Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Correcting the Record


October 1, 2018

This month we’ll use this space for some light housekeeping, starting with Alaska’s Ballot Measure 1, or the “Stand for Salmon” initiative. In this space last month, we looked at the initiative and found it wanting. With the help of an attorney representing the Bristol Bay Fishermen’s Association (BBFA), we pointed out flaws in the initiative that could change the intent and muddy the waters, so to speak. Since then, we have heard from proponents of the initiative, who continue to support it. We are as concerned about salmon as our readers, but admit that they are closer to the issue.

Having filed an amicus brief with the state Supreme Court, BBFA is still opposed to the measure, according to association President and Bristol Bay fisherman David Harsila. “The court struck the favorable language for habitat and left in the most objectionable to us,” he says.

Some viewpoints in favor of the initiative can be found in this issue beginning on page 6.

No Chinook for You

Seattle chef Renee Erickson has taken Chinook off the menu at her local restaurants, including The Walrus and the Carpenter in the heart of Seattle’s Ballard fishing community. She believes the orcas in Puget Sound are starving to death because diners are eating their lunch, so to speak. “The biggest gut wrench is that we have starving orcas. We are eating the salmon they need to eat,” she told the Seattle Times. Erickson got her information from the non-profit Oceans Initiative, a “team of scientists on a mission to protect marine life, including whales, dolphins, sharks, salmon & seabirds.” A report from the group found that “lack of food” was the biggest threat to the orca’s survival. We note that the same thing applies to the area’s human population, and doesn’t seem particularly ground breaking.

While the report claims a lack Chinook salmon is to blame for a decline in the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) population, there are actually many factors at play. While the whales do seek out Chinook (as do humans), they will also eat coho, chum and sockeye, as well as lingcod, halibut and steelhead, just like us. Perhaps Chef Erickson should speak to more fishermen and fewer “experts.”

Less Water for Almonds

The fight in California over water continues. A state plan to divert some agricultural water to protect salmon and smelt could see as many as 673,000 more acre-feet of water available to the Delta smelt and wild salmon, which are a valuable and renewable natural resource, as well as an important and healthy source of protein.

One acre-foot of water is enough to sustain one household for a year. That same acre-foot is also enough to grow 60,000 heads of broccoli, 93,000 heads of lettuce or almost 100,000 tomatoes to feed those households.

Or 1,800 cans of almonds.

The fight over water isn’t led by the broccoli, lettuce or tomato lobbies, but by the almond growers, who require more than a gallon of water to grow one almond.

A lettuce crop that fails because of drought makes for a tough year for a farmer – one whose pain can and should be mitigated by a state and federal safety net. The next year he can replant and be back in business. Almond trees can’t bounce back after a drought. This is the farming equivalent of backing yourself into an evolutionary corner.

Almonds took off in California in the 20th century because they were a lucrative crop grown with subsidized and politically-secured water. These almond growers now have an established political network that reaches all the way to Washington, DC, including, apparently, the White House.

California’s water problems are simple, but political, as are the solutions. California needs to re-prioritize its water for the good of all of its citizens, not just 750 big almond growers.

Chris Philips can be reached at: 206-284-8285 or email:


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