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    Camp Water

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    What About Salmon Protection?

    Joel La Follette - Saturday, May 13, 2017
    What about salmon protection?

    That the food fish of our state need better protection that is now afforded his agreed.
    You have already or doubtless will received considerable literature on the subject, but no matter how attractive the argument, stop and consider how much it may be colored by self interest.

    The United States Bureau of Fisheries are the greatest expert authorities on the subject and have no ax to grind. Read what they say.

    Department of Commerce and Labor
    Office of the Secretary, Washington DC
    Hon. Charles W Fulton

    Sir: The Department realizes the importance of various questions affecting the salmon fishery in the Columbia River brought up in your letter of the 18th ultimo, and has taken this opportunity to make a thorough investigation of the matter. There can be no question that the status of the fishery is unsatisfactory, and that under existing conditions the trend may be steadily downward, with the result that in a comparatively few years the run of salmon will be reduced to such degree that thousands of fishermen maybe thrown out of employment and much capital rendered idle.

    The federal government is without any jurisdiction whatsoever in the premises, and the duty of conserving the salmon supply in the Columbia devolves on the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho; but this department has been charged by Congress with the important fish culture operations in the Columbia basin, and has felt compelled from time to time to direct attention to the necessity for giving adequate protection to the various species of salmon frequenting that stream.

    The department is convinced that the run of salmon in the Columbia can be amply maintained for an indefinite period if artificial propagation is supplemented by rational protection; but artificial propagation alone cannot cope with the situation, and, as a matter of fact, the recent experience of the department has shown that its benefit labors are rendered almost futile by the failure of the states to appreciate this fact.

    The department sees no reason for the elimination of fish wheels from the river as there is no evidence to show that this form of apparatus is particularly destructive to salmon. The condition that is especially favorable for the passage of salmon, namely very high water, renders the wheels unserviceable and, on the other hand, periods of very low water, are also unfavorable for the wheels. During the past two or three seasons the catch of salmon by wheels has been comparatively small; but even if it were very large it would be a fact of no special significance in the present connection.

    The Columbia River is, however, made to yield a quantity of salmon far greater than regard for the future supply permits, and the drain is yearly becoming more serious. No one familiar with the situation can fail to appreciate the menace to the perpetuity of the industry that is furnished by the concentration of a tremendous amount of fixed and floating apparatus of capture in or near the mouth of the river.

    This apparatus comprises about 400 pound nets or traps, over 80 long-sweep seines, and more than 2200 gill nets, the last having an aggregate approximate link over 570 miles; and these appliances capture more than 95% of the fish taken in Oregon and Washington waters of the river, the figures for 1904 being nearly 34,000,000 pounds, or 98.7 percent of the total yield. Under such conditions, it is self evident that but comparatively few fish are permitted to reach the upper waters where the spawning grounds are located.

    The details of the measures necessary to place to save an industry of the Columbia River on a permanent basis cannot be elaborated by the department at this time, but in general it may be said there should be (1) a restriction on the amount of apparatus employed in a given section; (2) an adequate, weekly closed season covering possibly two days at first, the reduced later if the circumstances warrant it; (3) an annual closed season, preferably at the beginning of the salmon run, and (4) joint arrangement between the states, so that protective measures can be harmonious.

    Respectfully, Oscar S Straus

    Oscar Solomon Straus (December 23, 1850 – May 3, 1926) was United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor under President Theodore Roosevelt from 1906 to 1909. Straus was the first Jewish United States Cabinet Secretary.

    I came across this article in the Madras paper while doing research on another project and thought I'd share this perspective from 1908. 
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