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6 thoughts on “President’s salmon joke fails to connect with reality

  1. Well, it was a joke, so we can allow for some inaccuracies. I suppose if Dan Quayle or Sarah Palin had said it, though, it would be blown up into a major political issue. Whatever.

    There is one reason the salmon are endangered and one reason only: they are being over-fished. You can blame everything else in the world, but unless we stop over-fishing the salmon are doomed.

  2. Yes, overfishing is a major reason for salmon decline, but even if another one were never caught, without streams appropriate for salmon spawning – clean, cold, gravel-bottomed, unobstructed by dams, and with complex pool-and-riffle topography, large woody debris, and the correct hydrology – they will be just as extinct as if they were fished into extinction. Both over-fishing and habitat destruction have to be curtailed for the salmon to survive.

  3. Well said, Chris. I appreciate your clarification of how Pacific salmon are managed.

    I wonder, though, if we’re being too Pacific-centric. Residing as he does on the East Coast, Obama may have been thinking of Atlantic salmon. My (minimal) understanding is that Atlantic salmon hatcheries are managed by Fish and Wildlife while the recovery of listed populations has been managed jointly by FWS and NOAA.

    One man’s invasive species is another man’s distinct population segment?

  4. Poor water policy is at fault. Water is taken out of a spawning rivers for other uses. We have to decide if we are going to use our rivers for salmon spawning, irragation or for city water, or some combination of the last 2.

    A few years ago in the Klamath river thousends of returning salmon died befor they could spawn becouse their wasn’t enough water. They did not die from overfishing.

  5. Scott, I think you’re right. Atlantic salmon appears to be an exception. The Office of Protected Resources link I listed above, states, “NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has jurisdiction over most marine and anadromous fish listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA),” then goes on to list them.

    The keyword is “most.” On the East Coast, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service apparently have joint jurisdiction for the recovery of Atlantic Salmon. This statement is from a 100-page Atlantic Salmon Recovery Framework (PDF 1.1 mb):

    “The life history of an anadromous species poses challenges for management requiring action in freshwater, adjacent riparian habitat, estuaries and marine waters near and offshore. Joint responsibility for the species between two federal agencies adds additional layers of complexity. Added to this has been a strained and, at times, litigious relationship with the State and affected industries. It is for all of these reasons that enhanced coordination, deliberate and advance planning, and monitoring is essential to the future of this species.”

    Thanks for calling this to my attention. I love learning new things, and this may have been what the president was talking about. On the other hand, it’s a pretty limited example, given the breadth of his statement about “salmon.” Still, his bigger point is certainly valid, since we have freshwater fish and saltwater fish of all kinds being managed by two entirely separate cabinet-level departments.

    Something similar can be said for the U.S. Forest Service, which is under the Department of Agriculture, as opposed to its cousin, the Bureau of Land Management, which is under the Department of Interior along with the National Park Service.

    It would only make sense to straighten all this out, but many others have tried and failed to break down the various fortresses of political domain.

    Thanks, Scott for bringing the joint management of Atlantic salmon to my attention.

  6. I have to throw in one more comment after reading reporter Craig Welch’s piece in the Seattle Times today. David Montgomery makes a good point about trying to reorganize federal agencies around the needs of salmon.

    “It makes for a better joke than it does an idea,” said the University of Washington professor and MacArthur Award recipient, who explored the complexities of saving salmon in his award-winning 2003 book “King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon.”

    “It really does sound silly that we have all these different jurisdictions, but the basic problem is salmon don’t stay put,” he said.

    Combining salmon management into fewer agencies wouldn’t change the fact that on their journey from gravelly riverbeds to the ocean and back, the fish are affected by everything from climate to logging to housing development, roads, fishing and pollution.

    “That still requires different science and expertise and policies that are hard to make line up in ways that don’t undercut each other,” he said. “But none of that means fewer people.”

    Still, if Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire thinks the state Department of Fish and Wildlife needs to be combined with other state agencies, think what fun she would have with the federal bureaucracy.

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