Review – Salmon Without Rivers by Jim Lichatowich

Salmon Without Rivers is an excellent background text on the history of the salmon.  Starting deep in prehistory, Lichatowich takes the reader on a tour through the salmon’s long and storied past. This ancient fish has survived climatic changes, geographic uplift, lava flows, and thus evolved into the wide variety of salmon we know today.

However, is the last 150 years, humans have played a central role in bringing about the downfall of this mighty fish.  A combination of logging, mining, overfishing, poor fishery management, hatchery policies not based on scientific review, and other forms of habitat degredation have lead to a dramatic collapse in salmon stocks.

Lichatowich is careful not to place blame for the decline in salmon on any one industry or factor.  Rather, he makes it very clear that a wide variety of factors have caused problems for salmon.  It is a worldview that places industry and commercialism higher on the economic totem pole than ecology and stewardship that has resulted in salmon declines.

One area I wish the author would have covered in greater detail is discussing possible solutions to the salmon crisis, and giving the reader information on how to make a difference. The author does give a broad and detailed look at the problems facing salmon, but as a reader I put the book down feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the scope of the problem.

Nonetheless, the message of stewardship is strong, and smacks of Aldo Leopold’s cries for an ecological conscience half a century ago.  The book is easy to read and definitely gives the reader a thorough understanding of the issues facing salmon from a conservationist point of view.  I would strongly encourage anyone interested in the history and future of the salmon of the Pacific Northwest to add this to their bookshelf.

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