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September 2009

EDITORIAL: ALLOCATED OR NOT A DEAD FISH IS A DEAD FISH!

AC NOTE:  This month’s editorial was supposed to be about the “tough issues” that in my opinion the Skagit County Flood Control Zone District Advisory Committee has yet to address in any manner whatsoever, an editorial I was, and still am, looking forward to writing.  However, I received a rather disturbing e-mail in response to my August monthly update.  I contacted the author, a Mr. Robinson, and told him that I would be using his letter as the subject of this month’s editorial and gave him the opportunity to request that I publish his letter and not use his name or organization.  He responded by writing, “. . . your offer to keep my name out of it is greatly appreciated.  That would be my choice were it not for the fact that being likely described as one who chose not to have his name used has always seems something less than honest and courageous. So I invite you to use my name at your own disgression (sic). It may well cause me to catch a little hell from those who think I care, but I've been around a few too many years to let such things bother me.  For that response I applaud Mr. Robinson for having the faith and conviction to stand by his beliefs, no matter how wrong I believe he is.  It’s one of the great things about being an American, you have the right to be as wrong as you want to be and still be respected.  Who knows, maybe a local mayor will give him the key to his city for bigotry is bigotry rather it’s politics or fish issues.  Had he left out the personal attacks and innuendo I would not have had any problem with his letter other then the statement of so-called “facts” which he refused to document.

For those of you who are not on my monthly e-mail update list the verbiage I used that evidently Mr. Robinson took issue with was as follows:

Before I begin this month’s update I would like to give a shout out to our local Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group.  Not only are they a local activist salmon saving organization that actually gets out and does things but a couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending their function up in Rockport.  There were many varied activities and displays but from a personal perspective the most impressive thing to me was that for lunch they served really good hamburgers from the local Lunch Box business.  It has always been an enigma to me as to how local environmental groups, Tribal get-togethers, local fishing and social clubs are preserving salmon by eating them for dinner.  Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group --- WELL DONE!  SAVE THE SALMON, SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FARMER, EAT BEEF, IT’S WHAT’S FOR DINNER!

 

SWINOMISH TRIBE: We reported last month on the outlandish letter written to the State Department of Ecology on behalf of the Swinomish Tribe.  (See Letter to Washington State Department of Ecology) The Western Washington Agricultural Association responded with a very well written explanation of farming practices within Skagit Valley concluding that “. . .agricultural surface water diversions is relatively minor when compared to streamflow in the lower Skagit River mainstem . . .  (See  Western Washington Agricultural Association e-mail to Department of Ecology, RE: Skagit Agricultural Irrigation Water Use)  As stated last month, netting, selling and eating the salmon kills a lot more of them then any crop irrigation process or flood risk reduction project, with the possible exception of the building of the dams, ever did (See Historical Record of Fish Related Issues (1897-1969))

My responses to Mr. Robinson are in blue.

Dear Mr. Kunzler:

As one of those who has sponsored events featuring barbecued salmon intended to help people understand why it is important for all of us to live up to the responsibility we're born with to respect and care for fish, wildlife and the habitat that sustains them, I hope you don't mind if I take issue just a bit with your August monthly update. I am one who also enjoys a good steak or burger by the way, and yet I am careful not to blame every rancher for the fact that ranching and agriculture are, by far, the biggest source of water pollution in the world, or the fact that such pollution has killed far more fish than fishermen ever have.

Once again, Mr. Robinson it has always been an enigma to me how one “respects and cares for fish”, by killing and eating them.  I’m sorry that you don’t seem to be able to see the hypocrisy in that action but I am very glad that you are not in charge of respecting and caring for the American Bald Eagle or the Spotted Owl.  If you save and care for 50 fish and then you “celebrate” what you have done, by killing and eating 25 of them then you have really only cared and saved 25 fish.  A dead fish is a dead fish.  If you are killing and eating them then you are just as much a culprit to the demise of the salmon as pollution ever will be. 

Despite these facts, I also used to be an agriculture editor, and I do not consider cattle ranchers, nor fishermen, hypocrites or short-sighted polluters, or over-fishers, as a group, and I think it's blatantly unfair to paint with such a broad brush.  People do what they do to make a living for many reasons. I do not believe that poisoning the environment or wiping out one species or another is typically at the top of most peoples' priority list.

Facts?  Facts, Mr. Robinson?  Really?  I would have expected that a former journalist would have known the difference between fact and opinion.  You’re entitled to your opinion as I am to mine but please let’s separate facts from opinion.  You may or may not be right about farming killing fish on a worldwide basis.  I have no idea.  I haven’t studied the world.  I do know that if one does even cursory research one finds that the main causes of the decline in Chinook salmon in the State of Washington are hydroelectric power (dams), pollution, and overfishing.  Pollution caused by urban sewage, logging, mining, agriculture and industrial waste contaminated with PCB’s that not only contaminate Puget Sound salmon but the mighty Orca as well.  Therefore, to present that agriculture is the number one component to killing fish in Puget Sound or the Skagit River is a complete misnomer.  I agree with your statement that “poisoning the environment or wiping out one species or another is (not) typically at the top of most peoples' priority list”.  However, it is my “opinion” that by allowing the placement of nets in the river by anyone or fishing within three miles of the mouth of any river or stream is at a minimum contributing to the demise of the salmon.

I have worked many years, in a variety of capacities, from Army officer to newspaper reporter and from public affairs director to business owner and in my compilation of experience I have learned a few basics in life. One is that there is good in people as a rule.  They have it in their souls to do the right thing, and to compromise, especially if they invest the time to communicate openly with others and find "win-win" solutions to the challenges they all face.  I've also learned that it doesn't matter whether that face is white, red, or whatever. If people are honest, and just, there are solutions to the challenges that face us, if we take the time to embrace one another, admit certain truths and choose to move forward rather than wallow away the years archaic and silly arguments. We don't have the time for old prejudices anymore. We really don't. I don't mean to judge, but in your case, Mr. Kunzler, you might consider doing a lot more research about the fishery allocation process.

Okay Mr. Robinson, now you’ve went too far.  If this is your off-hand stereotypical Pacific Northwest PC way of playing the race card by calling someone who disagrees with you a bigot, let me tell you that I have forgotten more about bigotry then you will ever know.  I was raised in a house of hate.  My father was your stereotypical deep south WASP KKK bigot.  He couldn’t put two sentences together without using the “N” word.  I was brought up to hate anyone who had a different color skin or religion.  I was 20 years old before I began to question those beliefs learned in the home.  It wasn’t until I joined the U.S. Navy that I was exposed to different races, religions, and cultures and learned just how wrong that minuscule mentality way of thinking is.  This was especially gratifying to me years later when I learned that my great great grandmother on my mothers side was a full blooded Cherokee.  A part of my heritage that I am more proud of than any other.  A part that I feel has been driving me so hard the last 30 years to work on the Skagit River flood issue.  So you see Mr. Robinson, it is very hard for me to hate something that I am.  It’s not the Tribes that I take issue with, but the manner in which they fish.  It’s about the salmon Mr. Robinson, not the people.  Moreover, for you to suggest otherwise is highly insulting to me.

Typically, those salmon you see being served have been caught after a highly involved and highly scrutinized allocation process. Salmon that make it to our plates today have undergone a highly scrutinized process, and it is, indeed, important for people to realize the many, many ways that they are valuable to all cultures and to our diet as a source of nutrition. But the point I'd really like to make with you is that it is time for the rabble-rousing to stop.

It would appear to me Mr. Robinson that the only “rabble” I have raised is you.  With respect to your comment about a “highly scrutinized fish allocation process”, if the pencil pushers were so successful why has the demise of the salmon continued since the 1960’s?  Could it be that “allocating” how many fish you can kill is actually contributing to the problem?  Let us take this year’s Chinook run on the Skagit for example.  The pencil pushers decided we were going to have a large run of fish.  So instead of allowing the “endangered species” to return, spawn and rebuild the runs, the pencil pushers decided to “allocate”, kill, sell, and eat them.  There’s a saying in the legal community Mr. Robinson, if you want truth, justice and the American Way, follow the money, because it’s always about the money.  Could it be that the decision to kill the Chinook was based more on the “fact” that Tribal fisherman don’t pay taxes on the fish they sell?  Thus reducing the “allocation process” to more of one of economics then fish preservation.  Lastly, your comment about salmon as a source of “nutrition”.  This would be the same Puget Sound Salmon that the Washington State Department of Fisheries recommends that you don’t eat more than one helping a week due to the pollution in the fish.  The same Chinook salmon that is so filled with industrial PCB’s that is killing our Orca whales.  Oh yum, how nutritious.

It may enhance readership to stir up controversy, but it does nothing to help find a solution. I'm very glad that the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group is an active group. I know our member tribes have been active with the RFEG's in many instances.  That's certainly the case with the Swinomish Tribe.  You might also consider becoming active with the Fisheries Enhancement Group Mr. Kunzler.  I also know that with or without RFEG's, tribes have been the most active of all when it comes to habitat restoration and good fishery management programs in our state.  As someone whose heritage comes from both Indian and non-Indian ancestry, I'm personally happiest when people from both communities learn to work together and find ways to support each others' efforts in stewardship of the land and waters of our great state. I hope you'll find a way to use your column to support that approach to sustainability, because it truly is the path that leads to solutions rather than conflict.  It's the way we must go to find win-win solutions, and believe me, they're out there.  All you have to do is to stop pointing the finger of blame, stop thinking your way is the only way, and look for them.  Be well.

Once again Mr. Robinson, it isn’t me who is killing the fish.  If I am lucky enough to retire in the next 3 or so years (I’ll be 63 next weekend) I would love to join a group like the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group.  I strongly support fish enhancement projects and the people who make them happen.  Until that time, I choose to influence the salmon issue in my own way, as an individual.  I quit fishing for salmon two years ago.  I have my 16 ft ClackerCraft fiberglass drift boat, motor and trailer up for sale (for about a third of what I paid for them).  I don’t order salmon in restaurants, and I don’t buy salmon in the stores.  I don’t go to public functions that serve salmon.  Oh and one other thing, as for “enhancing my readership”, when I started this web page (with no advertising or commercial incentives) several years ago, I felt that if I had 500 visitors a year that the site would be a success.  I mean come on, it’s a site about history and floods.  Just this month alone as of 9:06 a.m. Sunday September 27, 2009 we have had 2,495 visitors with 1,939 of those coming from unique visitors with individual computers.  Since January 1st of this year we have had 22,257 visits from 17,253 individual ISPs that have downloaded 32.07 gigabytes of information.  The downloads are not just my editorials.  So you see Mr. Robinson, this site is not about me or my opinions, its about information.  If you have documents that you think would be beneficial to individuals with respect to the flooding or fish issues on the Skagit River, please, do not hesitate to send them to me.  I will be happy to publish them as “Guest Documents”.

I have spent the last 30 years of my life researching the Skagit River with respect to the flood issue.  Part of that research has led me from time to time to information concerning the fish issues on the Skagit River.  I have tried to document that research in a paper I published on this web page. (See Historical Record of Fish Related Issues (1897-1969)).    When you went to my web page on September 1, 2009 perhaps you should have downloaded more than just two pages or 298.76 kb of information (firefish.nwifc.org).  If you had you might have ran across the newspaper article which carried the testimony of the former Washington State Fisheries Department Director and his research division supervisor in a court of law that stated the following with respect to the Skagit River:

Moore, who said he previously lived along the Skagit about 40 years, said he feels the only way salmon fishing could be effectively “rehabilitated” would be a halt to all salmon fishing for two full salmon life cycles. In lieu of such a drastic measure, he pointed out, temporary fishing closures at certain times are a must. REGULATION OF fishing at certain places, particularly near river mouths and immediately below falls and dams – places fish congregate – is a necessary tool in the conservation of salmon runs, Mains said. . . .  “A few individual fishermen unregulated on the Skagit could definitely destroy its salmon runs,” he emphasized. “By gill net they could take up to 98 per cent of a run.”  (Source:  12/14/60 SVH)

Now that “drastic measure” would be a fish conservation measure that I could and do strongly support.  I welcome you and all concerned to download Historical Record of Fish Related Issues (1897-1969).  If you do you will find that out of the 51 pages only the last two are my personal opinion.  The final paragraph states the following:

If the Salmon is to ever reach their historic levels in the Skagit River we must employ better logging and agricultural practices, curtail urban drainage and pollution, re-create the natural estuaries, increase spawning habitat areas, do a better job of regulating the flows from the dams and severely curtail the placing of nets in the river.  I absolutely believe that unless these practices are instituted the Skagit Salmons demise is not only apparent but guaranteed.  We will have no one to blame but ourselves.

Mr. Robinson, thank you for your comments.  I will end this editorial with your words as if they came from me because I am in total agreement with them.  As someone whose heritage comes from both Indian and non-Indian ancestry, I'm personally happiest when people from both communities learn to work together and find ways to support each others' efforts in stewardship of the land and waters of our great state.  It's the way we must go to find win-win solutions, and believe me, they're out there.  All you have to do is to stop pointing the finger of blame, stop thinking your way is the only way, and look for them.  Be well and go in peace my brother.  We may be on different paths but we are headed in the same direction.

 

-steve robinson, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

 

Steve Robinson

Policy Analyst

NW Indian Fisheries Commission

(360) 528-4347

cell: (360) 951-2494

fax: (360) 753-8659

email: srobinson@nwifc.org

web: www.nwifc.org

LETS DO IT OURSELVES!!  LETS DO IT NOW!!  LETS DO IT WITH VOTER APPROVAL!!

May your fields be ripe and budding and your rivers full and flooding (because its the only time people pay attention).

 The Angry Citizen

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