the deathly language of wild salmon…


exhausting language?

There has not been a post here in a bit… a slight break… severe exhaustion of the reams of “specialist” salmon language. In discussions of salmon; it is never-ending.

I’ve been reviewing various studies, following salmon stories online, participating in a few meetings, reading the odd book —

Four Fish -- by Paul Greenberg

(this one of which is decent storytelling, but not much different then any other chapter of a book on the issue…)

…and just have not been able to pull a post together on the subject.

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Today I came across material out of the University of Oregon — The Salmon 2100 Project. Inasmuch as I find the spirit of the project a positive one… the language is at times exhausting; and too oft repeated everywhere one turns to read about wild salmon…

One of the ‘chapters’ is titled:

Wild Salmon in Western North America: Forecasting the Most Likely Status in 2100

But how can it be that the recovery prognosis is poor when the direct causes of the decline are reasonably well known, have been studied in great detail, and the public is generally supportive of reversing the long-term downward trend?

The answer is captured in a simple policy statement of fact:

Effecting any change in the long-term downward trend of wild salmon is futile in the absence of shifts in the core policy drivers of this decline.

It is the core policy drivers [pictured above] —the root causes—that have determined the status of wild salmon and will continue to determine that status through this century.

Habitat alteration, dams, water withdrawals, fishing, hatcheries, and many more, are simply the ways in which the core policy drivers have been expressed. Intended or not, by focusing on these highly visible, but secondary factors, government agencies have instituted a patchwork approach to salmon restoration that has distracted attention away from the less obvious, but fundamental core policy drivers.

I certainly agree with the patchwork approach, as documented in a post some time ago.

Is this blanket wet?

However… “core policy drivers”… wow, where do I sign up for this campaign?

Core Policy Driver #1 — Rules of Commerce
The first core driver is an overarching one and, like everything else in salmon science and policy, difficult to rigorously quantify as to its influence on wild salmon. It is:

The rules of commerce, especially trends in international commerce and trade as reflected in increased market globalization, tend to work against increasing the numbers of wild salmon.


Ironically the document points out some of challenges in getting “the public” interested…

…it may not be so much that the public (whomever that is?) is not interested —– it’s that the damn discussion is inaccessible.

Try and frame a wild salmon pep rally around core policy drivers & rules of commerce and see how many average folks show up…

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It isn’t much different at the Cohen Commission into declines of Fraser River sockeye. The number of pages accumulating at that process should pretty much keep the BC pulp and paper industry in business for quite some time… or the dam-building business to keep producing the power to fuel the electronic databases of information…

In the end I don’t really see a nice succinct 20-page document coming out of that process, with clear ideas about stemming the downward trend.

Especially if terms such as this dominate the process…

complicated policy prescriptions

It’s not really that complicated… here’s a dictionary definition to assist…



1. the act of catching fish.
2. the technique, occupation, or diversion of catching fish.
3. a place or facility for catching fish.


plural ( especially collectively) fish, (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) fish·es, verb
1. any of various cold-blooded, aquatic vertebrates, having gills, commonly fins, and typically an elongated body covered with scales.

And so if one engages in the verb — to fish — that means, generally, removing and killing those cold-blooded critters, commonly with fins and scales…

One dead fish, means one less spawning fish… less spawning fish means less offspring… less offspring means less returning mature adults… more fishing… more dead fish… less spawners…

And you catch my drift (pardon the pun)…

Fortunately, like many critters on this planet, salmon are pretty darn hearty, tough creatures. They’ve survived ice ages, volcanoes and mass climate changes… but now they fight a heckuva battle… dwindling numbers, increasing pressures.

Little less of the verb “to fish” and we might just see miracles… instead of hiding behind “core policy drivers” otherwise known as “lack of political will”…

. {Hugh MacLeod}



One thought on “the deathly language of wild salmon…

  1. Nick

    Good to see you back. I think your comment “lack of political will” hits the nail clearly on the head. We do not need more commissions, more research, or more laws, we already have plento of those. What we need is some politicians that are willing to lead and enforce some laws (in other words use some political will). Instead of this constant pandering where they to try to please all but end up pleasing none while all the salmon disappear in the process.

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