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March 06, 2006

Searching for Salmon in the Wrong Places

Troller_1  OK, let’s consider just how absurd this predicament is. People are terrestrial creatures. We like to eat salmon, which spend most of their lives in the ocean. Fortunately, salmon have a habit -- nay, an instinct -- of returning to fresh water to spawn. They do this every year. Used to be, people would wait for them in rivers and estuaries, and catch them there, close to home.

But then -- perhaps to jump the queue and get ahead of the crowd unfurling its nets in rivers and bays -- some fishermen started to troll for salmon in the offshore waters. The salmon still had every intention of swimming into our rivers where they are easier to catch. But instead, trollers began baiting their gear and enticing salmon to take their hooks at sea.

As long as salmon runs are abundant, this impatient practice can be written off as one of those idiosyncrasies of our species, yet another method we have devised to needlessly burn diesel fuel. "Technology is needed not to beat the fish, but to beat other fishermen," wrote Richard Manning in Salmon Nation. "The fish would still come back... if we would wait."

But when certain stocks of salmon start to weaken, this reliance on ocean trolling shows its weakness as well. This week, the Pacific Fishery Management Council is weighing its options in the face of a predicted low run of Klamath River chinook. Biologists estimate that 29,000 salmon would make it to the mouth of the Klamath in the absence of any fishing -- already well below the 35,000 minimum that fisheries managers have set as an annual goal to reach the spawning grounds.

At sea, those scarce Klamath-bound fish mingle with other chinook headed for rivers with more abundant runs -- such as the Sacramento, where runs have rebuilt over the last decade. Regulators fear that trollers would hook Klamath fish among their catch, a chinook that would be indistinguishable on deck from a fish headed for the Sacramento, Eel, or Rogue river.

So the council is entertaining a proposal to nix this year’s salmon fishing season along 700 miles of coastline, from Point Sur, near Monterey, California, north into Oregon. Their dilemma has set off a round of finger-pointing, with trollers blaming water diversions from the Klamath for the salmon’s woes on that river, and hence for the possible closure of the fishery. No doubt, in the long term, the water regime on the Klamath needs to change.

But in the meantime, maybe we should change how we fish. Ocean trolling is inherently indiscriminate. As long as some salmon populations are less robust than others, either some stocks will be overfished or many will go under-caught. Instead, if fishing boats sought salmon at the mouths of the rivers they’re returning to, there’d be a much smaller risk of catching a fish from any other run. In California, commercial fishing inside the Golden Gate, at the mouth of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River, has been illegal since 1957. The present situation might offer a reason to move forward by turning back the clock half a century.

Posted by SethZuckerman | Permalink

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Well said Seth. Get ready for a fisheries debate like the Atlantic cod or halibut.

Posted by: Dan Staley | Mar 7, 2006 9:05:09 AM

I once discussed this concept -- which I've heard referred to as "terminal fisheries" -- with a fisheries biologist who I respect.

He said that salmon don't taste as good when they're caught just before (or just after) they hit fresh water again. Or maybe it wasn't taste but some other food-quality trait.

Anyone know more about this subject? I find it hard to believe this assertion (in view of extensive sports and tribal fisheries on returning spawners), but I need to be better informed.

Posted by: Alan Durning | Mar 7, 2006 5:39:01 PM

I think it may also be that freshwater fish don't keep/pack/ship as well. Their flesh is softer. Makes sense in light of physiological penalties for re-engineering for freshwater.

But there are other angles, too: the most productive rivers and bays have commercial traffic; using boats, fishers all along the coast have been able to make a living without travelling to the big salmon rivers.

And then there's that bit about WHO the trollers jump ahead of in line: the people who have always been here, who retain both the right to fish and control of many of the prime riverside fishing spots. It's a strategy that negates the still-considerable tribal power over the resource in freshwater, where every fish DOES have a home.

It appears new genetic fingerprinting techniques may make it practicable (cheap & easy) to pinpoint the natal streams of fish still in the ocean. That would permit sampling which might give us much better insight into the "mixed stocks" fishery problem. If trolling continues thereafter, it might be as an offshore version of the ancient catch-them-as-they-come-home strategy.

Here and now, though, we've got roughly three levers to pull to help the Klamath runs. One is fishing, because there basically aren't enough fish to take any. Two is the hatcheries, esp. Iron Gate, where releases must be timed to avoid impacts on outmigrating wild fish, now subject to (fatal) infection rates as high as 80%. And three is the dams & Klamath project, which have to come out soon, but until then need to be run with a hydrograph approximating natural flows. Which brings us back to land.

thanks, Seth. Jacoby Creek says hi.

Posted by: pi | Mar 8, 2006 12:16:59 AM

Salmon that I have caught at Gold Beach at the mouth of the Rogue River were excellent. Salmon netted by the Indians at Ishipishi Falls, 50 miles inland on the Klamath, are not nearly as good. Salmon caught around I5 near the hatchery are not very good at all. I would suspect that salmon caught in San Francisco Bay would still be excellent.

Posted by: sf | Mar 8, 2006 8:44:07 AM

Interesting comments, all.

Alan, I think the quality of the flesh depends a lot on the species and, as sf points out, just how far into fresh water they are. (Of course, for most of the year, San Francisco Bay is pretty salty.)

Alaskans drive hundreds of miles, from Anchorage and Fairbanks to Chitina about 80 miles up the Copper River, to dipnet salmon and put them up for the year. Long-migrating chinook can't afford to deteriorate too soon. Coastal chum on the other hand, start to turn about as soon as they can hear the harbor buoy.

As to pi's comment about shipping traffic: wouldn't it be cool if freighters had to schedule their trips in and out of SF Bay to allow gillnetters a few hours a day to set their nets? As it is, the bay still supports a gillnet fishery for herring: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mrd/herring/sf_bay.html , with more than 400 working boats. These urban fisheries are a great way to demonstrate the tangible importance of the aquatic ecosystem - even more so with a fish like salmon that has broader appeal than herring.

Posted by: Seth Zuckerman | Mar 8, 2006 11:41:40 AM

If we really wanted to be efficient about salmon harvest, we should revert to either the wiers that were historically used by Native Americans near the mouths of rivers or the fish traps that white men used early in their conquest of the northwest. The latter traps consisted of large floating cages that rotated passively with the flow of the river. Not only do such wiers or traps capture the fish before their flesh starts to deteriorate on their upstream migrations, but they also allow the management of individual stocks by watershed. Furthermore, they don't require any waste of diesel fuel for fishing boats. Alas, they would put a lot of fishermen out of work and it would be difficult to decide who should be allowed to collect the fish by these methods. So, it probably will never happen, but that doesn't mean that it's not the most practical solution.

Posted by: Lawrence McCrone | Mar 8, 2006 5:09:22 PM

The problem with Seth's article is that it reflects the current thinking of the Bush Administration in trying to focus salmon recovery on harvesters, like trollers and tribes, instead of on the dams and habitat problems. In Alaska, where we have rebuilt and sustained salmon runs we did it by providing salmon sanctuary from commercial fishing for most of the year in the Ocean, nearly all of the time in most of the spawning streams, and by struggling valiantly to protect the Forest and aquactic habitat so essential to salmon survival. I am a lifelong conservationist and fisherman. Trolling is the most environmentally sensitive of all the salmon fisheries as we target specific species with single hooked lures or herring (like the natives have off the coast for thousands of years) handle each fish individually, and recieve the highest value for our fish. My understanding is that the Pacific Coast salmon troll fisheries will be closed, not due to their overharvest, but due to Gail Norton of the Bush Administration illegally diverting water from salmon and other wildlife to farmers on the Klamath river. Don't let the Bush administration sympathizers lure you, a conservation minded citizen, into attacking environmentally sound trolling.

Posted by: Eric Jordan | Mar 9, 2006 12:34:53 AM

I am posting from pfmc in SEATAC. I have not met Seth Zuckerman, I caqn not say that he is present at this meeting, or whither he is commenting from afar. I doubt that he would comment negatively about trollers or this process if he were present. In public testimony on Wednesday and earlier on Tuesday, numerous trollers, including myself, spent our time begging for relief for the Klamath River. Relief in the form of WATER. Lack of water in the Klamath river, and the creation of conditions that encourage growth of parasites that are lethal to juvenile salmon have caused the crisis in front of us.

Where is Seth Zuckerman at this meeting? If indeed he can influence anything, he should be at this meeting, gathering facts and posting them online. He should be here talking to NOAA Fisheries officials, as Senator Patty Murray's aide has, what is happening with the river, what is the government doing about it.

While the complaints against trolling are piling up, no one asks about the science behind harvest, regardless of the method. Simply put, a given river can not arbitrarily continue to receive spawning salmon, nor infinitely continue to produce juveniles. Do remember the situation in the Klamath River in the fall of 2002; the infamous Klamath Salmon kill. Surely a soul so tortured by injustices to salmon as Seth's will recall that well over 35,000 spawning age salmon died in the lower Klamath river. The die-off was a result of too little water of very poor quality. An estimate given to me from a Cal DFG salmon biologist who's responsibility is the Klamath river is that over 70,000 natural spawners crossed the bar from the ocean in the fall of 2002. The number of natural spawners in the final count that year was 66,000, almost double the management floor of 35,000. That was the parent year for some of this year's returning adults.

The poor replacement of adults can be traced to very low survival of migrating juvenile salmon, not to harvest.

While attacking ocean harvest, Seth assists the Bush administration's attempts to divert public attention to the real problems of salmon population everywhere in the lower48. Those are loss of habitat that salmon need to spawn, rear and migrate through. Maybe Seth just wants a job in the Interior Department because he is unable to hold a job in journalism.

Joel Kawhara
F/V Karolee

Posted by: joel Kawahara | Mar 9, 2006 6:36:37 AM

I am posting from pfmc in SEATAC. I have not met Seth Zuckerman, I caqn not say that he is present at this meeting, or whither he is commenting from afar. I doubt that he would comment negatively about trollers or this process if he were present. In public testimony on Wednesday and earlier on Tuesday, numerous trollers, including myself, spent our time begging for relief for the Klamath River. Relief in the form of WATER. Lack of water in the Klamath river, and the creation of conditions that encourage growth of parasites that are lethal to juvenile salmon have caused the crisis in front of us.

Where is Seth Zuckerman at this meeting? If indeed he can influence anything, he should be at this meeting, gathering facts and posting them online. He should be here talking to NOAA Fisheries officials, as Senator Patty Murray's aide has, what is happening with the river, what is the government doing about it.

While the complaints against trolling are piling up, no one asks about the science behind harvest, regardless of the method. Simply put, a given river can not arbitrarily continue to receive spawning salmon, nor infinitely continue to produce juveniles. Do remember the situation in the Klamath River in the fall of 2002; the infamous Klamath Salmon kill. Surely a soul so tortured by injustices to salmon as Seth's will recall that well over 35,000 spawning age salmon died in the lower Klamath river. The die-off was a result of too little water of very poor quality. An estimate given to me from a Cal DFG salmon biologist who's responsibility is the Klamath river is that over 70,000 natural spawners crossed the bar from the ocean in the fall of 2002. The number of natural spawners in the final count that year was 66,000, almost double the management floor of 35,000. That was the parent year for some of this year's returning adults.

The poor replacement of adults can be traced to very low survival of migrating juvenile salmon, not to harvest.

While attacking ocean harvest, Seth assists the Bush administration's attempts to divert public attention to the real problems of salmon population everywhere in the lower48. Those are loss of habitat that salmon need to spawn, rear and migrate through. Maybe Seth just wants a job in the Interior Department because he is unable to hold a job in journalism.

Joel Kawhara
F/V Karolee

Posted by: joel Kawahara | Mar 9, 2006 6:37:33 AM

After re reading the posts I need to follow up on Seth's comments about fish weirs. He really needs to read the history of Salmon traps before he starts claiming they are the most practical solution. My father worked for United States Fish and Wildlife in the early 50's monitoring fish traps in SE Alaska. He added his voice and his testimony to the drive in Alaska for Statehood so we could outlaw fish traps, gain control of our salmon management from the canned salmon industry which owned the traps, and start the arduous process of rebuilding and sustaining Alaska's great wild salmon runs. I have also listened to my father's stories and those of native elders like Herman Kitka describe the incredible bycatch waste of small salmon and other fishes caught in the leads and pens of the fish traps. I will take environmentally sound family operated troll salmon harvesting over corporate controlled, environmentally destructive fish traps anytime.

Posted by: Eric Jordan | Mar 9, 2006 9:46:32 AM

Welcome to the fishermen who have joined this conversation.

Re: Eric Jordan's first post, I agree with his analysis of the root causes of the Klamath salmon's decline: dams and excessive withdrawal of water for irrigation. As I said in my original post, "the water regime needs to change."

But populations take years to recover. In the meantime, people want to fish, and a decision needs to be made about how, when, and where to allow that. Any fishery, regardless of gear type, that targets mixed stocks creates a dilemma: overfish the weak stocks or underfish the strong stocks? Pacific coast troll fisheries target mixed stocks, and thus they put regulators in the place of having to make that difficult choice - just as much as the seine-boat fishery on the east side of Vancouver Island, for instance. I agree that trollers handle their fish with care, and they have even inspired some gillnetters to improve their standards of quality.

Re: Eric Jordan's second post, I can't take credit for the comment on fish weirs - that came from Lawrence McCrone. But I'd argue that the damage from fish traps in pre-statehood Alaska came from the motivations of their owners (corporate canneries) and the lack of concern for conservation, not from the type of gear that was used. Corporate canners figured they could deplete one stream and move on to the next.

It was a huge advance when the state constitution demanded that conservation be the criterion for fisheries management that trumps all others. (I've written about the advantages of in-season management for minimum spawning escapements in the second half of this story: http://www.tidepool.org/dispatches/Cordova.cfm .) As long as that principle is applied, there's no reason that fish traps and weirs couldn't provide a very clean fishery. As to the apportionment of the rights to those fish, that's a different matter, which would need to be dealt with fairly in any transition from the present system.

I'll address Joel Kawahara's comments at my next break.

Posted by: Seth Zuckerman | Mar 9, 2006 11:02:53 AM

Joel, leaving aside your ad hominem attacks and your attempts to disparage me personally, you're right that the root problem in the Klamath is how the entire watershed is treated. As I wrote in my original post, the water regime needs to change.

It sucks that a century of bad decisions have drained water and life from the Klamath, for all the reasons you mention. It also sucks that the decisions about rivers are so fragmented: one body to set fishing seasons, another to license dams, another to determine whether Central Valley farmers can take water from the Klamath's largest tributary, the Trinity. Until rivers are approached as whole systems, pieces of the issue are going to get treated separately - both in hearing rooms and in the media.

Posted by: Seth Zuckerman | Mar 9, 2006 3:46:20 PM

As I said above, get ready for the debate.

But you guys might want to read Orion 25:1 Jan-Feb 2006 pp. 70-71 for a different perspective of Seth's views before you start thinking of billhooking him for his solutions.

Fisheries debates are among the most contentious of environmental debates - how do you take something away from people; in this case, how do you take their livelihood away from them, even in the face of species extinction?

We aren't geared for this societally or individually. And it ain't gonna git easier, folks, as human population is going to increase by 3B by the time our children are our age.

Posted by: Dan Staley | Mar 9, 2006 4:08:29 PM

Seth Zuckerman is apparently pushing the Bush administration's agenda of avoiding its ESA mandated duty to protect salmon by shifting the emphasis on causes of the species decline from habitat to harvest. Why else would he blame fishermen for low Klamath returns when Karl Rove himself shut the water off in 2001, causing the dramatic decline of these stocks? An unbiased look at salmon mortality would clearly reveal that shutting down trollers would have little effect on restoring endangered runs compared to managing competing resource uses. Environmentalists need to focus on the big industries degrading salmon habitat rather than small businesses composed of people who probably should be supporting the environmental movement if it weren't for these repeated attempts to blame us for problems caused by dams, urbanization, pollution, and deforestation--all of which, by the way, subsidize Mr. Zuckerman's and any other Puget Sound resident's standard of living, making them equally as complicit in the decline of salmon runs as one of us trollers who takes the fish directly from the ocean. The Bush administration's latest response to litigation seeking to restore water flows to the Columbia is now to target harvesters, and in this way perhaps break apart the fragile coalition of sovereign tribes, fishermen, and environmentalists who defeated the most recent BiOp. By attacking salmon fishermen, Mr. Zuckerman, you are advancing the Bush administration's policy of dividing salmon stakeholders and, perhaps more importantly, perpetuating the environmental movements status as a narrow interest group at a time when it is more critical than ever that it increase its base of popular support. Shame on you. You might as well be paying people to vote for Bush.

Posted by: Paul Olson | Mar 10, 2006 1:44:49 PM

Granted, livelihoods are at stake and passions are running high, but attacking Seth personally and accusing him of advancing the Bush agenda is totally off-base.

To the contrary, I think he touched on a valid point and a common misperception about salmon management. Namely, it's easier to monitor and manage a salmon run at the river mouth than it is at sea. That's just common sense: You can tell exactly what you're catching and how
much.

Seth is also right that the fish wheels used by early canning operations were not the problem. That is, it wasn't the technology, so much as the plunder-and-move- on philosophy of the frontier industry that depleted the fisheries.

The fishermen are of course right that myriad upstream effects -- water diversions for agriculture, hydropower, pollution, urban development, logging -- are to blame for the plight of the salmon. All those things should be addressed, but the point still remains that waiting for fish to return to the rivers is a more efficient and ecologically sound way to fish than going out to sea to catch them.

It's tragic that salmon fishers are paying a price here. My own feeling is that if the government can subsidize farmers' water use they can also pay fisherman not to fish -- at least until the fisheries have time to rebound. There's no defending the Bush administration's policy on the Klamath or the Columbia. But the goal should be to save wild salmon whatever it takes.

If Seth has an agenda, I'm guessing that's it.

Posted by: Peter DaSilva | Mar 10, 2006 2:56:16 PM

Thanks for the calm and sober contribution, Peter.

If anyone is curious about my take on the Klamath water crisis, you can read this piece I wrote in July 2001, when the farmers in the upper basin were screaming to get their full water allotments during a drought year.
http://www.oriononline.org/pages/oo/sidebars/front/index_front_KLAMATH.html

Fact is, the river needs a lot more water, not to mention time to heal. Give 'em water and habitat, and the fish will come back. But in the meantime, what do you do? You gotta give the fish a break. And the question I was addressing was, "how do we give the Klamath fish a break while continuing to fish for salmon from more abundant runs?"

In the Mattole valley, where I return every year after living there for a decade and a half, we faced this question head-on in 1991. Chinook and coho runs hit bottom, at a couple hundred spawners apiece, the result of severe erosion and sedimentation from bad roads and excessive logging. At a "town meeting" that drew 10 percent of the watershed's human population, we agreed unanimously to ask the Fish & Game Commission to close the river to all angling during chinook season, and to open it Jan. 1 (around the beginning of the steelhead run) to barbless hooks only. (The commission went along with us.) Everyone got behind that, even the resort operators and fishing guides. They saw that they had to go easy on the fish in the short term, or there'd be no long term.

They didn't say, "it wasn't the anglers who made the fishery decline." They didn't worry about whose agenda they were advancing. They realized that the fish were down to a fraction of their original numbers. This is this. We work to heal the watershed in the long term, and in the short term, everyone takes it in the gut.

Posted by: Seth Zuckerman | Mar 10, 2006 4:29:47 PM

Seth, just drug myself home from pfmc. Look dude, you were not at this meeting and I feel rather upset that you focus on the ad hominen aspect of my formet post that the fact that you had two days to attend pfmc and talk to the managers of the fishery and find how misguided your original post is.

Mixed stock fisheries are and will be manageable, even in exterme circumstances like this year's Klamath run predictions. That is not in dispute by any manager at pfmc, nor by any of the state agency biologists, nor councilor at pfmc.

But back to why you chose to add distraction to this year's season setting. Why? I submit that you just have not thought through the implications of your proposal for terminal fisheries.

1. Terminal fisheries do allow you to avoid the consequences of "weak stocks". By avoiding the consequences of weak stocks, that is having fishermen only where the runs are strong, there are no fishing industry voices where runs are weak. Imagine serial depletion of fish runs along the Pacific Coast. First the Klamath runs are weakened so severley that fishing is completly closed. so the fishermen either go broke, or to San Francisco. Then the Sacramento goes down - fewer fishermen. Add to the list of ruined rivers Columbia, Snake, Frasier, Snohomish, Green, Nooksack... The end result is no fishermen, no fish. Without commercial fishermen, there are only recreational fishermen and environmentalists looking after both rivers and fish, two out of three allies left standing. Right now the State of Washington is offering "Selective Fisheries" to recreational fishermen. The result is that fish can be hatchery produced and very little of the watershed needs be protected for wild fish. At the end of tihs process lie ruined water sheds, no fish and only environmental constituents. Hmmmm, not at all inclusive if you ask me.

2. Removal of wild caught fish from the market place opens the door for Aquaculture. What's wrong with aquaculture? Lots of posts on tide pool. Beyond ecological concerns of the practice, the most likely direction for aquaculture is the continental shelf. The proposed site for continental shelf aquaculture is abandonded oil rigs. So the result is petroleum producing oil wells no longer need be cleaned up, but merely need to be converted to aquaculture sites and the original owner/user of the site avoids millions (minimum of 24M) in clean up and mitigations costs.

3. Mineral and petroleum exploration on the continental shelf are most vehemently opposed by fishermen of all types, including bottom trawlers. The effort to remove fishermen from the open ocean by interests friendly to extractive exploitation is clear by the timing of the successful effort to begin oil exploration in Bristol Bay - right when salmon prices and the value of the fishery were lowest.

The point being fishermen have a great interst - both economic and asthetic- of just about any segment of the public - in clean, functioning ecosystems, marine, riparian and estuarian. Saying Trollers need to be off the ocean is advocating that very strong allies of environmental causes be removed from the fight.

Regardless of Seth's intent to promote dialog on mixed stock fishing, the actual result of removal of trolling and other commercial fishing is the creation of a vacuum on the ocean that will be filled by other industrial intersts without any desire to protect the environment or ecosystems around their industry.

Concerning Seth's latest post where he asks "do we give the fish a break" while working to restore the river. Good question with a not simple answer.

Spawning escapement is calculated by determining the dynamics of the salmon population in a particular watershed. The classic method of describing this dynamic is the "Ricker Curve", relating spawners to recruits. Without graphics, readers of this post are left to looking up the curves on line...

In essence, what the ricker curve does is trace the number of spawners (S) required to produce a number of recruits (R). Recruits to spawner can be as high as 22:1 (1992) in the Klamath, although that is not something to bet on every year. The Klamath, like all rivers, can reach equilibrium where the number of spawners equals the number of recruits out of each brood year. This is the unfished equilibrium situation. At numbers of spawners above equilibrium, there is less than one recruit for each spawner. At numbers of spawners less than equilibrium, there are greater than one recruits per spawner.
At some number called Maximum Sustained Yield (MSY), the number of recruits per spawners peaks. All the above assumptions are average productivity for a given watershed, and each brood year produces recruits around the average.

The proposals put forth by the PFMC this friday do indeed not meet the MSY escapement goal. Is this a crime against the salmon? IF the actual number of natural spawners returning in the fall of 2006 is as predicted, the Ricker Curve for the Klamath shows that the run will not be harmed, and will produce a recruit run above the current threshold of 35,000 natural spawners.

Yes there are a great number of ifs in the forgoing discussion. And yes, the most daunting IF is If the river is in good shape when the run returns in four and five years.

There is, however, no chance that if fishermen are not allowed to have a de minimis fishery this and subsequent summers, the majority will starve out of the fishery in a year or two and leave to work in some other job, abandoning the equity in their boats and gear in the process. The amount of equity required to restart the West Coast Troll industry is not estimatable, but for an individual fisherman it could be in the neighborhood of $200,000, just to troll in CA or Oregon. The support industries such as fish houses and ice houses and fuel docks will likewise close or go into mothballs, resulting in additional equity losses. Those shore side support industries will likely face liquidation, as most are situated on highly desireable waterfront property.

The result for the fleet will not be good, while the result for the Klamath Fall Chinook might not be all that wonderful with out fixing the river.

In conclusion, a fishing season that does not escape a number of fish equal or greater than the MSY escapement goal, but more than the lowest recorded escapements is a reasonable one year bet - when weighed against the certainty of the economic losses, as well as loss of environmental advocates a complete closure gaurentees.

Posted by: joel Kawahara | Mar 10, 2006 9:20:57 PM

I think I have to state my point more clearly because it seems to have been dismissed with the seemingly logical argument that resource management is "easiest" on a river or watershed basis. This is first, as my fishing colleagues have pointed out, overly simplistic, and second, fails to address my point which I will try to state more clearly: you need political power to manage rivers.
Environmentalists don't have political power, and despite the views of Mr. Zuckerman, I wish that they did. If you continue to cavalierly dismiss the importance of people's livelihoods by focusing on the least significant source of salmon mortality, you will continue to be a narrow interest group and will never get to manage the rivers.
It is an unfortunate reality that in the world of public perception, preserving species for the sake of the species is not a priority on the the public agenda. Salmon, however, have a broad appeal, reflecting all the values that Congress listed when it passed the ESA: ecological, aesthetic, scientific, cultural, recreational, and commercial. I think Mr. Zuckerman and other similarly thinking people would find that if they worked more on coalition building and helped to elect politicians who would appoint scientists rather than timber industry lawyers in charge of NOAA Fisheries salmon policy, we might be able to restore freshwater habitat to the point where there would be no need to attack harvests. The continued existence of salmon today in spite of all we, AS A SOCIETY, have done to them, and tribal programs which have restored salmon to watersheds where they have been previously extirpated demonstrate that if the planet doesn't heat up too much over the next decade, the salmon will come back.
One commenter defended Mr. Zuckerman's view as designed to save the salmon. I disagree. Reducing harvest will not do anything to reduce in river mortality, but it will reinforce the Bush administration's ability to blame environmentalists for job losses. All policy debates about how to save the salmon are simply academic exercises until we get the current regime out of the watershed mismanagement business.
I appreciate your sincere efforts to save the salmon, Mr. Zuckerman, but by failing to concentrate on the main threats to salmon today and enroll fishermen in your cause you are squandering an opportunity to convert thousands of residents of coastal communities to an environmental movement that is, quite frankly, politically unsuccessful. The Bush administration has certainly helped maintain its political power by mischaracterizing environmentalism as a movement of urban elitists who could care less about working class jobs. You can, and must, for the importance of your cause, do better than to play into this stereotype. There are many fishermen such as myself, Mr. Kawahara, and Mr. Jordan who have worked to improve environmental consciousness in our trade. Our task is made much harder by your article.

Posted by: Paul Olson | Mar 11, 2006 10:27:55 AM

"Mixed Stock Fishery": The fishery immediately seaward of your fishing position.

Posted by: Eric Jordan | Mar 11, 2006 11:35:38 PM

Paul said:

"I appreciate your sincere efforts to save the salmon, Mr. Zuckerman, but by failing to concentrate on the main threats to salmon today and enroll fishermen in your cause you are squandering an opportunity to convert thousands of residents of coastal communities to an environmental movement that is, quite frankly, politically unsuccessful."

Thank you.

As was pointed out in the Great Bear Park post on this site, some environmentalists want to exclude human enterprise on the land where humans have lived for generations.

This will never work.

But I must point out that the fisheries collapses in the Atlantic and Sea of Japan are instructive. In the Atl case, management of the stocks was attempted, but the fisheries have been fished down. Soon, lots more boats will be out of the water.

I, personally, don't know how to take something away from someone. But management of fisheries is difficult, because our data on numbers is collected from catches. That's all we know.

Oh, we also know from many fisheries modeling exercises (and reality, remember) that threatened fisheries almost always collapse when managed.

Fisheries are collapsing all over the planet. What we are doing is not working. Maybe we should look for alternatives for those whose livelihoods will be put on hold. Sure, that will make noses wrinkle and umbraginous statements of 'personal responsibility' and 'free markets' and neoliberalist capitalist triumphalism will ensue.

But the alternative is no fish at all. Then whaddaya gonna do?

Posted by: Dan Staley | Mar 12, 2006 4:32:22 PM

If you only open a fishery when the salmon return to the river estuaries, how do maintain the demand for fresh salmon year round? This is simply not pratical. The issue isn't wastefull burning of diesel while trolling, but destruction of salmon spawning habitat.

Posted by: Rob | Mar 13, 2006 8:54:09 AM

Seth,

I don't want to reiterate the extremely thoughtful and valid comments which Eric Jordan and Joel Kalwara have submitted regarding the article you wrote on the Kalmath. I do want to chime in and let you know that it is not solely fishermen who hold the views that habitat destruction is the problem - not the fishermen. Many members of the conservation community and Alaskan conservation groups themselves share these views. I, myself, am not only a troller but I also work for Alaska Marine Conservation Council on fish farming and water quality issues I am a member of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, a consortium of approximately 30 conservation groups. I think you would find that these groups and many others would find serious fault with your position.

Alaska Marine Conservation Council is a community based conservation group that seeks to protect and restore the ocean environment through sustainable fishing practices,habitat protection and local stewardship. The key word here is sustainable and trolling is certainly at the top of the sustainable fishing practices; the mixed stock argument against trolling is simply ill informed.

The real issue is spawning bed protection. If the fish have no place to spawn, they cannot survive. If they have no or insufficient water, they cannot spawn. It's the dams and the politically motivated poor water policies which are the culprits!

I would hope that the conservation community would continue to work WITH the fishing community on issues such as this where we can be in sync and devote our joint efforts to fighting destructive habitat and water quality practices and those fisheries which are NOT sustainable and damage the marine ecosystem.

To do otherwise, just plays into the hands of the Bush Administration and further exacerbates the schism between fishing groups and conservationists.

Paula Terrel

Posted by: paula Terrel | Mar 13, 2006 9:05:33 AM

Like most everyone who has contributed to this conversation, I work for a living and I'm not getting paid for this, so this will have to be my last post about this topic.

It's clear from the responses to this thread that trollers are aggrieved because they are being asked to sacrifice to protect the Klamath chinook, while irrigators and dam operators enjoy business as usual. The trollers are right to be angry, and it's hypocritical of one federal agency to contemplate devastating cuts to the fishing season while other agencies do nothing to deal with the root causes of the problem. (I critiqued that separation above, on 3/9)

That's not the end of the story, though. Consider that salmon are our relations, as well as our livelihood. If your brother was hurt in a car accident, would you rush him to the hospital, or would you insist that the blame for the accident be assigned and the root causes addressed before you'd help him get medical care? Given how hammered the Klamath stocks are, deciding not to fish in places where trollers are apt to hook Klamath chinook is equivalent to that journey to the emergency room.

I'd be the first to admit that I'm not up on the political tactics that fish advocates are following, so I'm sorry if I have unknowingly crossed your lines. I value commercial fishermen as allies in watershed protection. The late Nat Bingham of PCFFA was a fervent supporter of early restoration efforts in the Mattole watershed, and my Mattole neighbors and I still feel a debt of gratitude to him and his colleagues. Here's the tack I would take with the larger issues:

- Low runs have created an emergency, so restrictions on the salmon season this year are a reasonable response.

- Those restrictions are no fault of the trollers, so they deserve compensation for their loss of livelihood caused by the damage done to the river.

- Long-run solutions (e.g., dam removal, higher in-stream flows) are urgently needed to avoid future emergencies, so that loss of livelihood can be temporary, not permanent.

- Where adjacent chinook stocks are abundant, it's crucial this year to figure out ways to fish for the healthy stocks while leaving Klamath fish alone. I don't know enough about the timing and geography of Klamath, Sacramento, and Rogue stocks' ocean migrations to suggest how that happen for ocean trolling, so I leave those specifics to others. Absent a way to target them separately in the ocean, I still think it makes sense to let them sort themselves out into their rivers, and fish for them after they've declared which headwaters they're bound for. Better a San Francisco Bay troll season than none at all.

Posted by: Seth Zuckerman | Mar 15, 2006 9:43:47 AM

Oops, forgot to mention one more thing:

If the fish at sea are from healthy stocks, I don't see a biological reason not to troll for them. I know I mentioned diesel fuel, but Lord knows I consume my share of petroleum products. That's the situation, more or less, off the Alaskan coast.

It's situations like the 2006 Calif-Oregon trolling season, when weak stocks mix with strong ones (Eric Jordan's apt definition notwithstanding), when I think we need to consider alternatives, at least temporarily.

Posted by: Seth Zuckerman | Mar 15, 2006 1:14:12 PM

The way to increase our salmon returning is to get rid of the terns eating the smolt. The sea lions take more than their share and need to be eradicated out of the fresh water ways. Indians net more than 50 tons out of the Columbia !! For what? it has nothing to do with heritage, it is all about money. Go up the Columbia when the salmon are running and one can see hundreds of gill nets set !! The mindset of the enviros is all wrong and the blame is in all the wrong places !!

Posted by: Randy | Mar 20, 2006 7:26:16 PM