Salmon

The story from Alaska is the King salmon run didn’t show up this season.

I’ve always been amazed that biology has never sunk in with the general public and the agencies that try to keep the general public happy. If you kill fish before they can spawn they will not spawn, and baby fish will not be born, and the next year there will not be as many adult fish and then you’ll have to bring in truckloads of artifishally grown babies, etc etc etc.

I’ve watched the same thing happen much more quickly in the plant world.

There’s a beach berm near my home that used to grow wildflowers every summer. It also grew a few blackberry canes.

The wild flowers were quite lovely. Red Flanders poppies were the standout variety. Then the county road crew was told to get rid of the blackberries. So each summer they mowed that berm just after the poppies bloomed but before they could set seed. We no longer have wildflowers on that berm. instead we have a lot of short, thick, stubby, entrenched blackberry clumps.

If instead of bringing in a big, smelly, noisy, expensive mowing machine they had sent a guy with a shovel to dig out those few blackberry roots we’d now have more poppies and less blackberries and we’d have saved quite a bit of fuel and machinery costs.

The poppies were by-catch, collateral damage in the great scheme of public service. All those soft, benign sounding words that get invented because the public wants a certain action but can’t really face the consequences. Instead of addressing the root cause of a problem – a few blackberries, overfishing, pollution – we ask our public servants to slap a Bandaid over the wound, completely missing the actual cause of the malaise and exacerbating it in some unforseen way.

When a new supermarket – and I mean really super, in the sense of giant, high end, spacious, uber cool and trendy – opened near my mom’s house five or six years ago I walked through the fish section and was so shocked I swooned.

There were block long displays of whole fish on ice, there were tanks full of clams – in every variety, flown in from all over the world, there were whole squid and octopus. It rivaled the fish market of Kyoto.

But this was a suburban American neighborhood, not especially known for its appreciation of gourmet food. This was a meat and potatoes area. All I could think of was waste, they’re catching too many fish. There was no way in hell all that fish would be purchased before it spoiled.

I asked the guy behind the counter what would happen to any fish that didn’t sell. Bless his heart, he thought I was worried about the store’s bottom line. He said, “oh that’s all figured into the price.”

I knew then we were in trouble.

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