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.



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