Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What whine goes well with salmon?

Driving home from field work up in the 'Couve today and I caught a ginormous version of this sticker on the back window of a pickup truck:

Get the picture? Naughty sea lion, stealing salmon off the hook.

You tend to see these stickers - I think they have a name something like "the salmon thief" - on various places and objects connected to sport fishermen around here, where salmon and steelhead are the grail of most anglers.

I won't kid you; every time I see one of these I either fucking laugh out loud, or sneer and shake my head at the joker flying it.

Because growing up my family drove home to me in the strongest possible terms the conviction that the worst thing a man or woman could do was whine.

If you got the dirty end of the stick you were welcome to rage to the people or person who handed it to you. Anger? Go for it. Fighting? Fine. Scorn? Hatred? Fury? All good. You were welcome to move heaven and earth to the extent you could if you had been wronged.

If that didn't change things, though, you sucked it up and drove on.

(That attitude helped me a lot in the Army, by the way. In case you were wondering.)

I learned that the very worst response to Life bitchslapping you was to sit there and whine about it.

That's what this salmon-thief sticker says to me. It's a pictoral whine; some guy with a boat and a fishing rod and the time to enjoy both of them pissing and moaning about a freaking marine mammal.

Thing is, the western North American coast pinnepeds - the California and Stellar Sea lions - evolved along with the salmon. The furry rapscallions have been gutsing delicious chinook and steelhead since the end of the Ice Age. They're also very bright and adaptive predators, and it was pretty much a no-brainer that when the hairless monkeys threw up a great big ginormous concrete wall to stop salmon swimming upriver that the sea lions were going to show up there for the buffet.


Humans blaming the sea lions for chowing on salmon that humans penned into a big ol' manmade fish trap is like blaming the hammer for hurting you when you fucking hit yourself on the head.

It's pretty damn stupid to whine about that, and it's pretty damn stupid for sport fishermen to whine about sea lions taking the salmon.

For one thing, the sport fishermen are the kaiju monsters of Columbia River fishing. They've pretty much already stomped the gillnetting captains flat and no agency or politician wants to mess with them. They get the real lion's share of the fish coming up the river.

And for another, the sea lions aren't the real problem.

The dams are the real problem.

Don't get me wrong. I like electricity. I would have been right there on the banks of the Columbia in 1934 cheering the first trainload of concrete into Bonneville. I understand why we built the dams and why we still keep them today.

But they're fish killers. The dams - not the sea lions, not the dredging or the pollution or the logging or the development (though none of that shit helped) - killed the great runs that astounded the first white men, the runs that left them awed and talking about "walking from Oregon to Washington on the backs of the salmon".

The dams are the real salmon thieves.

But for the sport fishermen to take on the dams they'd have to actually punch up; take on the huge and powerful interests that line up with the dams here in the Northwest; the Bonneville Power Authority, regional power companies like PGE and every little pud-pulling Public Utility District. Dryland farmers addicted to cheap irrigation water. Cites and towns, industries that loves them some cheap hydropower. Homeowners, rate-payers, state legislators.

That'd take some actual grit, some real cojones, to try and force all those people to make the big changes in the dams that would need to happen to save the wild salmon runs. To rage and fight at the real salmon thieves. Instead of driving around with a silly goddamn sea lion sticker on your truck.

Ain't that America, though?

So when I see these silly sea lion stickers I can't help but sneer, sheeyah, nice, monkey boy, punching down the evolutionary tree you big man, you.

How about some nice baked chinook with that whine?


Syrbal/Labrys said...

No, the whiners get no salmon at all, thanks. Keep it for people who "get" the real truth of the situation. And do you know, with MY salmon, I like a nice glass of mead...

mike said...

Or even worse is the whining I hear down in 'O-ree-gun' about the special privileges for Injuns and the need to purchase both an state license and a reservation license to fish in some waters.

You are right about the dams. But I believe you do polluters, corporate agriculture, and timber companies a big favor by downplaying their role in the salmon decline.

As for gillnetters, even a state as rightwing whacko as Texas has banned it. And although your states voted down Measure 81 last year, I for one am glad your guvn'r unilaterally banned gillnetting in the main channel of the Columbia.