Most major fishery stocks internationally are in decline. Many salmon runs in this bioregion that were once economic mainstays are now either extinct or threatened.
Sockeye salmon preparing to spawn.
Salmon and shellfish have been dietary mainstays of the Pacific Northwest for ten thousand years. Traditionally, salmon were caught close to their spawning areas using a variety of weirs and traps. This allowed very precise management of specific runs. In recent decades, as demand grew and salmon runs waned, fishermen began taking to estuaries and inlets in gill-net boats, then further to sea in seine boats, and finally took to trolling on the open ocean.
The farther from the salmon's home streams that they are caught, the more likely the catch is to be drawn from a mixture of different stocks, some weak and some strong. If fishing rules are set to allow a reasonable catch of healthy stocks, weak stocks are fished harder than they can withstand. What's more, the rules are often set ahead of time, based on imperfect estimates of how numerous a year's run will be.
Fisheries managed with reliable prosperity in mind attempt to reverse this trend. The schedule of permissible fishing times is revised in the course of the season to reflect emerging information about the strength of that year's run in each river system. Fishing techniques are adjusted to avoid species whose populations are at risk and focus on those which can sustain large-scale fishing. Where that is impossible, fish are captured live, allowing scarcer species to be released unharmed.
Another benefit to this approach is that fish are treated with more care as they are landed, creating a product of Value-Added Production, and manifesting appropriate respect for them. Those top-notch fish can bring higher prices, helping to sustain Local Economies without harming fish stocks. Whether for salmon or other fisheries, such as crab, halibut or herring, the guiding principles are selectivity (to focus the catch on populations that can sustain harvest); quality (to create the highest value from each fish caught); and adaptation (to adjust fishing and harvesting rules to match the varying abundance and life cycle of each species). Fisheries ultimately depend on the delivery of marine and freshwater Ecosystem Services that can only be provided by restoring habitat on a large scale. Areas should be selected for protection and restoration based on their overall contribution to a species' health. For instance, "anchor habitats" for salmon have been identified that serve as critical refuges during difficult years. If these habitats are degraded, runs may face particularly heavy losses in certain years.
Ecological Land-Use and Green Building channel development away from riparian areas and minimize watershed impacts. Agriculture can maintain the health of riparian areas and avoids pesticide use. Better materials cycles prevent toxic contamination of rivers, estuaries, and oceans. Well-managed fisheries that do not deplete directly fished or indirectly affected stocks are currently in the process of being Product Labeling world-wide, initially under the auspices of the Marine Stewardship Council. This will give them beneficial differentiation in the marketplace.
Tailor fishing quotas to the intensity of harvest that each population of fish can sustain, making sure to protect weak runs from by-catch in the pursuit of healthier stocks. Treat fish with care to show them proper respect and to return as much value as possible to the human communities where they are landed. Restore and maintain the ecosystems upon which stocks depend.