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Salmon at the Food Bank
January 21, 2010 7:52 PM   Subscribe

Salmon, Trout Populations Surge in Oregon Rivers
Steelhead, along with Coho and Chinook salmon, have made a spectacular return to local streams in the past year, leaving sportsmen exultant and putting food on the tables of struggling Oregonians.
posted by kliuless (32 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Some good fish news for a change! On the mighty Fraser River up the coast in British Columbia, the number of spawning Sockeye salmon has plummeted from 24 million in the early 90s to 1.3 million in 2009. And nobody knows why.
posted by Flashman at 8:27 PM on January 21, 2010


There's something weird about reading about such local issues in the WSJ of all places.

But like the article quotes,

Populations of anadromous [or oceangoing] fish have declined dramatically all over the Pacific Northwest. Many populations of Chinook, Coho, chum and steelhead are at a tiny fraction of their historic levels.

This is a decent fish year, but the numbers are still just fractions of historical figures. So much habitat has been lost, and many of the streams that are still open have been severely degraded. Add in what happens out at sea (from overfishing to the effects of climate change), and no one is particularly hopeful that the salmon are in the middle of a total population rebound.
posted by Forktine at 8:38 PM on January 21, 2010


Must...fight...urge...to...joke...pants...
posted by mds35 at 8:39 PM on January 21, 2010


More than a few restaurants in Vancouver stopped selling wild Sockeye salmon on their menu due to depleting stocks - as a gesture to conservation.

It's yummy, yes, but I'd be more than willing to eat much less of it* if it means that I can have some occasionally for a good long time. It's a damned shame that farmed tilapia in large farms are starting to be fed corn - hence, no omega-3 fatty acids (from the algae that the tilapia normally eat; but this should be a easy problem to solve - until this practice and its consequences get more exposure, growing cheap [but not less "cheap" than corn] tanks of algae to feed the fish isn't going to be adopted).

*'it' includes all kinds of animals who's natural numbers are declining - but then again, abalone is frequently available at <>
posted by porpoise at 9:38 PM on January 21, 2010


hmm, sorry... abalone is frequently available at $7-10 ea at decent sizes where historically even tinned abalone of similar sizes go for $20-40 ea. I guess the farming operations are starting to pan out. Yay! Geoduck prices are still high, but that might be due to the slower growth rate? Back at the turn of, ahem, last century, a geoduck the size of a small house was dug up in Oregon.

But Sockeye has a strange life cycle that makes it impractical to farm - and even if the effort was undertaken, the farmed sockeye doesn't taste as good as the wild ones. Think American stockyard beef versus Argentinian grass fed.

I *really* *really* wonder what that giant geoduck might have tasted like.

posted by porpoise at 9:45 PM on January 21, 2010


The article briefly mentions that the vast majority of returning Chinook are hatchery fish. Pretty much any fish you can keep from rivers in Oregon are hatchery fish, including all steelhead. This article says that the cost per fish runs between $14 and $530. Many folks think that hatcheries are a bad idea, as the returning fish take up wild fish habitat. I don't know what my point is, but I do enjoy me catching some Coho on the fly, whether they be wild or hatchery. Tight lines!
posted by alpinist at 10:09 PM on January 21, 2010


Some good fish news for a change! On the mighty Fraser River up the coast in British Columbia, the number of spawning Sockeye salmon has plummeted from 24 million in the early 90s to 1.3 million in 2009. And nobody knows why.

Oh we know why. It's just that this is something no one in power anywhere is ever willing to acknowledge. The reason that this is happening is because there are too many frikken people on the planet. But admitting this means something can be done about it; like ... oh I dunno ... not having children, maybe.

The two women at the global-warming protest rally last month marching along clenched-fistedly with their brand-new babies in their $129 organic-bamboo baby-slings were genuinely unable to grasp why I was mocking their hypocrisy.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:16 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, the article I linked to is a PDF from 2002 and based on hatcheries in Washington, but I've heard similar statistics on Oregon hatcheries.
posted by alpinist at 10:22 PM on January 21, 2010


On the mighty Fraser River up the coast in British Columbia, the number of spawning Sockeye salmon has plummeted from 24 million in the early 90s to 1.3 million in 2009. And nobody knows why.

We all know why, it's just that there has not been funding for studies to provide robust, defensible data to explain why.

It's generally accepted that ocean survival rates are abysmal - the fish just aren't returning from the ocean. This could be because of sea lice from fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago, marauding mackerel that have traveled north because of warming currents to eat the juvenile fish, fewer things to feed on in the ocean. On top of all that you have salmon returning to one of the biggest environmental disasters on the planet - pine beetle infested woods which as profoundly affected the hydrology and ecology of British Columbia. Then there's warming river conditions, a new gravel mining operation on the Fraser River just outside of Hope, effluent that continues to be poured into the Fraser, logging roads on tributaries....

BTW, there might be too many frickin' people on the planet, but we're here, so there's no use complaining.

I have a baby sling. It's organic. And if you mocked me I would punch you in the nose.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:34 PM on January 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


This could be because of sea lice from fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago, marauding mackerel that have traveled north because of warming currents to eat the juvenile fish, fewer things to feed on in the ocean. On top of all that you have salmon returning to one of the biggest environmental disasters on the planet - pine beetle infested woods which as profoundly affected the hydrology and ecology of British Columbia. Then there's warming river conditions, a new gravel mining operation on the Fraser River just outside of Hope, effluent that continues to be poured into the Fraser, logging roads on tributaries....

All the direct result of the overpopulation of the planet. But your own precious snowflake isn't part of that problem. Right.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:49 PM on January 21, 2010


PareidoliaticBoy, if each of those woman only had one child, they were doing their part. Even China made their policy one child only. Hatin' on people isn't going to help the fish.

I am wondering if maybe some of the salmon predators are decimated by current conditions as well. Also I wonder what year these fish actually left their rivers. I believe they spend a variable amount of time at sea and perhaps there are factors that drove multiple generations in, or this cohort just had a really good cycle.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:16 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


All the direct result of the overpopulation of the planet. But your own precious snowflake isn't part of that problem. Right.

Of all of the things that people can do to help the environment, expecting them to not have sex is more ridiculous than expecting them to invent perpetual motion machines.
posted by stavrogin at 12:18 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


expecting them to not have sex

I expect them to fuck their little brains out -- without children.

I have one child. She is a precious snowflake, and I will be devasted without her, and it will be a tragedy if my line goes extinct. But there are plenty of other people, and I'll just brainwash their kids instead.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:36 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Of all of the things that people can do to help the environment, expecting them to not have sex is more ridiculous than expecting them to invent perpetual motion machines.


AH HA HA HA HA HA !! Too bad there's no way to have sex without also having children. Oh ... wait. I've been having having sex for 40 years, and yet I have no children. Must be a perpetual motion machine in the offing then. Amazing how the cold hard facts of overpopulation degrade people's reasoning ability. The fact remains though that the planet is overpopulated; it has DOUBLED since I was in high-school and learned about the problem. Adding any more people is anywhere makes the problem worse, period. This is especially true in the developed world, where each of one those new person's burden on the ecosystem is many magnitudes greater than in the developing world. Justify it any way you want, but you can't add to the burden, and then insist that your own need to procreate is magically exempt from the net consequences.

The squeals of outrage here prove precisely the point that I was making, which is that humans simply are not willing to admit the true nature of the problem; and then do something about it. The salmon fishery is fucked, and too many humans did it.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:27 AM on January 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


For fuck's sake, would it kill you to come up with a novel, interesting derail?
posted by ryanrs at 3:30 AM on January 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's just like Fern Gully! The moral is Man is BAD, Nature is GOOD. Now go forth, be unfruitful and subtract.
posted by RussHy at 5:16 AM on January 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


For fuck's sake, would it kill you to come up with a novel, interesting derail?

Amen. Internationally subsidizing handguns and asking that we do our part and kill a neighbor would help the fish population much quicker. Let's rant about that for a change.
posted by muddgirl at 5:32 AM on January 22, 2010


PareidoliaticBoy, perhaps if you made your very correct and unfortunately depressing point in a way which does not:

1) make you sound like a twat
2) make you sound over-bearing and holier-than-thou
3) make you sound violent

then you could have a real discussion about your real points. But jumping in an immediately dropping some judgemental vitriol about bamboo baby slings and punching women with babies in the face pretty much immediately earns you the exact response you got.

Maybe before we start eliminating future people, we could start with eliminating the assholes that exist and see where that gets us.
posted by spicynuts at 6:41 AM on January 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


All this "waaah waaah too many people waaah" is missing that the salmon runs were decimated a long time ago, when there were a lot less people than there are now. The salmon are coming back because we are making different choices (eg habitat restoration rather than building more dams), not because of a direct response to human population numbers.

Internationally subsidizing handguns and asking that we do our part and kill a neighbor would help the fish population much quicker.

No, unless you could use all those newly created dead bodies as fish habitat in degraded streams and to breach dams. Again, the salmon runs went into crisis many decades ago, when farming and logging altered the streams and dams began blocking migration routes.

The estimate that I keep hearing from fish biologists is that 80% of the habitat has been lost in the Columbia Basin. And those losses are not new -- some was lost before the turn of the last century, others from the 1930s through the 1960s.

So while I'm totally on board with the concept that we in the developing world are using too many resources, it's unsustainable, etc, the salmon situation is not nearly that simple, especially over the past couple of decades. Salmon is a really big deal out here, culturally as well as ecologically. Sadly, that simplistic WSJ article was, well, simplistic -- the actual story is a lot more complicated and interesting.
posted by Forktine at 6:43 AM on January 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm glad that the sportsmen are exultant. I don't know why but that makes me feel great.
posted by dobie at 6:50 AM on January 22, 2010


PareidoliaticBoy, don't you exist too? And doesn't this by virtue also make you "part of the problem"?

Fascinating....why is it that you only see babies as being "part of the problem?"

Anywho - this is prompting me to look into how things stand on the Atlantic Coast.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:43 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Didn't see this derail coming!

I'd just like to add that world meat consumption has increased 400% since 1970, in the same period the population has increased about 80%. This is a problem that is a little more fixable than overpopulation... eat less goddamn hamburgers. Eat less sockeye too, please.

Not that overpopulation isn't fixable - but it's probably easier to promote family planning, contraception, etc than it is to tell people to get rid of their babies. But do try to remember there are plenty of kids out there that need adopting, which are equally special snowflakes as your own.
posted by mek at 8:47 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ocean fish farming can be awful stuff. That fish stocks are stable-to-recovering in Oregon, but still falling in B.C. suggests that fish farming and pesticide practices could be to blame. I've seen sea lice on the backs of returning wild Steelhead in B.C.. I think I remember a local expert telling me the dark ones are natural and the light ones are from the fish farms. These fish, near the mouth of the river, had dozens of light-colored lice on them. I can't imagine a fry, whose life in the ocean is tough enough already, swimming past a ton of lice-infested farmed fish, could be helped much by this situation. On the other hand, this situation is breeding lice-resiliency...nature is a complex system!
posted by dylanjames at 9:31 AM on January 22, 2010


PareidoliaticBoy: The two women at the global-warming protest rally last month marching along clenched-fistedly with their brand-new babies in their $129 organic-bamboo baby-slings were genuinely unable to grasp why I was mocking their hypocrisy.

You must be a blast at parties.
posted by mkultra at 10:03 AM on January 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is it just me, or do Malthusian overpopulation maniacs always seem to be preaching a thinly-veiled misogyny?

Why restrict yourself to picking on the women with babies? Why not wander up to random men in the protest and demand they get vasectomies?

PareidoliaticBoy, I assume that you've done the responsible thing and had a vasectomy yourself, right?
posted by ErikaB at 10:28 AM on January 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Nothwithstanding the predictable (and predictably misanthropic) overpopulation argument herein, the single most devastating pressure on wild Pacific salmon stocks, ecologically, is the explosion in salmon farming. It has nothing to do with insufficient protein in the seas for a booming global population and everything to do with the usual mire of cheap food policies, corporate greed, consumer complacency and government inaction. We're not running out of salmon because we're catching too much of it but because we're growing too much of it to stuff down the maws of westerners who've come to think of it not as a delectable luxury but as a cheap, ubiquitous alternative to chicken. (Indeed the fact that the standard conference hall's dinner choice is rubber chicken or flavourless salmon tells much of the story.)

Taras Grescoe explains this at length in this fantastic feature from the defunct Best Life magazine. Here's the short version from a Times op-ed:
Three Norwegian-owned companies dominate the salmon-farming industry in North America, and their offshore net-cages dot long stretches of the west coast of the Americas. In Chile, overcrowding in these oceanic feedlots led to this year’s epidemic of infectious salmon anemia, a disease that has killed millions of fish and left the flesh of survivors riddled with lesions.

The situation in Canada, which supplies the United States with 40 percent of its farmed salmon, is not much better. In British Columbia, offshore net-cages are breeding grounds for thumbtack-sized parasites called sea lice. In the Broughton Archipelago, a jigsaw of islands off the province’s central coast, wild pink salmon are infested with the crustaceans. Scientists think that the tens of millions of salmon in Broughton’s 27 Norwegian-owned farms are attracting sea lice and passing them on to wild fish, killing them. They say that this infestation could drive Broughton’s pink salmon to extinction by 2011.
In order to deal with the sea lice, farmed salmon have become a toxic stew of pesticides and antibiotics. Tucking into a farmed salmon fillet is now no better for you or the planet than chowing down on a factory-farmed hamburger patty. Whatever short-term blip is bringing stocks back in Oregon, the outlook for the wild salmon population - and the sustainable, small-boat wild salmon fishery - is resolutely bleak.

I know Taras fairly well, and I had a long chat with him just after he got back from researching the BC salmon fishery. He was optimistic (and I was convinced) that farmed salmon would become a bit of a cause celebre in the same circles outraged about factory cattle farming and food miles and ecological footprints and so forth. Perhaps an even bigger outrage, because here are foreign multinationals laying waste to a domestic industry and cherished domestic ecosystems. Alas, no.

Probably goes without saying, but I can't recommend Taras' book Bottomfeeder more highly. The Fast-Food Nation of the seafood business.
posted by gompa at 11:03 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Makes me very happy! Fishing is a blast, fresh caught fish is one of the best things ever, and steelhead are one of the wonderful things about living in the Pacific NW. Sorry to be all sunshine and light, but this is very good news.
posted by bearwife at 1:51 PM on January 22, 2010


Hatin' on people isn't going to help the fish.

No, but grinding them up into tasty salmon pellets and throwing them in the ocean will! (I'll go first!)
posted by sneebler at 5:24 PM on January 22, 2010


here is an interesting video about a dam breach here in oregon. the idea of dam breaching here in the nw seems like it can only be a good thing for the fish in the long run. is it pacific power that is going to breach 4 dams in the near future instead of continuing to operate them and maintain them? i could be mixing up stories...
posted by rainperimeter at 10:56 PM on January 22, 2010


the idea of dam breaching here in the nw seems like it can only be a good thing for the fish in the long run

My sense is that dam breaching is not the golden panacea that people say it is. (I'm talking about the big Columbia and Snake dams -- there are a ton of outdated small dams on littler rivers that need to get yanked out.) For one thing, the fish passage rates are really good now -- removing the dams will help survival, but not by orders of magnitude. For another, removing the dams isn't consequence-free. Even ignoring issues like pollutants in the silt behind the dams, every technology for replacing the power generation (most likely coal or nuclear) has serious impacts on water quality and quantity. And the dams make river transportation possible for large barges -- take that away, and you have to account for the impact of much more road and train traffic and construction. All those things have impacts on salmon -- even if the balance is in favor of dam removal, it's not clean and simple.

I suspect that it's inevitable that the dams will eventually go, if for no other reason than as a society we are choosing to not maintain our infrastructure and eventually they will crumble and fail. But I also think that you could magically remove the dams tomorrow, and still see the salmon runs struggling for a long time -- there are a lot of factors in the population decline, and the dams are only one small piece of that.
posted by Forktine at 8:35 AM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


thanks forktine. all good and interesting points. i don't think dam breaching is going to be a magic cure-all. i'm thinking of smaller rivers and dams, like the sandy. not things like the bonneville dam on the columbia. it seems like the best thing for the overall health of our rivers, but i'm no expert on this stuff.

with the removal of dams and the energy they produce, i'm not sure what the utilities plan on doing to meet electricity needs. trojan had been down for a long time and is now demolished. boardman is supposed to be taken off line by 2020(?), way ahead of schedule. dams are scheduled to be taken offline and demolished. there is a ton of talk of upping solar and wind of course, but you know, who knows?

(and if it's not obvious my views and news i get are pretty oregon specific. just sayin')
posted by rainperimeter at 12:44 PM on January 23, 2010


[few comments removed - metatalk is what I would suggest at this point, thanks]
posted by jessamyn at 8:42 PM on January 23, 2010


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