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Salmon Without Rivers: A History Of The Pacific Salmon Crisis [Paperback]

by James A. Lichatowich
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1, 2001 1559633611 978-1559633611 1

"Fundamentally, the salmon's decline has been the consequence of a vision based on flawed assumptions and unchallenged myths.... We assumed we could control the biological productivity of salmon and 'improve' upon natural processes that we didn't even try to understand. We assumed we could have salmon without rivers." --from the introduction

From a mountain top where an eagle carries a salmon carcass to feed its young to the distant oceanic waters of the California current and the Alaskan Gyre, salmon have penetrated the Northwest to an extent unmatched by any other animal. Since the turn of the twentieth century, the natural productivity of salmon in Oregon, Washington, California, and Idaho has declined by eighty percent. The decline of Pacific salmon to the brink of extinction is a clear sign of serious problems in the region.

In Salmon Without Rivers, fisheries biologist Jim Lichatowich offers an eye-opening look at the roots and evolution of the salmon crisis in the Pacific Northwest. He describes the multitude of factors over the past century and a half that have led to the salmon's decline, and examines in depth the abject failure of restoration efforts that have focused almost exclusively on hatcheries to return salmon stocks to healthy levels without addressing the underlying causes of the decline. The book:

  • describes the evolutionary history of the salmon along with the geologic history of the Pacific Northwest over the past 40 million years
  • considers the indigenous cultures of the region, and the emergence of salmon-based economies that survived for thousands of years
  • examines the rapid transformation of the region following the arrival of Europeans
  • presents the history of efforts to protect and restore the salmon
  • offers a critical assessment of why restoration efforts have failed

Throughout, Lichatowich argues that the dominant worldview of our society -- a worldview that denies connections between humans and the natural world -- has created the conflict and controversy that characterize the recent history of salmon; unless that worldview is challenged and changed, there is little hope for recovery. Salmon Without Rivers exposes the myths that have guided recent human-salmon interactions. It clearly explains the difficult choices facing the citizens of the region, and provides unique insight into one of the most tragic chapters in our nation's environmental history.

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Salmon Without Rivers: A History Of The Pacific Salmon Crisis + Salmon, People, and Place: A Biologist's Search for Salmon Recovery
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Editorial Reviews Review

The image of salmon battling upstream through whitewater cataracts to spawn in their birthplace is integral to any happy vision of the Pacific Northwest. Sadly, because they face more insidious obstacles than swift currents, few people today actually witness this remarkable spectacle. Armed with exhaustive research and an ability to synthesize his findings into a concise, readable indictment of the status quo, Jim Lichatowich, a fisheries scientist for 30 years, traces the sudden decline of Northwest salmon populations following the onset of Euro-American settlement. He points a finger at the usual suspects: logging, mining, damming, grazing, irrigation, commercial fishing, and development. Moreover, he cites the political establishment for a failure of nerve. Since the shift from a Native American "gift" economy based on sustainability to a profit economy based on self-interest and short-term financial gain, the historically resilient salmon have met one adversary after another, with little or no help from the legal apparatus charged with their protection. In fact, federal and state governments have responded to the deepening crisis mainly by building fish hatcheries up and down the West Coast. Contrary to the beliefs of entrenched bureaucrats and sport fishermen, says Lichatowich, hatcheries have merely diluted the gene pools of wild stocks while allowing resource extractors to continue their multifarious operations and politicians to shirk their responsibilities. In 1960, for instance, after decades of declining runs, the Washington Department of Fisheries reported, incredibly (and characteristically), that new advanced management techniques would soon result in "salmon without a river"--more welcome news to those who would continue to exploit these iconic fish and their habitat. At the dawn of the 21st century hundreds of hatcheries still operate, yet Northwest salmon populations have decreased 95 percent.

Lichatowich is a learned and persuasive advocate for wild salmon. He's also eloquent, as in this description of his first visit to the Columbia River's Grand Coulee dam:

As I sat there wondering and swatting mosquitoes, the face of the dam lit up. It was the start of the nightly laser show.... Appropriately, the lasers sent a series of large green dollar signs floating through the darkness. Then a series of laser salmon swam across the face of the dam. Here were the ideal salmon, I thought, the fish that fit perfectly into our worldview. We have complete control over them--press a button and they appear; press another and they change from green to red; press another and they swim over the dam. Salmon and dams are compatible--as long as you are not particular about the kind of salmon.
So what to do? Lichatowich opines that we need a new "worldview," one that places natural resources within a context of respect and sustainability. He looks to state and federal governments to enforce the protections already granted by laws like the Endangered Species Act. And he sees evidence that public perceptions may be changing on such issues as habitat conservation and biodiversity; breaching four dams on the lower Snake River to aid fish passage would have been unthinkable even in the early 1990s. Whether this new worldview can save salmon in time is another question. --Langdon Cook --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Lichatowich is a well-known fisheries biologist who has contributed extensively to the literature on salmonid populations during his 25-year career. His book offers a biologist's view of the salmon crisis in the Pacific Northwest, discussing the failure of restoration efforts, which have concentrated on returning salmon to the rivers without understanding the cause of the fish's decline. Two other works have recently covered this same subject: Freeman House's Totem Salmon: Life Lessons from Another Species (LJ 4/15/99) and Joseph E. Taylor III's Making Salmon: An Environmental History of the Northwest Fisheries Crisis (LJ 9/1/99). Totem Salmon is by far the easiest of the three to read, but Salmon Without Rivers and Making Salmon thoroughly address the complexity of the salmon crisis from both a biological and historical perspective. All three deserve a place in public and academic libraries. For a well-indexed, scholarly treatment of the problem, academic readers should also consider Upstream: Salmon and Society in the Pacific Northwest (National Academy Pr., 1996) for reference needs.ABarbara Butler, Oregon Inst. of Marine Biology, Charleston
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press; 1 edition (March 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559633611
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559633611
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #611,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jim Lichatowich, specializes in the history of salmon management and the life history and status of salmon and steelhead populations and the development of restoration plans in the Pacific Northwest. He is retired and lives in Columbia City, Oregon where he spends time writing and learning to carve birds and fish. To obtain autographed copies, visit Jim's website, for instructions.

Listen to Public Radio Earthfix interview done in November.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where have all the salmon gone? October 21, 1999
If you ever wondered why taypayers spend $1 billion a year on salmon, but there aren't any fish to catch, this is the book for you. "Salmon Without Rivers" brings together the scientific, economic, political and social causes that have resulted in salmon decline. If there is a philosopher when it comes to Northwest salmon issues, it is Jim Lichatowich, and his book will provide context and insight for anybody who is interested in the preservation of these Northwest icons. A significant book, by a thoughtful and wise man.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read to understand the decline of Pacific Salmon December 12, 1999
Pacific Salmon have been on the decline for well over a hundred years despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on hatcheries and recovery programs. This book makes clear where we went wrong and points positive directions to begin recovery. Extremely readable, impressively documented and written with the passion of someone who clearly loves the Pacific Northwest environment
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating, human, informed book January 16, 2001
As a freelance author writing a piece about salmon for a California-based magazine, this book was indispensible and eye-opening. It is unfailingly sensitive and intelligent about salmon, discussing the fish as fellow creatures in the "natural economy" in which we all live, rather than as mere commodities in the "industrial economy" that has transformed the West in the last 150 years. It is fascinating about the geology that shaped the salmon's environment, the evolutionary history of the fish, the relationship between Native Americans and salmon in the Northwest, and it provides a detailed history of the many factors that have led to the salmon's decline, including habitat destruction, misbegotten hatchery programs, overfishing, dams, mining, grazing, irrigation. If you like to read books about ecology, the creatures of the earth, fish, or the Northwest--you can't go wrong. This is a wonderful book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone that loves the Northwest! October 28, 2000
By Aim Far
I lived my whole life in this area and I had no idea the full extent of the damage we have done. Mr. Lichatowich presents us with a very well researched and thoroughly compeling book. I would recommend this to anyone that loves the Northwest.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Save the salmon and us December 24, 2000
A thoroughly researched and impassioned presentation including the history of salmon, their decline, why billions of tax dollars in restoration efforts have had paltry returns, and insights into the where we should go from here. A complex issue is examined from many perspectives in an easy to read and compelling book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in salmon.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes you pay attention to the world around us! December 17, 1999
Definitely a book that should be read by anyone who cares about nature. What is happening to the northwest salmon is indicative of what is going on in the rest of the world.
Aside from the fact that hatcheries do more harm than good, the hatchery program is an example of pork barrel politics at its finest. To think taxpayers put up the money for the salmon industries raw product in order for them to catch and pack the salmon, then charge us exorbitant amounts to buy it back. Only in America.
What is the next step? What can the average person do to help? Where do we go from here? These are questions that I came away with.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Morrison September 11, 2005
This is a must read book for anyone interested in salmon, rivers and the ecology and history of the Pacific Northwest. Excellent information and a good read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read August 2, 2005
This is an excellent book that documents the history of salmon, how native Americans viewed them and how modern Americans view them. It focuses on why the pacific northwest is facing a salmon crisis, and our failed attempts to replace what we have lost. Great read for anyone who is concerned about environmental issues.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book!
If you are passionate about salmon and fisheries in general you will like this book. It paints a very good picture of how badly we have hurt the salmon populations of the pacific... Read more
Published 2 months ago by C and S
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Reading
This book was mention at the coffee shop with comments was worth reading. Order for my husband who said it was worth the price and is excellent reading for the crisis taking place... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Receptionist
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book!
I love this book and I have recommended it to a lot of my friends and family. It is very well written and I just wish I had read it sooner!
Published 4 months ago by Oceanus
5.0 out of 5 stars perfect!
This is exactly what I needed for my classes. It looks great and will work well for my school classes!
Published 8 months ago by Erin
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Read
Loved every word. A little depressing at times but this book offers a wealth of information on the history of salmon, fisheries science, past resource management, natural history... Read more
Published 14 months ago by R. Swanz
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
I wasn't especially interested in or concerned about the Pacific salmon crisis when I was first assigned to read this book -- primarily because I don't live in the Pacific... Read more
Published on November 3, 2011 by Student
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book on the destruction of salmon
Lichatowich is a fisheries biologist who sees the big picture. In this book he provides a comprehensive history of Pacific Northwest salmon and their destruction by... Read more
Published on May 15, 2010 by Arthur Digbee
5.0 out of 5 stars Salmon without Rivers
Clearly the best source for the decline of Northwest anadramous fisheries. If readers want the truth, the bottomline, on the disastrous condition of those fish runs, this is the... Read more
Published on May 1, 2009 by Logan J. Bennett
4.0 out of 5 stars Pacific Northwest Salmon History Book
Salmon Without Rivers is a great book of historical facts. It includes many issues like; original salmon locations/populations, "Economy over Environment" issues, and the... Read more
Published on December 1, 2003 by Beth Carpenter
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