Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Salmon Runs -- National Salmon Month

One of the better indicators of our human “ability” to not only wipe out valuable interlinked ecosystems, but incredible animals and the keystone link they have on species living within their realm, is the salmon. Salmon are emblematic of white dominant culture destroying a species that provided for many hundreds of tribes and millions of people. Salmon represent ancient cultures and incredible forces of our still little known world – oceans. Salmon represent urban and suburban sprawl’s knife edge into our hearts. Salmon represent our Dr. Frankenstein dark side, as if replacing the magnificent wild species with farmed freaks of DNA manipulation will somehow cover up our failure as the “top species” to solve the problems we have created for them.

Overfishing and surmounting changes to rivers and the oceans have given the brother salmon an inhospitable world. King of Fish: The Thousand Year Run of Salmon by David R. Montgomery is a great staring point to understand the salmon’s historical context throughout the centuries. Montgomery gives us an historical look at how first in the United Kingdom, then New England and now the Pacific Northwest the salmon have become imperiled (extinct wild species in the UK and New England). He’s a geologist who sees the evolution of salmon determined by a changing and dynamic landscape. More than 16 Pacific salmon runs have been listed under the Endangered Species Act as in crisis. Two general genera of salmon exist, in the family Salmonidae – Atlantic genus is Salmon ad Pacific salmon belong to Oncorhynchus. There’s an Asian species of Pacific salmon, O. masou. Samo salar is distributed across Europe and eastern North America.

They all begin their lives as fertilized eggs buried in streambed gravel, where they incubate, hatch, and develop until they emerge as small fry. Juvenile salmon stay in freshwater for several years, depending on the species. They migrate downstream, and spend one to four years in the ocean getting bigger. Once fully grown, the return to freshwater streams and rivers, where they pair up, spawn, and die. It’s called anadromy, from freshwater to saltwater back to freshwater. Pacific salmon die upon returning to spawn, whereas Atlantic salmon, 1 in 10, survives spawning, returns to sea and then returns to spawn again.

Montgomery’s book, or others, on salmon –

Salmon Without Rivers: A History Of The Pacific Salmon Crisis by Jim Lichatowich

Salmon Nation: People, Fish, and Our Common Home by Elizabeth Woody

Making Salmon: An Environmental History of the Northwest Fisheries Crisis (Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books) by Joseph E. Taylor

Mountain in the Clouds: A Search for the Wild Salmon by Bruce Brown

The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River (Critical Issue Book) by Richard White

A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia by Blaine Harden

Crossing the Next Meridian: Land, Water, and the Future of the West by Charles F. Wilkinson

What the River Reveals: Understanding and Restoring Healthy Watersheds by Valerie Rapp

The Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Trout, Their Fight for Survival by Anthony Netboy

These authors give us plenty on the species, the politics, the sustainability, and the nuanced approach to recovery and all the wrong-headedness involved in the developers, cities and farmers and others fighting to keep dams and destroy habit through expansion of their unsustainable practices.

Here’s what Alternet.org says about Salmon Month. For Spokane, salmon represent culture, science, hope, despair and a reawakening of our potential to heal the land.


September 2010 has been designated as “Salmon Month” by the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco. To celebrate salmon month, SalmonAid (http://www.salmonaid.org) will be sponsoring a month-long series of exciting events, creating an opportunity to educate the public about what has gone so terribly wrong with California’s once bountiful salmon runs.

“Salmon Water Now could not let Salmon Month start without adding our two-cents to the educational process,” said Bruce Tokars, the relentless producer of Salmon Water Now videos. “So we have a new video, actually, two new videos.”

“Bullies of Westlands” is Salmon Water Now’s answer to the reason that wild salmon in such dire shape. The video runs 20:44 minutes and is available on Vimeo uninterrupted and in two parts on YouTube.

“You knows a bully when you see one,” said Tokars in introducing his latest video. “They use their strength and power to get their way or to influence an outcome.”

Tokars said a bully can be a person, or an organization. “In California’s on-going struggle over water, the biggest bully of them all is the Westlands Water District on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. We believe that in the last couple of years, the once mighty runs of wild salmon have been decimated by the self-righteous bulling tactics of the Westlands Water District,” he stated.

This Salmon Water Now video looks at the words and deeds of Westlands, the “Darth Vader” of California water politics, as they push for more and more water to be shipped south of the Delta to irrigate subsidized crops on selenium-laden soil that should have never been irrigated.

“We see and hear the voices of Westlands and the politicians and media that have been carrying their messages – demanding that their need for water trumps all others,” said Tokars.

Along the way, Tokars documents the struggle of fishery managers trying to determine how many salmon are in the ocean (not many!).

He puts the lie to the Westlands claims that reduced water deliveries have put America’s agricultural output in jeopardy. “We contrast the record, surplus crops of tomatoes, and almonds shipped to China, against the low numbers of salmon that are sold domestically for $20 a pound,” noted Tokars.

“Something is not right,” said Tokars. “The Westlands Water District’s bullying tactics. Their unwillingness to be reasonable in the face of sound science regarding the health of the Delta and the need for balance is not right.”

However, Tokars emphasized, “It is not too late for Westlands to become good citizens. To accept their role in the tragic reality of wild salmon forced to the edge of extinction. It is not too late for Westlands to actually encourage balance and sharing of water. Will it happen? The odds are against the survival of salmon as long as the bullies of Westlands have their way.”

I encourage you to watch this superb video and see for yourself. “It is time to make what is wrong, right again. It is time for bullies to be dismissed for what they are. It is time for salmon water, now!” concluded Tokars.

“Bullies of Westlands” link:

Bullies of Westlands from Bruce Tokars on Vimeo.

In addition to “Bullies of Westlands,” Tokars has released “Jenna’s Salmon,” a short video about a little girl who caught two very large salmon recently. It is a fish tale that explains the angst over the current salmon season – and what is wrong and what is right, too.

“Jenna’s Salmon” link:

Recreational and commercial fishing for Chinook salmon on the ocean off California and Southern Oregon was closed in 2008 and 2009, due to the unprecedented collapse of Central Valley salmon populations. While multiple factors have lead to the demise of Central Valley salmon, none is more significant than massive water exports from the California Delta to corporate agribusiness and Southern California.

Yet the response of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his collaborators to this unprecedented disaster is to call for the construction of a peripheral canal and new dams to facilitate increased water exports to subsidized agribusiness and Southern California water agencies.

As usual, sharing and embedding of these videos is encouraged.

For more information, contact:

Bruce Tokars, http://www.salmonwaternow.org.

For more information about SalmonAid, go to: http://www.salmonaid.org.

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