- 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
- 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
- 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