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King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon Paperback – December 28, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (December 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813342996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813342993
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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 1821....by 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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great, accessible history and analysis of British and North American human interaction with salmon. In many ways the story is an excellent puzzle piece, connecting various other historical narratives spanning time from the Middle Ages through present with a focus on post 18th century events. The book is not a about pointing fingers but rather about understanding the decisions and actions that have led to the current state of salmon fishing and lay out options for the future. While it lagged a bit for me in the middle, it is pretty short and the beginning and end move rather quickly. While not prize winning prose, the author makes a discernible attempt (successfully) to liven up what could otherwise have been a dry timeline of legislative history and interpretation of social factors affecting salmon fishing.
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