Did you know the Pacific Northwest was once teeming with Giant “June Hog” Salmon that weighed around 80-125 pounds? It’s true. So what happened to these spectacular salmon specimens?
In addition to their impressive size, these salmon were noteworthy for their huge migrations. They would swim as many as 1,200 miles up the Columbia River, into Canada.
Once existing in great abundance, these salmon fed Native Americans for thousands of years. But with white settlers came canneries. Within 17 years, 39 canneries were being supplied with 15,000 metric tons of salmon each year.
Next came the fish wheels. These huge trapping mechanisms decimated Giant Salmon stocks in the Pacific Northwest. Although they were later outlawed in Oregon, the damage was already done.
Concerned with preserving salmon stocks, Roosevelt commented on the state of the fisheries. He called them “but a fraction of what they were 25 years ago.”
But history, as they say, repeats itself. And it most certainly echoes the consequences of our past mistakes if they remain in effect. Although our seas and rivers might seem deceptively endless, fish stocks are finite and susceptible to extinction.
Overfishing is nothing new. Ultimately, overly enthusiastic fishing and dam building led to the demise of the Giant Salmon. Plundered by fishing, their breeding and migration ground blocked by dams, the June Hogs didn’t stand a chance.
Today, global fish stocks are deteriorating in much the same way. Illegal overfishing, climate change, and pollution are all contributing to the demise of vital fish populations.
Although there are still salmon in the Pacific Northwest, you won’t find one over 50 lbs. The great Chinook salmon, the giant June Hogs, serve as a reminder and a warning. Overfishing has consequences – for both nature and man. The fate of the Giant Salmon does not have to be the fate of the Grouper, or other endangered fish species.
Vulnerable sea life all over the globe need our awareness, our action, and our voice. They’ve suffered from our interference, but they can benefit from our cooperation, aid, and support.