Salmon Without Rivers

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Salmon Without Rivers: A Summary

The story of the Pacific salmon is a tragic one. Humans have consistently created conditions that threaten the livelihood of the salmon. Yet the salmon continue to fight despite the assault that has taken place on their habitat for over 150 years. In Salmon Without Rivers, Jim Lichatowich (1999) explores this assault as well as discusses man’s attempt to restore salmon to the Pacific Northwest. His detailed analysis of the history of the Pacific salmon sheds light on the plight of the salmon and the response by man to the salmon crisis in the Pacific. Lichatowich (1999) describes the initial destruction of the salmon’s habitat as beginning with Mother Nature. Through upheavals, eruptions, and the ice age, the salmon habitat in the Pacific Northwest was altered. However, salmon were able to adapt to geological and climactic events in order to continue to thrive in the Northwest. They were able to live within a stable ecosystem, despite the fact that they were often harvested by man for food. According to Lichatowich (1999), the first sign of salmon management can be found in Indian Country. Indian technology and culture furnished a sustainable salmon-based economy for at least 1,500 years. The success of their salmon-based economy can be tied to the fact that they believed that the fish were kindred spirits. These beliefs helped to maintain balance between man and the salmon. Indian people honored the salmon. The annual return of salmon from the ocean had spiritual and cultural significance for tribes, and the tribes developed elaborate rituals to celebrate the return of the fish. (Retrieved December 1, 2011 from http://www.nwcouncil.org/history/IndianFishing.asp). In the tribes’ religious beliefs, salmon were a gift from the salmon king and were immortal. Indians treated the annual arrival of the salmon with great respect and ceremony (Retrieved December 1, 2011 from http://www.nwcouncil.org/history/IndianFishing.asp). The overharvest and waste that was forthcoming would never have occurred in Indian Country due to the relationship that was believed to exist between Native people and the salmon. However, when the Euro-Americans moved West, the salmon no longer were seen as a gift but rather a commodity, something that would bring wealth to anyone who harvested it. Lichatowich (1999) outlines how it was through trapping, mining, logging, grazing and irrigation that man began to destroy the watershed, impacting the life of the salmon and forcing man to develop a system by which to reintroduced salmon to the Pacific Northwest. Lichatowich (1999) describes the fur trade as the beginning of man’s appetite for wealth and the beginning of the man-made destruction of the salmon’s habitat. It was the harvesting of the beaver that had the greatest impact on the salmon population. Beaver activity in the watershed is responsible for the stabilization of the salmon habitat, therefore, water and wetlands supported by beaver activity are important to the salmon. Adult salmon use the beaver ponds for holding habitat before spawning, making the beaver ponds important to the reproductive process of the salmon. The trapping of the beaver significantly impacted the watershed and decreased the available habitat for the salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Lichatowich (1999) describes miners as the next to disrupt the habitat of the Pacific salmon. Miners washed entire mountains into the riverbed which in turn choked out much of the salmon’s habitat with the deposits of cobble and silt. Rivers were thick with soil which clogged the gills of the salmon. The bottoms of the rivers were covered with new soil which smothered the incubating salmon and aquatic eggs which juvenile salmon depended on for food (Woody, 2007). Gold dredges devastated rivers, leaving nothing but piles of gravel. Some algae, at the base of the salmon food chain, were harmed and the declines in algae translated to less food for the...
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