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Saving the Salmon

Raising Public Awareness Before It’s Too Late—
the Ecosystem is in trouble

The Snake River salmon are heading toward extinction.

Does this mean no more Pacific salmon on the menu? Not exactly. At least not now.

Salmon fishing in Alaska is still a healthy enterprise. Pacific salmon raised in hatcheries can be caught in season. Salmon farmed in Canada are also available year round. But salmon farming can pollute the waters and consume more fish protein in the form of feed than they produce as mature salmon.

It is the wild or native salmon of the Snake/Columbia watershed that are in serious trouble and whose genetic heritage and survival knowledge may be lost.

The Snake River salmon is a keystone species, which means that other species depend on them. In fact, 137 other animal and plant species in their habitat depend on them for life. Salmon live most of their lives at sea storing up ocean nutrients in their bodies. But salmon migrate home to their natal freshwater creeks to spawn. After spawning they die and their bodies enrich the stream ecosystem with the nutrients they brought from the ocean environment.

Salmon are also an indicator species. At this time, all five remaining stocks of wild Snake River salmon are predicted to be extinct in less than 20 years. A sixth already is. If the salmon are in trouble, the ecosystem is in trouble.

The Last 200 Years of History

When Lewis and Clark arrived at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers in the early 1800s, the salmon were so plentiful that Clark wrote that you could cross the river on the backs of the fish. Today you cross the river on the spines of hydroelectric dams.

Today, wild salmon return in numbers that are about 10% of their historical returns. Commercial fisheries have collapsed.

What went wrong?

Starting with the gold rush of the 1850s, the salmon’s decline has echoed the growth and spread of the human population. The waves of settlers who arrived to exploit the “unlimited” resources of the Northwest all left their mark.

The “Four H’s”—habitat degradation (mining, logging, farming irrigation, industry), unchecked harvesting (canneries and over-fishing), commercial hatcheries, and hydropower generation—have cumulatively caused the salmon’s decline.

The Snake River Salmon Story Needs to Be Told

The decline of the Snake River salmon population is a complex, important, and sometimes contentious issue. To raise public awareness of the problem, TerraFocus has conceived a one-hour documentary video targeted to air on TV to reach as many people as possible.

Our concept for the video is not only to inform the general public about the plight of the salmon and the condition of its river environments, but to ask the viewer to consider how we use our natural resources. We also want to awaken concern about the condition of the natural world we are shaping for future generations.

A central theme of the video is that the condition of the salmon is an all-too-real indicator of how human activities have degraded the ecosystem. The story of the salmon and the Snake/Columbia watershed points out how we use, and sometimes mis-use or even use up, our natural resources.



Take On an Important Project

We have a concept. We have a script outline. We’ve made two trips to the Snake River area and have scouted shooting sites. We’ve interviewed over 50 people. The shooting is ready to get under way. But we have not secured the necessary funding.

If your group is able to take it on, we would like to turn the project over to you so that the video can be made and seen. If you’re interested, please contact us.