Salmon savers

| Print |  Email
Articles - November/December 2013
Monday, October 28, 2013

BY JON BELL

1113 Salmon 01
// Photo by Joseph Eastburn

Some shine a flawless metallic silver, looking strong, vibrant and as if they’re on a mission. Others lumber by, darkened, dinged and ready to find a long, final resting place. Some are huge and heavy; others are slim and small. All are heading in the same direction together, upstream, and all just keep coming.

They are the storied Columbia River salmon — Chinook, coho, a sprinkling of pinks — making their way through the fish ladders and past the viewing windows at the Bonneville Dam near Cascade Locks in late September. At times, so many swim by in an endless parade, they nearly fill the windows and block out the light from above. As of October 1, more than 1.2 million spring, summer and fall Chinook had passed through Bonneville — the largest salmon runs since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the dam and started counting in 1938. Driving the strong returns was a mix of optimal ocean conditions, improved dam passage for adult fish returning upstream and juveniles heading out to the ocean, and several years of habitat restoration projects.

Yet despite the solid and hopeful returns this year, the numbers tell only part of the story. While more than a million fish may seem like plenty, it’s a far cry from the estimated 15 million that used to come back to the Columbia every year before dams, development, loss of habitat, overfishing and water diversion for agriculture came into play. Thirteen species of Columbia River salmon and steelhead are still considered endangered. In addition, close to 85% of the fish coming back this year are hatchery fish, not wild. There’s a good chance, based on historical trends, that 2013’s high counts will drop back down again.

This year’s salmon returns on the Columbia River symbolize much about the big-picture salmon scene in Oregon, not only on its rivers, but out in the Pacific as well. It is a situation whereby commercial salmon fishermen, hit hard by disastrous seasons and even full-on closures over the past decade, are finding a little relief, albeit temporary. Last year’s 1.9-million-pound haul was below the 2.4 million pounds of 2011, but prices rose enough to value the fishery at around $6.7 million for both years. That’s relatively small compared to other fisheries in Oregon’s commercial fishing industry, which brought in total revenue of $128 million last year. The 2012 crab harvest, for example, was worth $29 million; pink shrimp hit $25 million and groundfish topped $24 million. The improved salmon outlook for this year adds even a little more promise for the 400 or so active salmon vessels in Oregon.

The salmon scene here includes a wide range of stakeholders — fishermen, tribes, conservation groups, farmers and ranchers, government agencies and others — working to restore and preserve valuable salmon habitat and further improve dam passage. At the same time, many of those players also have to balance their own interests, be it power generation or crop irrigation, with those of Oregon’s salmon. There is innovation here, too. Researchers are using genetic information to better manage fish stocks. That same technology is allowing consumers to track the salmon they eat back to the fisherman who caught it. And progressive restaurateurs and suppliers, while still limited in how much Oregon salmon they can offer, are raising the bar for sustainably caught salmon and other seafood in Oregon and around the world.

Oregon Business cast a big net and reeled in a mix of people and projects that are working to not only revitalize the salmon economy in Oregon, but to restore the Northwest’s signature fish for future generations to come. In 2013, the outlook for a thriving salmon economy is ambiguous, but the stakes are clear.

“The good news is that if we do the right things in the right order, we can bring the commercial salmon industry back from where it is now to be many times larger than it is,” says Glen Spain, Northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “For folks like us, that means jobs and dollars and paid-for mortgages and paid-for boats.”



 

Comments   

 
Guest
+2 #1 Great new issue!Guest 2013-10-30 23:40:47
Great new issue focused on salmon!

I’m surprised, however, that little mention was made of the impact on those who enjoy recreational salmon fishing.

After all, larger runs means more fun for tens of thousands of Oregonians each year, and a lot more revenue for small towns on the Oregon coast, along the Columbia River, etc.

I certainly didn’t mind spending money this past Saturday. In return? I have a great day of memories, including the 15 minutes it took to reel in the largest salmon I've ever caught.

Will I spend even more time and money salmon fishing again next summer? You bet!
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
Guest
0 #2 writerGuest 2013-10-31 17:17:31
Thanks much for the comment, and glad to hear about your catch! We did touch on the aspects you're talking about in the "Slowly Rising" section about the economic benefits to tribes and small towns out along the Columbia, and also in the "Ranching and Restoring Together" section. And we'll of course be keeping an eye on future returns and the impacts they have on Oregon's angling towns and businesses. Jon Bell
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
Guest
0 #3 RE: Salmon saversGuest 2013-11-02 19:10:05
This piece also points out the need to maintain a viable commercial salmon fishery so that people who don't sport fish also have access to fresh local salmon of the highest quality such as Lofgren wants to serve, thus maintaining a constituency for salmon recovery above and beyond sport anglers, which I am one of. Gill netting can be made less damaging to T&E stocks while still allowing some commercial harvest.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Big Trouble in China?

Guest Blog
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
0818-wellmanthumbBY JASON NORRIS | CFA

Earlier this month, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) announced they were going to devalue their currency, the Renminbi. While the amount of the targeted change was to be roughly 2 percent, investors read a lot more into the move. The Renminbi had been gradually appreciating against the U.S. dollar (see chart) as to attempt to alleviate concerns of being labeled a currency manipulator.


Read more...

Ranking the airlines that fly PDX

The Latest
Friday, August 14, 2015
airlinesthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

17 airlines make stops at Portland International Airport, but not all are created equal when it comes to customer service.


Read more...

Is there life beyond Reed?

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY GARY THILL | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

A storied institution climbs down from the ivory tower.


Read more...

Store Bought

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Market of Choice is on a tear. In 2012 the 35-year-old Eugene-based grocery chain opened a central kitchen/distribution center in its hometown. The market opened a third Portland store in the Cedar Mill neighborhood this year; a Bend outpost broke ground in March. A fourth Portland location is slated for the inner southeast “LOCA” development, a mixed-use project featuring condos and retail. Revenues in 2014 were $175 million, a double-digit increase over 2013. CEO Rick Wright discusses growth, market trends and how he keeps new “foodie” grocery clerks happy.


Read more...

The Private 150: From Strength to Strength

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Revenues in Oregon's private, for profit sector maintained solid growth as the economy continued to rebound.


Read more...

Light Reading

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Ask any college student: Textbook prices have skyrocketed out of control. Online education startup Lumen Learning aims to bring them down to earth.


Read more...

Money Troubles

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015
BY DAN COOK

The state’s angel investing fund gets hammered in Salem.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS