Cooke Industries, which now owns the existing Puget Sound open-water salmon farms, bought them intending a massive expansion. The State of Washington is doing everything they can to clear the way for this expansion. The pens pictured above are anchored just off Bainbridge Island on–yes, it’s true–the Orchard Rocks Marine Conservation Area, a “Marine Protected Area” deemed so rich in sea life that it’s off limits to all fishing and harvest. The state, apparently, doesn’t see the irony in allowing a salmon feedlot, with all the known chemical and fecal pollution, parasite infestation, and viral outbreaks, to operate here.
Everywhere open-water salmon farms have been allowed to operate, wild salmon and the animals (including humans) that depend on them have suffered. In fact, California, Oregon and Alaska have all looked at the negative impacts and refused to allow open-water salmon farms in their waters. Why Washington allows them, and even worse, seems intent on an expansion, is beyond comprehension.
Thankfully, our friends at the Wild Fish Conservancy launched a campaign today to stop the expansion of open-water fish farms from destroying what we love about Puget Sound. For more information and to sign the petition asking Governor Inslee to ban the expansion of open-water salmon farms in Puget Sound, click HERE. It only takes a minute. Don’t let corporate greed, profits for few, and state malfeasance continue at the expense of our public resources. Thank you.
Last month I spent a few days on the Clearwater River, outside of Lewiston, Idaho. I hadn’t fished it before, and wanted to experience a salmon and steelhead river so far from the sea. In an icy downstream wind, we found a fast-flowing coldwater river of broad riffles and perfect, cobbled bottom running through hills covered in pine, dry grass and rock. The steelhead were few and far between, but it hardly mattered–this was the kind of water I dream of, in a place of exhilarating beauty.
An eddy was littered with the bodies of spawned out king salmon, and it was hard to look at them and not think of what it took for them to get here. 450 miles. Eight dams. Uncountable threats. And these fish did it as six-inch smolts going downstream, roamed the Pacific Ocean for years, and somehow found their way back as full-grown adults.
The night before, there was a hearing in Lewiston on the removal of the four Lower-Snake River dams. Two weeks later, there was another in Boise on the same day as a crowd rallied and marched in Seattle to bring down these deadbeat dams. There is opposition, for sure, but momentum is building. I can feel it. We need to keep the pressure on, the interest up, and I think we can one day make the trip home easier for thousands of inland salmon and steelhead. I want to be there when it happens.
Well, it’s done. I wish I could say I felt a little more enthusiastic about voting this year, but to be honest, I’m not feeling it. When it comes to the presidential race, it seems more like obligation or responsibility than privilege this time around. Now, I didn’t need it to be the electric charge of ’08, or even the more restrained version of 2012. But I think over the last eight years, I’ve come to take it for granted that I would want to hear whatever our President had to say, that it would be delivered with grace and integrity, that whether I agreed with what was being said or not, that it would come from a place of respect and thoughtfulness.
But I also understand that whatever ambivalence I may feel about the personalities at the top of the ballot, this is a critical election. If we care about climate change, public-land access, healthcare, education, fair treatment for all citizens, who sits on the Supreme Court and the decisions they’ll make, we have to vote. This is a big one. We have to cast our ballots and shape the future of this country. That’s our privilege.
As one of the last great salmon strongholds on the West Coast, and the greatest road-accessible steelhead fishery on the planet, the Skeena’s value is beyond measure. The good people at SkeenaWild are battling tooth and nail to save it, currently from the threat of Petronas’ LNG plant slated for Lelu Island and Flora Bank, which are the prime salmon/steelhead rearing habitat in the Skeena estuary.
You can help with contributions to SkeenaWild, and, if you happen to be in Skeena Country this coming Saturday, it’s easy to contribute in person: Come to the annual SkeenaWild fundraiser in Telkwa, bid on cool gear, buy a sweet SkeenaWild hoodie or hat, raise a glass, eat some food and have some fun.
I will be there to give a little talk, fellow Patagonia Ambassador April Vokey will MC, and we’ll feature a surprise appearance and a few words from someone you will definitely want to meet. I think it’s going to be an awesome time.
With the FDA’s announcement yesterday that it has approved Aquabounty’s genetically modified salmon for human consumption, thought it would be worth posting this op-ed piece I wrote on the subject a few years back:
FRANKENFISH: COMING SOON TO A MARKET NEAR YOU?
In the 1950’s and 60’s, biologists and dam builders assured us that the loss of salmon runs was nothing to worry about. Hatcheries would not only mitigate fish population losses, but could provide salmon runs far beyond what nature produced. We could, in effect, create a bonanza of fish for ourselves. But like almost every instance of humans believing they could do better than Mother Nature, that optimism turned out to be nothing more than hubris. Today, we watch as the hatchery runs dwindle, taking the remnants of wild runs with them.
Twenty years ago, the international fish farming corporations told us their activities were no reason for concern; the open water net pens were a safe alternative to harvesting wild salmon. The fish are sterile, they said. Ocean currents dilute pollution. Nothing to worry about. And now, as we find juvenile Atlantic salmon in Pacific coast streams and watch wild runs ravaged by sea lice infestations, disease and effluent from the farms, the head of one of the largest Scandinavian fish farm companies finally admits what many already knew: The net pens are damaging to wild fish populations.
Which brings us to the news in last week’s New York Times, that the FDA is seriously considering approval of the first genetically engineered food animal for human consumption—a salmon that grows at twice the rate of natural salmon. A Frankenfish designed by man to—once again—outdo nature. Produced by Aquabounty Technologies, this is an Atlantic salmon with growth hormone genes from Chinook salmon and a genetic “on switch” from another species entirely, the ocean pout.
We are assured by Aquabounty that the resulting fish is “identical in every measurable way to the traditional food Atlantic salmon.” Nothing to worry about. The company also says the Federal Government has already approved 5 of the 7 data sets demonstrating the Aquabounty salmon is safe to eat and safe for the environment.
This would be the same federal government that approved British Petroleum’s deep ocean oil drilling, and apparently took the company’s word for it that adequate safety measures were in place. Both BP and the federal agency tasked with oversight believed the triple redundancy of its “blowout preventer” was so secure, they clearly had no viable plan in place should it fail. We all know the results there.
So, when the government and a corporation tell us yet again there’s nothing to worry about, that the Enbridge Pipeline won’t leak, that Pebble Mine won’t destroy Bristol Bay, or, in this case, that messing with the basic code of life on earth is not only safe, but will produce something better than Mother Nature, history offers us one piece of advice: Be afraid. Be very afraid.