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Comment: Former library book with normal markings, clean pages, good binding, minor cover and edge wear
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King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon Paperback – December 28, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (December 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813342996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813342993
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Drawing on a combination of scientific, historical, sociological and political research, Montgomery, a professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington, traces the tragic and steady decline in salmon populations in Europe, New England, Eastern Canada and the Pacific Northwest. Using his detailed analysis of the destruction of native salmon runs at each site, Montgomery demonstrates that the decline has been caused by the same four actions: polluting rivers in the name of technology, changing the natural environment by damming rivers and clear-cutting forests, overfishing, and ignoring regulations and laws imposed to help salmon populations recover. Montgomery's history of salmon moves from awe inspiring (their ancestors go back some 40 million years) to heartbreaking ("Lonesome Larry was the only sockeye [salmon] that made it back [to Redfish Lake] in 1992"). But when the book's focus changes from fish to the likes of Queen Anne, King George, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, who were all unsuccessful in stopping the salmon's slide toward extinction, Montgomery's tone becomes decidedly bleaker. Though the nature of the salmon's struggle to survive against these recurring threats to its life and habitat causes the book to be somewhat repetitive, Montgomery saves his best writing for the last chapter, where he courageously outlines the scientific evidence surrounding the salmon's plight and presents a no-nonsense plan for the fish's tenuous hope for survival. Photos and maps not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A sorry, scary future for salmon and their ecosystem if this author's warnings go unheeded." -- Kirkus

"Montgomery's history of salmon moves from awe inspiring... to heartbreaking." -- Publishers Weekly

"This is a fascinating and important book. It should be read by us all." -- The Economist

"[An] engaging new study." -- OnEarth

More About the Author

David R. Montgomery was born in 1961 Stanford, California, and studied geology at Stanford University before earning his Ph.D. in geomorphology at UC Berkeley. He teaches at the University of Washington where he studies the evolution of topography and how geological processes shape landscapes and influence ecological systems. He loved maps as a kid and now writes about the relationship of people to their environment and other things that interest him. In 2008 he was named a MacArthur Fellow. He lives with his wife Anne in Seattle, Washington.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 14 customer reviews
Well after reading this book I'm very depressed.
G. Powell
An intensely researched book presenting an eye opening history of the decline of one of our most important resources.
Larry S. Leveen
Salmon stocks continued to decline to near extinction in Eastern U.S. waters.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By COWolf on March 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Montgomery's book is centered on the notion that we are failing to learn from history when it comes to the Pacific salmon crisis. In England, eastern North America, and now the Pacific Northwest, human actions that inevitably destroy the "king of fish" have been repeated. Overfishing, blocking salmon from their spawning habitat, and causing the deterioration of habitat quality through pollution, land clearing, and simplification of the river are the culprits. Montgomery also tells why hatcheries are not the solution and never have been. He closes with a clear and, to me, indisputable analysis of what we must do to preserve and recover this most amazing of creatures. The book is quite accessible to a layperson; you don't need a scientific background, or even any knowledge of the problems facing Pacific salmon, in order to enjoy and learn from the book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By DA Weibel on September 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I read this book with great interest and I am saddened by what I learned. I was raised in a town on the Columbia River and as a young fisherman, heard stories of large historic Salmon runs described in near myth-like terms. Back then I was taught to blame the tribes, gill netters and other commercial fisherman for the diminished runs. If only the problem were that simple. As Montgomery clearly describes, through an interesting comparative analsis, Salmon runs have historically been driven into extinction, first in Europe, then England, then New England, and now the Pacific Northwest in more or less the same fashion. As the areas around native salmon waters became populated and developed, our society has made certain choices, economic v. environmental, which not surpisingly have nearly always favored the economic. As a result, salmon runs were decimated by the construction of dams, overfishing, pollution, misguided hatchery programs, the clearing and diking of streams, destruction of wetlands, logging practices, and simply by population growth and development, which Montgomery describes as a death by a thousand cuts. Presently, salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest are at just 6-7% of their historical numbers. As the region's population is expected to double within this generation, conditions will likely only get worse. While Montgomery identifies steps than can be taken to revive these runs, it seems doubtful there is enough public sentiment or political will to effect these changes. If anything, this books is a sad commentary on our society's ability to manage its resources. Salmon, which are a symbol of the great Pacific Northwest, will soon be gone for good.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Chris on May 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Montgomery shows that if the toxic and human waste poured into the rivers of the industrial revolution did not poison Salmon, the incipient capitalist institution of commercial fishing would swallow most of them.. Montgomery quotes records from the holder of fishing rights on a specific part of the Thames river. The records of this particular holder shows he caught 66 salmon in 1801, 18 in 1812 and only 2 in the 1960's, the annual salmon catch of England and Wales was a quarter of that a century earlier. He quotes an account of MP Robert Wallace about parliament blocking effective salmon protection laws at the behest of the commercial fishing industry, dam operators, etc.
He quotes accounts from the early 19th century including from Henry David Thoreau about the severe depletion of salmon stocks in Northeast U.S. rivers caused by the disruption of salmon spawning beds by the transportion of boats and logs down the river, dams, factory poisons and so on.
Salmon stocks continued to decline to near extinction in Eastern U.S. waters. The Danish government agreed to ban its fisherman from engaging in their highly destructive open ocean fishing off the coast of Greenland, where salmon from Britain, the U.S, and Canada often converge for their sojourns in the Ocean, in 1972. However Danes continued to fish heavily near the Greenland shore, and used vessels under other nation's flags to circumvent their salmon catch quota under the 1972 agreement.
Montgomery shows how salmon have been sacrificed since the Great Depression in favor of the dams which have provided water and electricity in the Eastern Pacific Northwest from the Snake and Colombia Rivers. In 1937, U.S.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. Powell on January 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I read Mr. Montgomery's other book on dirt and so picked this gem up at the local library. I'm a sport fisherman in the PNW and so I care deeply about salmon and I recognize that as a fisherman I am part of the problem and as a homeowner I'm again part of the habitat degradation just by the mere fact I live here. So I am interested in ways that I can mitigate my impact and improve salmon runs. Well after reading this book I'm very depressed. It looks bad for the fish and it doesn't seem like the measures we are doing are anywhere near enough.

On the book, it's a bit dry being a history of fish book, but that salmon are over a million years old was something I didn't know. That salmon used to be all through out Europe and that the Dutch are to blame for being greedy with the open ocean fishing while others tried to restore their runs. It's all being played out again here in the PNW. That salmon are like weeds and will repopulate a river given any chance at all gives me hope but we are so destroying their habitat with endless strip malls, levees, and housing on flood plains. Maybe after the floods of 2008/9 people will finally understand that the word "flood plain" is descriptive of what happens and won't build there.

Anyway if you are a sport fisherman and want to argue about the treaties with the tribes, there is a good explanation of who granted who rights to fish, and where the fish went from that deal. And if you are a school teacher and want to set up some habitat, or hatchery there is some information there as well.

My only quibble with the book is that there are allegations that escaped Atlantic salmon from fish pens are breeding and will take over the native streams is misfounded.
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