Author: Jay R. VanOrman
Here out west, the Endangered Species Act, while itself a good thing, has costly strings attached. Too often the cost of the strings is made worse because it just sounds like a good idea. So far the endangered salmon have come across things not intended by nature or the Endangered Species Act, as well as the normal things the imperil the life of the fish.
Caspian terns have taken up a sandy island near the mouth of the Columbia River. They are not a native species to Oregon or Washington State, let alone to North America. In fact they do come from the Caspian Sea area of Asia. They are almost half a world away from where they are normally to be found.
These birds feed on the endangered salmon; and environmentalists have successfully blocked any attempts at reducing, or removing this non-native predator. They breed on an island, that has only been in existence since the dams on the Columbia River slowed the spring floods down, letting silt and sand build up into impermanent islands.
California Sea Lions have also relocated to Oregon, swimming up the Columbia River as far as Bonneville dam, about 150 miles from the Pacific Ocean.
Oregon already has their own native Sea Lion species, the Steller’s sea lion; these are not as large or aggressive as the Californians. So salmon are not the only species in conflict with the invasive non-natives.
While the Caspian terns prey on the juvenile fingerlings on their way to the sea, the sea lions eat the mature returning fish. Sea lions are also rather peculiar in their eating habits. They often bite a salmon in the belly, eating the roe of the females. They do not eat the entire salmon, so they need to kill many more than one fish to satisfy the needs of each sea lion.
The Marina Mammals Act says nothing can be done with them either.
Salmon still have more enemies. The hydroelectric dams they must pass through on the way to and from the ocean take their toll. But now wind energy places the salmon in danger. In order to meet contract requirements, the Bonneville Power Administration, the federal agency which regulates the dams of the Columbia, must discharge water, without making electricity, downstream.
There was a court case two years ago, but I have yet to find the resolution to this case anywhere. The BPA cited the Endangered Species Act, in the case, as making electricity was less harmful to the fish than direct discharge of the river. It seems hard to believe, but salmon can suffer from the bends too. The bends, also called caisson disease, is when nitrogen bubbles become trapped in blood vessels, causing extreme pain, and sometimes death.
What the BPA did, and what brought the lawsuit, was to make electricity, not spill water, as per the wind farmers’ contract. The BPA says making electricity out of falling water causes less nitrogen to be entrained in the water, reducing potential harm to the fingerlings.
Lastly we have our final foe for salmon; cows. This is probably the easiest of the threats to mitigate, but also the one the government likes to hit people the hardest. You see cows like to get a drink of water now and then. But sometimes that water is a river or creek that salmon use to spawn. Cows can easily make a mess of the stream, just getting a drink of water. They feet can churn a clear rocky stream bed into a muddy wallow in a shirt amount of time.
Funny thing is, the federal government owns most of the states of Washington and Oregon. But they more often take harmful actions against the persons who they give grazing rights, than take mitigating steps to protect salmon habitat. Seems the money they collect in those fees, are not allowed to do much more than feed Washington DC.
I wish I felt confident that the environmentalists actually had solutions for the salmon in mind when they sue the government and private parties, but what keeps becoming reality does not agree with their stated purposes. After the salmon eggs hatch, and the fry are large enough to be released into the wild, their adipose fins are clipped off, to make them different from wild salmon not reared in a fish hatchery. Then they are trucked around dams to limit the damages caused by the turbines making electricity. This may be the low cost option of meeting the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. Fish screens that prevent all, or almost all fish kills have not been invented yet. But it surprises me that nothing can be done to reduce the threats caused by non-native species.
Why are we not inviting Sea World to train killer whales to hunt sea lions? Why haven’t the Native Americans who used to eat sea lions not been asked to hunt them? Why are we protecting invasive birds that live on an impermanent island? Why doesn’t the federal government help the salmon as much as they go after cattle ranchers?
This seems to be the same pattern the Left uses in all their politics. Make something a victim, force everyone to change their lifestyle to accommodate said victim, and let other predators have their way, being incapable of dealing with this new problem. Meanwhile the original victim languishes.
Author: Jay R. VanOrman
I earned a bachelor’s degree in English shortly before my 50th birthday. I have enough science credits, that if they gave them, I could have had a BS in English. I try to play well with others, but I aim to be a good man, not a nice man. I normally think outside the box. I’m a Navy veteran, and I do for a living what they once trained me to do.