About Myths, Water and California’s Salmon Industry
Posted March 16, 2010 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places
Three cheers to the Los Angeles Times for running this column “Deceptive Arguments are Being Made in California’s Water Wars" by Michael Hiltzik about the misleading arguments made by some in the current debate over California water policy and protections for the Bay-Delta ecosystem and its fisheries.
The column points out that unemployment in the Central Valley is a long-term problem, exacerbated mostly by water rights and drought -- not fisheries protections. But perhaps the most important point is the often overlooked linkage between the mismanagement of water projects and the collapse of California’s salmon runs – leading to a two-year closure of the salmon fishery, along with the loss of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars to commercial and recreational fishing communities.
The salmon fishing community has noticed that they have been frequently ignored in the debate about water policy – and they’re speaking up. Here’s a post by Zeke Grader, on behalf of commercial salmon fishermen. Dick Pool writes here from the perspective of the recreational fishing community and the many jobs it represents. And just yesterday, Paul Johnson, the well known owner of Monterey Fish Market, cookbook author and sustainable fishing advocate, posted this piece on Grist and Ethicurian.
The Hiltzik column points out a clear pattern -- deceptive claims about the cause of water shortages, exaggeration of economic impacts, and failure to mention impacts to salmon and fishermen who depend on a healthy Delta ecosystem. Put this pattern together and one is left with a suggestion that we face a simple choice of “fish or people.” The reality, however, doesn’t correspond with this myth. People actually do value and depend on a healthy environment. They like to be able to serve their families local, sustainable seafood. There actually are limits to how much water we can squeeze out of any river system. And we have plenty of other options to meet our urban and agricultural water needs.
Facing the reality of California’s complex water supply picture may not be as simple as focusing on the myths – but it’s the path to finding workable solutions.
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