The Meaning of Salmon

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Advocacy, Clean Water, Watersheds, Wildlife

By Stephen C. Curro, Inland Ocean Coalition Volunteer

Say the word “salmon” and different people think of different things. To foodies, salmon is a tasty meal rich in omega-3s. To anglers, it’s a gorgeous fish to fool on a line. To Native Americans and First Nations Peoples, it’s an important part of their culture and the web of life itself. To naturalists and adventure seekers, it’s a symbol of the wild.

Salmon are remarkable creatures. Depending on the species, they can be over three feet in length and weigh around thirty pounds. They feed on zooplankton when they’re young and seek out smaller fish as they grow. They live most of their lives in cold Atlantic and Pacific waters and swim upstream into rivers to spawn. During these salmon runs they leap up waterfalls and brave hazards like grizzly bears just so they can give the next generation a chance to taste the open ocean.

In the spawning season, and indeed other seasons, salmon are a critical food source for bears, eagles and a number of other terrestrial and marine animals. Salmon are even responsible for contributing nutrients to riparian ecosystems when they travel upstream. When predators eat salmon, they disperse nitrogen and phosphorus into surrounding lakes and foliage, increasing plant growth by up to three times the normal rate! By nourishing predatory animals, salmon help to nourish the entire riparian ecosystem.

But it’s not just the animals that benefit from the salmon. During these salmon runs, billions of dollars are generated and thousands of jobs are supported through fishing, angling and ecotourism. Commercial fishing greatly benefits from the bounty of salmon stocks, supplying the filets to your own supermarket. Many indigenous tribes have depended on salmon as a primary source of food for thousands of years.   When one considers these facts, it should be apparent why salmon are considered a keystone species; a linchpin that holds an entire ecosystem together.

Companies and politicians that want to exploit mineral resources in the far north—namely Northern Dynasty’s proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska—seem to fail to understand why people are resistant to their plans. It’s true; such a mine would yield billions of dollars and provide jobs. But such development is only skin-deep. In time the coveted gold and copper will run out and the jobs they supported will end. What will be left is a scar in the land and a torrent of toxic runoff dumped into the surrounding waters.

If allowed, Northern Dynasties will dig a hole 4,000 feet deep. To contain toxic runoff, the company will construct a tailings dam three miles long and 740 feet high. That’s larger than the Hoover Dam! All of this will happen in the heart of salmon country. The size and scope of this operation will place the surrounding waters at risk of contamination from 10 billion tons of toxic waste rock. Once dug and abandoned, the gold and copper mines will need constant maintenance just to keep the runoff in check, and not all of it will be caught. The contamination will be even worse if an earthquake strikes the region or the tailings dam breaches.

All five species of salmon, including the coveted sockeye salmon, are found in abundance in the Bristol Bay area. These are not just blip populations; we are talking over 50% of the known fishery. Unnecessary mining in the area will devastate this concentration of salmon, and as a result cripple the global population. That would be a severe blow to ecotourism, angling and commercial fishing. Worse yet, it would disrespect and damage the cultures of native peoples who revere salmon, who depend on salmon for physical and spiritual sustenance. It would strain animal populations that all depend on salmon for food, on the land and in the sea, and fracture the web of life in ways we cannot yet predict. Such a breakdown would further impact food stocks, further impact culture and tourism, and so on. These are consequences that will outlive any mine by far, consequences that cannot be easily reversed, if at all.

So what is the lesser of two evils? Choosing to not exploit viable mining, or sacrificing a critical natural resource that in all likelihood cannot be replenished?

How should America regard salmon? A food source? A draw for tourism? A facet of indigenous culture?

The answer is all of the above, and that’s a treasure worth more than precious metals.

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to release the draft Environmental Impact Statement on or before the 22nd of February and there will be a 90 day public comment period. Stay tuned for how to make your voice heard on this critical issue. 

Algal Blooms and Protecting Waterways

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Clean Water, Watersheds

By Gregory Knight

The summer is approaching and it’s easy to notice the vegetation around us becoming more green. The days are longer and the weather is warmer. During the warmer part of the year we may also take notice of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in ponds, waterways, and lakes. HABs are present in all 50 states and harm aquatic ecosystems. With an increased understanding of the problem, we can take steps in the community to reduce this environmental stressor. This in turn can help protect the ocean.

Algae refers to a group of marine and freshwater organisms that photosynthesize. These organisms may or may not be related. Seaweed and kelp are examples. Algae is common in the environment; however, an abundance of algae is harmful. It impacts aquatic habitats, drinking water, and the economy.

Algae found growing in a pond on the University of Colorado’s East Campus in Boulder.

Certain varieties of algae produce toxins. Illness and even death may result from consuming contaminated fish or shellfish. Oxygen depletion can also result in HABs. This may suffocate animals or force them into migration. Economies are impacted by the decrease of consumable fish and recreational beaches are impacted with HABs.

Harmful algal blooms are continually being researched and explored today. Algal blooms happen for a number of different reasons and can have lasting effects on our environment. If we seek to reduce HABs in landlocked states we can have an impact in protecting the ocean.

During these warmer months when HABs are likely to occur we can take precautions to reduce the likelihood of occurrences. Nitrogen and phosphorus, for instance, lead to more outbreaks of HABs. It’s essential to use only the recommended amount of fertilizers or use organic and natural fertilizers strategically to reduce nutrients from running off into waterways. If we make sure our septic systems are maintained we can prevent wastewater contamination in waterways.

Understanding water quality issues like HABs can help establish cleaner waterways in local communities. Cleaner local waterways can result in a cleaner ocean, and through understanding we can help to enact regulations that will provide us with healthier aquatic and marine ecosystems.

 

Works cited

Davenport, Coral. “E.P.A. Blocks Obama-Era Clean Water Rule.” The New York Times, 31 Jan. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/01/31/climate/trump-water-wotus.html.

MacDonald, James. “The Problem With Algae Bloom.” Science & Technology, JSTOR. 24 Oct. 2017, daily.jstor.org/the-problem-with-algae-bloom/.

“Algal Blooms.” Colors of an Algal Bloom | CeNCOOS, www.cencoos.org/learn/blooms/habs/impacts.

“Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB)-Associated Illness.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Dec. 2017, www.cdc.gov/habs/prevention-control.html.

Living Near Clean Waterways Provides Health And Wellness Benefits

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Clean Water, Policy, Watersheds

By Kris Lindhal, realtor and water enthusiast from Blaine, Minnesota

The importance of clean, vibrant water cannot be understated. The environment constitutes our home and the arteries that deliver life-sustaining elements should be treated as sacred. But many people may not realize that these resources can also have a profound impact on our everyday health and wellness. Consider these positive effects of living near a clean lake, stream, river or sea, and how you can help keep them pure.

Ocean Air Combats Free Radicals

When we are exposed to secondhand smoke, exhaust fumes and industrial pollutants, free radicals can damage the cells in your body that may lead to cancer. Spending time by large water sources such as the ocean and breathing in the negative ions associated with sea air helps the body acquire oxygen and fight off free radicals. This healthy state helps improve our cognitive powers and brings serotonin levels into balance.

Psychological Effects of Natural Waterways

Few would dispute the fact that spending time by the water has a calming effect on the mind and spirit. While the high levels of negative ions in the air helps balance out serotonin levels, the sounds of waves breaking on the shore or the trickle of a stream flowing over rocks can relieve significant stress. Like calming music sounds can have a powerful impact on everyday moods. Repetitive sounds, such as the soft sounds of moving water can have a meditative effect.

How Homeowners Can Help Keep Water Clean

Legislation such as the Clean Waters Act was established to protect the environment from the harmful actions of industry. But the average home also has a significant impact on water purity. In addition to reducing our carbon footprint at home, consider these simple things homeowners can do to help protect our waterways:

Manage Hard Surfaces: Things like driveways and walkways tend to be pathways for pollutants to travel into storm drains. Use more gravel and materials that allows water to return to the Earth directly. If unavoidable, install a trench or catch area to capture water.

Watch What You Flush: Hard materials and products should never be flushed down the toilet. These pose a problem for treatments plants and can end up in waterways. Chemicals and medications should also be limited to trash disposal.

Proper Disposal: Automobiles use a variety of environmentally harmful compounds such as oil, gasoline, antifreeze and others. Home car care should be conducted with a plan to prevent spillage and collection in mind. Once these dangerous chemicals hit the ground, they will find their way to the water table.

Environmentally Friendly Products: Switch to all-natural and environmentally friendly dish soaps, laundry detergents and other products that routinely find their way down the drain. When purchasing items to keep your home clean and fresh, consider adopting a philosophy of do no harm in your daily life.

 

 

Follow the Waterways

Posted Posted in TopStory, Watersheds

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A recap of my first week at the mountain research station includes the following:

  • Endless bottles of lake water, containing a variety of zooplankton and phytoplankton
  • Awareness of what I deposit into surrounding areas (trash, etc.)
  • A heightened sense of adventure
  • A conquered hike to Rollins/ Corona Pass and the Needle Eye Tunnel (which if you haven’t read about- you should)
  • A continuous love for the ocean- as well as lakes and streams
  • An increase in motivation to combine freshwater and marine science studies in graduate school

 

With that said, I have decided to show through pictures rather than text, the effects of alpine watersheds on the ocean, and why it is important to keep them clean!

 

Start:

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Finish!