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New book says Northwest salmon could face same fate as those in Northeast, England

New laws protected salmon spawning grounds in 17 rivers, prohibiting the streams from being blocked with dams or fishing nets and imposing stiff fines for violations. It was hoped these steps would halt the sharp salmon population decline in the rivers. The year was 1715, and King George I of England enacted the laws in an effort to protect salmon runs throughout Great Britain. The attempt, and many more that came after, proved to be largely fruitless. Today few salmon ply British waterways, the victims of overfishing, degraded habitat, harnessing water power for industry, and misguided use of hatcheries to restore salmon runs, which ultimately hurt more than helped.

Strikingly, much the same scenario began playing out 100 years later in the rivers of northeastern North America. A century after that it began again in the Pacific Northwest.

David Montgomery, a University of Washington professor of Earth and space sciences, details these parallels in a new book, "King of Fish, The Thousand Year Run of Salmon," published this month by Westview Press, a member of Perseus Books Group. Montgomery also outlines protections, different from those that have failed in the past, that he believes might save the remaining Northwest salmon runs. They include:

  • Establishing independent riverkeepers to enforce laws, implement recovery efforts and coordinate actions among different levels of government.
  • Creating salmon sanctuaries in river bottoms and flood plains.
  • Stopping fishing for at-risk species for five to 10 years, then restricting fishing to no more than half of any run.

"It's not too late in this region to apply the lessons of past experiments, but it's getting close to too late," he said. "Relative to Maine, we still have a ton of fish."

Montgomery was a member of the independent science panel for Washington state's Governor's Salmon Recovery Panel, serving as vice chairman from 1999-2001. It was in that role th
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Contact: Vince Stricherz
vinces@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
6-Oct-2003


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