Are we trying to to save salmon or to stop farming and development?


Author:  Anne Hayes

Last Thursday, Congresswoman Jackie Speier published an article in the San Francisco Chronicle's Open Forum, charging that "Special interests threaten salmon fisheries".  While she brought some needed attention to this issue, PLF believed that her editorial struck a sour tone, in that it was transparently aimed at supporting salmon fishermen, many of whom are her constituents, and placing blame on inland farmers and developers. 

In response, I authored this opinion piece, trying to point out that while her concern was not misplaced, her viewpoint was.  It is just a little too convenient to put the blame on one group or another when it comes to complex problems such as what we are facing in California's delta.  Surely, farming and development have impacts on our salmon fisheries.  But then, so do wastewater treatment, urban diversion, ocean conditions, and so forth.

How ironic that in a piece in which we were trying to point out that finger-pointing was counterproductive to actual problem-solving, PLF was accused of being paid mouthpieces to farmers. Well, for the record, PLF does not get paid by any of its clients, some of whom, by the way, have been fishermen! 

In the end, the real danger of trying to pin the blame on one or two disfavored constituencies in the case of the salmon is that over-simplifying the problem will allow people to ignore other factors that contribute to salmon decline.  If we shut down farming and development but nevertheless fail to save the salmon, we all lose–including fishermen.