A History of the Pacific Salmon Crisis
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A careful account of the making of an environmental crisis. Few people know the biology of the anadromous salmon as well as Lichatowich, a government fishery scientist who has devoted more than three decades to studying the fish in the Pacific Northwest. Lichatowich offers a brief but thorough natural history of the seven species of Pacific salmon, an ancient creature whose lineage can be traced back more than 400 million years. Those species have met with near-extinction in just the last 150 years, a time coincident with the arrival of Euroamericans into the Northwest and their employment of wide-scale, destructive environmental practices that displaced the long-evolved salmon-based economies of the Northwest’s indigenous peoples. Lichatowich points out that what underlies the salmon crisis is not so much an easily identifiable and corrigible single cause as a set of related issues: deforestation, poor stream management, overfishing, and habitat destruction. “Habitat degradation,” he writes acutely, “has not simply been a long-overlooked by-product of our industrial economy. It has been the direct result of the large-scale ecosystemic simplification that is a central and guiding vision of that economy.” That oversimplification, he argues, has led to the false view that salmon are best grown in hatcheries, like so many hothouse flowers, rather than allowed to flourish in free-flowing rivers, a habitat that itself is increasingly rare, replaced by dams and reservoirs. He examines the long battle to preserve the Northwest’s watercourses, noting that as early as 1928 the state of Oregon unsuccessfully proposed that its rivers be deemed fish sanctuaries and protected from commercial development. “We simply cannot have salmon without healthy rivers,” he closes by observing—and making those healthy rivers will involve restructuring the economy of an entire region, an unlikely prospect. Environmentalists will find much of value, if little comfort, in Lichatowich’s pages. (Tables, figures, photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-55963-360-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Island Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1999


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