In our efforts to grow and modernize, we are slowly destroying all the ecosystems needed for salmon to be healthy. Filled wetlands, intoxicated water, and new roads are all pushing the populations to the brink. As a result, the world will experience an imbalance across an entire food web with over 50 species of mammals, birds, and fish.
There have been numerous efforts to save native salmon populations over the years. But the results are not impressive. Here’s why.
The Last-Minute Rush
Unfortunately, the world didn’t realize how bad the salmon situation was until the populations reached 3% of historic abundance. That is when legislatures stepped in, and hatcheries popped up along the rivers. To make things right, they might have to remove mainstream dams, eliminate some salmon hatchery programs and displace thousands of people. That is how critical this situation is at the moment.
Poor Hatchery Programs
Salmon hatcheries help bring the wild populations up. These programs have been around for the last 100 years, but the salmon populations are still not where they need to be, and we know why. Wild fish are good at adapting to challenges of each rivers, but the same cannot be said about non-native species. We are weakening these wild stocks by planting steelhead, allowing them to interbreed.
Treating Symptoms Instead of Causes
Most money spent on saving salmon goes to short term solutions such as funding hatcheries and engineering habitats. The fish farms are not very successful, as mentioned earlier, and planted habitats wash away with the next big storm.
The best thing to do would be protecting the remaining ‘healthy’ rivers, as reclaiming damaged habitats costs a lot of money. That said, conservation efforts should go towards making permanent investments on the salmon strongholds. It might be our only solution to keeping this fragile food web intact.