By Gary Yamaguchi, For The North American Post
The movie “Artifishal” is a very good assessment of the current sad situation of Pacific Northwest salmon and steelhead. For generations, both types of fish have fought loss of spawning habitat, free-running rivers, clean water, oxygen deprivation in stagnant lake waters above dams, overfishing by both commercial and sport fishermen, netting by tribal communities, predation by seals at fish ladder entrances, and competition with well-meaning but harmful hatchery programs. Now there is a new threat, which is fish farming off our coastlines here and in British Columbia. The fish farming seems to be the last nail in the coffin and has really led to a precipitous decline in wild fish populations. “Artifishal” brings out these issues in a fairly convincing manner, although many of my fishing companions disagree.
I, for one, looked into the matter more completely as a scientist. I examined a number of fish surveys in the Skagit, Snake, and Columbia rivers and other drainages and the numbers are appalling for salmon as well as steelhead. Our science and political system has failed these fish. Though I live for just the chance to hook up with one of these ocean beauties, I am all for closing fishing for the time being and for ceasing all hatchery programs to see if the fish can recover on their own. The numbers of wild salmon returning after the Elwha Dam removal suggests that they may be able to do so. We humans need to restore their habitat and get out of the way. It may mean traveling to faraway destinations to fish for a while. But everything we’ve tried thus far has been an utter failure.
I have stopped purchasing farmed Atlantic salmon as a result of my decision to support wild fish. We stand to lose a great, historic resource if we give in to the fish farming industry.
(P.S.) Look at website “Wild Fish Con-ser-vancy”(wildfishconservancy.org). It is controversial but I am on the side of the fish on this one!
Gary Yamaguchi, a former professor of engineering, is now a biomechanical consultant near Seattle.