I am angered, moved and remain hopeful by the Patagonia film, “Artfishal,” which takes an unflinching look at the heart-wrenching challenges to the survival of wild salmon. Wild salmon face an upstream battle from hydropower, pollution, habitat loss, over-fishing, aquaculture, climate change and the hatchery system.
However, taking aim at the Lower Elwha hatchery is harsh and a bit sanctimonious when one considers that for more than 100 years tribes were stripped of their ancestral lands and livelihood by unwitting development of this corner of Washington.
I don’t think it’s fair to ask tribes to be the first in line to wait again for the recovery of wild salmon before fishing their tribal lands. It wasn’t until 1974 when Judge Boldt affirmed the right to fish to the tribes, and by then the hydroelectric dams on the Elwha had reduced fish returns to 2 percent of the pre-dam returns. To supplement the fish in the few miles of river below the Elwha Dam, the Tribe built the Elwha Fish Hatchery in 1975. During removal of the dams a new hatchery was built to replace the aging one.
To target this tribal hatchery, and there are problems, puts undue blame on the tribes. Treaty rights matter and so does shared sacrifice. To provide chinook salmon to feed our resident orcas we need to restrict commercial and sport fishing, and people need to take less of their share. Simultaneously we have to make a greater commitment to the health of inland spawning habitat, just to name a few.
The tribes, like the wild salmon, are victims of our over-consumption lifestyle. I welcome another film that takes an unflinching look at our arrogance and ignorance of nature. Patience and equity are needed as we correct our ways.