The very last day that I piloted my 22 foot Salem Dory through big lumpy to the Rockpile five nautical miles west of the jaws of Yaquina Bay the salmon season ended. It ended in the most ignoble and unusual manner." It was the early 1980's and the coho quota for California, Oregon, and Washington had been met. I had been off the ocean for two weeks making repairs on the my boat the Yahoo. That is Yahoo as in "yahoo I am back in port and can now get my jaw rewired from the overbite I got from getting slammed around on the waves hitting the flat bottom of my boat."
I had been on the fishing grounds for about an hour when out of nowhere comes the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Marine Fisheries Agency in their patrol boats and low flying C130s, announcing all commercial salmon fishing was to cease immediately. It was not a fun moment, as failure to comply would result in boat seizure and hefty fines. Fortunately for me, I had an eager prospective fisherman, waiting on the dock back at Newport, holding a cashiers check to purchase my commercial fishing boat and license. So, the second happiest day of a boat owners life had arrived, the first being the day he buys the boat.
It was a bittersweet moment as I really enjoyed the lifestyle of commercial salmon fishing, but it no longer made economic sense in my priorities at the time. I did, however, stay in touch with the industry and continue to enjoy a day, every once in awhile, on the ocean fishing. I have followed the plight of the salmon over the past two decades and have seen the ups and downs of the runs. Although nothing like the grand days of old, the salmon somehow keep coming back and thriving.
Today, I learn the latest fate awaiting this great fish... global warming.. biologists predict the temperatures to rise an average of 0.2 to 1 degree per decade over the next century and this will probably wipe out some fragile runs of salmon. Heat waves will multiply and less snow will mean more rain which will flood out streams and wash out eggs. The noted culprit dams play a part too by slowing water flow, allowing it to warm and the loss of plants that shade tributary streams keeping them cool also contribute to the problem. Temperatures above 70 degrees are lethal to salmon and by the years 2020 to 2040 are going to see August mean air temperatures covering most of the Columbia Basin.
Salmon adapt and are resourceful and one of the wild cards for their survival is the way they handle and adapt to climate change. As a biologist observed,"If they weren't tough, they wouldn't still be around.