or three or six or heck, even a dozen or so steelhead come back to the creek in some years.

Many studies in Columbia River, if not all, have found that resident mykiss parents can produce anadromous offspring, anadromous parents can produce off spring that mature in the river, and parental pairings can include any possible combination of anadromous and non anadromous fish.

Jon McMillan has observed non-ocean going O. mykiss spawning with anadromous steelhead in Olympic Peninsula rivers.  If it goes on in those coastal WA populations, then why not here in Oregon?

In oregon, ask the coastal biologists if we have “resident” rainbow and they will almost universally say that we do not.  My guess is that there are indeed offspring of anadromous mykiss that stay in the river and spawn with non ocean going or ocean going mates, producing mostly offspring that go to sea, but an occasional little guy or gal that matures in the river.

What about steelhead through Ballard Locks?  I find it difficult to believe that the mostly river resident rainbow in upriver tributaries don’t produce at lease a few little guys and gals who do in fact migrate to the ocean and try to return as big adults.  It may simply be that this life history is so scant that no one notices these fish, or that survival is so low that none survive to make it back through Ballard Locks, but common, there have to be a few offspring of the upriver O. mykiss that are trying to express an anadromous life history, don’t ya think?

Our Oregon coastal rivers could be an example of an ecological setting where food supplies, rationed across many species of Pacific Salmon, are slim enough that the residency life history is so rare compared to the anadromous life history.  But to think that the stay at home in the river to mature life history is completely missing in Oregon coastal mykiss populations seems a stretch, given what we have seen in most every place where we have really looked closely.

Most every place, not every place, I should add.  Let’s consider the McKenzie River, in the upper Willamette River basin.  This river is big and bold, it grows tons (not that I have weighed the critters, but a lot of rainbow at any rate) of what we call resident rainbow.  We call ‘en resident rainbow because they live out their entire life cycle in the McKenzie, Willamette, and various tributaries of same.  These O. mykiss are in a river close to 200 miles from the ocean.  There is what I would consider decent food supply in the river, and it seems that these mykiss have evolved to be stay-at-homes to such a great extent, that we don’t believe that there are any anadromous offspring of these rainbow.

Hummmmm.  If so, is this because there was such a clear disadvantabe to make the long migration to and from the ocean that the anadromous life history pretty much got weeded out of the population?  Are McKenzie mykiss derived from stream capture of an interior mykiss ancestor that had even less tendency to go clear to the ocean than to stay close to home?

So, yes, I think if one goes far enough inland, and looks at”rainbow” that have been isolated from the ocean long enough, you will see anadromy pretty much lacking from the life history expressions.

The Elwah?  I do not know enough about the specifics to be an expert and recommend a breeding program to re-establish runs of anadromous Pacific Salmon.  But your proposal should be considered.  And it really grates on my sensibilities to think about flooding the system with hatchery fish to restore anadromy to the upper basin.  I do not know exactly what has survived below and above the dam.  I am sure that a hundred years of isolation has had some genetic effects on the up and downstream mykiss.  So too, the below-dam Pacific Salmon in the Elwah, may have been influenced by hatchery programs.  Wouldn’t this be a great opportunity to restore an all wild assemblage of many species of Pacific Salmon in this gorgeous basin that has been strangled by the dam for so long?

Ooops.  Editorializing.  Again.

But hey, here’s an idea, if it is deemed essential to use hatchery fish to restore a wild run, what about limiting the program to one life cycle and prohibiting any fishing on the river for three life cycles?  I know, none of my business.  But an honest to goodness conservation/restoration effort shouldn’t get mired in harvest battles, and should give the fish a decent shot at making the re-introuduction on their own, because these are amazing resilient fish, given half a chance, and especially considering the quality of the upriver habitat in the Elwah.

And how would anyone know that there are not any anadromous mykiss returning to the Elwah from above-dam resident rainbow?

Jay Nicholas, May 25, 2011

Salmon Conservation Glossary, March 14, 2011

Salmon Conservation Terms to know and love……..

Nicholas’ Fly Fishing Glossary, March 14, 2011

Introduction:  Lots of band-width lately on the topic of wild fish conservation. “There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief, there’s too much confusion, can’t get no relief” ——- so what the hey, my brain feels like I’m gonna explode.  How can anyone make sense of all the trash talk.  Yes, trash talk.  Factoids and figureoids and statistical relavancies and hyperbolic stock rectuitment relationships and no one to sort out which Boomer is the real Boomer and is Starbuck really the angel of destruction?

Never fear.  Here is Nicholas’  official salmon conservationist’s conservation glossary.  These terms are defined by me, personally, based on the truth, the best available rumor, and pure speculation.  Any disagreement with the views expressed here will be a relief.  Any agreement will be retrospected severely and such agreeable persons shall be sent to Triangle Lake to fish for Bluegill with K-7 Kwikfish.

___________________________

Alleged surplus: the fish management (in Oregon, naturally, this means ODFW) agency knows darn well that there will not be enough salmon, steelhead, or carp to allow any fishery whatsoever, so it issues inflated run size predictions to justify said fishery.  This is  transparent naughtiness that creates declining baseboards and leads rather quickly to failed Iraq exit strategies.

Backroom deals:  all management decisions by state and federal fish agencies are sweetheart, good-old-boy horse-trades.  They (the management decisions) also smell bad.

Best available sciencemy science.

Collusion: insider trading, a common practice for all bureaucrats employed by state and federal fish agencies.

Credible information: a) believable, truthful, immaculate certainty; and b)  any information that supports a specific stakeholder or user group’s self interest and value system.

Crimes against the planet:  any fish management decisions/policies contrary to one’s value/belief systems.  See also best available science.  Note here that salmon, steelhead, trout, and carp management decisions by state and federal agencies constitute more egregious misdeeds than child slavery, starvation,  torture, and genocide around the world.  Worse than hanging chads too.  What would the world look like today if Big Al had been elected Prez?

Denials: all press releases, reports, and interviews issued by government fish managers are essentially denials of stuff that anyone knows to be true, and is not based on the best available science.

Declining baseline:  This occurs when one hires an inept carpenter to install carpet, wood, or such floor covering and is unable to get the baseboard parallel to the ceiling. Which should be easy to do but is not achieved, thusly creating the appearance that one has had too much to drink or is ready for the funny farm.

Ohhhhhhh.  Sorry, you meant baseline not baseboard.  A declining baseline is created by slyly adjusting downward any salmon escapement goal or estimate of salmon production potential.  This practice has resulted in state and federal fish agencies asserting that a run of 26.5 chinook salmon to the Columbia River basin would create a dangerous “over-escapement” and depress survival because of density-dependent mortality as predicted by a Reagan Stock Exchange Equation.

Desperate attempt: this describes practically any policy or action by a fish management agency to do anything.  These bureaucrats are so inept that they commonly resort to “desperate” attempts to complete such ordinary things as putting on shoes, making coffee, walking, answering the phone, or explaining why they have plotted the extinction of native wild salmon and steelhead populations throughout the region.

Documented evidence:  we know there is a clever conspiracy behind the vast majority of state and federal fish agency’s decisions; fortunately, there is documented evidence of this.

Dubious escapement goal: whatever the goal, it is obviously wrong, the books were cooked  to come up with this goal, which is either too high or too low, depending on your point of view.

ESA: Especially Suspicious Act.  This is a federal law that was established to a) steal property, wealth and suchsoever from private property owners; b) create the false impression that salmon, steelhead, tweety birds, salamanders and jock rash are likely to exceed the ocean’s productive capacity; c) keep fish biologists, lawyers,  and trust fund hippies employed; d) increase federal funding for NOAA; e) justify spending zillions of dollars on hatcheries; f) encourage offshore oil leases.  Sorry, I thought this was a multiple choice exam.

Escapement predictions:  the likelihood that any policy or management decision by a state or federal fish agency will escape moral criticism: specifically,   zero.

Extinction:  no more salmon, steelhead, trout, carp or whatever.  Extinction as planned by fish management agencies will be achieved in the immediate future, eventually, and might be actual or virtual extinction.

Failed management: any action that fails to do what it was supposed to do.  This is a tricky concept, because every fish management agency intends to act in collusion, fail to use the best available science, and achieve at least virtual extinction.  Get it?  if the goal is to do something bad but the agency fails to achieve badness, does it follow that it achieves goodness, uses best available science (if only by ineptitude), or so on?  Dude, is this like  a double negative?

Gross negligence:  any action by any state or federal fish management agency; a deliberate boo-boo.

Management failure: see Policy failure:  more stupidity and ineptitude going on here.

Misguided regulations:  these regulations will cause a calamity and the opposite result from the stated outcome.  Misguided regulations elicit less serious consequences than unthinkable alternatives or extinction, usually.

Mismanagement:  really really stupid actions, plus quite possibly some obfuscation to save face.

NOAA:  Acronym for a federal agency that is Not Ordinarily Accountable for actually recovering depleted and estranged Pacific salmon species.  The principal function of NOAA is to produce brochures and convene scientific woodworking panels and solicit public comment on the global climate initiative.

ODFW:  Oregon Department of Fish And Wildlife.  This state agency, modeled after the even worse WDFW, is charged with the responsibility to mismanage salmon, steelhead, and wildlife, so help me, until they are all gone bye-bye and we have only hatchery propagated anchovies to fly fish for.  Personally, I am tying anchovy flies this week, just to be ready.

Premeditated:  planned in advance.  State and federal fish management agencies are committed to premeditated implementation of failed management, collusion, gross negligence, and installing declining baseboards.  Government minions gather at their offices, feed from the public hog-trough, and make detailed plans regarding how to mess with someone’s heart, soul, and livelihood.  Every day, folks, it’s just how it is: premeditated.

Policy failure:  The agency messed up and made a stupid choice, sold out to the Legislature/Congress, or tried to save its ass.

Prudent management: action that supports one’s personal value/belief system.

Run size predictions:  A government assertion regarding the number of salmon, steelhead, trout, or carp that is expected to return from the ocean in a given year.  This number is predictably (ha ha) falsely represented as far higher or far lower than any sensible person knows to be the truth, depending (of course) on one’s value/belief systems.  For example, sometimes the government grossly overstates the number of salmon that will return from the sea, simply so as to permit fishers to drive the species, run, and so on, to extinction (see for example, immediate extinction).  Otherwise, the government will grossly understate the actual number of salmon that it knows darn-well that will return from the sea, for the diabolical purpose of bankrupting the good people who depend on fishing for their livelihoods, thus increasing incidents of domestic violence, alcoholism, drug use, hatchery budgets, and general societal despair.

Sacrifice river:  a river where one’s value systems are not being implemented fully.

The greatest management blunder in modern historySee crimes against the planet.

Unthinkable alternative: this will lead to the end of the world as we know it.  Cover the children’s eyes.  Head for the bomb shelter.  Kiss yer ass bye-bye.

_______________________________

Post Script

Sorry, dear friends; I just couldn’t help myself.   No intention of trivializing the genuine conservation challenges wild Pacific salmon face.  Just sick to the heart of seeing people eye-poking and overdramatizing.  If everything is the biggest-baddest crisis, where do we start to right the wrongs?

In a world where there is injustice and pain and suffering that far exceeds society’s willingness to “right,” how should we treat our rivers, our fish, our air, our recreation, and our human relationships?

War and mortal combat, has been the norm in many parts of the world, extending back decades, generations, millennia.  Time to leave the past in the past, and fix what we can of what we have left today.  If we can’t do it with our squabbles over fish management, wild salmon, hatchery salmon, protecting our rivers – – – what hope is there for us as we move forward in a world on the razor’s edge.

Pink Floyd said something like this:  “And I opened my door to my enemy, and I asked could we wash the slate clean.  But he told me to please  go and frack myself.  No we just can’t win.”

May we have the grace to find peace with our enemy, especially it he is us.

Jay Nicholas. March 14, 2011.

Coastal Oregon Chinook: Spring and Fall Run Populations


Following my recent post on Oregon coastal steelhead populations, why not review ODFW’s classifications of fall and spring chinook Species Management Units (SMUs) and populations?

Juicy stuff, for all you fish science and salmon management geeks out there.

Oregon coastal Chinook are categorized by ODFW into two Species Management Units,the Coastal and Rogue SMU>

These SMUs are further divided into roughly 28 populations of fall run fish, and only nine historical  populations of spring run fish (at least two are currently thought to be extinct).

Spring chinook salmon are far less widely distributed than fall run fish, but are not nearly as rare as native runs of summer steelhead in Oregon coastal rivers.

This information was compiled from the ODFW Native Fish Status Report.

http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/ONFSR/report.asp#fall_chinook

Anyone wonder why spring chinook might be more common than summer steelhead?

JN

Coastal Oregon Steelhead – Winter and Summer Run Populations

The summer steelhead pictured here, just prior to its release, is a hatchery fish that was stocked and  caught on the Middle Fork of the Willamette.

The Middle Fork hatchery steelhead program is remarkable from the standpoint that it supports a robust recreational fishery during the spring, summer, and autumn, within minutes of zillions of people who live in the Eugene & Springfield area.

Winter steelhead are not native to the Middle fork, and the naive run of wild spring chinook has been all but erased by the salmon problems associated with Dexter Dam, Lookout Point Dam, and Hills Creek Dam.

This is a preamble to a question: do you ever wonder how many populations of summer and winter steelhead the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife categorizes on the Oregon Coast?  The majority of anglers I have met spend most of their time trying to figure out how to catch a steelhead, or how to catch more steelhead, than pondering population classifications and steelhead management policy.

Just to keep the science of steelhead management on the table for anyone who cares to discuss such matters, I assembled the following table that summarizes, as closely as I could, ODFW’s list of native, coastal steelhead populations.

Among the key  concepts that this table displays, is that there are two Species Management Units on the Oregon coast,Coastal and Rogue SMUs;  but only three native summer steelhead populations, compared to roughly 31 winter steelhead populations.

One could ask whether or not classification of these population units could be informed by more or newer data, but it is clear that native populations of summer steelhead are rare in Oregon coastal rivers, even more rare than the populations of spring-run Chinook classified by ODFW.

FYI, this information was compiled from the ODFW Native Fish Status Report.

http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/ONFSR/report.asp#fall_chinook

Hope you find this interesting.

JN

Perspectives on Salmon Hatcheries . . .

Salmon hatcheries have been with us for well over a century here in the Pacific Northwest.  Few of the anglers, and conservation minded people I know, even the most ardent wild fish advocates study the history of salmon hatcheries.

The Oregon fly fishing blog just posted the first part of an article I wrote summarizing he historical expectations of salmon hatcheries in our region.  I invite anyone who cares about the future of Pacific salmon and fishing to check it out.

http://oregonflyfishingblog.com/2010/06/22/salmon-hatcheries-in-the-pacific-northwest-part-1/#respond

I did my best to be accurate and fair. Guess what?    As much as I know, I am sure I have much to discover and new ways of understanding.  The only way to do this is to engage in constructive dialogue.

Agree with what you read?  Say so.

Surprised?  Say so.

Disagree?  Again, say so.

Thanks – JN