the film
Commentaries and editorials

Herrera and Salmon

by A. F. Jenkins
Chinook Observer, October 31, 2018

Herrera Butler incorrectly claimed that
97 percent of salmon survive all of the dams.

Annual average survival estimates for PIT-tagged yearling Chinook salmon,
hatchery and wild fish combined. Vertical bars represent 95% confidence intervals. Horizontal dashed lines are 95% confidence interval endpoints for 2018 estimates I write concerning the Washington and Oregon Columbia fishery closure and how it relates to our U.S. congresswoman, Jaime Herrera Beutler.

Wild salmon and steelhead, which are very important culturally, economically and ecologically, are in dire straits across much of the Pacific Northwest. Their populations have been decimated over the past 175 years, for a variety of reasons. I will mention "Six Hs" or reasons for the declines that I have read about: Hydropower, habitat, harvest, hatcheries, heat and history.

There are a number of fine sources, including "King of Fish" by University of Washington Prof. David Montgomery; "Salmon Without Rivers" and "Salmon, People, and Place" by Jim Lichatowich; "Recovering a Lost River" by Steve Hawley (a Gorge neighbor); and more recently, "Wild Pacific Salmon: A Threatened Legacy" by eight salmon scientists, including Montgomery and Lichatowich.

Consider that as many as 16 million wild fish returned each year to the Columbia and Snake rivers for thousands of years, through the early 1800s. Over those many years, Native Americans (also orcas, seals, sea lions, osprey, eagles, etc.) had a small impact on salmon populations.

We immigrants have changed things. Now, unfortunately, just 842,000 salmon and steelhead -- only a fraction of which were wild -- passed over Bonneville Dam in 2017, a bad year. And 2018 is even worse. That 2017 return is about 5 percent of the historical numbers. Five percent!

This leads me to a letter I received from Herrera Beutler on May 9, 2018 in response to my concerns about salmon and a bill in Congress, HR 3144. She was a co-sponsor of this bill, which was widely criticized as harmful to fish. I attach her letter, as well as a letter from Gov. Jay Inslee, who was against HR 3144.

She said that our current management regime "has helped to produce record fish returns." Really? She also incorrectly claimed that 97 percent of salmon survive all of the dams. Her letter advised "please contact me if I can be of assistance." I called her Vancouver and D.C. offices in June 2018 hoping to speak with her. I left my name, contact info and referenced her letter; no response yet.

Unfortunately, she is either ill-informed about salmon, or is misrepresenting the facts, or both. I encourage all who care about our salmon to consider this in November. You don't have to be a tribal, commercial or recreational fisher to be concerned and support salmon recovery. Don't help Herrera Beutler make that measly 5 percent into an even smaller number.

A. F. Jenkins, White Salmon
Herrera and Salmon
Chinook Observer, October 31, 2018

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