Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Because Actions Have Consequences

Really? No one can figure out why the Chinook Salmon have disappeared? You've got to be kidding me. You can't dam their rivers, pollute their ocean, overfish them, and then stand around scratching your head and wonder why they've disappeared.

This weekend, I was reading G/Son one of his favorite stories, Uno's Garden by Graeme Base. In the story, Uno finds a lovely forest and moves there. Others follow, delighted by the wildlife, including the ever-present snortlepig. G/Son delighted in being able to find the shy snortlepig in every picture; this is an often-read story. Eventually, the forest disappears as people overbuild and overpopulate. A day comes when the people move away, longing to live with trees, rather than concrete. Only Uno remains, providing a safe haven for the snortlepig in his tiny garden. And then, one day, the aged Uno and the aged snortlepig die. Although Uno's children and grandchildren and great grandchildren remain, living sustainably on the land and gradually noticing the return of many of the wonderful animals from before, the snortlepig is gone for good.

Nonna: No more snortlepig.

G/Son: Why?

Nonna: The snortlepig became extinct.

G/Son: 'Tinct?

Nonna: Yes, extinct. No more snortlepigs.

G/Son: Why?

Nonna: Overdevelopment. Too many people not taking care of Mother Nature.

G/Son: Read it again.

Look, if a two-year old can get it, I think the grownups can figure it out as well.

As Derrick Jensen says (and has been saying, for some time), Why is it bad that certain species go extinct? Is it because all species have an inherent value and right to existence, or is it because they are useful to the ecosystem, and it’s their utility that we’re losing?

Well, it’s all of those. First, obviously salmon and sturgeon and smelt and migratory songbirds, they all… It’s simply WRONG to exterminate them. They are beautiful and wonderful beings on their own. The purpose of salmon is to be salmon. The purpose of forests is to be forests. That’s really critical. Second, forests suffer tremendously without the existence of salmon. Salmon provide a tremendous influx of nutrients into the forest. They put on about 95 percent of their weight in the ocean, and carry this weight into the forest and die. When the salmon come in, it’s time for a feast. In the Pacific Northwest, 66 different vertebrates eat salmon. Between industrial fishing, dams, industrial forestry, and the other ways the civilized torment and destroy salmon, and rivers in the Northwest starve: they only receive about six percent of the nutrients they did a century ago. Natural communities can only undergo so much stress. After that they collapse. . . . At some point the current system is going to crash, and there are going to be people sitting along the banks of the Columbia, which will be glowing from the radiation at Hanford, and they will be saying, “I’m starving to death because you didn’t remove the dams that were killing salmon. God damn you.”

Figure it out people, figure it out.


The Kenosha Kid said...

mmm roast snortlepig aghaghaghagh

Ruth said...

saw a report this a.m. that made the guess that sucking water from the rivers for irrigation just pulled the fingerlings right up with the water.

ina said...

The 5yo has become the avid birdwatcher at her preschool at the wildlife sanctuary. She and her friend watch and wait patiently with their bird books. They have seen and can identify many birds.

They have also imagined that they've seen many others. While it's true they've both seen the pileated woodpecker a lot, the 5yo keeps telling me that she has seen the Ivory billed pileated woodpecker. She understands 'extinct' -- she loves dinosaurs -- but this is trickier: it's not officially extinct, according to her bird book, it just hasn't been seen in a long time. Until now, apparently! :)

Anonymous said...

This is awful, and awfully typical.

Sea lions at Ore. dam sentenced to death By JOSEPH B. FRAZIER, Associated Press Writer
Tue Mar 18, 5:54 PM ET

Traps, pyrotechnics and beanbags shot at sea lions have failed to deter the annual springtime feast of threatened salmon at a Columbia River dam, so federal authorities gave some of them a death sentence on Tuesday.

The National Marine Fisheries Service authorized Oregon and Washington officials to first attempt to catch the sea lions that arrive at the base of the Bonneville Dam and hold them 48 hours to see whether an aquarium, zoo or similar facility will take them. Otherwise, they could be euthanized, along with those that avoid trapping.

About 60 of the California sea lions, identified by branding, scars or other markings, were deemed the worst offenders and qualify for "immediate removal."

One, branded C404, became something of a celebrity because of his ability to work his way into the fish ladders of the dam, and even into the window where upriver-bound salmon are counted to determine the size of later runs. Many sea lions have been coming to the dams for years.

Fidelia Andy, chairwoman of the Columbia Intertribal fish Commission, said the order "was the right decision at the right time" and asked for "the public's patience and support while management activities proceed."

The ruling followed three meetings of a task force comprising commercial and sport fishermen, treaty tribes and animal rights interests.

But John Balzar, spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States, said the idea that sea lions must be killed to save salmon was "entirely bogus."

He said fishermen catch three times as many salmon as the sea lions eat, and Oregon and Washington have proposed higher fishing quotas. Federal estimates are that hydroelectric dams in the Columbia system kill nearly 60 percent of juvenile salmon headed downriver, he said.

The plan to shoot sea lions, he said, coincides with estimates that this year's spring chinook run will be one of the biggest in decades.

Sea lions are protected under the 1972 Marine Mammals Protection Act. An amendment permits the killing of sea lions if Columbia River states get federal permission. Oregon and Washington asked for the permission in 2006, and Idaho offered its support.

Such permission has been granted only once before — in the 1990s for sea lions in the Ballard Locks in Puget Sound in Washington, where five animals were identified as offenders that drastically diminished a steelhead run that has yet to recover.

Three were taken in by an aquatic park before they were killed. The fate of the two others has not been made public.

Sea lion populations have soared since they and other marine mammals were covered under the 1972 act. They numbered about 1,000 in the 1930s, when they were hunted and used, among other purposes, for dog food. They are thought to number about 240,000 today.

Sharon Young with the Humane Society of the United States said Tuesday the group is studying the documents to decide whether to challenge the order in court.

The order applies to sea lions observed eating salmon or steelhead below the dam between Jan. 1 and May 31. The authorization is valid until June 30, 2012, and can be extended for five years. It can be revoked by the National Marine Fisheries Service on 72 hours notice.

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