Quick update to last week’s post on salmon scarcity in the Lower Columbia River: managers are closing the lower river to sport fishing for the endangered spring Chinook (and also steelhead and shad). As of Monday, just over 1,500 kings had made it to the Bonneville Dam, compared with an average of 50,000 at this time of year over the last decade.
I don’t mean to sound insouciant, but something is odd about this closure. Namely, why on earth is sport fishing allowed for an endangered species in the first place?
No, I’m not a fish-hugger. I’m an occasional sport fisherman myself. And yes, I know that sport fishing is not the only, nor even the biggest, threat to wild spring Chinook. The fish is also impaired by dams, river traffic, erosion, predation, pesticides, commercial fishing, irrigation… The bad news for the Chinook, of course, is not only that it faces a lot of threats, but that everyone can keeping avoiding meaningful reform by blaming the declines on everyone else.
Call me crazy, but it’s hard for me to believe that we’re very serious about restoring an endangered species when we kill it for sport.