Unprotected and Endangered
Why are fishermen given free rein to catch endangered species — nay, kill and sell endangered species — in apparent violation of both federal and state protection laws?
There are no Greenpeace activists hollering on bullhorns from their Zodiacs to challenge them as would be the case for threatened whales, and there are no placard marching protesters advancing on the docks or waving fists on the rivers. There is nothing but silence.
Please pray tell, explain why there is there no uproar akin to Occupy Wall Street when commercial and recreational fishermen set out to catch endangered coho and Chinook salmon in California’s rivers and state ocean waters.
These fish species are protected by federal and state laws, and they are given vast privileges and perquisites at most stages of their life cycles.
The state budget enumerates how much money is spent on fish hatcheries to propagate them. News media stories relate how fish are trucked from river to river to ensure their survival in myriad waterways. Other reporters describe how dams and rivers are managed to ensure their safety during migration, spawning and hatch. Court documents recount lawsuits filed by conservation organizations and Native American tribes to protect them when they fall prey to a parasite that kills the fish or the state fails to adequately protect them. Millions of dollars are spent reconstructing streams and chilling waters to facilitate their reproduction. Waters are withheld from people in our cities and from farmers in our rural lands in the name of these endangered fish.
Yet somehow, some way, these precious endangered salmon and steelhead trout lose all status and garner no protection from fishermen packing troll lines, lures, bait or flies and hooks.
It’s ironic, unreasonable and inexplicable.
The State of California’s water resources have been upended over these fish. Billions of dollars in losses result from the rigorous mandates imposed on various entities, from food producers and industry to citizens seeking to water their lawns and wash their cars. As a result, Californians are paying higher water bills, hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile farmlands stand idle, construction projects jump through hoops for environmental approvals, and the state and federal governments require other actions too numerous to count.
In 2015, the Pacific Fishery Management Council reported that California’s commercial fishing fleet caught 109,902 Chinook salmon weighing 1,181,000 pounds. Recreational fishermen took 37,441 Chinook and 41 coho salmon. That is a total catch of 147,384 salmon, many from endangered populations subject to strict federal and state protective statutes.
Those caught fish that were reared by the state at taxpayer expense and nurtured with water releases from the state’s dams can be accurately gauged to have held a monetary value of over $650,000 per fish. If proponents of the Endangered Species Act are being truthful, their actual value as contributors to the wild gene pool and as the last-surviving remnants of ancient populations was priceless beyond any possible monetary valuation.
Something doesn’t add up here. No other endangered species is subject to such predation. One breaks federal laws and is subject to fines and imprisonment to even possess a bald eagle feather or any part of another protected raptor. Heaven help you if you have in your possession a bit of modern ivory or an animal skin from an endangered species like the sea otter, fur seal, wolf or mountain lion.
Yet, for the outlay of a few dollars in fishing licenses and tags, along with a bit of fishing tackle, anyone can catch a priceless endangered Chinook or coho salmon that happens to swim their way.
The federal government in Washington and the state government in Sacramento are petulant in their willingness to allow two simultaneous and exactly contradictory outcomes for endangered salmon and steelhead species.
Which is it, Washington and Sacramento? Are these protected species or not?