Elwha dams: Will bringing down NW dams really help salmon?May 16, 2014
A great article from Daniel Chasan looks at the recent Elwha River restoration, and the prospects of future dam removal in the Northwest. But is dam removal by itself enough to restore the historic runs of fish to these rivers? Chasen also looks at the other less flashy, but equally as important issues impacting the future of salmon recovery. Check out the article, Elwha dams: Will bringing down NW dams really help salmon?, at Crosscut.com. WFC Executive Director, Kurt Beardslee and WFC Aquatic Ecologist, Nick Gayeski were both interviewed for the article. Below are a few quotes from the article:
"'Build it and they will come,' the mysterious prophecy from the movie Field of Dreams that brings the long-deceased 1919 Chicago White Sox to a Midwestern cornfield, has been reinterpreted as "demolish it and they will come." But will they really?"
"Maybe not. The steep gradients and big gravel that presumably gave big fish an evolutionary advantage — it takes a big fish to move big rocks into redds, or nests, on the river bed — are still there. But big chinook tend to be old chinook. Wild Fish Conservancy aquatic ecologist Nick Gayeski says he's pretty confident those legendary 100-pounders had to have been 8 years old, or around that. 'You definitely need older fish to see the larger fish,' agrees NOAA scientist George Pess. Pess suggests that to reach 100 pounds, 'they'd have to be at least 5, perhaps 6 or 7.'"
"We 'keep hearing this mantra that it's all about habitat,' Beardslee says. But it's hard to blame everything on habitat when you go to west Vancouver Island in the middle of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and you find rivers, he says, that are 'in old-growth forests without a human trail that are down to the last couple of percent of the fish that they had 50 years ago.' The explanation seems obvious: 'The Southeast Alaska troll fishery takes 68 percent.' Beardslee, whose organization does research along the B.C. coast, says, 'It's crazy when we have pristine habitats that are basically barren.'
"...Beardslee argues, fishery managers still assume that young or old, a chinook is a chinook. In other words, we're 'still managing them as a commodity.'"