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Seattle University on Salmon
April 22, 1999
Good evening, all you youngsters.
I saw in your Faculty and Staff Newsletter that I was to speak tonight on "Why Save the Salmon."
There are many good reasons and I think you probably know most, if not all, of them.
For beginners, they are lifesustaining and good to eat. As such they formed the ancient cultural basis of Native Americans for thousands of years before the coming of the European immigrants.
I want to talk about how these precious salmon became threatened.
The first that comes to mind is that many of the salmon are barred from reaching their traditional gravelbreeding grounds by dams that have been built without fish ladders. These breeding grounds are known as redds.
Dams, with or without fish ladders, impede the flow of rivers, warming them beyond the tolerance of the fish.
Another reason is that the watersheds of most salmon streams and rivers have been clearcut of the ancient forests. Once that occurs, the storms sweep down the bared slopes and wash the soil into the streams. This, too, covers the redds.
Pollution of the rivers also occurs because of the agricultural use of chemicallybased fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides, which leach into the aquifer and thence into the rivers. These pollutants kill the salmon.
The chemically based fertilizer used on lawns and golf courses eventually reach the rivers; and the toxic runoff from feedlots also finds it way to the rivers.
Hatchery fish management has introduced diseases to wild fish and often successfully competes with them.
In 1986 some 2500 salmon leaped from the waters and died on the banks of the Duwamish River. Biologists believe toxic chemicals in the water killed the fish.
Over fishing also plays a very important part in salmon depletion. In the Atlantic waters whole species have already been wiped out.
Dredging and hydraulic mining blasts enormous quantities of mud and gravel into the rivers. This is fatal to the redds.
Many dams should be removed and a few have been, but political reasons have frequently been a barrier. For example, the environmental organizations had gone through the congressional process of removing the two dams on the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula but Congressional Senator Slade Gorton used the power of his office to attach a proviso that if he supports the removal of the Elwha dams which will restore the magnificent Chinook salmon run on that river, it was only upon the environmentalists promising not to attempt to remove dams on the Snake or Palouse rivers.
This, of course, was unacceptable.
This man is up for reelection in the year 2000 and must be removed from office.
Meanwhile, last March the federal government listed Puget Sound chinook as an endangered species.
Louise Miller, chair person of the Metropolitan King County Council, recently stated: "The chinook listing represents a daunting economic and environmental challenge. The federal government has issued the challenge, putting the ball in this region's court. They are also standing by to assist us."
A most informative and beautiful book has been written on the salmon, entitled: "Reaching Home." The photography is by Natalie Forbes and the essays by Tom Jay and Brad Matson. I have brought a copy with me, so please take a look at it.
I will close with a quotation from this book. "The fact is the salmon have kept their biggest secret. We still don't know how the Pacific salmon swimming thousands of miles out in the ocean find their way back to their home streams. I wonder if we ever shall."
Thank you.
Hazel Wolf