Salmon Without Rivers


The title of Jim Lichatowich’s book, Salmon without Rivers, A History of the Pacific Salmon Crisis, refers to a statement attributed to the Washington state department of fisheries in 1960 and deserves to be quoted in full1. “... new simplified methods of salmon egg incubation and predator and hydraulic control in water areas, plus the impoundment of migrating salmon at or near the rearing ponds for the artificial taking of spawn, may provide the reality — salmon without a river.”

Wild salmon have a complicated life history. They are born in shallow freshwater gravel beds, live as juveniles in freshwater streams, as adults in the ocean, and return to their natal stream to reproduce and die. If any one part of their life history is blocked, the salmon will disappear from that system. They can have pristine habitat inland and ideal conditions in the ocean but if a dam blocks their return, the salmon will disappear from that watershed in one generation. These facts of salmon life have been known to fisheries managers for 125 years. Rather than restrict development in salmon habitat we chose to rely on artificial propation of salmon in hatcheries. This was a reasonable seeming solution to the conflict at the time, but it has not worked. Salmon populations are in trouble up and down the West Coast of the United States except for Alaska.

We spoke with Jim Lichatowich about the natural history of salmon and what can be done for their recovery. Jim has worked on Pacific salmon issues as a researcher, manager, and scientific advisor for thirty years. He has served as a member of three independent science panels studying issues related to Pacific salmon management and recovery. He specializes in evaluation of the ecology and status of salmon and steelhead populations and the development of restoration plans. His new book, Salmon Without Rivers, describes the roots of the salmon crisis. His book is written for the general audience and is documented with a large bibliography.

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