Is Salmon Extinction the Option?
I stood last weekend on Sourdough Ridge above Sunrise Lodge in Mt Rainer National Park for the first time since I moved here in April. As I gazed across this spectacular landscape and down into basin below, I wondered if salmon were back spawning here.
No, they are not; a dam on the Green River blocked their migration many years ago.
How are salmon doing in Puget Sound? Turns out, salmon are not doing too well according to a report recently released by NOAA, not any better now than 10 years ago when salmon species in Puget Sound were listed on the Endangered Species List. NOAA’s recent report highlights that we are still losing more habitat than restoring and have not addressed toxic pollutant runoff to a sufficient level to reverse the adverse effects of toxic pollutants on fish survival.
We know what to do but need the political and societal will to act. The Department of Ecology and Environmental Protection Agency know how to clean up toxic pollution in the Sound. Recent legislation to remove copper from brake pads and boat paint should, if implemented, reduce the amount of copper in Puget Sound. Copper causes salmon to lose their sense of smell and appears to affect their orientation abilities; possibly reducing the number that survive.
As Billy Frank points out, increased focus on habitat restoration in salmon streams, estuarine marshes, and along coastal shorelines of Puget Sound is critical. Federal Judge James Redden has told the federal government that their plans in the Columbia River are not sufficient to protect and restore salmon populations there. We need the federal government to recognize that their plans in Puget Sound are also lacking. Strong shoreline management plans that protect and restore the shoreline of Puget Sound are essential for maintaining and restoring habitat for juvenile salmon and small fish that form a primary food of salmon. We need to stop the continued construction of shoreline armoring that disrupt natural ecological processes and instead concentrate on restoring these processes.
Former Governor Gary Locke said that “Salmon extinction is not an option” but our actions often suggest otherwise. What do you think? Will we let salmon in Puget Sound go the way of the Passenger Pigeon?