I am not going to try to convince you that you should help to sustain wild fish populations. If you don’t want to, then I can’t persuade you because you are probably part of the problem and people like me will never see eye to eye with people like you. For those of us who enjoy the many beautiful aspects of our wild fish populations, healthy rivers, and flourishing forests, here is something that you may enjoy and a few tips on how to help wild fish.
Native salmon and steelhead support your life; even if you don’t fish and are a logger (not that there is anything wrong with logging but you will see my point a little later). For an estimated 8 million years, anadromous fish (salmon and steelhead) have made the trip from their freshwater rearing grounds to the more nutrient rich waters of our seas. When they have become sexually mature they make their grand and final journey back to their home waters to spawn. While this may be common knowledge to most of you, there is one important factor that many don’t realize; anadromous fish are one of the only nutrient cycles that transport nutrients from the oceans, inland to the rivers and forests. Through predators and scavengers these nutrients are scattered throughout the forests and riparian zones as far inland as the Rocky Mountains(http://web.uvic.ca/~reimlab/reimchen_ecoforestry.pdf).
Using nitrogen isotopes, more specifically N15, scientists have been able to trace the effect of anadromous fish on our forests. In a study published by the journal Ecoforestry, Dr. Reimchen and his graduate students were able to collect tree core samples and compare their nitrogen isotope ratios from tree ring to ring and correlate them to known fish returns.
“The available evidence currently suggests that these linkages occur from the estuaries and small streams that fringe the North Pacific through to the headwaters of the major rivers that penetrate far into the continents. The estimated 80-90 percent reduction in salmon returning to streams over the last 100 years, largely the result of deforestation and overfishing, will have ecosystem level consequences for the remaining forests.” (http://web.uvic.ca/~reimlab/reimchen_ecoforestry.pdf)
In this particular study, it was recorded that Nitrogen levels in trees were directly affected by salmon returns. Amazing. What’s not so amazing is that we have seen an 80-90 percent reduction in salmon returning!
For nearly 8 million years these fish survived without the “help” of hatchery programs. While hatchery fish do take the same trip and do transport the same nutrients, they are snuffing out the wild species by direct competition for food and spawning rights.(http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/species/sacramentoriver_winterrunchinook_5yearreview.pdf). So do we then pump up the number of hatchery smolt we release every year to make up this difference?
I want to argue the opposite in fact. First, this would cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Second, hatchery fish have a lower survival rate based on the fact that they are not reared in the wild and do not have a long evolution of genetics (like wild fish) to improve their survival instincts making them less effective as a “fertilizer” for our forests. The correct decision is to halt all hatchery programs and to start making choices in our every day lives that lessen our impact on our general environmental health.
Here are a few things that you can do in your life to help our forests by helping our fish:
- conserve water
- don’t buy farmed fish
- purchase locally grown food
- help to curb climate change
- encourage our governing body to manage our forests properly
- support sustainable agriculture
- minimize chemical use around the house and at work
- catch and release all wild fish, un-harmed
- fish and tell your story
For your viewing pleasure:
Here is a link to the current status of wild steelhead from the Wild Steelhead Coalition:
Here is how you can help from the comfort of your chair:
Donate to the Wild Steelhead Coalition
Donate to the Native Fish Society