Old School Activism

Sometimes the old internet just isn’t enough. And with the catastrophic failure of Cooke Aquaculture’s open-water net-pen salmon farm on Cypress Island “spilling” hundreds of thousands of invasive Atlantic salmon into the Sound, the kids and I wanted to make sure word is out about the upcoming protest.

Now is the time to strike, as they say, while the iron is hot. In response to the Cypress disaster, the State of Washington has enacted a temporary ban on new net-pen approvals, but we really need a permanent ban. One that stops Cooke from building their new facility off the mouth of the newly restored Elwha River. And one that also gets rid of existing net pens and all their associated chemicals, drugs, waste, pathogens and parasites that kill wild salmon and pollute the public resource.

Let’s gather off the south end of Bainbridge Island, where Cooke has another net-pen anchored to the Orchard Rocks State Marine Protected Area, on September 16th and make a real statement. (For details, click HERE) I think the media, the public and our state government are finally ready to tell Cooke they and their net pens are no longer welcome in the Salish Sea.

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Salmon People

For thousands of years, the Lummi people fished reef nets at ancestral sites throughout the Salish Sea. And today, for the first time in more than 100 years, the Lummis are once again fishing a reef net in the waters of Legoe Bay. This weekend, the kids and I were honored to visit with some of the elders and help record their stories for a little film project I’m working on.

photo: Skyla Tomine

That’s me hard at work, or as they say, hardly working, talking fish with (from left to right) Richard Solomon, Steve Solomon, Larry Kinley and Chief Bill James. So much knowledge in this group, I could have spent all day soaking up the wisdom.

The next morning, we were privileged to witness Chief James perform the First Salmon ceremony for the first time on Lummi Island in 100 years. It was so beautiful, and so heartfelt, I had goosebumps on my arms and tears in my eyes. One of the great experiences of my life, made even more incredible by being able to share it with Skyla and Weston.

When Richard Solomon waded into the water, carrying a sockeye salmon on a bed of cedar boughs, to the beat of a single elk-hide drum and the voices of four men singing an ancient song, I could feel the 10,000 year story of humans and fish evolving together. I could feel it in my bones, and felt lucky to be a part of it.


All Good Things…

The closing of our local king salmon fishery was announced last week, so the kids and I decided to celebrate a fantastic season with one last session chasing our favorite fish around the Island. Of course, the kids had sleepovers the night before, and by the time I had them collected and our gear together, it was pushing noon. Not exactly ideal king time. But it was sunny, warm and flat calm, so we packed a lunch and figured on a relaxing afternoon boat ride.

We tried a few places without any action, enjoyed the weather, watched a pod of harbor porpoises, and when I suggested heading in, Skyla insisted, as she always does, on trying “one more spot.” And sometimes, when there are a lot of fish around like this year, the time of day and even the tide matter little. In short, we got lucky.

In about an hour at Skyla’s “one more spot,” we hooked four and boated three gorgeous fish. Just enough excitement to make two kids, one dad and a Labrador retriever hop around a very small boat. And just enough salmon for a full smoker, not to mention a very satisfying close to the season.


In The Mountains

Sometimes, even in the middle of a strong king salmon season, you start craving something a little more delicate and less industrial. The idea was to escape the heat and smoke, and if things went well, find a few decent trout willing to come up for dry flies. I guess we didn’t go high enough–it was still hot and smoky–but the little river was beautiful, with cool water flowing over drops and swirling through plunge pools. There were just enough trout of various shades of small to keep us interested. That’s Skyla above, pushing a nice loop upstream.

Some were tiny and tame, while others were slightly less tiny and the color, as my friend Bill McMillan says, of butterflies.

Halo, though, was having a rough time, her paws and claws not exactly adapted to scrambling on big, loose, slippery boulders. It was slow, sweaty going working our way upstream, trying to find paths that Halo could manage. When we found a flat spot, she and Weston were both ready for a break.

Skyla wanted to keep pushing farther up to fish, so we left the boy and his dog in the shade and kept going. From one vantage point, we could just barely see what looked like a flat spot in the river way upstream. We cut into the woods trying to find an easier path.

After a little brush busting, we emerged from the trees to something from a dream. The river spilled over a bedrock escarpment in waterfalls and slides, pouring into a deep, emerald-green basin shaded by moss-covered maples. Trout of all sizes cruised through the pool. Skyla caught a couple right away, and I hooked one big enough to dive into the maple roots and break the leader.

Then we rushed back downstream to get Weston and Halo. And Weston knew exactly what to do:

Skyla quickly joined him, and we spent the rest of the day in the water, laughing, shouting, jumping in, sliding down rocks, and generally having the best possible time. It wasn’t the outcome I expected–it was better. Much, much better. And I think, a perfect argument for the idea that you never really know what you’ll find when you go somewhere new and keep pushing upstream.


August Already?

Why is it the longest days of the year pass fastest? I’ve written about it before, but still, the question arrives right on time every summer. And perhaps even more abruptly this year with the flurry of travel and camping and other activities. Suddenly, there are ripe blackberries to be picked–Weston scored these when we stopped to take pictures of the sunset through forest-fire smoke last night–and the days grow almost imperceptibly shorter, if hotter. Time to remind myself, as I do every year, to try to savor every moment of these long days. And hope my mom is up for making blackberry pie when she visits later this month! I can taste that pie already. Happy summer everyone…soak it up.