Wednesday, April 25, 2007

When Workers Get Desperate

I was saddened to be forwarded this post on Oregon fishermen shooting sea lions because they view them as salmon killers. Of course, sea lions naturally kill salmon. They survive on salmon, among other things.

Thanks to the massive reengineering of the Columbia River basin however, salmon populations are in collapse. Despite (and in large part because of) all the attempts to construct fish hatcheries, fish ladders, and other technological solutions, the wild salmon population is near extinction in much of the Pacific Northwest. The fishing industry therefore has collapsed as well. The Northwest has a precedent for this kind of thing. When the spotted owl controversy was in full force, loggers were shooting owls (and only sometimes did they actually shoot a spotted owl) and posting them on fences and such to show that people came before animals.

In both of these cases, working class people who live off the land have targeted their anger at animal species who did not deserve it. Rather, both the massive cutting of old-growth timber and the decline in salmon populations have happened directly because of human activities, including (but by no means exclusively) workers changing the environment each and every day.

The salmon industry is dead. Shooting sea lions isn't going to make it come back. If we're lucky, and I don't think we will be, wild salmon will not actually become extinct in the majority of the Northwest. But again, the chances of that happening seem to me almost nil.

Of course, idiot Washington Republican congressman Doc Hastings wants to change the law to make killing sea lions legal again.

I highly suggest reading more on this topic, particularly Joseph Taylor's Making Salmon: An Environmental History of the Northwest Fisheries Crisis. Taylor documents how people created a river system where wild salmon can no longer survive.