The One that Got Away and Other Stories of Sustainability

The next time a fisherman tells you he let that big one get away you might congratulate him on his sustainability practice. The bigger the fish that got away the better, as indicated by the research publicized by OSU professor Mark Hixon, multi-award winning marine biologist. It seems that fishing folklore that enshrines the wily old fish too smart to be caught had something to it. As the research cited by Hixon indicates, larger and older female fish need protection in offshore reserves, since they are the ones most likely to breed-as well as to pass on the best survival genes.

Hixon is at the forefront of scientific research, but as chair of the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee, he grappled with the distressing anti-science mentality of the recent Bush US administration. He is not alone. The results of the survey released last week by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that over half of the 1600 EPA professionals who filled out the Union’s detailed questionnaire reported incidents of political interference in their work, in which they were pressured by superiors to skew their findings.

If he worked as a knowledgeable elder whose job was to oversee the delicate balance of human and natural (spiritual) resources in traditional Northern California, Hixon would have had more community authority and support. Yurok/Klamath elder Lucy Thompson explained the “laws of the fish dam” overseen by traditional leaders in a book she self published in 1916. In a report confirmed by an anthropological study, she explained how traditional fish traps were open on one side to allow a number of salmon to escape upriver. The shaman also mandated that the trap could only be used for a short period of time, after which was taken down so that the entire run could pass to its spawning grounds.

Thompson noted that US conservation laws had gone into effect on the Klamath River, but they weren’t working very well. These laws prohibited nets from stretching all the way across the river, but because they only applied to individuals, they didn’t take into consideration the overall picture, which yielded a gauntlet of nets very few salmon could make it through.

Without a more comprehensive conservation policy, she predicted that the young California society would not protect the salmon resources as her people had done for thousands of years.

Throughout the Northwest, native spokespeople for those that US culture rendered “voiceless’, as Siletz spiritual elder Agnes Baker Pilgrim puts it, spoke out on behalf of the salmon. In 1846 a Chinook representative at the mouth of the Columbia told treaty negotiator Anson Dart his people would not sign until the pioneer commercial activity that disturbed the salmon was removed from the mouth of the river.

His plea was ignored, though earlier fur traders like Alexander Ross, who was reliant on native resources and good will, could not ignore native strictures for taking the salmon with care and respect. They were strictures which native peoples all over the Northwest held the early whites to. Fur traders on the Columbia as well as on Grays Harbor and Puget Sound encountered native protest against the pioneer method of fishing, which seemed bent on “catching them all”– even if they couldn’t use them.

In the early 1900s, Henry Cultee witnessed a fish cannery operation that blockaded the Humptulips and backed up the salmon so thickly they couldn’t be canned fast enough to keep them all from spoiling. Thus the canners hired scows to tow boatloads of the rotted fish out to sea to dump them. “It would have done a lot of good”, Cultee remarked, if they had let these salmon run upriver instead.

Letting some go was the perennial strategy of the native people wherever the salmon ran in the Pacific Northwest, out of courtesy to the people upriver as well as out of fundamental respect for the salmon themselves. The native strategy resulted in the fish runs so prolific they “embarrassed” pioneer Ezra Meeker on Puget Sound, who could hardly move his boat through the millions of salmon he encountered in such a run there. In one Columbia River camp in 1805, Lewis and Clark counted 107 bundles of salmon that Clark estimated to weigh ten thousand pounds. Altogether, the fifty thousand Indians who lived along the Columbia took an estimated forty-two million pounds of salmon a year from the great river of the West. Notably, this take was at least seven times the contemporary harvest. This stunning pre-contact catch harmed neither the abundance nor sustainability of the salmon runs.

This did not happen accidentally. Native fishing practices were governed by the belief that the salmon were kin with whom humans could and should engage in interpersonal partnerships. This partnership has recently been re-asserted by Takelma-Siletz elder Agnes Pilgrim Baker. Others, like Nisqually elder Billy Frank Jr., have worked for years with Washington state officials and other fisherman to protect salmon resources in western Washington.

Grandma Aggie’s own work is paying off. Salmon runs have been coming back along the Applegate and Rogue Rivers, the traditional territory of her ancestors and the site of the salmon ceremony she recently revived. Her spirituality is linked to pragmatic action– “walking your talk”. She expresses satisfaction that the dam will soon be coming off the Applegate River just upriver from the salmon ceremony site–and another dam is coming off the Rogue shortly thereafter. She worked on a local citizen committee to help bring this about.

Letting the best go for the future was not only a strategy applied to the salmon. In the Willamette Valley, a pioneer witnessed a traditional Kalapuya hunt in which the people encircled the deer. Before they took any, they let the biggest and strongest go. This is the opposite strategy from hunting the biggest deer or elk to place its “rack” on a wall.

But the indigenous peoples who lived sustainably in the Northwest for thousands of years had the time and inclination to learn from nature. Theirs was not an attitude of domination of the natural world– or of gaining the trophies to express this. Instead, they worked to establish a reciprocal partnership with the other natural beings who share our lives.

That is as simple and wise a strategy as saving the best seeds for future crops– or passing on a better world for our children and their children.

To get involved in saving the Northwest’s fish resources:

Locally, OSPRIG’s campaign supporting marine reserves in Oregon is coordinated here. UNESCO has a recent report on the importance of local knowledge in sustaining fisheries.

Update:  in 2009, the Oregon Legislature approved a bill to protect two offshore areas as marine reserves.

For a detailed scholarly report of the environmental strategies of the indigenous peoples of California, see M. Kat Anderson’s Tending the Wild.

An analysis of traditional indigenous ecological practices in the Pacific Northwest is here.

You are always welcome to link to this post. Note, however, it is copyright 2008 by Madronna Holden.
Feel free to contact me if you wish to copy it in any other form than a link to this page. Thanks.

388 Responses

  1. I find it very disconcerting (although not surprising under the current administration) that EPA officials are being pressured to skew their reported findings. This completely undermines the purpose which, as I see it is to monitor, plan and act accordingly so the salmon remain and prosper. We only benefit from this. As with any resource we rely on, by securring the salmon’s future, we secure our own and future generations to come.

    Yet hope remains when we partner with local elders, such as Grandma Aggie. Whose significant knowledge and experience can guide us into implementing more sustainable practices that will ensure the growth of the salmon population. We Westerners must really begin to heed the word of the scientists and elders around us who are on the front lines of endangered areas such as the Willamette Valley (and others across the country). The consequences only become more dire as time passes with out action.

  2. Hi Kathleen,
    Thank you for your thoughtful and caring comment. It is a hopeful point that, as you say, those of use concerned about these issues are not alone.
    And speaking of the current administration, I hope everyone reading this is registered to vote. Your vote counts!

  3. When I lived in Washington, as a chance to experience living on a boat and o be out in the ocean, I applied for the four month long fishing expeditions with private fishermen. However, destiny kept me on land. At that time, the ships were loaded with fish and seafood, unlike today’s miserable catches. That was twenty years ago, and there were no signs of dropping a few grenades to kill half the fish population of a lake. This is true in some states with ultra lax fishing laws.

    One wonders how much longer will it take for our leaders to heed Native Americans’ advice on hunting and fishing. There is hardly a day passes by that there aren’t complaints from fishermen about the depleted status of the oceans. From New England to the Pacific Northwest, ocean reserves continue to diminish, and the rest are bought by increasingly limited number of customers. That is because seafood prices continue to rise as supplies decrease.

    The fact that the Natives had the perception and the will to release the strongest animals, show how farsighted they were and how well their planning for the future. This is wisdom not taught in schools these days. Rather, we are sold heavily advertised hunting weapons and fishing equipment, complete with their own uniform.

    The idea of sport hunting and fishing is a new phenomena. One wonders the percentange of animals on land and sea unnecessarily killed for pleasure. It is time to challenge the industry and the officials to pass laws to put a stop into such unwise practices.

    • The crowds I see that frequent the pro shops that cater to the sport hunting and fishing hobbyists just blow me away with how blind and numb they are to the powerfully destructive in-your-face message once they enter the front doors of these establishments. Usually, guns of every kind are in view along with taxidermied animals in plastic dioramas. Why can’t people see how violent, for one, this overwhelming message is? And how, for another, totally non-sustainable their ego-massaging habits are to the natural environment they just walked in from or that they are traveling to to use all of their hunting paraphernalia? Even people I know who I otherwise think are fairly well educated and respectful to nature just don’t see this scene as violent as an R-rated film. Well, I’m on a soapbox here, but it makes me deeply wonder how can we ever hope to raise people’s awareness of and positive actions toward addressing the dire issues facing Earth through promoting humanity’s sustainable living. The Western world’s “taking too much” is indeed causing havoc among all of humanity.

      • I haven’t been to one of these myself, but it seems that the “buy” (without care for the results of your buying except to make yourself feel better/bigger, etc.) is there are well as everywhere else in our consumer society.
        Thanks for your comment.

  4. Dr. Holden, I also wanted to tell you that the indigenous people’s respect for salmon and the way they took care of the rivers, helped maintain the fish population and the rest of wildlife depending on them.

    The good karma because of people’s ethical animal welfare returned to them doubled as a gesture of appreciation, as if the animals knew the natives’ concern for their well-being.

  5. Thanks for reminding us of the natural reciprocity involved here. It is hardly a surprise that many of those on the mid-Columbia River who depended on the salmon in this way say reciprocity an essential part of their ethical systems.

  6. Dr. Holden

    As I embarked on my journey to become a fish and wildlife specialist, (my current college degree is in Natural Resources with a minor in fish and wildlife) I never really thought about many of the key points brought to my attention in these articles. Much of what I read, concerning the natural world and all of its natural resources directly relates to a Native American viewpoint. The concept of “letting the big one go”, to create better genes in the reproductive pool is something that many of today’s cultures would not even think of. Like the article says, it is about the “trophy” hunt and hanging the “trophy” on the wall. The bigger it is, the better the kill. The Native Americans thought just the opposite and it is clear to see that they had more of an earth friendly, you get what you give, attitude toward preserving the earth’s natural resources. That seems to be one of the major underlying problems of todays cultures and one of the biggest reasons that the earth natural resources are being depleted at such an incredible rate. Being an avid fisher and hunter, I think that there is a lot to be reminded of in this article, especially in todays day and age.

    Amber Steinhoff, Philosophy 443

  7. One of the familiar themes and conflicts to environmental responsibility and sustainability seems to be personal economic need (or the perception of economic need.)
    This pressure may be exerted by a political group or body, as might be the case in the example of researchers being asked to bias their findings, or by an employer trying to boost profits in the case of the cannery example. In either case bowing to the pressure to compromise the long-term for the short-term can result from a person’s immediate situation.

    Most sport fishermen that I know take very few fish, and many subscribe only to the catch-and-release strategy of fishing.
    This type of recreation can be very time consuming and expensive, and those who enjoy it are not generally worried about the source of their next meal. In most cases, the ability to be a good sport fisherman requires an understanding and appreciation for the fish that are the subject of the sport. Many such fishermen are among the leaders of activist groups seeking to protect our watersheds, and prevent dams and other obstacles, which would impede the natural migration of fish.

    Other factors that I think have contributed to the lack of a sustainable mindset by the dominant European culture in North America are both the ease of travel, and vastness of the country. Unlike the Native Americans, we can “take what we want and leave.”
    The Native culture lived with the environment out of necessity because it was their permanent home.
    We need to learn to do the same or we will find ourselves without one.

  8. Hi Amber, thank you for your personal response and discussion of values. I hope you will take the chance to put your values into effect in your chosen career.

  9. Hi John,
    You might be interested in looking at the very eloquent words of this commercial fishermen:
    Economic pressure/perception is an important point: I once asked my class of dislocated workers (ex-loggers) if they would choose to create clear cuts if their were an alternative economic course for them. There was an adamant consensus they would not. In fact, it is loggers who have currently led the way in developing models of sustained as an alternative to sustained logging. Part of the economic issue here is that several decades ago, Oregon economists predicted the decline of the logging industry–and resulting unemployment, but we as a community did nothing to respond to this. We need creative and caring community responses to our current environmental issues.
    You bring up another key point in our sense of leaving behind the consequences of our actions: i agree that we indeed need to look at the land as a permanent home–and develop a real sense of belonging as a result.
    Thanks for the thoughts, John.

  10. I see in this article similarities to the situation in the Chesapeake Bay area where I grew up. Currently Maryland and Virginia are considering measures such as limiting the amount of bushels of blue crabs one can harvest, shortening the crabbing season for female crabs, and limiting catches of soft shell crabs. Since females mature in just one year, the population could likely be revived if guidelines are followed. It isn’t always easy though, to convince people whose livelihoods depend on fishing/crabbing that sacrificing for one season will benefit them in the long run.

    Our society is definitely not geared around long term thinking. We have gotten so used to instant gratification that we have nearly forgotten how to plan ahead. Just look at the current credit situation. A few generations ago, our grandparents only bought what they could afford to pay for and still have money left over to put into savings. Now a lot of us tend to buy tons of things we don’t have the money for yet, and think that saving means getting 50% off at a department store sale.

    I think Native American culture could teach us a lot about patience and respect for nature.

  11. Thoughtful response, Karen. Thanks for the connections with issues in Chesapeake Bay. I think we obviously need to change the thinking that it is desirable to take the biggest or best for ourselves (as in trophy hunting and fishing) for that which cares for the future generations and those who share our earth.

  12. I think this article did a wonderful job of reiterating the importance of maintaining a reciprocal relationship between humans and the salmon in our waters. I think that Grandma Aggie took great initiative in bringing about a citizen committee to actually promote the removal of dams in both the Applegate and Rogue rivers. I hope that others will realize her work to be an example of how all of us can in some way contribute to upholding our responsibility in preserving the animals and resources that nature has bestowed upon us. I will do what I can to support marine reserves through supporting OSPRIG’s campaign.
    Also, from this article, I gained some insight on the element of sacrifice, which I now deem to be of considerable prevalence in Native worldviews and values. I say this both in regards to letting go of the largest fish to maintain the best genes, and also to releasing the strongest and best deer (a common practice of the Kalapuya). I believe the concept of sacrifice to be such a simplistic notion, an idea that should be a “no-brainer” according to biologists, if we want to logically allow the best genes to survive. I realize how this element of sacrifice actually does return to humans (aforementioned in another post as “karma”) because by releasing the larger fish we retain and spread better genes. In return we are blessed with even larger salmon. Unfortunately, people are normally more concerned with the pride that comes with capturing the largest fish in the present moment. It seems that this concept of sacrifice is just one component of a good reciprocal relationship between human beings and the natural world.

  13. Hi Denise,
    Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I cannot say enough positive things for Grandma Aggie–and I am happy to see you add your own supportive comment here.
    Thank you as well for following up your words by supporting OSPRIG’s campaign to protect our marine resources. It is important to realize how much each of our actions mean.
    Your notion of sacrifice is a thought-provoking one. The interesting thing is that it is my sense that the indigenous peoples who practiced letting the largest deer and fish return to the wild did not seem to conceive of this as a “sacrifice”– but rather a practical matter that showed appropriately respect to these natural creatures who gave their lives to sustain human ones. And as you note, it returned a boon to them– in this case, in the striking abundance of natural resources along the Columbia River and in the Willamette Valley and throughout Puget Sound.
    It says something pointed about ourselves, I think, that we might conceive of letting the best go to sustain the future as a sacrifice. Thank you once again for your thoughtful response!

  14. I find it upsetting that EPA results have political interference. However, it’s reassuring that over half of the 1600 EPA professionals have stepped forward admitting the agency’s corruption. The purpose of the EPA is to protect the environment, not to allow businesses to have their way with it.

    It’s amazing how fish populations have been exploited throughout the years. Businesses have the mentality that grabbing everything in sight is the best way to go and they don’t think about the impact that they have on the environment or future fish populations. Henry Cultee witnessed a salmon cannery toss out boatloads of spoiled salmon out to sea. Rather than the cannery taking whatever it wanted, it should have taken what it needed and let the rest of the salmon continue upriver to spawn and increase in population. This happened back in the early 1900’s. It’s now close to 2009 and fish populations are struggling due to overfishing, pollution, and industrial growth. Now people are seeing the devastating effects from fishing practices of the past. Elder Agnes Baker Pilgrim says that the youth of society is “voiceless.” I consider myself part of this demographic and I don’t want to be viewed as “voiceless.” Soon this group of people will be in charge and have to make important decisions about the present and future of the environment. The youth needs to be educated about past mistakes so we don’t make the same mistakes again.

    I’m happy to hear about the removal of dams along the Rouge and Applegate Rivers. Hopefully salmon populations will increase with the major obstacles gone. We should be willing to protect our environment with Grandma Aggie as our inspiration.

  15. Ashley, thanks for a great response. It heartens me that folks such as you will soon be in charge. Your being informed helps us all. Thanks again for your care!

  16. Modern hunters and fishers certainly have a trophy mentality. I think this comes about because there is relatively little “need” for the actual meat and other parts of the animal. Also I think there is some bravado associated with getting a trophy that makes the person who caught or shot it feel like they have some particularly good wilderness acuity similar to their ancestors who hunted because they had too in order to survive.

    At least in the United States, on the fishing side at least, a strong movement for catch, photo and release (CPR) has caught on. One advantage with fishing over hunting is that you can usually let the fish go in good condition and maybe even catch it again later. With hunting I don’t think this has caught on as much simply because the animal is always going to be killed. When talking to a hunter about their day in the woods, you will usually hear such statements as “I could have shot a small buck with stub antlers, but I figured it was early in the day, so I decided to wait in hopes of a big buck with a nice rack.” I’m personally fine with hunting as long as it is well managed. I never have agreed with the idea of trying to take the largest specimens though.

    I find it interesting that indigenous peoples had no concept of gene pools and other advanced science. But when it came down to it, they knew from experience the appropriate level of harvest to extract from the environment and on a high level why it was the correct amount. They would hold to these principles because they were so ingrained into their cultures. Nevertheless, I would imagine even among native populations, there was probably some occasional “trophy” hunting. However, their definition of a trophy wasn’t what modern hunters would put on a wall. They probably occasionally needed an especially large and vigorous animal for religious or other special ceremonies that was part of their culture. They would hold this animal in reverence because of its attainment of perfection compared to others of its kind; perhaps in the hope that it would somehow transfer some of its strength to them A modern sportsman wouldn’t celebrate so much the greatness of the animal but rather the significance in their own ability to have killed it. They may admire the animal because it was such a large specimen, but it would be their pride that would come foremost.

  17. Very thoughtful comment, John. Interesting idea of ritual use of “best” or “biggest”; I have never heard of such a thing among the cultures I have worked with. However, it is an interesting model for changing the attitudes (and perhaps understanding some underlying buried sense) in modern trophy hunting.
    I have heard of the white deer dance among the peoples of Northern California (some white tailed deer very rarely are born with white coat– not albinos, just a genetic rarity). And I know of traditional Chehalis ideas that taking the first salmon was done with care (and patience) because this was the “leader” of the salmon people.
    But the idea of using another as a “trophy” (from hunting to “trophy wives”) seems to contradict the “partnership” mentality with which
    the indigenous peoples of the Northwest anchored their values.
    The trophy idea, even ritualized in the way you express, always has a tinge of conquest in it–which contradicts the partnership mentality. The idea, for instance, that the animal consents to die for the hunter, that is part of many indigenous traditions– and if that consent is not there, no animal is taken.
    That does not mean that personal challenge– and challenging oneself on a wilderness stage– has not been a part of all human cultures that I know of. Some (very interesting folklorist Michael Meade, who has worked with everyone from ghetto youth to prison populations: here is one of his events entailing veterans: believes that we need to give young men initiation ceremonies so that they understand how to take such challenges as challenging themselves. Malidoma Some (from Africa, now in the US: has the same idea: and in addition, he states that a young man who does not yet know how to use his strength and anger needs an elder to stand beside him and teach him what to do with this important energy so that he can channel it for the benefit of others.
    The fact that many indigenous hunters were constrained to give away all their hunt to others also helped prevent trophy hunting. Of course, this does not mean that one hundred per cent of members of any society follows its ethics to the letter. Once Chinua Achebe (a Nigerian writer and Nobel Laureate) was asked whether he thought the traditional Igbo society of his ancestors was perfect. His response: there are no perfect societies, only those that are better than others at fighting the human instincts of self-destruction– arrogance and greed.
    Interesting ideas! Thanks for some deep thinking.

  18. It is amazing to realize the ignornace that still remains within the world of “sport” (fishing, hunting, etc.) I think that people in general neglect to see the big picture when participating in these sports and what type of things can result from just one day of hunting or fishing. Just like all things, everything is best in moderation. But we also have to realize that even though everyone is participating in moderation that if too many people are fishing/hunting even in moderation at the same time, the numbers may be too much to maitain the sustainability needed. It’s a hard matter to find a balance to because of how sensitive it can be. Too much control and the population can become overgrown and hard to further control. Too little control and the population being hunted/fished could become extinct and a valuable resource could be depleted from existance. I think that if humans took more responsibility and didn’t just leave it to the activists to “fix” them problem and became more proactive with their own interactions that it would allow for the environment to maintain that balance at a more consistant level. Hopefully, rather than boosting the pride of the hunter with the latgest kill, if educated and allowed the knowledge, their pride could be from something much bigger than they realized by what affect they can have on the environments sustainability.

  19. It is a complex issue, Debbie, but you share a very nice perspective. Interestingly, a column last week in the Olympian (Olympia, Washington) urged sportsmen to become more involved in conservation in just this way.
    Great way of putting it that pride can be transformed from pride in getting a trophy bigger than the next fellow to pride in working for a better shared future!

  20. It is highly disturbing to hear that over 800 EPA professionals were pressured to alter their scientific findings so that politicians could hear what they wanted to hear and pass the false information along. The current conservation policy of the U.S. government is seriously in need of some changing. Unfortunately, people are still over fishing and over hunting when they know that wildlife populations are depleting. There is still this mentality that to be a good hunter or fisher you have to kill as many animals as possible. These same people feel that the bigger the animal the better. People protest when hunting and fishing seasons are cut short because they feel cheated and don’t see the problems with the current wildlife populations. Although native populations have always voiced their concerns in this area, people have chosen not to listen and therefore we are losing out on some valuable wisdom from people who have lived on these lands for centuries.
    When viewing wildlife sustainability, it is very important to consider the natural model of reciprocity that many native cultures follow. Rather than take as much as possible from the land, they take only what they need so that in return they will still have resources available to them in the future. This is an example that everyone should follow when taking natural resources.

  21. I think that this article is a perfect juxtaposition of what I consider to be the main reason for continuous environmental degradation and over exploitation of Natural resources; the quality and sensor ship of information available to the common masses because of hidden agendas/conflicting interest and the long lost sense of “ environmental courtesy”, which is nothing other than the lack of a sense of responsibility to ensure sustainability through conservationism.

  22. An essential point, Fernando, we can’t make ethical–or practical– decisions without knowledge.
    This goes directly to Samatha’s point about the EPA. Samantha also brings up something related to the discussion of the problems with the NIMBY (Not in my backyard) attitude: what makes those who pressured these EPA officials think they were not ultimately harming themselves and their own families– as well as the community of life? I think the answer can only be that they were working on a me-first (and me-alone) attitude that thought they could profit even if the well being of others suffered.
    Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  23. The examples in this article reflect something going on here in Sacramento. There is a salmon hatchery on the Americal River. The salmon are released and make their way downriver to the ocean, and return again to their spawning grounds. Just a few years ago I was taking my camera to the river where I could see numerous salmon, swimming upstream and leaping into the air as they made their way back upriver. During fishing season, many fisherman could be seen standing in the river, and they seemed to be completely outnumbered by the salmon.

    This year, however, fishing season was over almost as soon as it began, as the numbers of salmon returning to spawn was dreadfully low. It was decided that even individual fly-fisherman could not take a few salmon becuase there were just too few fish. An article stated that ususally 80,000 to 100,000 salmon run the American River, but now it’s as low as 6,000 fish. This problem is blamed partly on warmer water temperatures and changes in ocean currents. In this case, perhaps, the blame does not lie in reckless over-exploitation, and the local authorities are taking small steps to preserve those salmon that are returning.

    It does reflect, however, the idea of letting the big ones go, of allowing populations to reproduce instead of irresponsibly harvesting as many fish as possible. To see salmon populations decline so drastically in such a short period of time, just here in this one river, is shocking. To expand that view and realize that worldwide, there is unrelenting greed and over-exploitation that is occurring, and that the EPA is under pressure to provide false reports, is disgusting and discouraging. It’s as if we do not comprehend that if we deplete a resource, it will be gone. Does our government think that there is an endless supply of natural resources? I fear that without significant, radical changes in our worldview and actions, we will look around one day and realize that we have gone beyond the point of no return. In a way it is unthinkable that one day, perhaps, salmon will have gone the way of so many other species that have disappeared due to loss of habitat and uncontrolled harvesting. But if we do nothing, it could happen. Our shortsightedness is creating a condition in which we will eliminate our own sustenance. If we don’t adopt actions that work to sustain and protect wildlife and habitats, we too will find that we cannot survive as a species.

  24. Thanks for your update on the American River situation, Terry. Not only are these resources not infinite, but over consumption combined with the assault on habitat can deplete them in a very short period of time.
    You have hit the nail on the head when you state that our short-sightedness is eliminating our own sustenance! The next thing to think about is what cultural conditions cause us to be so blind, so that we can work to change these.

  25. This is a great example of how we can increase the overall efficiency of a system by decreasing the upfront efficiency and generating sustainability. By simply letting some of the Salmon survive and run updstream, the native people ensured their food supply for rght now and the food supply for the future and for their kin/relatives farther upstream. I am hard pressed to think of a better way to manage fishing practices.
    With fish stocks on the decrease the world over, using this example would be a boon to gloabal fisheries both freshwater based and seawater based. Taking only the amount that is NEEDED and letting the rest go has to be one of the fundamental ideas for all of us going forward. Withc the potential for world populaiton to reach more than 9 billion in the not too distant future, carrying capacity of the worlds ocans and streams will be heavily burdened.
    Sustainability is just one method we will use to feed the world.

  26. At what point do people realize that you resources are not unlimited. With the population boom in the world, how can we expect that there will be enough fish or even water for all of us?

    Obviously there were huge mistakes made in the past about fish management (or any natural resource). People took more than they needed, and did not plan for anyone else’s needs. The idea of letting the “big one” get away is not something that our society endorses. It does occur to most people that this makes the gene pool stronger; it does occur to them that there is a reason WHY this animal is the biggest of the group.

    I agree with Dan on this one – many want some kind of proof as to why we are a better hunter than Joe next door. I like the CPR idea (catch, photo, release.) I’m not opposed to hunting and fishing, I have respect for someone that is willing to go out and take a life for their own food –vs- those who eat meat and just think it appears under cellophane in their grocer. The picture can be a great alternative to the fish on the mantle, though we would still have to figure out how to release the deer (for those who hang antlers), maybe tranquilizers?

    I’m sad to say that I am not surprised that over ½ of the EPA professionals have had political interference and been pressured to skew their findings. I’ve heard of situations similar to this in more than one area of government programs aimed at protection. Until the time comes when people are not punished for reporting the truth, or rewarded for manipulating the results we will continue to have corruption in all levels of our government. Why should we think the EPA is immune?

  27. A few years ago my sister was working on a project in Manzanita Oregon along the coast and in the bay. She was tracking fish (mostly salmon) to find what was killing them. I went with her to one of the sites where the radio tower was located that transmitted the data from the tagged fish. I was so uninformed there was even a need for this research. I think that the mass population is in the same boat (no pun intended). The mass population has grown up ina consumer driven society that lacks reciprocity in this way and does not understand native thinking.

    I find the hardest idea to swallow is that Nonnative people have been living in this country for not even 300 years and we seem to have done more damage to the land and its inhabitants than the Native people of this land throughout their existence.

    • Hi Jessie, thanks for your comment. The time frame comparison is pretty striking: surely it should give us pause–and motivate us to change course. I’m glad your sister is involved in this research–and that she in turn involved you.

  28. The example of the nets on the Klamath was very visual and made me think how simple it would be to increase the salmon survival by limiting the nets to just one side of the river. This would have allowed many fish to bypass the nets and continue on. The amount of fish that could be taken out without hurting the runs was staggering. I’ve wondered why we don’t close the runs for several years in a row to let the counts build back up. We could just use farm raised salmon and be slightly inconvenienced now rather then lose entire runs of wild salmon in the future. It is so sad to see how the pioneer behavior decimated so many species. Whether it was fish, or beaver, or bison far too many were killed and left to waste.

  29. It seems such a simple concept to let the biggest and best survive to help ensure the future of a species. With the amazing Native fishing practice the yield was “seven times the contemporary harvest” and I would venture to say with less waste and affect to the environment. Numbers such as these should prove to people that limits to natural resources can be imposed through bad decisions and policies. This article brought to mind the plight of the plains buffalo and the frightening evidence of mass slaughter of buffalo for the skins alone. Furthermore, how many other species, known and unknown, are threatened by encroaching development of natural habitats. Yesterday’s decisions concerning land and water resources have profoundly affected what is available today and today’s decisions will certainly affect tomorrows. I see hope for the future as dedicated and knowledgeable people such as Grandma Aggie take a stand and help to educate the general public. Change begins with one person and a dream.

    • Hi Colleen. I love your point about one person and a dream!
      In order to let the best go to seed the future, we would have to back off of the greed and arrogance that goes with the idea that we should take the biggest and best for ourselves.

  30. Living in a society that values immediate gratification, and material possessions I don’t find it surprising that the EPA would be corrupt or that government would apply regulations to individuals before businesses. People have become very apt in ignoring the big picture especially when they’re profiting. It is astounding to think about the differences between the traditional values of Native Americans, who understood the importance of sustainability for all life in order for their children /humanity in general to continue and thrive, verses the self satisfying values of today which disconnect us from life, human and non-human in the near future.
    Letting the “big one get away” is a way of achieving something far more important than a trophy fish, or a big rack to hang on the wall. Letting “the big one get away” is letting go of immediate gratification and trading it for the satisfaction of knowing that there will be more to catch in the future.

  31. This serves as another example of the immaturity of Western practices. It is difficult to believe that indigenous practices, like those of the Indians who lived along the Columbia, were not recognized and validated long ago. It is actually stunning that they were able to fish the salmon “at least seven times the contemporary harvest” without affecting the salmon runs. I think part of the problem lies in our society’s materialism; our need to possess, as well as dominate. I’m sure our competitiveness is also a component.

    What Henry Cultee witnessed (the overfishing and dumping of the excess fish) is sadly still happening today. On the upside, some countries are opening their eyes to issues such as these, and attempting to influence other countries to do the same.

    This reminds me of the plight of the abalone in Southern California. Growing up on the coast, I literally watched them disappear. Thanks to environmentalists, Marine Protected Areas, and aquaculture, many species of abalone are making a drastic comeback. I was looking at a website ( that addresses the progress being made. Like “The One That Got Away,” it talks of the “need to protect populations from fishing, allowing individuals to grow bigger, leading to better reproduction rates and bolstered populations.” Common sense, if you ask me!

  32. Let the oldest and biggest fish or deer go? Are they crazy? Many on the NW coast would think so. So many hunters and fishermen that I know and encounter here in Astoria would never think to do this. They would laugh in my face if I brought the idea to there attention. If only they could see the bigger picture. How if they let more fish go, they would have more to sustain them in the future. We have been overtaken by the idea of instant gratification to the point that we can not indulge in that way any longer. The fisherman here are just fighting to barely make a living. This is the same spot where Lewis and Clark witnessed 42 million pounds of fish taken from the river in a calendar year. I will be passing this history lesson along to some of my friends. We will see if it can open their eyes a bit.

    • Thanks both for your comment here and for passing this info along, Aaron. I still maintain that wisdom consists of being able to learn from past mistakes. How much more of a REAL trophy can there be than helping to create a more vital world for those who follow us?

  33. Before European immigrants interfered this one salmon run was able to produce seven times what we can take from it today. This is at least the third article that I have seen this month that mentions reductions in the number of fish harvested from the wild. When we are confronted with facts like this, it is hard to believe that we have not made more changes sooner.

    Our planet and the plants and animals on it are exceedingly prolific. We are able to take such a large harvest from our planet there is simply no excuse not to take this harvest in a forward thinking fashion. I recently read an article about the Pacific halibut fishery and was so happy to see a more sustainable approach to fishing. Most scientists think that this one species of fish is able to sustain its population even when humans are catching over 20,000 metric tons of halibut a year. This harvest if handled properly can be enjoyed for generations. Salmon are much the same if they are treated properly and allowed to reproduce without our interference there will be abundance that we can take a large harvest from for generations. I hope that articles like this and the examples of the first people to mange salmon populations will push all of us towards a more sustainable approach.

  34. Let’s hope the new administration does a better job. I fished for salmon at the mouth of the Klamath with Yurok people. On one occasion, I was having horrible luck, and an older Yurok man walked up to me out of the blue and gave me a bright coho.

    Just another example of a reciprocal worldview.

  35. This article intrigued me. I find it interesting that there is soo much information about managing salmon runs for the future. Yet, not enough of the right people are willing to step up and pass the laws or regilations that would help bring the runs back. One white hot glowing object that stands out to me is that people are generally focused on consuming in the “now” and worrying about the future later. It seems that not many people are willing to make sacrifices for the future. I am an avid fisherman but, I would still fully support a full closure of salmon harvesting for a few years while management efforts are being made to improve their habitat. The sad story of the salmon run to Redfish Lake comes to mind. People had placed wiers in the river to stop the salmon from making it up to the lake, which is a popular tourist spot, because the odors from the decaying spawned out adults was unpleasent. I had even heard that they went so far as to remove all the carcases from the river. I am currently living in Pullman Wash. right now but I grew up in western Oregon. I am used to seeing, catching and hearing about salmon. It seems that they might open up a salmon season this spring in idaho. I wish they wouldn’t; at least until run numbers show a dramatic increase. I think the fish that have made it this far have earned the right to be left alone to spawn.It’s interesting to hear people talk about the “good year for salmon”. This good year comes along only every once in a while. You think someone would say, “maybe we should let this years surplus of fish make it to the spawning grounds so following years may be as productive, if not more.”

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment from one who has always lived close by the salmon. Perhaps you saw the stat on the essay here on “partnering with the natural world”– in which indigenous peoples harvested an annual take of seven times the modern one– without harming the runs. One thing they were aware of (as you indicate) is that there is substantial fluctuation between runs from year to year, in a three to four year cycle. One good year, in this context, does not mean the full recovery of the salmon. Interestingly, there were religious leaders among indigenous peoples who specified how many salmon should be taken in easy season–and when the nets should be taken down.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment from one who has always lived close by the salmon, Chris. Perhaps you saw the stat on the essay here on “partnering with the natural world”– in which indigenous peoples harvested an annual take of seven times the modern one– without harming the runs. One thing they were aware of (as you indicate) is that there is substantial fluctuation between runs from year to year, in a three to four year cycle. One good year, in this context, does not mean the full recovery of the salmon. Interestingly, there were religious leaders among indigenous peoples who specified how many salmon should be taken in easy season–and when the nets should be taken down.

  36. This article reminds me of the proverb “less is more.” I feel instead that our worldview is shaped by the ideologies such as capitalism and consumerism, which permanently aim to make us live according to the slogans “The bigger, the better” and “The more, the better.” I have to admit I never thought that I might be better to let “the big one go” in order to harvest small ones, which are better the small harvested before. In fact, I guess it would be a highly difficult task to train a westerner to adopt such a thought, because we were trimmed to believe the opposite.

  37. I have two great personal examples of this idea of letting the best ones go. A mentor of mine, who helped teach me to flyfish, drove it into me that to keep a fish was to taint the sport, and the art, of flyfishing. He once told me a story about fishing in Alaska and catching what almost certainly would have been the world record Chinook salmon if he had clubbed it, and he was allowed to as the guide service he went with allowed two fish to be kept every day, but Bill never kept a fish. He said his guide was furious that he wouldn’t club the monster and I asked him why on earth he wouldn’t make an exception for this record. He responded in a manner more harsh than I had ever heard from the mild mannered man, “now why the heck would I take such a gift from God, not just the fish but the amazing fight it put up, and after being so greatly blessed, ruin it with blood on my hands and a selfish heart.” Now, the magic of that day lives on rather than being made into a plaster statue on a mantle, and so does the monster fish and hopefully it’s grade A genes. Because there was no proof, I blew old Bill’s story off as just another fisherman’s tale, until he showed me a photo that evening of him cradling the largest salmon I’d ever seen, ever so gently and mostly submerged. Bill was beaming, but I can’t help but laugh when I think of the frustration on the guide’s face behind the camera.

    The other story involves hunting, yes I killed a deer, if this offends anyone, I apologize, don’t read on. This weekend in October was my first deer hunt and we were on a friend’s ranch stalking a monster muley, it was a 4X4, but the spread was glorious, anyways, after hours of hiking and getting into position, I had a shot. I looked through the scope at this trophy buck and began shaking with excitement. “It’s not a shooter, don’t even think about it,” I heard my father say. What? This was the perfect animal, why would I not shoot it? I asked my dad. “If you shoot that animal, there goes the 10 or twenty perfect offspring it could have. You’ll get so see him next year, and you’ll be much more proud knowing you let him be than you would be looking at him on a wall.” It made sense and sounded just like Bill. We hung out for a while, just watching the noble animal, and then headed in for dinner. The next day I shot a 3X5 buck that was well into old age, the spread may not have been nearly as impressive, but now I not only got the excitement of two hunts, I get to look forward to seeing how that 4X4 is doing next fall.

    One last comment, I know there’s a lot of work being done to remove dams for fish runs right now, but is this having a negative effect on the green energy we receive from hydro-electric power? How do we go about striking the best balance, or has our population already exploded beyond the hope of ever attaining an equilibrium?

    • Thank you for sharing these great stories, Mark. There are obviously more rewards for letting certain creatures go than for taking them. I am glad you had the good fortune to learn from two such wise mentors.
      As for dams good question: it depends on the dam– and accommodations made for the fish to spawn. Monster dams that blockade and change the flow of a river are one thing. Low-head hydro with appropriate fish ladders are something else again.

  38. First, let me tell you that I am an avid fisherman. I am not ashamed of that in the least. The key, I believe, is in balance. I believe there is a balance in nature. If I catch more fish than I need, then, I am breaking the balance of nature. I am just as responsible on the waters catching fish as I am “throwing garbage” out my window driving down the road. The Earth and her resources are precious. People who choose to stretch nets across a river for a commercial catch are no different than those disrupting the flowerous terrains in neighborhoods.

    We must take OWNERSHIP of our part and educate those around us surrounding the end results. As I learn more from this class and my fellow classmates, I want to take more action where I can to help more and more.



    • Thanks for your comment, Paul. I don’t know why you would be ashamed of being an avid fisherman– I would think the more “avid” you are about this, the more you might care about the future of the fish. This is certainly truly in the case of those such as Billy Frank, jr. the Nisqually elder who has worked so hard to preserve the salmon runs– and received a special award from Ecotrust for his work.
      I like your point about responsibility for each of our harvest and consumption. I’m not clear on your analogy about the nets and the disruption of “flowerous terrain”. Are you indicating all nets are bad/disruptive? This essay indicates the careful way in which they were used by indigenous Northwesterners. Do you disagree that that is possible? What kinds of net usage are problematic?
      Certainly a key point on balance.

  39. This was a good article; well written and I appreciate that. And it is good to see how much healthy influence Aunt Ag has on her community these days.

    I’m admittedly very much a conservative person with conservative ideas as opposed to liberal ideas. With that stated, I will jump to the other side of things and say that my heart almost belongs with fish. Doesn’t that sound weird? Fish just bring emotive feelings for me.

    I believe fish are our family in that what happens to fish, and not just salmon, will happen to us as tertiary consumers. They provide food for other fish and are key species where our waterways are concerned. But what about invasive species? We would not be so compassionate about the zebra mussel. But then again, those species are introduced.

    This article expresses balance in our consumption practices as the indigenous peoples exhibited. The salmon provided food for copious amounts of people, but they were used as a spiritual being which is so important in our discussions. We, as human beings, need to express humility and reciprocity for these beings. Someone earlier expressed being an avid fisherman and I applaud him for that. Understanding a specie when coming into contact with it gives us thankfulness for such a being and it has been noted many times that the people who advocate for such beings, or land, have learned to appreciate it by being introduced.

    Taking without compassion and reciprocity, in my opinion, is a crime.

    Thank you,

    • Hi Tina, thanks for your own balance here. Your Aunt Ag is a powerful influence on many of us! I very much like your discussion of the salmon and your feeling of connection to it. I don’t see conservative and liberal as appropriate labels: I think they sometimes stop us from seeing the specifics of particular situations– not to mention, talking to one another.
      Your last statement about the need for compassion and reciprocity is right on, I think. Robin Kimmerer (a native botanist) communicated the fact that some of her elders didn’t even believe it was right to take from the natural world– but only to receive what is given. A perspective that deserves some consideration, I think.

  40. Well stated, Chris.

    I think that maybe the controversy in closing salmon fishing might stem from the need to leave them alone vs. letting a few be caught to keep interests alive concerning salmon. You mention salmon in Idaho, is Lonesome Larry still around? My Dad used to tell stories of his parents talking about crossing the rivers on the backs of the reds in Idaho. That would’ve been in the 30’s, I suspect.

    Last summer, I rafted the Boise near Anderson Ranch Dam and saw many reds under my raft. They were so great to see; too bad they were headed for the dam.

    I took the salmon class at OSU and it seems the runs are making a pretty good comeback. Although, these runs vary widely and what one source states, the other may be opposite.

    Thanks for you balanced view on this issue.


  41. I’m not surprised the Indigenous Peoples would encircle the game and let the biggest and most healthy go. This would make sense then, wouldn’t it? I wonder when trophy hunting came into practice? If it were very long ago, and from wherever it came from, the game would suffer greatly.

    • Thoughtful question, Tina. The concept of trophy hunting is something we would do well to look at in historical context, as you indicate. I can’t trace it to a particular historical moment, but it certainly goes hand in hand with the worldview of domination.

  42. I really enjoyed reading this article, because it shows how amazing nature can be, if humans just give it a chance.

    First of all, it is very saddening the damage the white settlers have done, and how the administration would tamper with EPA official findings, but not suprising.

    On the other hand it very promising about how the work is paying off and resulting in the salmon runs coming back along the Applegate and Rogue Rivers. Another good example, just like when a wetland is restored, I am always amazed about how nature will come back if it is given a chance. There is still hope if humans can change their ways.


    Troy Jonas

    • Thanks for the balance in this comment, Troy. I too am amazed at the power of the natural world to recover if we manage human behavior so as to allow it–and don’t take our abuse of that world past the tipping point where a species can’t come back. It is indeed sad about the EPA– we can hope the current administration will set a better model for the EPA. I am also hopeful that many of you who are commenting here who are in or going into science professions–and will have an effect on changing this following the model of the integrity of the Union of Concerned Scientists:

  43. For Philosophy 443 I wrote in my introductory essay about my experiences up in Alaska at a fish cannery. I was never on one of the boats but I am sure they used troll nets somewhat because the catches would include items like King Crab that would stretch a few feet in span or large halibut along with the salmon that they normally fished for. I once saw a halibut that was so big being carried up the dock that two men had to carry it in both hands gripped along its flat body like an enormous silver and white shower curtain. But much of the next year catch would depend on whether we allowed some fish to get up stream to spawn. If we tried to sit at the river entrances to prvent the fish from getting up to spawn, it would have dramatically lightened the salmon population for the next year.

    • Seems like common sense, doesn’t it, Richard? That we need to allow for the future of the runs if we expect them to continue. Thanks for your comment and sharing your experience here.

  44. Thanks for your input. I was trying to express that people who stretch nets for commercial reasons and for profit only might affect the overall balance of fish in nature.

    The reference to flowers was from an earlier post, by you, surrounding how others may affect a situation (your example was from a neighborhood) in damaging nature, (flowers in a neighborhood that went away).

    I am seeing your instruction and direction in that you want more reference to each artlicle, even those you have previously written, in order to obtain “connectivity”.

    I just assumed that you understood………..and we all know the results of most assumptions….:)

    Pressing on,


  45. Tina,
    That’s really cool that you got to see the reds swimming under your raft. I remeber floating on the McKenzie River in oregon a number of times when I’ve floated over an unsuspecting steelhead and scared it. They always made a great splashing nois in the shallow water and it startles you when your floating at dusk. I haven’t heard of lonesome larry though. I just recently moved to this area last summer. Is it a reference to a single sockeye that showed up to spawn?

  46. Having being a vegetarian for over half of my life, it is hard for me to understand the necessity to eat meat today. However, I do not push my own lifestyle choices, and I understand that eating fish and other animals is a decision most people make. I also believe there is a right way to do that, and that is by treating livestock with respect. In regards to this article, treating species of fish with the same respect is something that we have taken away from native people. Instead of using native methods of catching fish, as stated in this article, we simply throw away what we caught but do not need, ironically throwing them back to sea. Senselessness like this can be seen in many big industries, especially involving food. Companies waste resources and money in doing this, yet we are naive to it, as consumers.

    Using methods like those described in the article is disrespectful to consumers, and more importantly, to the fish and other animals. I understand that the methods the cannery uses were created to keep costs low, and make it easier, but I do not understand why there must be such a disconnect between the company and the fish. Native people ate animals because it was a natural resource, and they did not waste any of it. They allowed the animals to be free and happy as long as possible before they killed them. Today, we keep animals in cages and overstuffed barns before we slaughter them, and waste most of the animal. It is sad and humiliating to the creatures, and we are doing it, mostly, because we can. I will finish my post with a quote that my cousin (also vegetarian) showed me. I think it describes how we abuse this power. It is so different than the respect native people showed to salmon and the animals they used as nourishment.

    “If we cut up beasts simply because they cannot prevent us and because we are backing our own side in the struggle for existence, it is only logical to cut up imbeciles, criminals, enemies, or capitalists for the same reasons.” -C.S. Lewis

    • Hi Erin, thanks for your thoughtful post and for sharing your personal ethical stance here. Doing a thing just because we can has both moral and pragmatic consequences, as your C.S. Lewis quote indicates. Unfortunately, all too much modern technology is developed and used with that kind of attitude.
      The least we can do for those who give their lives to support ours is treat them with respect and compassion. “Factory farming” treats animals in abominable ways that makes their meat unhealthy for the humans that consume it as well.

  47. As someone who enjoys fishing I have been aware of the size requirement of fishing for specific fish varieties. Where I am from, Michigan, the Northern Pike can grow to six feet long. The minimum size has to be around 21 inches long to be a keeper. Nothing is said about it being too big to keep. It does make sense that the best and most productive fish should be allowed to keep on living and producing offspring. The White man’s concept of pride and boasting about the trophy shows that the real concern for food for your family to survive has lost its central emphasis.

    The wisdom of the indigenous practices should be praised and the word wisdom repeated over and over. How did the White man get so ignorant in thinking he was so smart? I think they call that self-dillusion. The history of the fish cannery and blockading of the Humptulip was very sad.

    Jim Jarrad

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Jim.
      Having a fish too big to take is a great thought.
      See another comment (Mark Reinhardt’s) in response to this essay which illustrates how some sportspeople (I think they were sportsmen in the true sense of the word) put this release of the biggest into practice in their personal experience.
      Good thoughts about the difference between harvesting to care for our families and “trophy” hunting and fishing.
      Pride isn’t going to take human survival through the next generations. I like your emphasis on wisdom– I agree. The Humptulips cannery example is sad indeed.

  48. Im glad to hear that there is some head way being made when it comes to saving the salmon runs. My grandfather is the one who first taught me ti fish and one of the most important lessons I learned was we fish only for what we need. We caught what we would have for dinner and never more. Hearing how the canneries had so many fish that they were backed up is just disgusting, I dont know how authorities allowed this to go on. I thought the remark about how people today wish to dominate nature rather than to live and prosper with it seems to be quite true sadly. I hope people can take a lesson from the natives in learning to take only what you need. If not we could see these fish disappearing from our waters. =(

    • Hi Kevin, thanks for your comment– its seems that your grandfather gave you a gift. It would be great if the authorities always sided with the care for the natural world, but in a culture so aimed toward turning a profit in the easiest way possible, this is not the case.

  49. Henry Cultee witnessed the wasteful practice of early 1900’s fish canning. This account showcases the wasteful nature of our society. Lewis and Clark spoke of the abundance of fish the Indians reaped every year without harming the sustainability of the salmon runs. It’s sad that a lot of the damage has already been done, but it’s reassuring that people are working hard to try to mend this. We should learn from the mistakes in our history and start following the sustainable practices the Indians have followed for years. We should treat salmon as our kin, an interpersonal partnership. If we don’t stop abusing these relationships with the environment, species and resources will continue disappearing.

    • Hi Jason, thank you for your comment. Good balance in your perspective: we need to be honest about what has taken place and how to clean it up–but there is hope. And a good part of that hope is the human history of treating salmon on kin with whom we sustain a mutual partnership.

  50. How true this is, the bigger the fish or the hunt the more we want it. Its has over the years turned into something as being more of a man. If someone was to come back from a day of fishing and had a fish that weighed a pound he would get laughed at, even though it might feed all the people it needed. As apose to someone who came back with a 4 pound fish would be congradulated, but then there would be fish left over. i unfortunatly have been one to try and catch the larger fish. Sense i was a little by brothers and i would always have competitions with who could catch the larger one. This may not make really any difference as a whole but when you think about it, it has to start somewhere. I am going to take this essay to heart and will never be one to abuse this type of fishing or hunting again.

    • Great, Christian. Perhaps you may even begin a trend that leads to the understanding that allowing for the next generation is what makes “more of a man”. Interesting point about the links between ego and trophy fishing: it seems we should be able to rest our personal esteem on some other thing…Thanks for your comment.

  51. I cannot say that I’m surprised by the (former) administration’s attempts to intimidate scientists in an effort to look after their own interests. Conservation and sustainability to two very important concepts, but unforunately they both seem to get in the way of industry and the “captains” at the helm of them. Once again, I can’t help but think what kind of world we would live in if those who make the decisions that impact ALL of our lives took these kind of factors into consideration. Imagine a river with so many salmon that ships would have a hard time navigating through them – unbelievable. I hope our new administration commits to science, sustainability, and other “earth-friendly” policies that will begin to reserve the damage done during the last 8+ years.

    • Great sum of the direction we need to take, Allison. The right use of science is an essential part to making the changes we need to make to secure our environmental well being. I agree that we have much to make up for after the last eight years. Thank goodness for a change in administration and the new directions we are already beginning to see.

  52. Poor salmon… It’s hard to believe and somewhat shocking that when fishing for salmon, a group of people would take so much that they would have to throw tons of them away because they spoiled. I think that most companies today are very concerned about the efficiency of their production. Strictly from a business standpoint, it seems very inefficient to waste all this food, not because it harms the salmon, but because you are depleting your supply faster than what is required for a certain profit. If the people collecting the salmon didn’t waste any of it, they would be able to run their business for much longer and gain more profit overall. Plus, they wouldn’t have had to hire scows to tow the loads of rotted salmon away.

    • Good point, Chris. I saw this same dynamic when I sat on the Eugene Toxics Right to Know Board. Businesses didn’t (at first) like having to keep track of all their usage– much less posting it on a public website. However, it turns out that keeping track allowed them to save some money–as well as to look to alternatives. The local business, Forrest Paints, totally turned things around–from joining a business suit suing the city to stop the program to expressing national leadership in installing a state of the art recapture/pollution control in its processing–and now, in developing low VOC paints. Knowledge creates alternatives good for us all– of course, you have to care enough to put them into effect. Three cheers for Forrest Paint (and Steve Forrest, who sat on that board with me)!

  53. The statistic of 1600 EPA professionals reporting political interference was surprising. It’s unfortunate that our government turns away from the truth in this area, but the change can be bottom up. The same worldview that dictates official policy is the same kind behind hunting the largest game and proudly displaying dead trophies. The emphasis is on short term gratification and lacks forethought for the long-term impact or the impact on other populations. This grows to be more inexcusable as evidence of the effects of such actions become concrete and obvious, such that a person could not in good conscience ignore them. At this point it is no longer a question of education, at least at the highest levels, and it is a question of morality and ethics. How can those in power consistently choose to ignore the impact on others to further personal temporary gain. It seems, at times, that they are so selfish they are only finally changing in some regards because of the long term impacts are finally coming around to negatively impact their backyard.

    • It is unfortunate when bad behavior is only changed as a result of the shock of facing its consequences. The good news is that we are getting a different caliber of leadership in these agencies since this survey was taken in the Bush administration. The nominee for the head of OSHEA, for instance (the announcement just came out) has been an advocate for safe and healthy working conditions for years. Complex organizations are hard/slow to change, but leadership has much potential to well– actually lead us somewhere for a change!

  54. I like the Native American philosophy of fishing and hunting: let most of the salmon go and only capture the smallest elk or deer to preserve the herd. Their gathering, hunting, and fishing practices showed a direct correlation to their strong belief in a holistic world. By carefully selecting smaller animals and fish, indigenous tribes prevented spoilage, overconsumption, and wastefulness of the meat while allowing the herds and schools to flourish. The modern Western society could apply this philosophy of hunting to curb wastefulness and abuse that occurs in slaughter farms. Since the classic American diet consists of a large amount of meat, it is impractical to assume that all animal life may be discontinued from the American diet. However, the amount of meat available in grocery stores can and should be reduced to prevent wastefulness, and we, in particular, can encourage those closest to us to eat more “animal friendly” choices than the classic American hamburger, sausage pizzas, or chicken dinners.

  55. I often wonder when our administration will take a step back and not focus so greatly on numbers and money. I would love to see someone take office who believes in the wisdom of elders, karma, and reciprocity. Aggie knew what would maintain and help flourish the salmon, I am sure her voice is very small in comparison to the large companies that make millions. I enjoy the lakes greatly, I find it sad that people use living species as sport. I do not see that helping karmic law in any way at all.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Lorena. It was the Bush administration under which this survey was done, and it looks to me like we are getting better appointees. I agree with you about sport: I think there are better ways to test and challenge ourselves with respect to the natural world.

  56. I had never before thought that it was a wise idea to protect the larger animals over the smaller ones. It’s a popular idea that the bigger the animal the better, whether it is fish or deer or anything else. This idea turns animals into trophies rather than some sort of provision we need to survive (food, clothing, etc.) and hunting for a prize rather than necessity is unnatural. It’s irrational and wasteful to take more than we need and apparently, unwise to take the bigger animals when they are the most likely to reproduce and pass on the best genes. Now that I know this, it seems like a very obvious concept and it’s a wonder that everyone doesn’t know this and try harder to save the larger animals over the smaller ones.

    • Thanks for your comment, Sarah. It’s interesting how many things seem simple once we think of them! Thinking of them for the first time is part of the process of learning. Thanks for participating in this process here!

  57. I find that this article ties into the indigenous way of life. It shows how humans can work to preserve natural resources, instead of killing off everything when it is in high demand. The indigenous peoples always made sure to conserve resources in a way that was sure to replenish necessary items for later years. It would be beneficial for us to practice this way of life instead of bragging about catching the most or the biggest fish. It is an example of belief in reciprocity. If one kills the strong deer, then what comes back are the weak, and eventually they will die off. It is important to practice careful hunting methods in order to preserve life.

  58. I had never heard of letting the biggest fish go and most likely because defeating the biggest and best in any field is considered to be a great feat. However, letting it go makes perfect sense and for the natives to have the knowledge to do so speaks greatly about their morals and their respect for nature. In today’s society I feel as though we think we’ve moved so far beyond the indigenous people and don’t stop to think that sometimes the more simple the life the better and that wisdom and knowledge can be sought from all around us. There were also some strikingly dis-heartening info such as political interference and the treatment of fish such as they are too unlimited.

  59. What really caught my eye when I was reading this article was the part about how Native fishing was run with the idea that the salmon and humans should have a close relationship. Through this type of relationship there was a reassurance that the salmon would continue to thrive and humans could benefit from it. Balance is a very significant part of this idea in that it holds everything and everyone together equally with everyone getting what they need. It is also very admirable to read about so many tribes fighting for the rights of their resources and the need for its sustainability. With some people finding themselves ignored, it is good to know that there are still some that can get through on these issues.
    Lastly, the statement: “That is as simple and wise a strategy as saving the best seeds for future crops– or passing on a better world for our children and their children”, is very profound in that it focuses on the very core of why we need to be practicing sustainability within our natural world. The future is so important to all of us not only for ourselves but for our children and their children and so on and so forth. If people starting thinking about the future generations that they will have contributed to then maybe the idea of sustainability would not be so foreign.

    • Hi Erin, thanks for your thoughtful assessment of the reasons for practicing this ethical (and smart!) relationship to the world that sustains us.
      You reference to being assured of a future salmon run with these practices caught my attention. Certainly, there was a vital security in a living with such ethics– one many of us would like to institute for the sake of our children.

  60. I am visiting family in Lake Tahoe, CA, and just a few days ago I was able to see salmon spawning up here. It was the first time I’ve ever been able to witness this in person and it was an awesome sight. In fact, I will link a few pictures that I have taken as well.

    I think what was even more inspiring than being able to see these Kokanee Salmon, was seeing the people who stopped by to come and look at this sight. Everyone was so thoughtful, reverent even, that there seemed to be a kind of kinship in the air. We were witnessing something bigger and ancient than ourselves. I’ve never quite felt this link before with so many. That we were in awe and humbled to be apart of something more important and ageless than ourselves was a feeling I’ll never forget.

  61. Hmm…doesn’t look like the link worked. I’ll try again.

  62. This essay only furthers my belief that our ancestors set out on a mission to eradicate all other lifeforms, then themselves. It just seems impossible that not one white settler, in the fur or canning business, didn’t think about sustaining enough fish and/or hairy creatures to keep their businesses alive! What are you going to do w/o a product to sell? From the sellers point of view, wouldn’t it make sense to keep your product alive and thriving so as to ensure you yourself have a future in business? Like the snake eating its tail, have we not considered what is to happen when all we have left to devour is ourselves?

    • Let’s hope setting out on this course of eradicating other lifeforms and then themselves was not intentionally suicidal, Jessica! I think there was carelessness, laziness and just plain ignorance involved. These are things we certainly have to change!
      A pretty pointed last line! Keeping up our current rate of consumption will lead us straight into the dilemma you point out, in which we won’t have anything else to consume except ourselves (and each other?).

  63. I live on Buggs Island Lake in southcentral Virginia. I recently landed a job at the Corps of Engineers, they are responsible for the lake, streams, and wetlands. The lake has 800 miles of shoreline, a dam, and lots of recreation. One of the problems we face are with the fish population. People think we are here for recreational purposes but in fact we are here for conservation and perservation. Yesterday I went on project with the Virginia Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, they were studing Stripers. We had 6 gill nets and we had to weigh each fish, measure how long they were, and to age them. They use this information to monitor the predators of the lake and to ensure balance. The Corps also regulates water for fish spawn, hydo-electric power, flood control, and ensure salt water doesn’t back into the Albarmarle Sound where the water is discharged. I do believe that more people are becoming aware of their need to protect our resources.

    • Thanks for sharing this perspective, Renae–and something about this lake for those of us who, like myself, reside on the other side of the continent. It sounds like a wonderful place. It is good to hear that it is being well cared for.

  64. I like to think that I adhere to the ideals put forth by the Pacific Northwest natives. I am an avid fisherman, and rarely keep any of the fish I catch. I can say that this last year, I kept the first fish I have kept in 5 years or so, and only did so because I caught it in the eye. I did not feel good keeping it, but thought it better than to let it suffer, not be able to eat properly and die a slow death. To me, the best part of fishing is the time spent with my family while fishing. It is great to catch large fish, feel the power they possess, get a nice picture and then let the fish go. When you are holding a 30 inch Rainbow trout in your hands you can feel that this is a mighty beast with a soul, and I can’t just end its life so I can have dinner. Like I always say, we didn’t go camping without stopping at the grocery store, we have plenty to eat without taking fish from the river. Besides, if I let these ones go, they will spawn and produce more great souls for me to interact with!

  65. Having grown up in a hunting and fishing family in Minnesota, I have a great deal of experience with the concept of always trying to catch or shoot the biggest and most majestic example of whatever the species being hunted or fished. Upon shooting the only whitetail deer of my life I overheard one of my brothers comment how ordinary it was in size and how unfortunate that it was not a “trophy”. The next comment was, “well at least it will taste better than those bigger and older deer.” They did not know that I had other opportunities before to shoot larger deer, but I chose not to, it simply did not feel right. As it turns out, my family did not even want to have the meat processed so that we could eat it. Instead, I did it myself, and it did not matter to me at all that I was twelve years old, that I had no idea what I was doing, that nobody else would help me, there was no way that I was going to let that deer go to waste. I wrapped up all of the meat and put it in the freezer, and while none of my family would eat any of it, none of it went to waste, even though it took me about a year to finally eat all of it. What caused me to have a different attitude than the rest of my family I will never know, but the feelings remain strong with me today. I like to think that even though I did not know why at the time that what I was doing was important, the fact that it was important was so obvious, that I knew it was right it in spite of the opposite feelings of all of the people around me.

    • I don’t know what gave you a different sense of things either, David. But this is a wonderful story of a boy becoming a man who takes responsibility for his actions and thinks authentically for himself. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • I don’t know what gave you a different sense of things either, David. But this is a wonderful story of a boy becoming a man who takes responsibility for his actions and thinks authentically for himself. Thanks for sharing this with us. You obviously had some wisdom beyond those you grew up among.

  66. Stories like those of the millions of salmon clogging the Puget Sound or the Columbia River make me wistful and longing to see even a semblance of that in my lifetime. I’m hopeful that some dams are being removed, and cross river netting and drag netting is being regulated to let more salmon through, but we still have a long ways to go. While there can be a lot said for letting some of the “big fish” go as they do have a higher fecundity, hatchery efforts have been skewed towards these bigger fish and local populations ultimately diminished because of this focus. When fish are chosen by man to spawn strictly based on size (selected to milk for their eggs in a hatchery), we artificially promote certain genetic traits thereby excluding others that may actually be better able to survive the changing river conditions. This is a complex problem but ultimately I’m hopeful that we are making positive steps.

    • Hi Peter, you raise an important point along with examples of hopeful trends. There is some indication that on the Columbia, the strongest salmon were ones best got through under indigenous fishing set ups. I found one bit of oral tradition that instructed fishermen fishing those platforms over the river to net the fish that tried to jump the falls and fell back–as the strongest fish were more likely to pull them off the platforms and into the river–always a danger.

  67. I can see where this is an issue, but it does make me laugh, well chuckle anyway. Not about the condition the salmon stock or even the other fish in the various lakes, rivers and oceans throughout the world. What does make me chuckle is this just gives “justification” to my husband and others about the HUGE fish that got away. I’m sure we’ve all seen the big ones that get away and they aren’t so big. It would be nice to see that, but then if we did they wouldn’t be able to send their genes on to the next generations.

    Why don’t we mandate catch and release methods throughout the world, especially for the biggest ones? I know there are rules for too small, shouldn’t there be for the big ones too? This way they can procreate and send their genes on down AND I think they would learn and become more of a challenge to bring in. How far off base am I?

    • I’m glad you got a chuckle out of this, Christy. Ironic that we have rules for taking those too small, but not too large– says something about our real thoughtfulness for the future compared to our ideas of the natural trophies we deserve, I think.

  68. It’s through my mother (Janet Meeker) that I’m related to Oregon Trail pioneer Ezra Meeker, mentioned above as being ’embarrassed’ by the wealth of salmon. There’s no way to find out what this actually meant; did he feel guilty in such a land of plenty? Did he realize that these mighty runs of fish were due to careful management? Was he chagrined at what happened to the country to which he proudly brought so many people as a trail guide? And how did he get along with those who were already here? Sadly, I have no personal tales passed down about him, and will have to rely on books and online research like anybody else.
    And yet, my daughter’s 6th grade class recently went to Eagle Creek and saw salmon spawning. At the fish hatchery nearby they studied the Chinook life-cycle, and were able to bring back some fertilized eggs. When they become, literally, small fry, the kids will get to take them back and release them. Maybe one day she too will get to see an embarrassment of salmon.

    • Hi Patric, Ezra Meeker was one of the self-designated “old settlers” on Puget Sound who emigrated before native peoples were moved to reservations and established neighborly relations with them. One story he tells in his autobiography was how he left his wife (and I believe, a small baby) alone on his isolated claim with an agreement that a fellow pioneer would look after her needs. He flaked out, but an Indian woman took on herself the responsibility to visit her regularly and see to her needs. He also writes of a time he was exploring the area and were mightily hungry when they came upon Indians who shared clams with them–he says that was a turning point for him in no longer seeing these people as savages. He wrote that as long as whites carried guns, they would see the native people as dangerous– but it was the perception caused by their own guns, not by native behavior.
      I believe Meeker was also one of the “old settlers” who signed a petition to honor native treaty rights and let them fish on the Duwamish River (on Puget Sound)–it caused a ruckus among many of the other settlers who were blocking them from using the river.
      And “embarrassment” in this context, I think, related to the fact that he was stalled by the present of the salmon and couldn’t move his boat among them.
      Thanks for your comment.

  69. I really enjoyed the last part of the article where the Native Americans encircled the deer and let the biggest and strongest go and harvested the younger and weaker bucks. This allowed the bigger bucks to pass their genes on and was good for the population. Today all anyone cares about when they go hunting is to shoot the biggest set of antlers or shoot the most birds or catch the biggest fish. They don’t go out for the sheer sake of going out and experiencing the woods or to harvest an animal to feed their families they are more worried about filling their walls with trophies. I’ll admit that I have specifically held out for that one trophy buck on occasion but more often than not I am out there to provide myself and relatives with meat to fill their freezers

    • Thanks for sharing your personal experience and response, Mitch. We will know we have gotten somewhere with new environmental values when it becomes more prestigious to let that big one go for the sake of future generations!

  70. Yes, Coral, though I don’t see why they aren’t also the breeding males: all those strong and intelligent fish who are the best chance for the future survival of their species.

  71. I don’t understand the catch-and-release thing. When people go out fishing and only plan on doing catch-and-release, really what is the purpose? Can’t a person just sit on a boat or sit on the shore and visit with their friends or nature and drink beer without having a fishing pole in the water? I caught a fish once when I was about eleven years old. I did not want to eat the fish and I don’t even know why I went fishing that day with my brother. But I felt bad that I may have traumatized the fish and hurt its lip by catching it and then releasing it. It didn’t make me feel like I dominated over nature because I caught the fish either. How can a human with sophisticated equipment feel like they are superior to nature when they are hunting animals that have no chance against a a bullet,net or hook with a lure. Does it really make people feel like they outsmarted the animal! I just don’t get it! I had nightmares for a week when I accidentally ran over a domestic cat that ran out in front of my car. I watched it suffer and saw the life sucked out of it. I just don’t understand what kind of people find pleasure in killing animals. If it is for food (as the natives do) then it is understandable but if someone can afford a gun, the gas, the time off from work , the other gear it takes…then why can’t they afford to buy meat at the grocery store? I just don’t buy that as an excuse. Anyway, back to the fish story. I do agree that the big, old and ancient fish (like sturgeons that are centuries old) are smarter than the rest or they wouldn’t still be alive and that the older game animals should be given respect for making it so long. I saw a program on OPB last night about what happened on the Klamath River a few years ago when there was not enough water for the farmers and for the salmon and sucker fish. Bush knew he did poorly in Oregon for votes and had his people forge some statistics in order to get the flood gates open for the farmers. It was all to get votes. Well, a few months later the Kalamath was littered with dead Salmon that couldn’t make it up river in the shallow, warm river. It was such a pathetic waste of resources. I hate George W. and I’m not afraid to say so.

    • Catch and release does seem a bit odd to me as well, Kelley. It seems to me one could just not harass the fish in this way (just my own opinion, all you catch and release folks). Thanks for sharing your own experience here.
      I concur that George W.’s policies were a disaster for the environment. I hope the changes with the new administration come fast enough to repair some of the damage.

  72. I find myself infuriated (but not at all surprised when it comes to the Bush Administration) about the fact that EPA professionals were pressured to skew their findings. And to think at one time, boatloads of fish carcasses were dumped into the sea after spoiling due to the fact that there were so many fished out of the water that they couldn’t be canned fast enough! These types of things both sadden and anger me to the greatest degree!

    However, to read of such people as Hixon and Lucy Thompson, does indeed lighten my heart a little. The shaman’s explanation of traditional fish traps does not sound at all flawed to me, and not only would these traps benefit us, they would cut salmon some slack as well, which should be the more important concern during these destructive days of age. Why is it that such traps are not being used today then?

    We really need to stop being so greedy and ignorantly stubborn and start learning from the indigenous peoples. People such as the shamans who seem to have far more knowledge about the way nature functions with and without human interaction through not merely scientific experimentation or research but wisdom and day-to-day experience with the natural world… Obviously nature functions far better without human interaction. That is, all that we have been doing has resulted in such horrid destruction that nature is responding with her own kind of destruction (tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.). It serves us right and I’m sure we haven’t seen the worst of her. It is just unfortunate that the innocent species (including even the ones we prey on, like fish) must suffer from our foolish and avid decisions.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful and caring comment, Cherisse. It is certainly about time that we learned to work in concert with natural systems that took millions of years to evolve–and of which we are a part. I too am heartened by those intelligent and dedicated humans who care for the systems of life that sustain us all.
      And though our interference in nature for controlling and selfish ends has led to nothing but destruction, partnership with nature has had very different-and far more hopeful– results.

  73. I think what the Native Americans had that many Americans of today don’t, is humility. When it comes to a good portion of modern day Americans, being the biggest, baddest person gets you bragging rights and makes you feel great. But the Native Americans had such a deeper understanding. They had their “macho” contests but not in the way we have ours.

    I can’t help but remember when I was in like 3rd grade and we watched The Indian in the Cupboard. It’s been years since I’ve seen that movie, but I can still remember one little part in the whole movie. The Indian kills a deer that just came out of the cupboard, and after killing it, he says a prayer of thanks for the deer giving it’s life so he could eat. I think it’s the same way the Native American’s have always felt about the salmon. You don’t take all, and you’re thankful in many ways for what you’ve been given.

    • Thanks for your comment, Becky. Humility is (perhaps ironically, from the perspective of the modern worldview) a powerful value indeed when it comes to knowledge–not to mention, survival within natural systems. I like your perception that native peoples had other ways to challenge them than to be “bigger” and “badder”.
      Gratitude is another value we could use more of: the idea that what we receive from nature is a gift– not something we have the right to ravage.

  74. The more I read these posts, the more I wonder what went wrong with the white people that has made all the principles they (we, myself included) act on so harmful to the earth, to other peoples and to ourselves. Reading this article about the salmon makes me wonder how long they (we) can get away with this behavior of hoarding and wasting. It seems that the tides are turning and peoples are becoming more aware of these gluttonous, self-centered actions, but I worry that the children are not being taught these truths. I think that teaching our children to be thankful and to only take what one needs and to recognize that to leave some is to ensure a better future for ourselves and those around us. I am 29 and have lived a conscious life but the principles I am learning about are so awe inspiring and life altering that I wish for my child to embrace them from a young age, so her actions will reflect a sense of reciprocity with the world around her.

    • Thanks for this heartening reply, Jessica. And I don’t think it is “white people”– but those who are raised and taught in a particular way–and then don’t develop any authentic personal thinking. I am sure you will be great as passing this info along!

      • Yes, I agree that it is not just white people, but most of the readings make reference to white (or Europeans, Western) peoples. I just wonder if it is something inherent in these cultures that produces peoples that have worldviews that are self serving and self centered and so different from indigenous ones. What is it in cultures/societies that shape a people to dominate nature and be so ignorant of their actions?
        Maybe this has no answer but it is something that has brewing in my mind.

        • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jessica. I just wanted to make clear that I think these things are a matter of culture and history, not race. And history and culture are complex things. You raise an extremely important question. I have not yet seen a satisfactory explanation as to why some cultures have gone off the track, so to speak, and have dominated others. I don’t buy the idea that we “needed” to do this in order to achieve technological progress. I think the answer (or non-answer) lies in the range of choice that humans have– and whether or not we assume responsibility for our choices (or see their repercussions or avoid them). I like what Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe said: that some cultures are better than others at “fighting the human instincts of self-destruction”. I see these as arrogance, greed and exclusion– and our culture has a real problem in rewarding all of these, making folks wealthy for them even though most of us don’t like the results of their actions.
          On the concrete level, I am especially concerned about yesterday’s Supreme Court decision– which seems to be another way to empower greed and manipulate decision-making of individuals in our society.

  75. I am not surprised that the government agency workers stated that they were asked to fudge the numbers. I am a believer that power corrupts. When one agency wants something for itself, there is many times it steps on toes. It is a sad use of power.

    As for the harvest methods of the indigenous people I never thought about the bigger fish being the ones breeding. As we are taught in ‘standard’ society we must take the biggest. Fish must measure a certain size. Deer must have so many tines to the antler. If we all take those, then it makes sense that we will never get ones old enough to breed and pass on their traits.

    • Hi Adeena, thanks for your thoughtful comments. No, we don’t ever think of letting the biggest go: wouldn’t work with the “trophy” mentality.
      It may be true that power corrupts, but it is a sad thing in an agency that is supposed to represent a public trust. The good news is that folks like those at the Union of Concerned Scientists watchdogged the watchdogs! We need this kind of citizen activism.

  76. This is proof that less really is more! I guess I’ve never thought into fishing and hunting in such great depth, but it makes a lot of sense to leave the strongest to carry on the species. It definitely goes against our “microwave” mentality. we want our food and we want it now, instant results. we need to be more focused on the future and the needs that the future holds instead of our wants and desires right in the moment. I’ve never been hunting and have only fished once, but I imagine, that catching a huge and impressive animal would feel like quite an accomplishment for someone who values that sort of thing. But really, as you stated, it’s more of an accomplishment to let the big one go

  77. It seems like such a simple practice to let the strongest animals go during sport fishing or hunting because those animals let go will only strengthen their population more. I have many friends who are deer and elk hunters and it seems as if all of them only want one thing… the biggest rack! If only they took into consideration what they were doing to the deer and elk population instead of constantly wanting to shoot the biggest buck, I think that sustaining that animal population would come so much more easily. Simple practices of sustainability are again highlighted in this essay. It makes me question why aren’t we constantly listening to the elders who know best about how to live side-by-side in nature without ruining it.

    • Hi Katy, it does seem like a simple practice to let the strongest ones go– and an effective one in terms fo our environment as well. We don’t have the elders in our society to guide us in this direction– instead we have a worldview that urging individuals to hunt for “trophies”.

  78. I loved reading about the Kalapuya hunt where the hunters would surround a herd of deer and let the strongest go before they moved in for the kill. Since they were in constant contact with their natural environment, it was easy to see that they were ultimately helping themselves by helping the herd.

    Today, being so separated from the earth and each other, it is difficult to see and understand the seemingly-backward concept of letting the best go. In our individualistic society, many hunters simply want a huge trophy to put on their wall. From now on, I will not be able to see a trophy without seeing the hundreds of strong descendants lost to this act of selfishness.

  79. It seems to me that contemporary conservation philosophies may be coming full circle. The early pioneer belief (as demonstrated somewhat disturbingly by the mass dumping of salmon which couldn’t be processed in time) that one should catch/hunt as much as possible is slowly being replaced by the practice of sustainability. Just as the Kalapuya would let the biggest and strongest of their hunt go so to do Oregon fishers on the Columbia as it is against Oregon fishing law to keep sturgeon once its size exceeds 60 inches. Anything greater than 60 inches must be released. Of course this is but one example which only really pertains to sport anglers but I’m seeing more and more of a demand for sustainable fishing practices. There is an excellent resource called Seafood WATCH – which does a great job of cataloging which species of seafood consumers should avoid based on sustainability practices. Unfortunately, I believe that as with most things what will truly be required for a large scale shift will be economics and large scale fishing operations will only make a change to sustainable practices if there is an economic need to do so.

    • Hi Jeff, thanks for sharing this information–and hope for a shift toward sustainability. These seafood choices are important– but there are current reports indicating that if we just shift from one rare species to another more plentiful one, as we have been doing for the past few decades, we will entirely fish out the sea in a few decades. This report (sorry I don’t remember the source, but a science journal) did an analysis based on the number of “plentiful” species left and the rate at which we turning to and fishing out new species. The thesis here was that we have been hiding the true scale of our overuse of ocean resources in this manner.
      I think you are right about economics: we need to reward folks who yield the social and ecological results we really want.

  80. Growing up in a family that were avid fishermen, protecting salmon and the sustainability of salmon was a high priority. The indigenous people had it correct. Understanding and respecting salmon as though they are connected to humans were their fundamental beliefs.

    According to this article, the worldview of dominance and objectifying salmon is what the demise of our salmon runs were. Unfortunately, the attitude of placing trophies on walls and the bigger the better mentality undermined the reproduction of this fish. As it states in the article, larger and older female fish need protection. These are the ones that will breed and pass on the best survival genes.

    There are ways to have trophies and yet protect the future of our salmon. My husband went to Alaska fishing the Kenai River. He caught an 80, beautiful salmon. As quickly as possible they took a photo, measured it, and then set it back free. The Kenai River foundation (or something like that), respected his decision and since it was one of the largest ever caught made a replica of the fish. They sent the fiberglass fish to my husband as a trophy. He now can say he did what was right, but still tell his “fish story” and all the fun he had trying to reel it into the boat.

    Allowing the strongest animals escape before hunting them is what the Kalapuya demonstrated. They understood that not killing the strongest permitted the strongest genes in these animals to survive, thus sustaining them for generations to come. When animals are objectified, respect is lost, and future generations suffer.

    The article identifies how the indigenous people learned from nature, respected its resources, and applied a reciprocal mentality to sustain the salmon. They did not try to dominate the natural resources; they respectfully utilized them for specific needs and made sure they protected the future of all resources, allowing many generations share in the wealth.

    • Thanks for sharing your family story illustrating the difference between trophy hunting and fishing and sustainable hunting and fishing, Marla. You have some excellent points about the destructive nature of objectification.

  81. This article is yet another reminder of the importance of having an intimate relationship with nature. Nature is such a powerful teacher, but unlike the indigenous people, modern day American society does not practice the patience required to observe nature’s profound lessons. Modern day society is hooked on immediate gratification, and is not in the habit of “saving the best seeds for future crops.” The proliferation of the salmon runs that the early pioneers witnessed is an awesome example of the reciprocity of nature, and the idea that you get out of life what you put into it. By letting some of the salmon swim free and spawn upriver, the salmon populations thrived, and thus so did the indigenous people.

    Anytime my grandmother cooks dinner and before we sit down to eat, my grandfather always tells me to “take all that I want, but eat all that I take.” I think this philosophy is more suited to that of the reciprocity of nature than the philosophy of accumulation that is currently depleting various eco-systems. Nature can provide such abundance of life that can “embarrass”, but only if the delicate balance between humans and nature is respected. The goal should not be accumulation for our generation, but preservation for all generations.

    • Thank you for such an eloquent response, Jordan. Your grandmother sounds wonderful! You have summed up much of the heart of environmental in your last sentence: that the goal should not be accumulation for our generation, but care for the future of all generations.

  82. This reminds me of a report that I read recently. It was concerned with the decrease in average size of bighorn rams in the past 50 years. The reported noted that because hunters want to take home the trophy ram, the genes from the biggest, strongest rams are being removed from the population. Over time this has caused the average size of the ram to decrease and the number of trophy size rams to also decrease. Some areas have now implamented a minimum and maximum size on bighorns like the size limits on sturgeon. I think that this is important to keep the strong and healthy in the population. I hope that we continue to take actions to protect the species that we have so successfully depleted. I don’t think that it’s too late.

    • This is certainly a pointed example of the results of the trophy mentality, Hannah. Thanks for sharing it. This seems like yet another case of humans reversing natural selection — not something we can continue to do to our ecological systems and hope to pass on a vital world to those who follow us.

  83. The mentality embraced by the Native Americans that lived among nature is one which lead to sustainability for thousands of years. I respect their notion of allowing the biggest and strongest species live, in order to promote healthy genes and future generations. This mentality is more respectful and effective than the western mentality of killing the biggest and strongest in order for show. The Native American communities didn’t have this sense of domination, and their reciprocal partnership is what allowed for a peaceful and healthy relationship with the natural world.

    • As you point out, a reciprocal partnership with other lives, human and more than human, is what sustained humans and nature together for hundreds of years, Dana. I think it is time to shift away from the domination worldview which offers us only short-lived benefits and those only for a few– while wreaking destruction on common resources everywhere.

  84. The strongest reaction I have after reading this piece is in regard to the story of Cultee. I cannot imagine the greed that would allow a cannery to back up salmon to this extent. It also shows me the difference in education between the Native people and the settlers. I believe the settlers must have thought salmon would reappear because the area attracted them and did not see a connection between letting them run upstream and their sustainability. Either that or settlers thought that the Earth was so large that it had enough resources to accomodate this activity. I cannot blame them for thinking that, it still seems te be a common myth.

    • Hi Brandon, thanks for your comment. I don’t know if the settlers felt the salmon would continue forever– or if they ever thought about it.
      It is certainly sad that there was so much waste in the past; this makes it all the more important to care for these resources now.

  85. Dr. Holden,

    Reading these articles gives me a much more intimate sense of what is meant to be learned in the natural resources courses I have taken. You can’t replace the impression left after reading accounts such as those described about the comparison between salmon runs when they were tribally “managed” and their state now under government management. The idea that fishermen would accept the loss of so many salmon just because they didn’t want to let them go is amazing. It’s a loss of life and that fact was meaningless to them, not to mention the suffering the salmon experienced in the process. If they couldn’t muster the compassion to feel remorse for this, you would think they would recognize the loss of a resource. They were/are so short-sighted, depleting natural resources as they have done for hundreds of years, unlike the native Americans who have been able to coexist with ecosystems while helping them thrive n the process. It’s amazing to think that so many otherwise successful people are able to blind themselves to their incredible lack of insight into the wealth of knowledge available to them. Their prejudices and arrogance don’t allow them to see that there are others who can teach them how to repair the damage they have done.

    • Thank you for your comment, Maria. I’m glad you see an intersection between values that sustained the salmon runs and the natural resources courses you are taking. Traditional stories were powerful enough to establish wise and ethical behavior with respect to the natural world that was successful for generations. Science tells its stories differently, but we still need the kinds of stories that move and inspire us to do the right thing–not to mention, to help us perceive what that right thing is.
      It is sad that arrogance causes some to ignore such knowledge: we certainly need all the knowledge we can get in our current situation.

  86. I’m so happy to read this article about an issue for which I am already an activist! (Should I post a picture in my “Catch and Release” sweatshirt?) My entire family is active in this cause and my Dad spends hours and hours each year volunteering at the Salmon hatchery close to Fall River (as well as others). Also, we have a family membership in two different river restoration organizations. I have been fly fishing since childhood and have never once kept a fish. My mom has a “play on words” regarding the famous Biblical quotation about fishing. It goes something like “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; Teach a man to fish and he just throws them back for a lifetime.”

  87. It always makes me a bit sad when I hear about the vast populations of animals in the past and realizing todays populations of animals are just a fraction of what they were. It seems that each generation is seeing less and less animals in areas where they used to be plentiful. When I’m in the mountains with my dad he always reminisces about seeing great herds of elk ranging in the hundreds when he was young but now you’re lucky to see 20 elk in the same area. I sometimes feel worried that my kids might not get to enjoy nature as I was able too. It seems that if these types of trends continue we may lose some of the species that are so important to the northwest such as salmon, deer, elk, etc and that future generations will only know about them from stories.

    • Hi Travis, what you describe is sad. I also think it is possible to turn these things around. There were once many elk around Eugene–and then for decades, none at all. A few years back a herd was sighted behind LCC in the open area between there and the freeway. River otters were completely gone from the Amazon Creek for decades as well–then, after the city did some restoration (daylighting parts of the stream), and the headwaters area became a city park, otter were seen near the headwaters. And a friend and I saw two frolicking by the county fairgrounds–we could hardly believe it and have not seen them since, but they were definitely river otters. It is possible to turn things around if we care enough for those who will follow us like your own kids.

  88. I am saddened but not really surprised that political influence has been interfering with the methodologies and findings of scientists, since many scientists fund their research through government grants. Perhaps if their scientific findings become politically controversial, their funding may be pulled. This reminds me of the Bush administration’s plea to open the national forests, Alaskan preserves, and offshore reef areas for oil drilling, as a means of minimizing oil dependence from the Middle East. It’s hard to believe any ecologist in the world could possibly find research to support those ideas. Politics influences everyone, and science is not excluded.
    The Native American methods for controlling salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest, are a harsh contrast to modern industrial methods that seek to catch them all. I often wonder when I’m at Costco, how we manage to continually harvest so many fish from the ocean. I know that McDonalds Corporation has been coming under scrutiny in New Zealand for overfishing the tiny fish they use in their fish fillet sandwiches. The need for a global environmental regulatory agency that enforces planetary standards for industrial practices and natural resource management has never been a more apparent necessity. The world is one large interconnected ecological system, and ecocide practiced in one part of the world affects us all eventually. Here where I live in Hawaii, my Hawaiian friends’ grandparents always talking about how abundant fish were when they were young. Local Kauai fishermen are now going further and further out to sea in search of a better catch. Some local fishermen are travelling to the tiny islands at the top of the Hawaiian Island chain, and fishing off the coasts of the remote islands. Many of these areas are national bird sanctuaries, and I’m sure those birds primarily feed of the local fish. Yet, because the area is so remote, there is none there to regulate the fishermen. If they take the fish these birds feed on , the birds are likely to die as a result of their isolation. Many of these birds only exist on one small island. In Hawaii, birds are disappearing faster than any other species.

    • Thanks for sharing your observations from Hawaii here, Joshua. It is the same everywhere: ecosystems are connected, they sustain us-and we need to shift our priorities such that politics does not overrule or obscure science.

  89. It doesn’t surprise me that the Salmon harvests from native people were almost seven times higher than current yields. We are so consumed as a society to only focus on ourselves that we completely ignore the balance of things in our lives. We aren’t concerned about future harvesting of Salmon, as early inhabitants and later fisheries would only be concerned about the harvest that year. They would not stop to consider what the fishing would be like five or ten years from now. We have always looked at a business in fiscal years, and nothing more. We will come up with a strategy to improve next year, but right now we need a plan to make this year’s quota. The truly sad part is that the Salmon being wasted and dragged out to sea was probably seen as a huge accomplishment in preventing others from infringing on their profits. I’m quite sure no one said look at all this waste, but rather probably viewed it as keeping market share for themselves. When we view nature and resources in this commodity approach we started to tread on very dangerous ground, because we would rather see no one have access to a resource, than someone else stealing potential profits. This business practice has lead many businesses to fail, and many natural resources to dry up, and yet we continue to operate in a “business as usual” mindset.

    • Thanks for sharing your “business as usual” perspective, Damien. You are right about the emphasis on maintaining “market share” even if it means waste: that was why early fur traders set out to create what they called a “fur desert”–in order to discourage other fur traders from coming on the scene by emptying all the beaver out of particular areas.
      There are different approaches, headed by the work of Lovins and Hawkens in Natural Capitalism, and the reevaluation of GNP to entail quality of life and natural environment rather than growth per se–thus focusing on particular intrinsic values (e.g. Daly’s For the Common Good).

  90. As a fisherman, I find it very interesting that the indigenous peoples had the mindset of “let the big one go”. In today’s world, you just don’t hear that at all and regulations on length that I have seen clearly show this. For example, the fishing regulations on size in California for black bass in freshwater consist of no size limits, minimum 12 inches, or a minimum of 22 inches. Fishing regulations in the ocean have minimum size limits as well. This is interesting if you compare the “invisible regulation” that indigenous peoples had on their fish because they are just the opposite. They let the big one go because they believed it was helpful to sustaining fish (salmon runs) and we let the smaller ones go because we believe the same. These culture differences are shocking and it’s no wonder why our countries fishing waters are on a decline. Everyone is obsessed with being the best and having the best and biggest things. Maybe it’s time for a change.

    • Thanks for sharing the examples of minimums on fishing limits with its implications in our worldview, Regan.
      Perhaps we need “maximums” on fish–and more than that. I’m thinking, for instance, of a “maximum income tax”– who needs to make more than so many billions of dollars when others are going hungry?
      But our cultural mindset is that it is fine to take anything that is as big as one can get…

  91. What is alarming as I read these articles is that it seems from the very moment we came to this country looking for a “better” life we immediately went on a destructive path. Was it that we saw such abundance around us and we had never been taught how to handle it? So many people that immigrated to the US did so to get away from poverty or oppression. We were like children in a candy store, without boundaries and worse without the history of the land to learn from, casting aside those with the answers. The waste alone is disheartening, but the competitive drive to continue is what is far more disturbing. The only thing that I can say is that we are young (as related to geologic age) and perhaps this is part of the process or the history we must go through, lets hope we learn from our mistakes of the past before the earth goes on without us.

  92. Being raised in WV and on a farm, many relatives and neighbors have mounted deer heads. Even as a child, I knew this was barbaric and disrespectful. If they taught your philosophies in kindergarten perhaps the future would understand the futility of trophy hunters, fishers, “Big Men”. I wouldn’t want my head on a wall.

  93. This article says that although natives have not had much influence on salmon policies in the past, they are starting to make a breakthrough partly due to Grandmother Aggies/Billy Frank’s contributions. The policy of letting some salmon go seems the logical and ethical policy to pursue and even on a selfish level that is the proper course to take to ensure future profits. To me, the idea of catching all of the fish one can in an area is just disgusting in regards to the aforementioned aspects of a decision-making process: illogical, unethical and even nonsensical from a business perspective. I suppose overfishing is due to such an ill-thought-out manuever as catching as many fish as possible in an area. Certainly we need more advocates of a more moderate policy such as the ones the Native Americans mentioned in this article would pursue but conjunctively we need to work towards restoring the levels of fish and the ecosystems of rivers/bodies of water in general.

    • Hi Sky, I also find it hopeful that elders such as these are able to put their knowledge and care into practice- this serves all of us. I think you are right that destroying our salmon resources is illogical– even from a business perspective.

  94. This essay gives very clear examples of the differences in values between independent and commercial entities in their interactions with the environment. Much of commerce, such as the fish cannery on Washington’s Humptulips River, are concerned primarily with meeting their business and financial goals, and maybe secondary the impact it has on the environment. It seems that they would realize the future benefits of filtering certain salmon past their system. And the same applies to so many other companies – it is too often strictly about money, and not often enough about the impact on the environment and the livelihoods of others. It is linear thinking in which the past and past methods are of no concern, the present is of highest priority, and may future will bring what it will.

    • The limited sense of time in such resource usage is certainly a problem, Kate. Apparently we must see the world as an interdependent in order to see the benefit of caring for the future of such things as salmon runs.

  95. I find myself amazed at two main points in this essay. First, the fact that political pressure to skew scientific findings was, and probably is, still going on is troubling. If signs begin to show up that we may be causing ourselves future hardships, and then educated and respected researchers find proof that these things are happening, why are we trying to cover it up? If you are on a ship and someone finds a leak, you don’t try to hide it, you fix the ship. I don’t understand what could cause politicians to do that. They have interests involved and stand to gain money? Okay, but do they not care at all for the future? How long do they think their fortunes will last?
    The other part of this that surprised me was what got us into this position. I could understand how white pioneers in the west could see the land and animal resources as so abundant as to be limitless. However, catching more fish than you can even use, and then having to tow spoiling fish out to sea to dump it makes no sense. It is ethically wrong and an irresponsible business practice. It seems a business would want to preserve the resources they use, and not waste time and money catching fish that they will not use, only to waste more time and money disposing of the excess fish.

    • I have wondered about the same thing, Spencer– whether the folks doing this manipulation think they live on the same planet as the rest of us. It is hard to believe the level of denial is that strong– but I guess money equals blinders for some.
      Ethical–and sound– businesses would want to preserve the resources upon which they depend– but there are those with such short term thinking that they don’t see the ledger for the next six months let alone the next seven generations. Congratulations on one of those taking a more ethical stance–and as you point out, a more rational business sense!

  96. This essay underscores how effective the partnership approach is in keeping our environment healthy and flourishing. It made me think of the Sacramento River and the salmon collapse happening there now. Though various approaches have been taken to try to resolve the problem nothing has worked and the problem is worse, much to the surprise of many. It causes me to not only question if the problems surrounding the salmon collapse were ignored for too long or if, as was brought up in the essay and in class discussion, pressure was put on scientists to skew or cover up findings. How can we protect our scientists and ensure their results are not a reflection of political pressure? If a broader and more wholistic perspective could have been taken and the crisis seen as a whole rather than pieced apart, I wonder if a healthy population could have been maintained. Expanding that thinking, I can’t help but think of the animals being devastated by the salmon collapse. Incredibly sad situation. Lucy Thompson was indeed right in her prediction. I look to Agnes Pilgrim Baker’s actions to give hope that we have the power to make changes.

    • Hi Sue, we do need a broader perspective to deal with such tragedies. And meanwhile there is much grief to be felt over them–and some hope in the leadership of those like Agnes Baker Pilgrim. Thanks for your comment.

  97. Does it surprise anyone that a government entity would ask anyone to skew anything that might be detrimental to current policy? It is my judgment that the government does not really care about any species listed on ESA’s, or the ESA itself. To them, it is too costly to manage, and takes too much time to list or delist. When laws, environmental or otherwise are brought about, they need to be in effect for all groups, not just one. Sustainability of our natural resources is a key to our survival. The Native Americans had the ability to take as much salmon as they did out of the rivers and streams, but did not harm the sustainability of the runs. In turn, the Euro Americans came with their big nets, fish wheels, and canneries and destroyed the runs for everyone. Improvements have been made, but the sustainability of the runs has not come back. Our demands for power have also harmed runs, possibly more than Euro American technologies. Damming of the waterways has greatly diminished the runs. It is my hope that we can turn to solar, natural gas, or wind power, and get rid of the dams. The costs of doing so will be worth it. Inherent is the need to understand indigenous ways of kinship and reciprocity. If we as a people are able to come to this understanding, we just may be able to fix the problems that exist in our world today. If not, we will continue to see the environment decline further to the point where there is little left for further generations.

    • Hi Scott, I think we can be realistically cynical about such governmental ineffectiveness but that does not mean we should lose our outrage over such actions. These are still OUR agencies and our government– and I do have hope in the actions of the new EPA director Lisa Jackson and her attempt to institute the precautionary principle with respect to chemical usage (after the EU model). I think we need to change our values– but in my years of teaching what has also become clear to me is that values like those you list are close to the hearts of most of us. Though many of us have set them aside to exist in the current economic set up, it is not our first choice. So we might reclaim the values closest to us and turn things around. No use to reward those with economic success who denigrate our shared earth and make all of our lives unhealthier.
      It is up to us what we “buy”.

      • Thank you for your response. I do agree that it is our government, but the policies that are set up for the environment are not always one that help in protecting the environment. The main focus of these laws seem to be for big business and not the regular person. These laws are not working. That is why we are taking this course. We are trying to learn the different philosophies about the environment, and realize what works and what doesn’t. The government policies for the environment are not working. There just isn’t enough enforcement.

        • Thanks for the follow up, Scott. I certainly agree that we need stricter regulation in terms of working policies. For instance, the same pesticides outlawed in the EU and Canada are now being sold (and blatantly advertised) everywhere in the US with the coming of spring. If are laws were really set up to protect our environment, we would be leaders rather than laggards in this respect.

  98. I am worried about the number of scientists that were pressured to skew their findings during the Bush administration. With all the propaganda out there, who do we trust? It is so hard to sort through all of the information out there that floats around under the name “science.”
    It is quite foreign to me to imagine the amount of salmon that were sustainably harvested from the rivers of the Northwest not so long ago. I am glad that the numbers are being restored and I hope that indigenous wisdom will prevail when the runs are large enough to sustain a healthy harvest again.
    The natives that encircled the deer and let the strong ones go reminds me of the wolf, called the “cleaner,” that takes the weakest of the herd for his sustenance. Animals can set a good example for how our interactions with nature should be.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ashley. It is disturbing when the very agency that is supposed to be an advocate on the part of its citizens becomes a political instrument instead. Unfortunately, in such circumstances we must watch the watchdog–as does the Union of Concerned Scientists who conducted the survey discovering this tampering with scientists in this agency meant to care for our environment.
      And we cannot find a better model, as you note, of the way to treat nature than nature herself.

  99. It is very sad but true that people tend to catch or trap the biggest and therefore more mature game for trophies or something to boast about. Living in Florida I have seen several news clips about this enormous fish or shark that some guy caught. Not because it was a source of food but because his next stop would be the taxidermy shop. In one case the fisherman caught the fish, tried to get it stuffed and mounted, found out the cost was more than expected and threw the fish in the garbage can. Next then you know a bumb removed the fish from the garbage can and is riding around town with a dead fish trying to sell it to anyone that may be interested. And to imagine all of this was being followed on the news. My opinion is they should have found the original fisherman and slapped him with a fine as bid as the fish.
    It is totally understandable that the native Americans would be a lot more concerned with the condition of the salmon. They have always lived a lot closer lives with nature than modern Americans. And they seem to have only taken from nature what they needed to survive rather thatn just for greed or sport.

    • Thanks for your comment, Mildred. The stories you describe are shameful. Seeing the living creatures of the natural world as “trophies” to bolster someone’s elgo indicates everything that is wrong with our current relationship to the environment.

  100. First of all, the Bush administrations attempts at hiding the truth just disgusts me. Moving on.. I really like the ideas of the indigenous people. Letting the most healthy and strongest of an animal go seems like the best bet in making sure the animal reproduces. The females in most species of animals have a way of knowing which male has the best genes, and they usually want to mate with that male to produce offspring with the best chances of surviving. If we constantly kill off the strongest, we’re leaving the females to pick males with poorer genes, making the offspring less likely to survive. Eventually the entire species would be weaker and not able to survive at all.

    • Thanks for your comment, it is a wise choice to foster natural selection in this way–and to think about the results of our actions when we have a “trophy” hunter perpsective instead, Jennifer.
      And I agree that it is disgusting when the agencies responsible for protecting the sources of our lives are subject to such blatant political manipulation. I applaud the Union of Concerned Scientists for making this public.

  101. I am in awe of the difference in attitudes demonstrated by the native Pacific tribes and the white fisherman. I’ve discussed this particular issue many times but this is the first time I have ever heard that the natives didn’t harvest as many fish as they could as a courtesy to people living up stream. It just makes sense and is so profoundly polite and decent. Of course respecting the fish is tremendously important but the added element of caring about the fate of your neighbors and ensuing their ability to subsist demonstrates a larger view of community that I find extremely admirable. How heart-breaking it must have been (and must still be) to see the over-harvesting of the salmon knowing the long-term implications of such behavior on not only the immediate area but on all of those up-stream.

    • Thanks for your comment, Holly. In terms of worldview, letting the largest animals go to breed for the future is akin to the “profoundly polite and decent” connection to other lives, human and more than human. If there is grief in what we have lost, that should motivate us all the more to protect the natural world by following through on the long term implications of our actions.

  102. At first I was taken aback by the idea of pioneer fishing methods that aimed at catching every salmon possible, even if the fishermen couldn’t use all of them. It’s a sickening image for boatloads of rotten and wasted fish to be dumped out at sea. But once I got past my initial disgust, it sadly wasn’t so surprising after all. Why? Because our economy today is largely based on the Utilitarian ideal of maximizing gain for the greatest number of people. Salmon were certainly not people, and the Native Americans were mostly ignored and treated as sub-human. In terms of natural resources, this leads to taking as much as possible. So I guess it kind of makes sense that such horrifying fishing practices are in our past because that is what many practices today are founded on. Is it in any way right? No way! But I think it is important to understand what kind of mindset justifies such injustice—that of seeing nature as merely a “good” to exploit, the value resting on its use to humans. But Natives knew (and still know) differently—that nature, such as salmon, “were kin with whom humans could and should engage in interpersonal partnerships.” From this mindset, it makes sense that the native people would let some of the salmon go both “out of courtesy to the people upriver as well as out of fundamental respect for the salmon themselves.” It makes me wonder what our economy today would be like if it were instead founded on such values rather than those displayed by the pioneer fishermen…no doubt, very different.

    • Hi Kirsten: interesting point on utilitarianism. But I wonder if it works in this context if one takes a long term perspective. The fishermen maximized their own gained, but a great many (in future generations especially) did not receive the “greatest good” as a result of the the choices of these fishermen to take and waste so many.
      Our economy might work better if it were actually based on maximizing gains for the greatest number (in a long term time perspective), rather than allowing the great gains for a few, as indicated by the growing gap between the rich and poor–which the majority of the rich not even paying any income tax. Those who use the utilitarian argument also often assume we have that kind of system, but I don’t think so.
      That said, utilitarianism focuses on quantity rather than quality– as in the accounting of risk/benefit, as discussed in the essay here on the dangers of pricing the priceless. Shifting our values and the actions that follow gives us a very different reality to enact.
      Thanks for your comment.

      • Yes indeed, Utilitarian theory can lead to sustainability if future generations are taken into account of the “greastest number.” It makes sense that someone looking to maximize gains would want to practice sustainability so that there are gains to be made in the future. I guess what I was referring to is better described as short-mindedness. Thanks for your reply! It made me think more analytically about this.

  103. So true! The practice of taking the biggest most impressive specimens most definitely means the loss of those genetics. Recent findings have suggested that human harvesting pressures are working as artificial selection. Many big game ungulates and fish stocks are showing significant changes in animal size and age at maturity. For many game animals, males are getting smaller and antler size is shrinking. In fish stocks, size has decreased and age at maturity has gotten younger. In essence we are working against the forces of natural selection; if the largest most robust specimens are dying prematurely, it is leaving a reproductive niche for the inferior individuals. We could learn a lesson not only from indigenous harvest ethics, but even from wolf harvest patterns, where the weakest individuals are culled.

    • Thoughtful point about the ways in which the size of individuals within these species–as well as the numbers of the species themselves– are getting smaller, Laida. We are indeed working against the forces of natural selection. Hopefully we will catch on soon if we learn from those who learned from the processes of nature. Thanks for your comment.

  104. The beginning of this article reminds of the occurrence called “shifting baselines”. It’s when different generations of people view the same resource with different values placed on quantity and quality. The example that I can think of is the size of fish people catch vs. the size and quality fish people caught 50 years ago. Today’s “good catch” would have been a bad day for the fisherman of 50 years ago.
    I believe shifting baselines provides a good example of the consequences of when the settlers came to the mouth of the Columbia River and began to try and take all the Salmon. God only knows the horror the Indians felt when they first seen that huge fish wheel just indiscriminately catching the fish.
    It just amazes me that the early pioneers never adopted kind of “catch and release” program that allowed the genes of a good fish to continue breeding. Fishing has been around for a very long-time and I am sure it was no secret that allowing the strong to live will make it better for all in the future. I suppose it is a classic example of “tragedy of the commons”, huh?

  105. This article reminds me of my fathers plastic king salmon above our fireplace. It is a replica of one he caught in Alaska and it’s rather large. He takes much pride in it, and the salmon evokes alot of attention from visitors. However he was with a group of people whom were able to eat it all. Therefore the salmon did not go to waste. My father enjoys the act of hunting, however he understands the concept of natural limits. He and his friends only hunt for which they can eat.

    I am a vegetarian because of the brutal way animals are treated to be slaughtered. I am tollerant when people eat meat, in fact most people need heavy protien in their diet, but I have a respect for those who raise their own animals in a free range area. To me this is a Model of Reciprocity, becuase the animals grow up healthy and able to roam, and in return, the family is able to eat.

    • Hi Angela, thanks for sharing your balanced perspective here. Eating it all is not trophy hunting. I appreciate your personal ethical stance with respect to the other lives that share our planet with us.

  106. A modern day equivalent of this is the Bass Pro Tour – people who are fishing for the biggest bass, but have live wells to release them all back. I’m pretty sure catch and release is one of the rules. Of course, there are also those people that catch fish for food. In either case I think there’s a greater respect, because there’s a personal relationship. Maybe the biggest difference between the then that you write about and now is that people are removed from their sources of living. It goes beyond food, but for example I truly believe that by growing up on a farm and butchering my own meat, harvesting my own vegetables, I have more respect for what I am eating.

    Another aspect is population. With so many people in the world now, it’s no wonder there are so many different agendas and protectors such as Hixon don’t have a lot of say. Unfortunately we can’t also claim that land is being pillaged for the specific purpose of feeding all these people, as evidenced by the mass quantities of rotted salmon dumped by the canneries. I’m sure such waste of our resources still happens on a regular basis.

    • It is true indeed that we all have “more respect for what we are eating” when we experience its source, Jamie. Wasting our resources is obviously not feeding people–which is one of the reasons we need honest stories of our past– and scientific advocates such as Hixon to foster ways to care for those resources.

  107. This is another great example of a primary flaw in our culture. We want to use nature as a resource-we want fish, mammals, and plants as food and recreation, yet we do everything we can to deplete them. In incthyology, we studied a bit on year classes and how, especially in fish, one year can produce an extremely bountiful population while the next one or several produces little progeny. As sportsmen and commercial fisherman take the best year of fish, because they’re the biggest, they remove the best gene pools and most fecund individuals. Funny, how their desire for the “best” now eliminates their ability to get the “best” down the road. I was amazed by the statistics in this article regarding the quantity of fish the native people were able to harvest year after year without fail. It seems for a society/culture bent on getting the best that nature has to offer, we would prefer to have those quantities of salmon available compared to what we have as we are not receiving anywhere near the best. This goes to show it’s all about attitude. Though most Western culture does not look at nature as spiritually as Natives, we are too egotistic , domineering, and stubborn to even look at the science that supports what Natives have known and practiced all along.

    • You indicate the irrationality of current approaches in depleting what we want- but we don’t see this bigger picture but short term individual gain. Ironic indeed how this grabbing at the “best” results in the ability to get it anymore, Clayton. It is certainly time or us to wise up a bit and when individualistic behavior becomes so self-defeating, think about another course of action–or, as you say, attitude.

  108. As I read this article the underlying root of the problem seems to lie in the Western Capitalist mindset. This mindset sees only dollar signs as can be seen the pressuring of the 1600 EPA scientists. I was blown away by the number of fish that they took (42 million pounds a year!) without harming that source in any way. That our leaders can not comprehend the history that the Indigenous people are trying to convey is deeply disheartening. However, with truth on our side, we must keep persevering.

    • It was an amazing amount of fish indeed, Christopher–and cetainly says something about the capacity for abudance of the waters of this land if we have cared probabkly for their habitat. I think you have a profound and powerful point: “With truth on our side, we must perservere.”

  109. The EPA would do well for themselves if they would take on more indigenous people as advisers. Before the white man “civilized” the Americas, indigenous peoples sustained the land successfully for thousands of years.

    Our overbearing population growth has pushed many of our most valuable resources to the limits. Our limited understanding of how creatures impact one another has the potential to do serious damage to entire ecosystems.

    The riches of the natural world are wasted on a capitalist mind that cannot see beyond the next fiscal year. In we hope to provide a world that continues to provide for its people, sustainable practices have to be pushed onto businesses and individuals and taught to our children in much the same way as indigenous people passed on their own knowledge of such things.

    • Thanks for your comment, Rick. I think you are right (unfortunately) about the capitalist mindset. However, we may be handling our own population problems through none other than Monsanto and its genetically engineered food. I just read a solid scientific study that found that the third generation of hamsters fed Monsanto’s gmo soybeans became infertile by the third generation.

  110. One thing I really found interesting in this article was the thought that it should be the strongest, the best of the species that is allowed to leave. In a world where the strongest and best is usually what is offered up for the table to eat, it shows just how far we have come from traditional ideas. But yet we seem to understand the concept when it comes to disaster movies, for example in an asteriod hitting Earth movie, it was the best and the strongest of humanity that was saved to ensure the future of our species. Why do we not holds those same values for other species. Simply, we hold ourselves to be the best of species, not on an equal footing with all the other species. Perhaps it is time for a complete retraining of our values and expectations.

    • Thoughtful point, Sam. And I guess with respect to movies such as this, I would wonder who gets to choose just who the best and bravest are– I would have problems going with the current system.

  111. (PHL 443 Student Reply) What struck me as most interesting in this article is that the native people had such a deep knowledge of how the ecosystem worked and we had such limited knowledge. Even today, big game are hunted for their special features, i.e. biggest antlers, thickest frame. All of these are the strong traits and genes that should be maintained in their population to ensure the dominant features move to future generations. The Native Americans understood this balance. It is only too apparent today that not everyone does. Recent studies have shown that hunting and catching animals with specific dominant traits are in fact evolving future generations to pass on the weaker features of those left behind to mate and reproduce.

  112. Our sustainable practices can be corrupted. If there is no reason to do the right things for our future and for nature why would a corporation or even the government do so. It really must be done by having a true appreciation for nature and for everything in it. It really is the only way to for anyone to want to make good choices. Fishery requires sustainability to continue to allow it for the future. Once fish are depleted and ecosystems break down it is over. There is no going back to reverse species extinction or over harvesting. We cannot afford to take advantage of our wildlife and treat them as though they are only hear for us. what is important is that sustainability in fisheries is possible. As I read in this post, harvesting could be done to feed an entire village and then some and leave enough for years to come. No depletion and no one would go without.

    I kerned the techniques in an Environmental Science class I took last year and I really think that with regulation that involves more than just the government, but the community as well we would have more change. You have to incorporate the needs of individual as well as the nation so that the issue becomes personal.

    • You have some key points here: incorporating the needs of individuals (of all species?) to create a rational– that is no depletion, no one going without (as you put it) system of harvest.

  113. Our sustainable practices can be corrupted. If there is no reason to do the right things for our future and for nature why would a corporation or even the government do so. It really must be done by having a true appreciation for nature and for everything in it. It really is the only way to for anyone to want to make good choices. Fishery requires sustainability to continue to allow it for the future. Once fish are depleted and ecosystems break down it is over. There is no going back to reverse species extinction or over harvesting. We cannot afford to take advantage of our wildlife and treat them as though they are only hear for us. what is important is that sustainability in fisheries is possible. As I read in this post, harvesting could be done to feed an entire village and then some and leave enough for years to come. No depletion and no one would go without.

    I learned the techniques in an Environmental Science class I took last year and I really think that with regulation that involves more than just the government, but the community as well we would have more change. You have to incorporate the needs of individual as well as the nation so that the issue becomes personal.

  114. This essay discusses an issue that I have worried about over the years after following science stories in the new which is the hindrance politics can have over scientific advancements. It is impressive to learn how much control the government has over regulating the environment. I guess I could see how in some respect this might be critical in ensuring that species have their needs properly met. However, this does not seem to be the case and policy is instead inhibiting the natural flow of the environment. This essay deals mostly with the regulations of dams and how it affects the salmon. Many of the elders and scientists realize that these policies are not working however their voices aren’t being readily heard. “But the indigenous peoples who lived sustainably in the Northwest for thousands of years had the time and inclination to learn from nature. Theirs was not an attitude of domination of the natural world– or of gaining the trophies to express this.” Thus policy makers need to use their surrounding resources, such as elders and scientists, to be able to tune into what the environment requires.

    • It is indeed frustrating when policy makers go against or ignore science–either in this case, or in cases like those that underlie the possibility of life’s survival– like climate change, Ashley. As I read your comment, I thought of the fact that the compassion demanded (and exhibited) by the child in front of a tank in your last comment is related to the compassion for future generations–and both human and more than human lives. Just as we cannot fence away the results of our actions, we cannot fence off the future from those same results. And that future includes our own children.

  115. The strategy of letting the fittest survive, if applied to hunting worldwide, would lead to very positive results for the environment. Perhaps we could get the hunters among us to appreciate the enjoyment of photographing a trophy animal rather than enjoying the sport of hunting them when the purpose of the hunt is for a “trophy.”

    Using the American Buffalo as an example, it is practically inconceivable to appreciate just how fast man can decimate a species by not sticking to the wise principle of taking only what is needed for survival and then using all of the catch in the process.

    • That is a great idea– but would of course require a change of stance on the part of “trophy hunters” — form hunting to kill an animal to boast about to only taking meat for the table–and preserving the stock for the next generation to boot.
      I spoke to a pioneer man whose father and grandfather came across the Plains when “there were buffalo as far as you could see in three directions”; shortly thereafter, these buffalo you could see in three directions were carcasses from which only the tongue had been removed to sell. Humans can indeed devastate a population of a species quickly.

      • I drove over to Newport with a coworker for a meeting yesterday and along the way we talked about something related to this in a sense. The US20 Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville Project is and has been ongoing for some time now and I reflected on how in the beginning it was delayed due to, I think, a migratory bird pattern that was due at that season.

        I spoke about how before taking several classes at OSU on the environment I would have made a comment like: “There go the environmentalists again!” But upon taking in a lot of new information I discussed with my coworker how you really do have to think about how each part of the environment is interconnected and how changing or mismanaging one part can change another part for the worse.

        I then starting thinking about the video in our class materials about the drought in Kenya and how the UN introduced a plant that they thought would help stop desertification, but in fact has ended up taking over the indigenous plants and how that relates to how many State road agencies will allow a project go through as long as there is “mitigation” in another place and how that “mitigation” might end up being as harmful as the original act.

        Somewhat random but tied in with the idea of “letting the big one get away” might be not having as many routes over to the coast and not bulldozing the environment in order to “straighten out the alignment” on the way over.

        • It sounds like an interesting conversation, Mark. I think that the best kinds of education often happen between ourselves and our families, or neighbors or friends or co-workers. I am glad you were able to see and express all these connections here. Information is essential if we are to make good decisions as citizens– in fact, it is essential to our democracy.
          Thanks for taking on the challenge of wading into so much information all at once!

  116. A few years ago I worked on a tour boat that ran trips on the Duwamish River in Seattle teaching people about how the Superfund site became that way and what was going on to clean it up. On one occasion we ran across a maze of fishing nets that was nearly impossible to navigate through. It broke my heart to see this river, which is just starting to renew itself, being subjected to such harsh fishing. Politics does play way too much of a role in our abilities to protect “voiceless” species. I think attempting to hunt the biggest of the species is not only selfish, but, like those of you that do hunt like me know, taste awful! I think that is another reason that natives might let them go.

    • Interesting, Megan. I have never heard that the largest members of a hunted species tasted terrible– could be a survival reason for that. Thanks for sharing this experience on the Duwamish River.

  117. The frist thing that really caught my eye while reading this was the “pressured to skew research findings” there is no reason that research findings should EVER be skewed. The whole point of doing research is to find the truth and just because the government doesnt like what the research shows, doesn’t mean it should be hidden it means it should be fixed.
    The whole salmon really gets to me, there were so many of them and we are so greedy that we take them all? Humans really arent stupid being, everyone knows that everything here on earth is here for a reason, so why would there not be a point in Salmon? The Salmon are meant to go upsteam and spawn so we should let at least some of them do it! Taking so much that some rott and get thrown away is sad, they are wasted when they could have lived and spawned and raised the population even more, which in return there would be more salmon for us to eat!

    • I absolutely agree with you, Briana. We cannot afford to skew our knowledge and research– as it happening all too often in the current day (I have other examples in some of the other posts here). It is a great tragedy to lose something as precious as the salmon (not to mention, as meaningful to native culture). We can and must do better. Thanks for your comment, Briana.

  118. My father, brother and boyfriend are all AVID fisherman. They are primarily catch and release and after this article I’ll make sure to congratulate them more for that. Especially living in the Pacific Northwest where our salmon situation in very serious, it is extremely important for fisherman to be sustainable. By the introduction of dams on the columbia river, the salmon populations are decreasing because the fish are unable to return to their spawning grounds. The big female fish need to return to their grounds to reproduce and lay there eggs.

    • My father is also an avid fisherman who is a strong believer in catch and release. And you’re right, here in the Pacific Northwest it is crucial for fisherman to be responsible. It is extremely important that we look out for these fish and make positive changes that will enable them to survive for future generations.

      • Indeed, Julie. Thanks for your comment. It is heartening to see fishermen like those in the Intercolumbia Tribal Fishing Commission establishing partnerships among those who care about the fish between indigenous and non-indigenous fisherman.

    • Jessica, it is cool to see a few people who understand a lot about fishing and catch and release here. I was a little worried when I first read the article that not much has changed from yesteryear where people caught far more than they knew what to do with simply because they could. In this big fishing region of Brookings, Oregon, I have witnessed that type of catch-all-you-can fishing down here (even with laws to protect the fish)on the Winchuck and Chetco Rivers, but also I see a lot more of catch and release fishing going on than I did just a couple of years ago. My fellow park workers who enjoy fishing definitely emply the catch and release method. Modern fishermen seem to be understanding a shared worldview today better than in the past.

      • It is hopeful to me that there might be growing understanding among us.
        My students also make me hopeful for the thoughtfulness and care they share here- so thanks, Jessica and Odhran.

  119. It astounds me how wasteful Western society during their fishing and hunting practices. The most shocking being that early 1900’s canneries exploited the population of fish so much that they had to dump rotted fish back in the sea. In comparison, Natives along the Columbia are able to harvest 7 times the amount of fish without harming the abundance or the sustainability of the fish runs. This shows how wasteful we are as Westerners, and how much understanding Natives have of their environments. Not only would they harvest more with no damage to the populations, but they would also let the biggest ones go. This ensures Charles Darwin’s natural selection has the best chance of creating a stronger fish population.

    One thing that bothered me the most was the EPA superiors pressured scientists to skew their findings. For what? To push Bush’s horrible political agenda? Ignoring the importance of science and public need is probably a good reason Bush will go down as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. Aside from that, I find it encouraging how much Native peoples of the Northwest are pushing so hard to protect what makes the Northwest so great. I personally love living in the Northwest entirely because of the natural beauty surrounding it. We need to do everything we can to protect what we have in the Northwest and not take advantage of it.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal perspective here, Kyle: I agree that there is no excuse for such waste– nor to misuse “science” to protect corporate profits when the survival of so many natural lives (including human ones) is at stake!

    • Thanks for sharing your personal perspective here, Kyle: I agree that there is no excuse for such waste– nor to misuse “science” to protect corporate profits when the survival of so many natural lives (including human ones) is at stake!

  120. Professor Holdren,

    Being a fisherman, and also from Klamath Falls, issues regarding wildlife, and fish in particular interest me. The Salmon numbers have dropped historically and it is unfortunate that it has taken this long for people to realize if we catch all the fish there won’t be any left! When I hear historical accounts of schools so large that boats can hardly move around, it makes me sad that these are sights lost on the eyes of today’s fisherman.

    • I hope we can all learn from the past to protect the more than human lives that we depend upon–and with which you have firsthand experience. We have lost much– but that is not to say we could not recover it if we learn from our past. Thanks for your comment, Kurt.

  121. What a great read! I had no idea that the Native peoples let the largest/healthiest of the catch or hunt go free. This makes terrific sense now that it is pointed out to me.

    A few years ago, I was working on a fish restoration project along the Nehalem River to help restore natural fish from small streams feeding into the river. Small fish coming down the stream could swim through a small opening into a holding pond where water was allowed to flow as it would in the river, out the otherside of the pond, going through a mesh net into the river. This kept the small fish inside the holding pond, which served as sort of a nesting area for them to grow larger.

    Larger fish and some of the smaller fish as well swam naturally past the opening to the small pond and straight into the river. But by giving some of the smaller fish that entered the holding pond time to get a little bigger, they stood a better chance of survival in the river which was supposed to increase the fish population in the Nehalem River. After a season, when the fish reached a certain size, the mesh blocking their escape into the river was opened and they were released. I was moved to another project before I learned of the results of this project, but after reading the article above, the approach taken then seems more in tune with repairing fish populations in accordance with the way Natives might have done it.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience with this project, Odhran. Letting the smaller fish get a bit more of a start does make sense– and this river has some gorgeous landscape– thanks for bringing it to mind.

  122. While not surprising, it was still heartbreaking to read the predictions of tribal elders a hundred years ago and their fear that the salmon will never be the same again. While taxpayers are now shouldering the burden for salmon recovery programs, I do not feel that it is enough. Until we remove the dams on the Columbia River and issue apologies and provide financial reparations to the Native Americans who relied on salmon runs for both economic and spiritual purposes, we will never fully solve the problem or be able to make peace with the century of mistakes we have made in “taming” the Columbia River and other rivers in the Northwest.

    • There is certainly good cause for grief here, Hannah– much has been lost. But my hope is that we can learn from our past and begin to repair damage we have done–and be advised about the kind of wisdom we should not ignore in the future.

    • I don’t think simply apologizing and making financial reparations will help much of anything. In order to help the salmon population of the Columbia River recouperate, I think we have to recognize Native American practices as significant as scientific discovery. Our government and our people, need to see the value of such time proven practices and not simply discount them as religious fancies. Why should western science, which is far younger than many Native American practices, be the only true way?

      • Great point, Jessika. You are likely familiar with the work of the Columbia Intertribal Fishing Commission which is using elder knowledge to bring back fish stocks in rivers where they had died out (in one case, the Umatilla, because it had stopped flowing altogether). This knowledge has been used to re-design fish farming (for stocking rivers where salmon totally died out) more in line with natural processes. Very interesting work, I think.

  123. I work in a wetlab with fish. I have first hand knowledge that a well aged adult female (and males) will spawn better than the younger generations. Just like people and other animals, the fish like routine and they become dependant on the daily happenings in their environment and food supply. Changing one little thing, including alarming sounds, and the fish spawning numbers get all mixed up. If we, as humans, were to put ourselves in the place of the salmon, we could see that certain policies and practices that are being set are not for the good of nature. These policies are for the good of man and man’s pocketbook.

    • Seems like we would just know that the natural world did not evolve “for the good of man’s pocketbook”– but we seem to need a reminder–thanks for providing it. Fascinating note on fish and routine and spawning, as one of the complaints of native people in this area about US habits was that it was disturbing the salmon (by excessive noise, etc.): this was in addition to complaints about habitat disruption. The fact that that decreases spawning behavior indicates the wisdom derived from careful observation of our living partners in the natural world.

  124. Its always disconcerting to realize the abundance of resources that were literally thriving here before the european colonization of the area. It makes on e ashamed, but also optimistic. For if the barriers that have harmed the environment and the salmon specifically are removed, it would seem that their possibility of renewed thriving would be probable.

    • I don’t think you should feel ashamed for something that others did in history; but learning from that past–and seeing the great potential of nature properly cared for should give us our vision. Thanks for your comment.

  125. It is somewhat laughable to me that no one thought just because there was a law against an individual stretching a net all the way across the Klamath River, the river would be relatively unobstructed. There certainly is a problem with the notion that we have to set laws to protect, for and against, the lowest common denominator, but it’s sad when a governmental conservation law fails to take, what I consider to be, an expected reaction to the law into account.

    And perhaps this is where the problem really does lie. The average naturalistic world view here in the states does not take into account the big picture. Sure there were tens of thousands of salmon running in the time of Lewis and Clark, sure there is enough water to fuel a city in the middle of a desert like Las Vagas, sure there is enough coal ore and natural gas to power this country for the foreseeable future, but at what costs? I am more than a little bit afraid that the politics of the early 2000’s will be largely described as an appeal to tradition and a denial of the facts.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Thomas. There is certainly a failure of the holistic perspective here– just as the idea that we can apply property rights entirely to individuals (or collections of individuals united into corporations for the purpose of making money) leads to the undermining of the commons that sustains us.
      An appeal to tradition (the way things have always been done rather than learning from history?) and a denial of the facts… something to think about for sure.

  126. Fortunately, I have been exposed to the idea of letting the “biggest and strongest” ones go before. I took Professor Hixon’s Marine Ecology class last year, and he really opened up my eyes to a lot of sustainability issues facing our world’s fisheries today that I didn’t know existed. He spoke often of the biggest fish that the marine reserves target, lovingly referring to them as big old fat fertile female fish (BOFFFs). It makes so much intuitive sense to allow the healthiest animals to continues to proliferate and to weed out the small and sickly animals (let’s just follow the wolf’s example!). I never have understood the “catch them all” mentality, or the need to kill things for trophies. Is someone’s feeling masculinity or self-worth really dependent upon a dead animal’s body part hanging from his wall? The number of salmon harvested from the Columbia by the Native Americans before European settlers arrived is astounding. What do we need to do policy wise to get to this sustainable level again?

    • Hi Allison, you were fortunate to have this class with Hixon–and learn from the experiences and research he shared with you. I like it when classes from different disciplines intersect in this way.
      What do we need to do in terms of policy to get back to the pre-contact salmon runs? Won’t be easy and will be a one step at a time process- but the Intertribal Columbia River Commission (linked here) have begun a process in the right direction.
      And your point about what the wolf can teach us about grooming the species we depend on for success is a great one.

    • I agree with what you said. I have friends who love to go hunting and fishing and they would always throw back the small fishes and keep the big ones for themselves. This article really opened by eyes to why we should be doing the opposite. If we want to keep on fishing for bigger fishes, we have to let the big ones go at times and take the small ones out.
      I for one also don’t understand the “catch them all” mentality either. I find it that it is the wrong mentality to have and quite frankly, it is just going to cause more damage than good.

  127. The idea of letting the best fish go so that they can breed and create more numerous and healthier fish is so similar to the selective breeding that farmers do (collecting seeds from the best plants to use in the next year’s planting) that I’m surprised it is not more widely practiced. This article shows that not only were indigenous peoples in the Northwest living sustainably and in balance with their natural surroundings, they were also managing and “farming” the fish to obtain a maximum harvest each year.

    This article also reminded me of a recent story on NPR of a fishing coop that was started in the Northeast in order to sustain the fishing industry there, despite few remaining fish. I was intrigued by the comment of one fisherman who said that in order to create a sustainable fishing industry the fishing coop is now working alongside the same environmental groups that he and other fishermen fought for so many years. (Below is a link to the transcript of this story on NPR.)

    It seems that the main problem causing the over fishing in the Northwest is that common fishing resources are being used by individuals instead of large groups (like a coops) interested in the long-term sustainability of the fishing resources. In many ways fishing coops have the same goals as the indigenous people in this article. By creating a fishing coop in the Northeast fishermen are no longer competitors trying to catch the most fish, but collaborators making a living and sustaining the fishing resources for future generations together.

    I think that the creation of these types of fishing coops is the only way that we will be able to achieve sustainable natural fish stocks. It is just sad that it took decades of over fishing for us to start to understand how to cooperatively use communal resources in a way that allows them to be sustained for future use, especially when many indigenous populations have known how to do this for centuries.

    Fishermen Break Tradition to Keep Jobs (NPR):

    • Great example of a community working to manage a “commons”, Darcy. I appreciate the analysis and the informative link. Also, the Columbia River Intertribal Fishing Commission has brought together formerly disparate groups to return and sustain salmon along the length of the Columbia. They are doing some profound bridge building.

  128. I could ask “Why is it that we westerners feel compelled to take the biggest and best out of nature simply for a trophy”. However, I have seen the root of this mentality passed on form generation to generation in the region where I live.

    As a young boy I was taught how to hunt and to fish in the fields, forests and streams of Central Pennsylvania. Besides the safety training that was involved, I was taught to always go for the biggest and best specimen of whatever I was hunting or fishing for. For instance, taking the biggest buck at deer camp carried with it the title of best hunter and was almost a symbol of becoming a “real man”.

    These ideals are still acculturated into your young men and women today. This is done through various organizations, both private and public. There are hunting and fishing magazines that show pictures of hunters and fishermen/women posing with their trophy kills. There are always articles on “How to get the big one” etc…. But there are very few articles explaining the concept of sustainability or what happens when we take all of the “big ones” out of nature.

    The right to hunt and fish is jealously protected by sportsman’s groups and legislature alike. Yet, we haven’t been a society of hunters and gatherers for quite some time. We don’t need to hunt or fish in order to survive.

    I don’t hunt any more to kill. I do go into the wild on occasion in search of wildlife. But I do my shooting with a camera. I find that I still get quite the rush from tracking, stalking and shooting (pictures) of that big ten point buck, all the while knowing that it will be here later for others to see, enjoy and photograph.

    I want my grand children to have the opportunity to see deer, bear, moose, etc… in the wild. This being so, I do not see the sense of killing the biggest and best of the species. It makes more sense to let them live so that they can in turn propagate others of similar size and quality of their species.

    Although I do indulge in a bit of sport fishing on occasion I go with fishing parties who practice catch and release methods. I have found that, as with hunting, the best “trophies” I can get are photographs and memories.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal experience on hunting, Ron. It is unfortunate that the culture you describe has linked manhood to taking the biggest one– instead of, for instance, nurturing the next generation by letting the biggest go to “in turn propagate others of similar size and quality”. If a wolf can “get it” in the way they take their kills, one would think humans might . I am heartened by those who are working for a change– as in the “unconventional” fisherman’s co-op another of your classmates recently reported on here.
      You must have a great collection of photos.

  129. So many extinct animals or animals on the endangered list are caused by hunters disregarding the future generations of the animals. The mindset of all or nothing is something that should be terminated. Hunting should be done as a sport or to survive. Surviving on animals doesn’t need to lead to killing off the entire species. As for hunting as a sport, there is always a limit to things.
    Corporate America should stop being so self-minded and start listening to the real experts of the land, native people. These people have lived on the land and studied the land for generations and to have settlers come in thinking they know everything and do the things they think are right, is wrong. Everyone has a voice and it should be heard. Protecting the land and animals should be the first priority in preserving and sustaining the nature.
    I loved the last line in the article saying how we can pass on a better place to our children and their children. Like the article saying how we are responsible for the earth and not only our back yard, this saying shows how we are in control the way our children live in the future. We have to stop being so self-centered and start looking out for future generations.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Will. Assuming this kind of responsibility is also assuming our power– just as is working with the knowledge of all cultures with respect to their lands.
      You have a good point about hunting: if surviving on animal meat means wiping them out, that is a short-term strategy– before we even get to the ethics of this situation.

  130. Reading a post like this it can be hard to believe that people can be so short-sighted when it comes to such important things. In this case, it should be obvious to anyone that if the salmon are blocked from going upriver completely then no new salmon will be spawned, yet these fishing methods were still practiced. I’m having a hard time understanding the thinking going on in the example given about the cannery operation on the Humptulips river.

    I found a website recently called seafoodwatch that has made me reevaluate a lot of my eating habits when it comes to fish. They give a lot of good information regarding making choices that are good for both human health as well as sustainable fishing and environmentally friendly farming. Here is their page on salmon.

    • It is hard to believe people can be so short sighted, Roman- but perhaps you have also read some recent comments concerning the ways in which hunters are trained in such short-sightedness. I know that if you had a hard time figuring our the justification for the salmon trap on the Humptulips, the indigenous people there certainly did as well. I think part of the answer is that there was no justification– or at least, there was the idea that profit canceled out all other considerations. Thanks for this website assessing the sustainability and health of particular seafoods– I have seen it before, but perhaps it is time to put it up under consumer info on our links page, so that this info will be readily accessible for everyone.

    • Unfortunately, dams are a way of life in the Northwest. There are several alont the Snake and Columbia Rivers that are responsible for a large share of our electricity. Who is to know for certain if engineers and scientists fully thought out the impact of a dam in the spawning path of fish species? Unless the problems of dependence on hydroelectric power, shipping, and recreation are easily solvable, I’m not sure if we will ever fully be free of dams.

      • Thoughtful assessment, Andrew. There are many dams coming down –and a few fish ladders going up (dams should never have been constructed without them). Something I find interesting is that dams only last so long (I understand cement hardens for the first twenty years, then begins to disintegrate). I understand that there are cracks in large dams upriver from Eugene–so if we have to fix those, why not re-engineer them with more of an emphasis on low-head hydro– or at least less impact on river temperature, etc…just a thought for your engineers out there.

  131. I found it appalling to know that over half of the 1600 EPA professionals reported being pressured to skew their findings by high authorities. Out of all the industries that political agendas influence, science should not be one one of them. It is sad that our country is run by money driven men in suits that only have their own interests in mind. The betterment of the environment and those living in it should be this country’s, and the world’s, main concern, especially when climate change is at the forefront of conversation. It is concerning to think how much more progress our society could have made in implementing more sustainable practices in all fields if personal gain wasn’t such a prominent presence in politics.

    • I too find this appalling. I know that integrity in science is a special concern of yours, Emily-you might also be interesting in checking out the current report by the Union of Concerned Scientists featured in our quote of the week sidebar (on the left as you enter this site).
      I am with you on the importance of sharing good information with the public that must make decisions that impact us all in a democracy– all the more concerning, as you point out, in the fact of global warming and other environmental crises we currently face.
      Thanks for your comment.

  132. Professor Hixon makes an excellent point. The same type of argument can be made for trophy hunters as well. As a person who has hunted his entire life, and is currently majoring if fisheries and wildlife, I can tell you without any hesitation, that modern media, retail outlets, and professional guiding services all cater to the “trophy animal” prospect. All we can do is hope for a shift in the thought of these fisherman mentioned by Professor Hixon and the trophy hunters. If the biggest and oldest fish and wildlife are removed from their environment, the sustainability of not only that particual species, but all species of animals and plants are in jeopardy of becomming extinct.

    • I take heart in the fact that you, as one who has hunted all his life and was subject to all this cultural value on “trophy hunting” has come to a wiser perspective. There are fishermen who are beginning to think and act differently–as indicated by the fishing co-op outlined by one of your classmates in a recent comment here.
      Thanks for your comment, Andrew.

    • i agree with you. you have a good insight having spent so much time dealing with wildlife. This idea leads back to the thought of oneness with nature. Everything we do directly effects something somewhere. When we kill off a species this effects the natural world immensely. People really need to start being more conscious with their actions. I guess education is really the best way to understand this.. People need to get more educated!

  133. I went fishong as a young girl and my father alwqays told me to go for the big ones. There was plenty of fish who were brought on to the boat and gutted for just because you could not eat them. I see now that by doing so I was not taking into considereation about what me and my father were doing. We were adding to the population people who gutted fish for the hell of it. The indegeous people had the right ideas of lettingsome of the fish pass through so more could come in the suture. By doing so they did not only ensure that the species would thrive, but also ensured food in the later years life.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal experience, Kimberly. You now have an opportunity to model different kinds of values–and more thoughtfulness– to the generation that is coming up behind you.
      I am sure your father also had a story of how he was taught… you have an opportunity to be compassionate about one raised with that story as you develop a different one of your one.

    • I also used to go fishing a lot while i was younger but we usually just through the small fish back. Im sure they died shortly after having a hook hole in there stomach but we did try and throw them back. if not we would gut them as use them as bait for the bigger fish. I feel like doing this in a personal fishing experience for food is perfectly fine. when you throw them back the dead fish will be food for other creatures in the water and make the whole river/lake flourish. That is what i didn’t like about the statement above that stated all the dead fish were boated out to see. Just like the salmon runs after they are done with their run and spawn they die. their bodies feed the creatures of the river every year. Taking away from this species not only effects the amount of salmon but the quality of the entire river.

  134. I never really thought of the opening statement like that! next time i hear that i am definitely going to congratulate them!

    Im sure it was a great time when people let the big one go in hopes of preserving if not bettering future generations. This thought of oneness with the world around you made the world a better place. Now a days people kill the biggest thing they can just to gain a one up on their own ego. This way of thinking is now showing up in our society by the extinction of many different species. For example polar bears. Polar bears are almost extinct because people feel that they are something to be prized better on there wall rather than in the wild.

    If people do not change there ways of thinking than in time there will be nothing left on this earth.. including us.. everything around us makes this world work and taking things out that benefit this earth can only lead to the destruction of the thing we love most.

    I think it is really sad when people go around the law when these laws are put there for the preservation of the earth. just because there is a loop hole in how something is stated does not mean that people need to exploit it. I know you cant write the script for what other people do but come on.. people need to think about what they are doing and what happens when they do it.

  135. It’s interesting to note how the government – with its dichotomous and dominating view of nature – attempted to interfere with scientist’s findings during the last presidential administration. In many ways, this seems sadly unsurprising, considering that many modern scientists, despite coming from a field that is ruled by a Man vs. Nature mentality, are ‘discovering’ what indigenous populations have always known – that in order to benefit both ourselves and our environment, we must work in kinship with the natural world and recognize ourselves as partners in this world with all other living entities – as the Northwestern tribes’ practices in this article illustrate. One nice example of this is the idea of selective breeding and the theory of evolution, which emphasizes the importance of passing on the healthiest genes in a species – native populations have been employing this science and knowledge for ages (ensuring the biggest and ‘best’ stay unharmed so that they can reproduce), just with a different name; one which actually promotes a healthier world view. It’s also a very excellent example (along with Native netting practices of fishing vs. the Western/settler’s practices) of recognizing and respecting natural limitations. It’s unfortunate that it’s taken the dominant culture so long to catch on to these ideas, and that even when our scientists do catch on, they still struggle to have their ideas accepted by mainstream society.

    • It is unfortunate indeed that our science both has to catch up to these understandings–and then has to face political opposition to get that information to the public– in fact, we might even say that the political atmosphere has much to do with taking so long to “catch up”. Thanks for sharing this perspective here, Lauren.

  136. Importance and self worth today seems to be based on having the biggest or best of things. Living in a larger house than most, having a bigger truck than the other guy, or just catching a bigger fish than your neighbor. All sharing the same basic goal of being the best in our own minds. In getting caught up with these self serving tendencies we seem to create a bubble of selfishness that blinds us from what is really important which can be put simply as long-term survivability. In order to gain this we must learn to pop these bubbles of self-worth and self-importance and instead learn to live with instead of in opposition to. To do this we must realize the childishness and addiction that we have with the dualistic mindset. I think using the word addiction is very appropriate due to the fact that we covet what we don’t have. People find it hard to be sustained with what they need and get excited when they see what they could have. Like a gambler or a lust driven person our brain treats the desired object as a drug creating feelings of excitement and adrenaline when we seek to attain it. A sensible person can reason that like a drug too much of anything doesn’t go without consequences to us or the environment around us.

    • Great point about the connection between (supposed) self-worth and having something bigger and better than the next person. Bigger is better in our worldview; and GNP is based on growth. There are problems all around in these perceptions, since they do not satisfy–anymore than an addiction does. Nice point about addiction. And meanwhile the desire for grabbing ever-more is crushing the earth that sustains us.
      I think the solution is finding out what we really do want that might satisfy us–and changing values so that leaving something better for the next generation is linked to our sense of self-worth. Thanks for your comment, Phillip.

    • I agree with you on this one. A lot of the survivability and competition on having the biggest and best comes from wanting to flaunt what most of us don’t have lots on wealth. Most of the really happy people I know don’t have a lot but they have enough to get by and are thankful of that. They don’t have to compete with the Johnsons to be happy. You will find these folks actually support sustainability. We need more of these folks. We need to teach our children these values. We don’t have to be #1 always.

    • I agree with you about using status symbols to measure self-worth. It is kind of sad that we work so hard to buy our nice cars, iPods, televisions and so on- but most of us cherish the time we have with our friends and family more. We get stuck in this cycle of spending more time at work more than we do at home with the ones we love. We are so addicted to this stuff, and we are constantly having the media tell us what we want, that I don’t think most of us know anymore.

      • Attaching worth to status symbols is a reflection of a person’s consciousness level and sometimes we have to go “there” to get “here” now and in the moment “now” we have everything we need. Most of the time people who strive to get to a certain level of status get there only to notice they didn’t get there fast enough, or there is another level even better. They are never satisfied until something reveals to them where they are “now” is enough. I feel we are at a time in history where a lot of people are waking up to the fact these status symbols and material things will not bring inner peace and happiness and that is why the ancient traditions and wisdoms are surfacing and we are having conversations such as these. Through experience, I learned and continue to learn I have to go “there” to get “here” and just as I think I am no longer functioning from a position of conditioned thoughts and behavior I encounter something such as these ancient teachings and wisdoms and realize I have so much more to learn and connect with. It is more than just saying I am connected to everything and my choices impact more than myself; it is learning to live in harmony everyday with the natural world around us. It takes time to unlearn conditioned thoughts and behavior and more time to learn a new way of authentically thinking and behaving 🙂

        • As you note, it is a sad state of affairs– certainly not a satisfying one– to never be happy with “here” because there is always something out “there” you want to attain, Angel.
          I think that we must learn to replace this addictive materialism, as you rightly term it, with more satisfying and challenging goals– there are plenty of them out there. We deeply need all the creative energy lost to such addictions to help us heal the planet and our contemporary human communities.

      • It is indeed an odd thing that we pursue that which does not actually satisfy us if we are honest with ourselves. That is the dynamic of addiction. Thanks for your comment, Tiffany.

  137. It’s interesting that there were more fish caught in times when sustainable fishing practices were used. The reciprocal relationship between the salmon and indigenous cultures seemed cause both species to thrive. Ironically, the more we fish, the less fish we get. The possibility is there to restore the salmon populations if we could just let them breed normally for a few years and then go on to fish sustainably.

    The article mentions that scientists are often influenced to skew the results of their research, and I think that our society ignores science all together when it’s something we don’t want to hear.

    • Indeed, Tiffany, partnership with the natural world is a win-win situation– whereas we are experience the sad results of the dominator approach.
      You are absolutely right that many scientists on the right side of things in terms of personal integrity and caring for the earth may have their work ignored when it conflicts with cultural ideas/profit.

  138. It seems that this is another example of the western tradition of “discovering” a natural wonder and then quickly destroying what was amazing about it. While Native Americans lived in harmony with the salmon for years, white people came on the scene and decimated the population in no time flat.

    • And a sad example it is, too, Nicole.

    • It reminds me of the former oldest Bristlecone Pine that was cut down so the rings could be counted to see how old it was. 5,000+ years, if I recall correctly.

    • Hopefully we can learn from this lesson as fish hatcheries and science try to repair the damage that we have done.

      • Yes, we might be especially careful in this as we learn how farmed fish as helping to decimate wild populations. However, I understand that the Umatilla elders had some very creative ideas of how a hatchery should be run, when they had to use hatchery salmon to restock the river that river was formerly “dead”– all its water siphoned off for irrigation, so there were no wild salmon left there.

  139. I have never understood Western “trophy hunting.” I have noticed a lot of people who participate in “modern” hunting do not typically even eat the meat from the animal they killed. In ancient traditions, a scared connection was recognized and respected and songs were sang in honor of the animal that was killed for the survival of the tribe. Materialistic conditioned thoughts and behavior have driven away the traditional spiritual connection to the scared land and animals. Hunting and fishing has evolved into a game of who was able to catch the biggest fish or kill the biggest deer. I believe the hunting and safety course young people have to take before they can get their fishing or hunting license should include ancient wisdoms and teachings about hunting and fishing. Although this section may be largely ignored, it will at least increase awareness.

    • It actually sounds as if you might understand trophy hunting in its materialistic and egoistic (and environmentally careless) aspects–but find it unethical, Angel. I would concur with you. It is important to see how our culture sets us up for such acts as trophy hunting that are both tragic and strange when viewed with perspective. Thanks for your comment.

  140. I recently received an e-mail with a photo of the largest elk ever shot, taken in Idaho. My first reaction was great sadness, thinking about what it would be like to kill such a magnificent being. The idea that we ought not ruin future stock by leaving the biggest to pass on their genes is something I have pondered but never realized was actually practiced. That those who managed our fisheries for so long are still engaged in how fisheries are being managed today is good, but there is still not enough tribal stakeholder representation.

    • I agree, Amanda. But you are in a position to change tribal stakeholder positions at least in a certain arena. And the Intertribal Columbia River Fishing Commission is doing an amazing job.

  141. The story of Henry Cultee story reminded me of a similar event that happened to the passenger pigeon. They were so abundant that their flocks would darken the sky as they flew overhead, according to historical accounts. During their annual migrations hunter would kill the birds by the thousands and ship them to Chicago where they were very desirable. There was such an abundance of the bird carcasses that many rotted while waiting for the train to ship them. It only took about 50 years, to completely wipe out what some estimated as over 1 billion of the birds.

    I hadn’t heard of Grandma Aggie before this class and visited her website to learn more. I read the letter she wrote to the Pope about the “doctrine of conquest” with great interest but didn’t notice if the results were published. If would nice to see if the Catholic church is willing to begin righting some of the wrongs.

    • The story of the passenger pigeons is a tragic illustration of human stupidity as well as arrogance.
      Grandma Aggie and the Grandmothers have not had success so far with their communication with the Pope– but the Archdiocese of Seattle issued a public apology for the harms missionary activity brought on indigenous cultures.

  142. I have noticed a slow, but visible change in the paradigm of the sport fisherman population in the US. There are many new companies offering to produce 100% artificial reproductions of “trophy fish” based on measurements and photos taken of released fish. The formation of groups dedicated to influencing sailfish fishermen to assist in tag-and-release programs is on the rise. Steps are being taken in the right direction, but not (in my opinion) quickly enough.

    Hopefully, the resurgence of wind turbine energy can alleviate the “need” for hydropower in some areas. It seems that the major players in the hydropower industry know that they are very nearly the sole cause of salmonid population decline but they can’t let go of their time-tested methods.

    That being said, I am forever grateful for the work Grandma Aggie has done. I fished the Rogue for the first time this winter and witnessed firsthand the potential it has to provide fish for everyone, if only it were free of barriers to migration. That river, along with the Applegate which I passed along the way deserve to be wild and scenic.

    Thanks for the great read.

    • You are certainly welcome, Gabe. Thanks for the heartening news about sports fishermen who enshrine their “trophies” in other ways. Great idea that they deserve honor for what they release.
      Cutting back on electrical usage and constructing more sustainable means of energy production are important pieces in letting these rivers run free.

    • Hello Gabriel,
      It is good to hear that there is a tag and release program for sailfish. I always wondered what the appeal was of hanging a dead animal on your wall or “trophy” as it is referred to; Sailfish are such magnificent animals, aren’t they? I know someone who is a trophy hunter and has an elephant foot end table, magazine holders made from the sack of kangaroo, etc. I never went back to his house, it was so disturbing for me. With that said, I do enjoy fly fishing, I appreciate the idea of gathering food for myself, rather than buying it off the shelf. Collecting mushrooms is another way.

      That must have been neat to see the good work of people like Grandma Aggie.

  143. This essay makes it somewhat difficult to not be angered or disgusted.
    As far as the EPA goes, of course people were pressured to skew their information. If they reported truth, certain people would lose money and apparently that’s more important than the quality of our environment.
    I am glad to hear they are removing damns and would like to know how different the salmon runs would be if they had listened in the first place.

    • Thanks for your comment and your passion on this issue, Loni. It cost us a great deal to make these mistakes– so we should learn from them.
      Pointedly, EPA scientists are not under this kind of pressure under the current leadership– though that might change with the new pro-business house. Whenever we place money ahead of other values, there is the danger for much destruction.

    • Great point, Loni. Seems to me a key part of any sustainable society is knowledge of the results of our actions–and that includes knowledge of the processes we support with our dollars.

  144. I am not surprised by the revelation that scientists were pressured to skew their findings. It is good to hear it being talked about though! I think too many times these facts are skimmed over by our media. Most of the people in my family treat me like a raving lunatic for daring to suggest that what we see on the evening news isn’t the entire story.

    I read Lichatowich’s “Salmon Without Rivers” for a class last quarter. I was shocked to learn that the native people had been harvesting much more significant amounts of salmon than we currently are for centuries before we got here. Then we get here, load up the rivers with canneries (and dams) and take as much as we possibly can with little to no thought whatsoever as to the life cycle of the salmon or their environment. Looking back you wonder, how could you not see that?! Amazing arrogance is all I can come up with.

    It makes sense that the older, larger fish would be more apt to breed and pass on stronger genetics for survival. I believe this is true for all social animals. For example, when you remove an older matriarch elephant, you also take away the knowledge she has gained in her years. Younger matriarchs just aren’t as prepared to deal with dangers. This is something learned over time and passed down. When we disrupt that cycle, we make it harder for those animals and/or fish to survive.

    • Great perspective on the situation. It is insanely arrogrant that people come in and take charge of a system they have no experience with or knowledge about. The media is something else entirely, first of all one person’s perspective isn’t ever the whole story, add in the slant of the media conglomeration behind the reporter and the way in which the information is edited on tv and who knows how to separate fact from fiction. It’s difficult to have construction conversations on tough topics when someone tries to make a point based ONLY on the knowledge they gleaned from the television.

      • Thanks for the empathetic point, Amy. It is indeed hard to have constructive conversations with those instructed only by television– which makes me wish we had less biased ways to inform our populace, since an informed populace is essential to a democracy.

    • Salmon without Rivers is a great piece of work that traces that evolution of the salmon before human residence here and then the co-evolution of the salmon after that: I am glad you read it (the note is for those who haven’t– anyone interested in the state of our salmon should read it).
      Perhaps it is little consolation to be proven right when the “right” means tragic consequences to our environment– or the next political scandal, Anna– but you might point out the financing and consolidation of news stations– Fox is notorious for getting support from corporations in return for shewing the news.
      So that makes it all the more incumbent on scientists to speak out (and to refrain from skewing their own results because of corporate funding as well).

    • Larger female fish are also important because they actually carry a lot more eggs than a smaller female. I’m a little surprised that scientists are being told to skew their findings still. I have a very optimistic view when it comes to government, I generally like to think that conspiracy type stuff doesn’t occur anymore. Why would they want to skew findings? With the reality put out, there might be a better chance of recovering a population that has decreased dramatically.

      • Thanks for adding the point about larger fish carrying more eggs, Holly. This pressure to skew things was most intense during the Bush administration. But then Obama recently (though he changed on this, thank goodness) had asked Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA to stop talking about how many people would die if we did not raise our standards concerning air pollution– and that he did not want this change because it would hurt business. If you have read the “trouble with progress” here, there are numerous examples of businesses hiding the data on the dangers of their products for over the last hundred years.
        I would like to be optimistic about government, since I think we need it to protect our resources. But we have some real problems stemming from current lobbyist activity.

  145. I live in Seaford and the motto in this area is kill the biggest buck and take the biggest fish. A wealthy homeowner in the area was chastised in the news for wanting to grow more oysters on his property because it would be unsightly to his neighbors. I am constantly confronted with visitors and poachers who are upset that they are not allowed to take the “big” bucks they see wandering the fields near Yorktown, VA.

    This article summed up what I wish I could tell every person I come in contact with that just doesn’t “get” it. Sometimes it isn’t best to take the biggest of them all and sometimes taking them all leaves nothing for the future. With fish, it is the big females who produce the most, the big bucks who will create the best heard, and yet these are the trophies that people want most of all.

    I am not a hunter and I am a catch and release kind of fisherman. More than anything, I abhor poachers who take big bucks and pregnant females out of season. And often times, it is those same people who would not listen if I told them about this paper. I often feel as if conservation is a small view in a sea of consumption.

  146. I had a smile on my face after reading the first sentence in this essay, because as a person and family that fishes, this is exactly what we practice. In fact, it is strongly suggested by ethical anglers and hunters, whom are ardent conservationists.

    I found it extremely ironic that 1,600 EPA professional reported being political interference with their work; then there was the mention of indigenous peoples requesting a need to end commercial harvesting in a report from the early 1900’s.

    Considering the enormous fleet and money behind the present day commercial fishing industry, just who is pulling at the purse strings of the politicians that wanted skewed data from the EPA? For whom was the data in favor of???

    • Most of the pressure for skewed data in this case that I know of had to do with not stepping on the toes of pharmaceuticals and pesticides (and other chemical) producers; I would not be surprised if the commercial fishing industry had their hand in its as well. Perhaps you know of the book, An Unreasonable Woman, about Dianne Wilson’s struggle to protect the Texas Gulf for the local shrimpers like her family. Often those local peoples most in touch with the environment are the most willing to protect it– not to mention, their livelihood depends on such protections.
      Thanks for your comment– and your practices.

    • I would agree that the fishing industry is most likely behind many problems with fish population and skewed data. I would like to mention: I think it is unfortunate that this industry has been infected by reality tv and our stardom culture. The show “The Deadliest Catch” I feel has made people more concerned about the excitement and danger of fishing than the real issues of over-fishing and responsibility on the seas. My uncle is an Alaskan fisherman and he said most of the people on the show are only concerned with their new found fame. While some other contractors are concerned with the sustainability of their livelihood and welfare of the seas. My uncle’s boat I know has taken a number of scientists out to make studies instead of spending all their time fishing.

      • Thanks for sharing this perspective from the niece of a fisherman, Carly. It is unfortunate that the hype on “reality” tv overtakes the concerns of those such as your uncle– seems more like reality to me!

  147. Indeed we should congratulate the fisherman or hunter who let the big one get away!

  148. I better not show this to my mom…she catches fish for eatin’! (Just kidding…although she fishes for food, it is rarely and not to excess….) But seriously, this is hugely pertinent in my area, and just today, our local paper reported on a guy who felt that his property had been ‘violated’ in some way ( When are people going to realize that man and animals, plants and soil, air and water, are all necessary for the survival of the planet??

  149. This article beautifully summarized our discussion notes on the idea of reciprocity. In this case, the topic was between salmon and humans. I just want to say thank you to Grandma Aggie for fighting for the salmon. She felt an obligation to the salmon and worked for years to removing dams from the Applegate and Rogue Rivers. It is very inspiring to read that her work is paying off and how powerful someone can be if they have an interdependent worldview.

    • Thanks for your comment, Sage–and for your appreciation of Grandma Aggie. I don’t think we can thank her too much for her work.

    • This is most definitely a story of hope, something that everyone should hear about. I’d love it if our media outlets would broadcast some of these things in collaboration with the more depressing environmental stories that seem to always be airing.

      • Nice point, Lindzy. Not an attitude the news tends to assume– though there is a series on KING 5 in Seattle called “making a difference” inserted into their news, for which they should be congratulated.

  150. What a great example of the need for conservation laws to come from a holistic view. The government makes laws ensuring that fish nets do not cross the whole river. This “should” ensure that salmon can continue to move upstream, much as the native shaman’s ensured one side of their fish traps were always open. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the fact that 100’s of different fisherman all extending their nets from different sides. What a great way to illustrate the need for conservation efforts at “both” the individual and community levels.

  151. I actually read a book about the history of salmons in Pacific Northwest and how their populations declined from pioneering activities. It saddens me how the pioneers could be selfish and wasteful, especially when I read a part in the article that stated how the rotting carcasses of salmon were dumped out into the ocean. I agree with Henry Cultee’s opinion on how he thinks that the pioneers should have let the salmon swim upriver. If the pioneers did this, not only would the salmon be saved, but it would save the pioneers a whole lot of time to clean up.

    Compared to the pioneers, I definitely prefer the indigenous people’s way of harvesting salmon. The indigenous people’s way of harvesting is conservative and sustainable, where the pioneer’s way is not. For management practices of the salmon, I believe that it is important to adopt the indigenous people’s morality in conserving the salmon.

    • Hi Maileen. I think you may be referring to Salmon without Rivers– a great book also mentioned several times on this site. I am glad you read it and found it personally useful so that you are continuing to remember and apply its ideas.
      In the apt contrasts you make between pioneer and indigenous harvesting methods, I think there is something else to remember. Although worldview predisposes us to act in certain ways with respect to our care or lack thereof of natural resources, each of us have the ability and responsibility to choose our actions as we learn from history. And there were in fact, a few pioneers who acted differently– in fact, some of them were also oppressed by the early logging companies who sent their logs off to San Francisco and beyond–and cared little for either the lives of their workers in this dangerous work– or the environment.

      • Hi Professor Holden. You are right that not all pioneers acted the same way. I failed to realize that. I remember Alexander Ross was one of the pioneers that felt differently. He had great respect for the indigenous people’s customs about natural resources. It is great to know that there are some people in this world that have good in their hearts.

        • Hi Maileen, I didn’t mean to imply something lacking in your particular comment, just something it wouldn’t hurt any of us (including me!) to remember. Thanks for your example on Ross.

    • I would have to agree with you about taking the Indigenous people’s fishing practices as our own. We could learn a lot and it would definitely benefit the salmon!

  152. I applaud Grandma Aggie for all her hard work and dedication to the Salmon and the removal of the Applegate and Rogue River dams. I can’t believe the number of dams still in use after all the controversy with them and the Salmon population. The story about the cannery and the millions of fish wasted makes my physically sick. It is terrible that the government has done so little to implement sticter laws for these sort of crimes.

    • It is interesting–and I think, fitting that you call these destructive technologies “crimes”, Kiley. I also think there is a place for hydroelectric power generation, but not in massive dams without fish ladders. The dame we should be using need to be more subtle and complex– and indicate how we might be smarter with this technology.

  153. I admire the idea of passing on the stronger genes to future generations by allowing the strongest and healthiest fish and deer to go free. I think it is one of the best examples of indigenous ecological sustainment.

    The waste from the dams is depressing, and reminds me of some of the reading in the discussion notes about reciprocity. It is easy to waste when you do not appreciate what you are given. Greed has gotten us into many unfortunate circumstances.

    I am reminded through these readings and comments that it is easy to criticize the pioneers for what they did to western ecology, but today, WE are still creating our own negative circumstances for our environment. I need to learn from mistakes made in history and take it one step further to reevaluate and correct my own life as well.

    • Thanks for sharing your perceptive comment, Michael. I hope that as many as possible join you in learning from the past: both in terms of mistakes whose repetition we want to avoid and successful strategies for sustainability. As you note, greed is likely to put up roadblocks to both of those.

    • I completely agree that it is easier to blame people from the past with the problems that we are facing today, than realizing that we are still having the same impact, if not worse. I am constantly amazed by how much we blame other people for what is wrong in the world without returning the blame on ourselves. We all need to learn from mistakes made in the past and the present and move on to a better tomorrow.

      • The past is useful for learning lessons– but if blame replaces responsibility, we haven’t learned those lessons very well– or at least are not acting on them! Further, if we say everything that went wrong happened way back when, that obscures our current courses of action we might have. Good points, Justin.

  154. I agree with this article. I think this is the best way to live. “Theirs was not an attitude of domination of the natural world– or of gaining the trophies to express this. Instead, they worked to establish a reciprocal partnership with the other natural beings who share our lives.” It goes hand and hand with leaving a better life for your children. If we the members of modern society keep taking the biggest and strongest animals, there will be a less effective gene pool for the future offspring. “In the Willamette Valley, a pioneer witnessed a traditional Kalapuya hunt in which the people encircled the deer. Before they took any, they let the biggest and strongest go. This is the opposite strategy from hunting the biggest deer or elk to place its “rack” on a wall.” It might make a person feel tough that they took down the strongest and biggest dear on their land, but by doing this they are really hurting the future offspring of dear and humans alike. The point that people in Modern society are missing is that if you let the biggest/strongest go it will help sustain or increase the amount of offspring year after year.

    It seems so unreal that an indigent society of 50,000 used an estimated forty two million pounds of salmon a year without affecting the sustainability of the runs. Just think if we weren’t so greedy in the beginning when there was an abundance of salmon, we would be able to fish way more then that without making a dent in the population. This take is seven times the harvest now days, this just goes to prove the modern world has lots to learn from indigent societies.

    • Thanks for your comment, Chris. What aspect of the modern industrial worldview do you think leads contemporary trophy hunters to neglect the effects of their choices on the future? What geographical area do your population figures of indigenous (“indigent” has some connotations that have nothing to do with indigenous peoples) populations cover?

  155. The Mnong Gar of Vietnam, the Inuit of the North American Arctic, and many indigenous tribes of the African continent have a reciprocal worldview that allows them to take only what they need, and to return what they take.

    The slash and burn tactic of the Mnong Gar every two years gives the forest the opportunity to reinvigorate itself. It clears areas for a diverse base of plant life to grow and in turn the nourishment of native animals. Many African farmers along game reserves speak of sharing a lion’s kill. What better example of reciprocity and economic sharing could there be than to humbly walk into a lion pride and take what is left of a kill?

    This honor system is a two-way dialogue between people and the natural environment. It affords both members of the relationship the opportunity to flourish and propagate.

    • I like your statement about reciprocity’s being an “honor system” of relationship to the natural world, Dwayne. How would you link the examples you aptly give her from our readings to the points in this essay?

      • Quite simply, it would be the interrelationship of people with nature. The essay discusses people’s relationship to the salmon and that our actions can impact them negatively or positively. In much the same way, the Mnong Gar interact with their surroundings with the same awareness of positive and negative impact. I think a sense of understanding, responsibility and awareness are what set the Mnong Gar and the indigenous of the Northwest apart from many other groups and cultures.

        • And this sense of responsibility is also, to my way of thinking, what gives us hope for re-establishing a responsible relationship with the sources of life that sustain us. Thanks for your follow up comments.

    • Also with the prescribed burns biomass fuels on the forest floor rarely ever build up in that two year time period, so fires that burn will never get super hot to where they can demolish tree stands. Thanks for sharing.

  156. It always amazes me when I read about the difference in sustainability practices between indigenous peoples and the cultures that arrived to those lands after them. I think the idea of sustainability can also be traced back to the idea of NIMBY (Not in my backyard). The original inhabitants of the Columbia River Gorge understood that they needed to let a certain amount of fish past there nets and on to spawn or feed others farther down river. More recent inhabitants of the Columbia River Gorge have looked at the salmon as a never ending supply of food and had little consideration for other people or the effect their style of fishing was having on the salmon runs. Because the runs were so plentiful at first, they didn’t understand or care about the prolific waste of salmon at canneries or the over consumption of a valuable resource.

    • I find it sad that their is a lot of scientific data of how the salmon affect the ecosystem. That they can find salmon DNA in the trees and that the salmon populations are really low. But all this evidence is still not enough to convince people that salmon can go extinct.

      • Thoughtful point, Nathan. There is also that human trait of seeing only what we wish to see. Hopefully, we will give up the denial and begin to act with respect and care for the world that sustains us.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Justin. The care with which indigenous peoples cared for the salmon is amazing in the context of our cultural history. I understand how overfishing ties into the ignored concept of limits, but I don’t see how you are tying into the NIMBY attitude here.

  157. The Northwest has been engaged in a long and hard battle to revive the Salmon runs throughout the region. It seems like there is progress being made, albeit slowly. I think one needs to take the seriousness of the Northwest battle and make it a global battle. The World’s fisheries are fast on the decline and many scientists and conservationists believe that many have already been “fished out” incapable of regenerating to past levels without marine reserves. The issue of overfishing is one that effects the environment in so many negative ways (including the fish) and is the issue that is least fought for. It’s unfortunate. Hopefully the Northwest battle fairs better.
    If you eat fish, please eat responsibly…

    (there is even an android app 😉

  158. Although there are huge efforts to return salmon to once great fishing times, it’s hard to compete with all the destruction that has been created by the dams on the Columbia River. Their are stories of June Hog salmon that would reach 100lbs, but now the species of salmon is said to be gone.

  159. I find it hard to fathom how a whole species is being over fished and people worry more about getting their share than the species disappearing forever off the face of the earth. There has been plenty of species which are gone extinct from human interference. I love fishing and love the taste of fish. However I never keep any fish I catch. I would like to be able to fish when I am old and take my grand children fishing like my grandpa did with me.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal perspective and some important priorities in terms of ethical decisions here, Nathan.
      And your grandchildren (when they come!) will be very lucky to go with you! My hope is that we will work together on caring for a world that will give them that chance.

  160. This just points out even more that the dominion over the planet has gone too far. Domination can be done in a peaceful and sustainable way. Once people can see that everything is interconnected then maybe things will change. This reminds me of a new report I heard of today ( where blood from a swine slaughterhouse has been dumped in the Trinity for who knows how long. Just like the dumping of the rotten salmon, the operators of the local slaughterhouse just dumped the blood in the river. Its a wonder why the river by the plan smells so bad.

    • Domination of the planet has certainly gone too far. It is important that people begin to realize everything in nature is interconnected. It is only then that we realize how crucial it is to harvest the land in a sustainable way. This realization will help limit the number of plant and animal species that are in danger of becoming extinct. I hope we as a society can come to this realization soon before too many other species are negatively impacted.

    • Sad point, Stephen. As long as such abuses occur, it is up to each of us as citizens to monitor or support the monitoring of otherwise “hidden” abuses. The practice of training citizens to monitor water quality at local discharge sites is becoming more common– and is, I think, a hopeful sign until we change our worldviews such that anyone’s dumping into the waters that bring us life would be unthinkable. Citizen pressure is a place to begin that change.

  161. I am always surprised to hear about some of the senseless decisions humans sometimes makes. I cannot understand why a salmon cannery would blockade so many fish that they could not can them all, and then have to take boatloads of rotten fish to be dumped at sea. It would be so much easier to just let some fish pass then have to clean up and take boatloads of rotten fish away. Not only would this have been more efficient business wise but it would also have been incredibly beneficial to the salmon population. I hope that we can open our eyes, learn from these mistakes and not take nature for granted.

    • I think it comes down to human greed. Most humans are fearful of the future and want to prepare as much as they can, even if it means destroying something so that they are not destroyed. If people could understand that fear can be beaten by coming together, this planet would be a bit more healthy.

      • I think scarcity insecurity, driven by the media, is certainly prevalent in this culture. But I do think there were societies who felt an alternative security in time we cannot imagine. For them the future represented not something to fear but new generations to care for.

  162. It amazes me that there was such poor management and thought back when pioneers first came into areas with salmon runs. Honestly, the thought process of supplies or populations lasting forever no matter how much is taken is ridiculous. The natives who lived along the Columbia river were able to catch a very large amount of fish without harming the population. Hunting techniques also raises a very different approach between native and western philosophy. Most people hunt deer to kill the largest one they see. Native peoples let the large and healthy ones go because their passing on of genetics means more large healthy deer in the future. A cannery that was catching salmon ended up not having enough time to can all that were caught, and the dead, rotting fish were dumped off out to sea. It disgusts me how much of a waste that is. Current mentality is still use as much as you can even if you don’t need it.

    • Yes, not only “use as much as you can even if you don’t need it,” but “use it up before anyone else does”. That is indeed an attitude amazing in its foolhardiness.

    • yea..Probably native people think more about what there will be in the future. But people who grew up in western world do not care/think what negative effect might occur. Using the new technology, we can feed fishes, but I think we still need to take care of the balance of “input and output” so we do not struggle with number of fishes….

      • Things to think about here, Tomoshiro. We are currently emptying the oceans of fish on a wide scale–and there are multiple problems with such things as farmed salmon.
        Thanks for your comment.

    • The mentality to use as much as you can, or use it up before another does, is simply greed at it’s worst, much like this article describes.

  163. The early pioneers had this idea that this new land was a god given right to them and they could do with it what they want. This mentality is still with modern America. But with it comes the deft ears that still persist. The scientist that were trying to talk to the politicians about our marine situations don’t listen, fishing practices are out of control and the big fish is more desired then the small one. Yes this process needs to be more stream lined. Politicians are with the fish suppliers who want to fish, there needs to be less interests in treating the fish as just $ and more as how the indigenous tribes of the Northwest have been seeing them as centuries; Kin part of their family, and why would you want to see your family in such a bad way?

    • And we cannot forget that “new” land to us is likely to be ancient land to others who have profound roots there?
      Wouldn’t it be great if we saw ourselves as part of the family of life (and made decisions to show it). It sounds like you have some firsthand knowledge of the process of making these marine refuges– and on the right side of things.

    • You are correct Kayli, treating fish as just money makers. Who benefits from the sports fishing, the government? Sportsfishing is just revenue for the government, which is suppose to go back to habitat restoration or to the fish with education. Indigenous people treat fish as part of their diet, not as a big trophy to stick on the wall.

      • Yes and it is also true that sports fisherman’s organization have contributed to conservation efforts throughout the US. It is all a matter of the way you do these things and what values you bring to them. I think we might indeed differentiate between sports fishing and “trophy” fishing and hunting, which is a kind of head hunting that I think cannot be excused.

  164. The old saying, “Money is the root of all evil” goes with the fisheries industry too. The fish canneries back in history were looking to make money at the cost of the fish and now we are paying for it. Also the amount of dams built that causes the passage of fish up rivers to be gone in some areas. The management of fish and wildlife to me is not working, maybe we could learn from the indigenous people who let the big ones go. It wasn’t a sport to them, it was a way of life.

    • Profit for profit’s sake is always a problem. We serious need other values to govern and leaven that profit. There are many problems in modern wildlife management–and we are making strides in the right direction. I hope you will be able to add to that effort.
      Your last sentence indicates the seriousness involved in our care for those other lives that share our ecosystems.

  165. It was very interesting thing how fish population has been expanded recently. People think that grabbing fishes as many as possible is the best way to make good business. But they do not really care about the after-effect besides fishing too much. Most of the sport fishermen take very few fish and many people do only “catch and release”. I believe Even though they release fishes after catching fishes they should think/understand what they should do. There is the ignorance within sports (in this essay, that was fishing). I think people do not even care about environment when they participate in sports.

    • Thanks for the obvious care in your comment: I do think that some fishermen do care (as opposed to “trophy” hunters and fishermen). But taking the biggest fish out of arrogance– just to show off– is a serious offense that does indeed, as you state, express ignorance.

    • I don’t see anything wrong with fishing. I beilieve that hunting is fine. However, when we just fish for fun with no intent to eat it that I believe that is immoral. I think that God created plants & animals to sustain human beings. However, we were created with dominion not to abuse it. I do think that some fisherman do abuse their power.

      What do you mean when you say that grabbing fishes as many as possible is the best way to make a good business?

      What is wrong with catching fishes and releasing them? How are you suppose to fish then? Sometimes you catch a fish that you have no intent of catching. That is the sport of fishing.

      • I don’t see that anyone has said there is basically something wrong with fishing– what is wrong is a type of wasteful fishing of the “catch all you can to make money even if you waste substantial numbers” approach. How has this been highlighted in other essays on this site (as in “partnering…” with respect to the beaver?)
        The particular type of fishing Tomoshiro and others on this site are critiquing is the trophy fishing that is just done to display the “biggest” where the fish is not even consumed– something you yourself critique as well.

  166. I really liked the idea of saving the biggest deer instead of killing it. This one instance shows the difference in thought and priorities between native peoples and our generation today. It was accurate in saying that we would want to hunt the biggest deer first, showing it off as a prize. This just further places the emphasis of our generation on conquests instead of sustainability. When we think of who got more out of that large deer, the winner is not the one with his antlers on the wall. Although I do not negate the need to hunt, it seems as though we have taken that too far and have been selfish in how we view other animals. Not only are we making our own lives difficult by hunting and fishing for sport, but we have also put other animals that depend on those types of food sources in danger of extinction.

    Just on the topic of sport hunting, I saw a picture that was being shared all over facebook the other day. It was of thousands of spectators watching a sea of blood splash across a beach covered with hundreds of dead whales and dolphins They had huge gashes in their sides from several hundred teens in a show of manhood. This apparently takes place in Feroe Island, Denmark…EVERY year! A lot of it is supposedly for food but the pictures and videos are so incredibly disturbing.

    • It is a matter, as you say, of selfishness to take the biggest and best for ourselves and depleting the future when we do not even use the meat.
      I don’t know the whole story of the Feroe Island hunt– but I do know that if each of us spent even one minute in the slaughterhouse of a CAPO (concentrated feed lot), we would very likely not each any factory farmed meat again. And the workers here have some of the most dangerous and poorest paid jobs in the word.
      Just another case of our separation from the sources of our sustenance: packaged meat in the grocery case does not tell us any of this.

  167. Mark Hixon is a marine biologist that predicted the larger the figh the better meaning a larger & older female fish needs protection so they can breed & pass good survival genes to future generations. The Bush US administration and other scientific research went against this claim because of political influence that Hixon doesn’t support. The key importance is that people should engage in interpersonal partnerships. This means protecting nature just like Hixon believed in protecting salmons. Spirituallity should be linked with our actions.

    People nowadays live out what they believe. People don’t carea bout nature, so they trash it. There are some peopel that believe in the importance of caring for nature. However, they don’t speak up nor have a voice in the community. The right thing to do is to fight and stand up for the health of our environment.

    In addition, we must teach and educate people on how to do so and maintain this interpersonal partnership & behavior with nature.

    Care About the Future!
    Treat our world as a home that we love.
    Keep it clean for future generation.

    • Hi Brianna, a couple of corrections: Hixon was supporting marine reserves for offshore fish, not salmon.
      Can be more specific than speaking of what “people” do? Are these “people” your friends or family– or yourself? Or those who hold a particular worldview (what?)
      Thanks for your comment.

  168. Advocacy is the key any more to making wrongs right again. It requires so much effort, time, resources, and passion. The people who do these types of good works are dedicated to causes which cannot defend themselves, such as in this case the salmon.
    It is nice to see that the hard work of Takelma-Siletz elder Agnes Pilgrim Baker, Elder Billy Frank Jr., of the Nisqually and others who have worked for years with Washington state officials defending the rights of salmon are paying off by seeing two dams removed. I’m very much like Agnes and ‘walk my talk,’ because if all you do is talk then the only contribution given is Carbon Dioxide! I have no time for talkers. As I stated in an earlier post I began an advocacy and the knowledge, spiritual and technical, that I walked away with cannot be measured. If there is a Christian type God and we are judged by our works, then I think some of us better start moving!
    Agnes and I are protectors, voices for nature and passionate about making wrongs right again. It isn’t easy being an advocate and we are often looked upon as crazy, it can be a lonely walk. Then again we are the walkers, besides the talkers.

  169. It seems tragic that such a wasteful fishing practice was carried out in the Northwest by pioneers. A short sighted, over powering influence must have fueled many of these early pioneers. The will to survive is one thing, but to harvest to the point of disposing “boatloads of rotted fish,” is saddening. When does moral and ethical characteristics change behavior? It may be only when we have lost what was once so plentiful that we change our ways. It might be to late for some species or communities as economic and political pressures drive them to extinction. I feel a sense of loss when natural things are harmed or mistreated. If we could learn to “let some go,” we may discover that we are better off in the long run and save not only living communities but ourselves.

    • It would be interesting to know if the indigenous peoples of North America had ever over-harvested salmon or other natural resources? I would like to believe that they learned from their own mistakes thousands of years ago. In learning the indigenous peoples may have gone through a self-induced suffering which in turn brought the many tribes together to discuss balance of the natural systems. If so, I would love to hear this story from an elder!

      • There are many teaching and warning stories about the ways in which greed and arrogance brought down human societies among indigenous peoples everywhere. I don’t know if these resulted from incidents of community experience or from ethical standards that motivated these people to work out what would happen if those standards weren’t followed.

  170. This was a good point on sustainability, and the records of pre-contact fish yields do continue to impress me, if indeed they are accurate. And it was a good point about how individual nets all add up to an impassible whole for the salmon; again, those were some good points.

    However, the “anti-science bias” that I believe the article touched upon goes multiple ways-it’s simply politics in many regards, or to be expected (on the other side of things, I believe there was a controversy surrounding a climate change summit in Europe a couple years ago involved leaked emails). At any rate, on either side, truth should not be obstructed. And as I always say, a I cannot agree with the Native American viewpoint on this, but I do believe that some kind of proper balance between harvesting and allowing nature to run its course is desirable.

    • Thank you for the opportunity to assert that I am hoping not to express an anti-science bias: this is why I am so concerned by the Union of Concerned Scientists’ survey that indicated so many scientists within the EPA were pressured to hide their research findings if they countered business interests during the Bush administration.
      I do think that science needs a critical analysis: according to its funding sources and its methodology, for instance. And I also think it needs an analysis of the way in which its paradigms are influenced by social context– as indicated by Thomas Kuhn’s classic, History of Scientific Revolutions, which reveals how scientists have too often thrown out data rather than re-evaluate their own paradigms under the larger social paradigm changed.

    • Hey Thomas, yes I agree that a balance needs to be established between a natural Native approach and a Western scientific approach. Most certainly, the Western way of doing things that has been established so strongly in America is not going away. Perhaps, the complimentary viewpoints of shamanism and science as mentioned in “Wisdom of the Elders” might be an effective compromise. In this way the pragmatic and the mystical might be merged.

      • Thoughtful take on the importance of balance, Josh. As you point out, the Western scientific approach to things is firmly enough entrenched that we don’t need to protect it from criticism.
        In fact such criticism (peer review) is the heart of science.
        It can only help us to open our minds to include something of other views.

  171. The undermining of science by industrial/political ventures seems to be a real problem. I heard David Suzuki say that essentially America is the only country debating whether global warming is real or not and that we are, to paraphrase, fiddling around while Rome burns. And, so it seems the conservation laws employed are not always in harmony with nature.

    Hearteningly, like the Rogue and Applegate Rivers, Suzuki made mention that the salmon runs in his stomping grounds in British Columbia this last year have been restored to previous healthy populations .

    I really like your mention of “letting the best go for the future.” This makes sound ecological sense but clearly contrasts the Western dominance over nature value. Suzuki mentioned that he felt the crisis that we are experiencing on this planet is a psychological one. This certainly makes sense. To replace values of dominance with ones of humility, kinship and harmony would do much to correct not just the salmon populations of the world but human and planetary health as well.

    • I think that there is a real connection between us and the natural world. As we discover this we may see the real value in “letting the best go for the future” as you pointed out. All organisms have a role to play and we can do something to help them fulfill it. Our greed and shortsightedness do not need to get in the way of healing the earth. We have taken so much and it is only fitting that we give back or restore that which was lost.

    • Thanks for passing on these words from Suzuki, Josh. It was great you were able to hear his recent lecture. The undermining of this science– especially on such an imperative topic– is indeed a serious issue in the US. I had not realized how out of step we are with the rest of the world in this respect.
      Great news about British salmon.
      I like the perspective of viewing our crisis as psychological– it seems we need to change our values– and ramp up our self-knowledge– in order to made any headway in facing our current challenges.

  172. As other students have noted, it is very disconcerting that so many of the scientests polled feel that there is political interference in their work and that they are pressured to skew their results. It seems to make sense then that generally our fish and wildlife populations continue to dwindle, or struggle along. We don’t have the correct information! I can only hope that the majority of scientists feel committed to providing the truth, but I know that being able to pay your bills and support your family is a strong incentive to do what needs to be done. Without the governmental support of our country, we cannot expect to make great leaps and bounds toward conserving threatened or endangered populations, and especially we cannot expect that future generations will have more than we have. Unless it is because THEY make the necessary changes right now it’s looking like our offspring might be struggling to get by; just to eat and drink.

    I’m glad to see the work of Grandma Aggie is paying off. It gives me hope for the future and I hope to be part of the solution.

    • It is troubling that so much science is subject to interference when we have serious environmental crises to deal with, Jillian.
      We do need governmental support of environmental standards, as you note– the future of our children depends on it.

  173. Dr. Holden, how can mankind respect the wonders of earth if every time they look outside they think of monetary gains? Take for example the show The Deadliest Catch a show where fisherman risk their limbs and even life’s to go out to sea and catch tons of fish to bring back and sell at low prices and in some cases half of the fish go bad while heading back to port. Those fishermen don’t go out to sea with a mindset that says, “I will let the big fish go so they can reproduce and we can get more next time” no, their mindset is, “The bigger the fish the bigger my paycheck” and this is where the natural selection process that has been established by nature is destroyed. Nature is not respected it is exploited. I recently watched a documentary called “Dive” where local people from LA go dumpster diving to rescue food that has been thrown away from companies such as Whole Foods, and others, and uncovering an eye opening truth into how much food is wasted yearly. The reason I brought this up is because many of the fish, chicken, beef and other crops that are planted, captured, and fished are being thrown away only because the sell by date is tomorrow, and how these people are able to recover the food and live off of them. Westerners have a mindset that the more we grow, catch and raise the more profit we get, not minding that we are harming our own environment.

    It is very disturbing to see that the EPA would be forced to skew their findings, although it’s not very surprising. Then I ask myself what is the reason of having such organization if it will be forced to report different findings? To be a scientist you must understand nature not just its elements, just as the indigenous population has understood over many centuries and respect earth for what it has given us not for what we can gain from it. Science can give us certain answers but being able to know how the flow of nature works and being able to understand the necessity of keeping our world healthy would someday pay off for all of us. But for now we wait until the earth begins to fall apart and science cannot answer our questions.

    • You bring up a perspective to be mindful of here, Moises. We certainly do not value the lives that sustain ours when we see them only as dollar signs– and in fact, all the waste you cite does not even lead to profit in the long run. Depleting the source of one’s income by wasting it is hardly a strategy for economic success.
      I hope we can do better for ourselves (perhaps with some self-knowledge and the stories that share the experiences of those of all cultures) than wait until things fall apart to use a science that is holistic and states and enacts its values clearly.

  174. The story of the Salmon is a sad and ecologically complex one which involves not only intentional catch and bicatch in which they are not the target species but die in the trolling nets at sea anyway but the degradation of the watershedw which the Salmon dpend upon for completion of their anadramous lifecycle. The fantastic book “Salmon Without Rivers” details the historic sustainable use of the Salmon stock as well as the following depletion spurred initially by overharvest and the watershed issues which will not allow their numbers to rebound.
    On a positive note, there are many sport fisherman who strictly practice catch and release methods, including GPS marking of catch locations of female Bass in tournaments so they can be returned to their nesting sites afterward. There are also a great number of hunters who “manage” large game such as deer by refusing to take those with the strongest genes until they have reached an age just past maturity, ensuring that they will have the opportunity to pass those genes down to the next generation. The problem is as usual the use of these animals for profit. As Al gore stated “It is hard to make a person believe something when his livlihood depends upon his not believing it”

    • Salmon without Rivers is also mentioned in the essay on “partnership” to which you also responded. And you are right that protecting the salmon harvest has many dimensions combining both take and habitat, both in the ocean and in spawning grounds.
      I had not heard of instances of letting stronger deer go on the part of contemporary hunters– but I am certainly glad to hear it. Can you tell me where to find more info on this?
      It seems that “trophy hunting” and “trophy fishing” have other motives than money; indeed, depleting the best part of a population to take them for trophies undercuts future harvest.

  175. I live in a coastal community where the importance of the salmon fisheries is visible no matter what season it is. The thing I am most amazed about is the commercial and sport fisheries lack of foresight. I find myself amazed at how some of the career fisherman endorse regulations knowing that it will only positively affect them for the short term. With such repressed salmon runs over the last few decades there is a strong possibility that the management tactics we have made already have affected the genetics of many species. Whether it’s only keeping the biggest or heavy fishing at the start of the runs, these smaller populations’ adaptations to these pressures are more likely to be inherited by their offspring, thus interfering with their natural evolution.

    One very important aspect to the conundrum of making sure that evolution of species are able to progress in the most natural way is to pick our battles very carefully when it comes to management. An example of this is that the Columbia River salmon runs are now made up of over 90% hatchery fish, unfortunately I think it would be a waste of time and money to manage for diversity in native species within the Columbia watershed, but it is definitely worth the investment in basins that have strong native runs.

    Whether it’s salmon, elk, or trees the laws and regulations for harvest should be dictated by the most sound science. Although I really appreciate democracies, it always seems that the natural resource policy makers typically have a background in law and not science. When it comes to the balance of our ecologically based resources we cannot afford to take the “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission” mentality.

    • Hi Aaron, thanks for your comment. And interesting point about hatchery fish taking over the Columbia River runs. Perhaps you are aware of the Columbia River Intertribal Fishing Commission’s work to bring back salmon runs into rivers like the Umatilla that formerly ran dry. The hatcheries that must supply these fish are different from other commercial hatcheries, since they are designed with the insight of elders who are working to match the lives of these salmon with those experienced by wild salmon; thus they are fed different food in different ways from most hatchery fish and their habitat is designed quite differently.
      That being said, I am not sure that we should give up on the wild salmon that still run up the Columbia. Perhaps since there are so few of them left, we should work all the harder to make sure their are protected.

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