This is the view out my window. It’s very beautiful. People are always stopping in front of my house to look out over the bay. I believe it’s healing. When the tide is all the way out the mud flats stretch a mile or more out. When I was a child we used to spend our summer mornings walking out with the tide, and our afternoons racing it in. It wasn’t always that way. The bay used to be deeper in this area, even a generation ago. The river used to empty into a different bay. It was rerouted to assist industry at the turn of the century. My grandmother says that the mountain is going to erode right out into our bay, and that all our fishermen better learn to farm, because it’s going to keep getting shallower. She laughs and says, “Pretty soon our mud flats will be corn fields.” I suppose that’s one way to try to counter sea level rise.
“Probably all the great sea fisheries are inexhaustible; that is to say that nothing we do seriously affects the number of the fish…” Thomas Huxley
This video reminded me of an oral history interview I conducted while I was in graduate school. The man I interviewed was a Tribal Fisheries Director after the time of the historic Judge Boldt decision in US vs. WA. The following is an excerpt from his interview which includes his recollection of a story his aunt told him about overfishing and the canning industry:
“In the 1880s they perfected the canning system and then in the 1890s on into the next century they made it illegal for the Indians to fish, and fish traps were located up and down the sound and they would load up scow loads of salmon and bring them to the canneries. Back in about 78 or 79 I asked Aunty Sarah James, she was very old then, what it was like to work at Carlisle Packing Company. She looked at me and she goes, ‘Oh sonny, they brought in scow loads and scow loads, and scow loads in every shift. We just cut the bellies off. The rest was thrown away. Because the belly would lay flat and they would cut into a strip and it would roll up and go in the can. The rest was wasted. Scow loads and scow loads, every day of the week. All season. And they’d dump all the remainder in Bellingham Bay. And at the end of every shift, they still had scow loads of salmon unprocessed, so they’d go dump them in the Bellingham Bay and start all over… because that was Carlisle Packing Company.’ And so of course the stocks were depleted. So when US vs. WA came by there was hardly anything left. And US vs. WA said that we were closed down for conservation and then half of what’s left could be harvested. Half of that could be taken by the non-Indians, and the Indian fleet. Of course the non-Indian’s is a privilege. Ours is a right. The thing is that 90% of our fleet is done and gone.
Here is an amazing and relevant piece written in the New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert back in 2009. She discusses the endangered blue fin tuna in her review of seven books on the ocean’s depleted fish population. I’ve included links to the books she mentions below. I’ve also included a few others that are in the same vein.
I was remembering a trip I took with a friend to Seattle. He brought me to the Ballard Locks and we watched the salmon climbing the fish ladder. It was a beautiful day. I love that memory. There was poetry, and I was trying to remember who the poet was. I googled, “salmon poems ballard locks,” and came up with this beautiful post on the blog, thewildbeat.com. I hope you will check it out and enjoy it as much as I did.
“The genetically engineered AquAdvantage salmon, (AAS), often referred to as a “Frankenfish”, is moving through the FDA approval process despite doubts raised at 2010 hearings, in scientific reports and by 400,000 consumers.”
UGH! Who the eff comes up with this stuff? Seriously? Salmon on steroids—where does the line get drawn?! Salmon were a sacred food source to the Coast Salish people!! What gives anyone the right to destroy a resource that is to be held in trust as a birthright for the good of all not the profit of a few?
Does anyone else find it horrible and disturbing and irresponsible that this cute little video is out there explaining to a generation of children a catastrophic phenomenon that is taking place in our beautiful world? Shouldn’t we be saying something about greed and greenhouse gasses or something? Is it really so late?
This is my daughter and my nephew playing in the bay. It’s the same bay I played in as a child, but really it’s not. They can wade, but I won’t let them swim. They are too tender and pure, and the bay too polluted. I don’t have the heart to tell them about this odd unnatural world we are living in. All I can do, is pick up litter, write, vote with my dollar, and drive less.