Stay in your Lane
August 1, 2019
According to Wikipedia, Yvon Chouinard is an American rock climber, environmentalist, and outdoor industry billionaire businessman. His company, Patagonia, is known for its expensive clothing and its environmental focus.
A new movie produced by Chouinard claims that salmon hatcheries are the main cause for the decline of salmon and should be eliminated. It further implies that hatcheries are the equivalent of open water Atlantic salmon farms, and as damaging to the wild resource.
The movie, Artifishal, is full of misinformation about the role hatcheries play in salmon recovery, and does a disservice to the thousands of dedicated advocates of the West Coast’s salmon runs, both wild and hatchery raised. It is a typical example of activism fueled by emotion and money but devoid of fact.
The film is produced and directed by a group of people with no background in oceanography or fisheries biology, but one of the producers is a fly fisherman, which, apparently, makes him the expert of the group.
The Patagonia website directs people to only eat Bristol Bay or Lummi Island sockeye, implying that any other wild Pacific salmon is irresponsibly harvested.
Wanting to protect the environment is a laudable goal, but one must first understand the nature of the environment he seeks to protect. Chouinard got his start with a coal-fired forge making hardened steel pitons for use in mountain climbing. In the intervening years it’s safe to say Chouinard and his colleagues have pounded millions of metal spikes into the pristine cliffs of some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. We wouldn’t presume to claim that climbing mountains, in and of itself, is dangerous to the environment – by the same token, a group of rock climbers would be well advised to leave the West Coast salmon issues to the experts.
A real and serious threat to wild salmon remains Canada’s Atlantic salmon farms. Canada’s Fraser Riverkeeper points to a study that found feral Atlantic salmon swimming in more than 80 wild salmon spawning streams in British Columbia, with juveniles discovered at three locations, suggesting that escaped Atlantic salmon are surviving and breeding in our Pacific waters.
A more recent threat to wild salmon comes from a rock slide that occurred on June 23 in a narrow portion of the Fraser River that created a blockage and five-meter waterfall.
Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says the obstruction poses a threat to both commercial and recreational fisheries as well as First Nations who rely on salmon for both food and ceremonial purposes.
Options to remove or remediate the rock obstruction are being explored. Meanwhile daily acoustic fish counting reports are being collected both above and below the rock slide. Mark-recapture methods are also being used to estimate the quantity of fish travelling through the site. Potential options to physically move fish upstream from the obstruction are also being explored.
Using the same unscientific method adopted by Chouinard and his crew, one could claim that decades of climbers using Patagonia equipment might have caused the slide that has endangered the Fraser fish. That would be ridiculous, but no less so than what Patagonia is claiming.
Perhaps Chouinard should use the inevitable proceeds from his film to help remediate the effects of the rock slide on the Fraser River wild Pacific salmon.
Chris Philips can be reached at: 206-284-8285 or email: email@example.com