It's High Time That We Raise a Ruckusby Editors
The Daily Astorian, March 23, 2006
Dams and irrigators got a 'Get Out of Jail Free' card from Bush and Congress
This is shaping up to be one of the worst years in recent memory for salmon fishermen of every kind -- commercial, charter and private sport.
We've been lulled into a false sense of optimism about salmon stocks in recent years. After dismal seasons during much of the 1990s, dramatically improved conditions in the ocean brought a relieving rebound in salmon returns to the Columbia. An abundance of bait fish in the ocean made for happy chinook and coho, and happier fishermen and fishing communities. No one knows for sure just why there were so many tasty little fish suddenly swarming in the ocean. It may reflect a natural cycle; it certainly wasn't on account of any deliberate actions by man.
Congress, the Bush administration and others were quick to say these stronger returns proved it isn't necessary to bypass Snake River dams or make other fundamental changes in how the river is operated. In a January 2006 speech, White House science adviser James Connaughton said hydro-system and habitat issues have now been fully addressed.
This entirely unwarranted -- indeed unscientific -- conclusion has given Connaughton and others an opening to attack fishermen and the hatchery system that has kept salmon fisheries from outright collapse for the past several decades.
Essentially, dams and irrigators are getting a 'Get Out of Jail Free' card at the expense of the fishermen and the coastal communities that have long been the strongest advocates for salmon conservation and preservation.
Now, we're right back to where we were before with regard to returns, with severe fishing restrictions ahead to protect the dwindling number of endangered wild salmon that mingle with far more numerous hatchery stocks. The first shoe dropped with a ban on ocean fishing from Cape Falcon in Oregon south into California, and the second shoe will probably soon drop in the form of strict limits on fishing north of Cape Falcon.
Today's fishermen's rally is a chance for concerned people from both sides of the Columbia to speak up for our environment and our heritage.
We can't allow this callous disregard for salmon and for our communities to go unchallenged. It's time to raise a ruckus.
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