The Reasons Wild Salmon Are Declining


Wild salmon have been declining in the Northwest for one hundred years. The ongoing sport fishery in Puget Sound is based on artificially propagated hatchery fish and supplies us with the illusion that salmon are still plentiful. Today's sport fishery resembles nothing so much as one of those roadside trout farms you went to as a kid where you would pay a dollar and pull out a pond fish. There was a time in the not too distant past on Puget Sound when a forty pound king salmon could take your bait, trash your tackle, and jump out of the water a hundred yards away to shake out the hook.

Earlier decisions about dams, sport and commercial fisheries, hatcheries, farming and timbering have left us with a complex problem, or an opportunity. Progress has been made in recent years: public aware- ness is increasing and salmon habitat is now a consideration in planning and development. However, we are at a political impasse: farmers, timber companies, city dwellers, sport, commercial and tribal fishers blame each other for the decline in salmon.

Passing another law to protect salmon won't do any good. There are plenty of laws on the books now; either they are not enforced, or worse, they are enforced selectively depend- ing on the political climate. We need to find the political will to address the big obstacles to wild salmon recov- ery: habitat loss, fisheries, and hatcheries. If we succeed, perhaps our descendants will know what it's like to take on a forty pound king salmon off Point No Point, and not have to worry that it might be the last of its kind.

We spoke with Daniel J. Chasan, attorney and writer, about the politi cal obstacles to wild salmon recovery.

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