The Sockeye Monthly Post
Number Four: March 2019
Sasquatch Caught With Wild Salmon
Rare Photo Below
art, science, culture
Lead Story from The National Fishy Enquirer
In The News
Happenings & Media Events
News Headlines & Links
We continue to follow developments related to Pebble Mine in Alaska and Snake River dames in Washington and Idaho.
Pebble Mine ...
2014 Environmental Protection Agency imposed restrictions which essentially blocked large scale mine development in the Bristol Bay watersheds. Mining backer, Northern Dynasty Minerals sues. Case progresses slowly.
2017 (May) New Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announces that lawsuit has been settled, and he would move to abandon the Obama era restrictions. Mine developers continue with development plans.
2017 (December) The Pebble Partnership, representing Northern Dynasty Minerals submits first major permit application to US Army Corps of Engineers. This “kick starts” the Federal review and permitting process.
2018 (January) New EPA Chief announces EPA will return to earlier Obama era decision, mining development again on hold.
The Trump Administration and Alaska Governor Dunleavy continue to fast track the Pebble Mine project. The draft Environmental Impact Statement has been released; the comment period has begun, with hearings scheduled for April 11 in Homer, and April 16 in Anchorage. Good places to follow this issue are:
Portland Based Wild Salmon Center, which has declared 2019 the Year To Protect Bristol Bay (wildsalmoncenter.org.)
Homer, Alaska based Cook Inletkeeper (inletkeeper.org)
Snake River Dam Removal ...
Federal and State agencies and Tribal groups have agreed to a three year plan to release more water over 8 lower Columbia and Snake river dams in an effort to improve young salmon survival in their journey downstream. A moratorium on litigation is part of the agreement. The action is another experiment in salmon recovery: no one really knows if or how well it will work. The agreement essentially defers dealing with the larger issue of removal of the Snake River dams, still considered by many to be the single most effective salmon recovery action in the Columbia and Snake river basins.
LATEST (2016-2017) CALIFORNIA SALMON RETURNS
California Salmon Returns Continue to Decline
The Nature Conservancey’s website casalmon.org (the best place to get a sense of salmon populations in California) has this to say about 2016/2017 returns (latest data available):
“237,000 salmon and steelhead returned to monitored California rivers to spawn in 2016/2017, down from 335,000 in 2015/2106, 520,000 in 2014/2015 and 680,000 in 2013/2014. Salmon populations have suffered under poor river conditions caused by the drought and poor ocean conditions as well.”
Go to casalmon.org to see information on specific rivers (there are 55 watershed “snapshots”).
Endangered Hood Canal and Eastern Strait of Juan De Fuca Summer Chum, Good News …
For Now …
Hood Canal and Straits of Juan de Fuca summer chum recovery is, in the eyes of those working on it, one success story in a sea of less optimistic salmon trends. Populations have been recovering significantly over the fifteen-plus years that the recovery plan has been in place. Yet, a possible downturn may be on the horizong, due to latest ocean temperature indicators related to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
Summer Chum, the Population …
distinctively different from fall chum in behavior and geographical distribution…
Are found in Hood Canal and rivers draining into the eastern part of the Straits of Juan de Fuca …
Have a life history with returns to natal rivers in Aug and Sept, spawning Sept and Oct., emergence in Dec and January, swimming downriver to estuaries from January to April (they have little dependence on fresh water), and then spending 3 to 4 years in the ocean.
In the 1970’s, declines of summer chums observed; habitat degradation and over harvest considered to be main contributing factors …
By 1989-90, less than 1000 returned to spawn, an all time low, …
Initially, significant harvest reductions put into place, and hatchery supplementation programs launched, …
Designated ESU (Evolutionary Significant Unit) and Threatened population in 1999 under Endangered Species Act …
Hood Canal and Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca Summer Chum Salmon Recovery Plan released with implementation beginning in 2000.
Leadership responsibility for recovery given to Hood Canal Coordinating Council (Jefferson, Mason and Kitsap counties, Skokomish and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes).
The Plan implementation strategy has focused on:
Current Status …
Recent public presentation in Brinnon, Washington Fisheries and Wildlife biologists Mark Downen and Chris Waldbillig stated that summer chum recovery is a success story (moving towards delisting as threatened), especially with Hood Canal populations …
Big Quilcene river is seeing the most dramatic increases (the “engine” for recovery efforts), followed by Hamma Hamma, Duckabush and Dosewallips …
Returns to the Juan de Fuca populations (Snow Creek, Dungeness River, Chimacum Creek) have declined over the past two years, with indications that this may be linked to wider ocean temperature warming due to Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and climate change …
Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) …
is indicated by a reversal in ocean temperatures (from a cool phase to a warm phase (with salmon population declines during warm phases) …
1980’s to 1995 saw a prevailing warm phase (salmon declines), then a cool phase right after summer chum listing in 2000 (salmon increases), then from 2015 to 2017 (and continuing), seeming return to a warm phase (likely salmon declines) …
Hood Canal summer chum populations may be impacted by the PDO over the coming years as there is a lag time between its affects on Straits of Juan de Fuca populations (where it already appears to be influencing salmon returns) and those in the more protected waters to the south (where summer chum salmon returns have been increasing).
The Blob …
Recently NOAA scientists have observed ocean conditions more favorable for salmon, a reduction in the large warm area coined “the blob”, with increased populations of anchovies and other small fish that salmon feed on. Stay tuned.
PEBBLE MINE PUBLIC HEARINGS
April 11, Homer, Alaska
April 16, Anchorage
Reviews & Commentary
Being Salmon, Being Human
Encountering the Wild in Us and Us in the Wild
by Martin Lee Mueller
2017, Chelsea Green
This is a book about philosophy.
This is a book about Atlantic salmon.
This is a book about the fish farming industry.
This is a book about the removal of the Elwha Dam.
This is a PhD dissertation in Philosophy by a Norwegian scholar.
This is a thinking person’s book about salmon.
This is a book that strives to help us understand why we, as humans, continue to look at salmon (and all non-human life forms) as biological machines and resources, to be used, rather than entities that have a right to their own lives … and how we can change this perception.
This is a beautifully written (often poetic), creatively presented, and timely book about all of the above. There is nothing quite like it in the universe of salmon scholarship.
The basic theme throughout the book is the anthropocentric bias of western culture, dating back to the time of the philosopher, Descartes. The lens through which Mueller explores this topic is salmon, wild and domesticated (farmed). Being Norwegian, he provides a unique perspective; treating both Old World, Atlantic salmon (wild and farmed) as well as wild Pacific Salmon. For people living amongst the latter, this is quite informative and thought provoking.
And, most importantly, the story of the Atlantic salmon may also be the story of Pacific salmon if we do not change our ways of looking at and using them.
The book is inspired by and builds on the work of four other provocative “thinkers”:
David Abrams, author of the Spell of the Sensuous (1996) and Becoming Animal (2010),
Stephan Harding, author of Animate Earth (2006) and, with Lynn Margulis, “Water Gaia: Three and a Half Thousand Million Years of Wetness on Planet Earth” in Gaia in Turmoil (2009), and
James Lovelock, author of The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity (2006).
Here is a basic outline of Mueller’s book. It is not always easy reading (after all it is part of a PhD thesis in philosophy), but well worth the effort. Chapter’s 1, 2, 8, 9, and 13. are suggested for those who might not be up to all 350 pages.
1 Storytelling Animal
Establishes the root of the problem, the Cartesian split, where humans began to believe in the story of us as separate from other creatures, the idea that the thinking human mind is unique and rules over all other life.
2 Hidden Salmon
Taking this split to its extreme through the development of the salmon farming industry, considering what is meant by the industry slogan that farmed salmon are “happy salmon”.
3 Exploited Captives
A deeper look at the fish farming industry, considering the ethics of keeping salmon (or any other sentient being) in captivity, and how the industry justifies its practices.
Begins to explore the importance of salmon as a keystone species in the environments that they inhabit, including the Gaian hypothesis that the earth is a living, self regulating organism.
5 The Sea In Our Veins
The lens shifts to humans, how we came from and are connected to the ocean, how language reflects our way of seeing and interpreting the world around us, the need for a poetic voice to counterbalance the “scientific” or mechanistic narrative of our relationship with the natural world.
6 Being Human
Continues the connection of humans to our planet, going from the sea to the land, how we depend on and continually interact with the soil, plants and terrestrial world we inhabit, argues for a return to mindfulness, more paying attention to the bottoms of our feet and our rootedness with the earth.
7 This Animate Waterworld
More on the Gaia hypothesis, emphasizing the oceanic realm, discussing the concept of “horizon” as the outer edge of our perceptual awareness, where going beyond it opens up the possibility of understanding the world of the salmon. “Earth as the great inside, suffused with life, creativity, agency, sentience” (p.124). This chapter sets the stage for the next one, Being Salmon.
8 Being Salmon
Begins with an eloquent attempt at describing, in words, what is is like to be a salmon fry, moving downriver to an estuary to smolt, thinking like a salmon and thinking like an ocean. Introduces Abrams concept of metamorphic speech, “to encounter from our own place inside the depth of the biosphere, the salmon, in their own depth” (p. 138). Mueller describes the life cycle of the salmon in a poetic, un-human, non-objective way, attempting to cross the horizon between “humanness” and “salmonness”.
9 The Earth Ever Struggles to Be Heard
The Elwha story, as a metaphor for the thesis of the book, where dams are built to benefit man, where salmon were not considered, and where, nearly 100 years later, the dams were removed and salmon allowed to return.
10 Salmon Boy
Introduces the important concept of “indigenaity”, becoming Native to a place, the “competent and complex animistic participation between people and the land they inhabit” (p.207), told through the traditional story of the agreement between the salmon people and the human people, how it can be broken, how it can be repaired.
11 In The Shadow of the Standing Reserve
The reasons why we continue on this unsustainable path, not just with salmon, but with most life forms on the earth, our fascination with power, technology and human exceptionalism, and it’s ramifications in the ocean and on land.
12 The Salmon Fairytale
The story we continue to tell ourselves regarding our right to raise salmon in net pens verses the counter narrative, that of salmon as gift, with responsibility and reciprocity.
13 Drawn Inside Geostory
The final chapter, where Mueller presents his counter narrative, a “Geostory”, exploring “deep time” (going back millions of years to the very beginnings of life on earth). Galileo turned our perspective outward to the heavens; Lovelock and his Gaia hypothesis directs our gaze inward, to ourselves as a part of a living earth. The story of the Elwha is revisited in this new context.
Highly recommended reading.
NEWS SOURCES (These are the places we visit regularly to find some of the best news and information related to salmon).