Monthly Archives: May 2010

Shall orca fans boycott CA tomatoes?

This well-written story about the CA salmon fishery in the High Country News connects the fate of southern residents with the agricultural industry of the Central Valley.

The past five years have already been harrowing, with a round of fishing bans to protect declining salmon runs in the Klamath River near the California-Oregon border. While those stocks are now in better shape, the main population of local salmon — the celebrated Sacramento River fall run of chinooks — is in steep decline. For the past two years, the federal government has banned commercial salmon fishing in California and most of Oregon.

Then, in April, Collins and other fishermen received what seemed like good news. The Pacific Fishery Management Council, a 14-member assembly that makes fishing recommendations to the federal government, voted to open salmon season in California and Oregon. But, particularly in California, the season will be just a fraction of what it once was: Beginning July 1, some 400 commercial fishing boats could be chasing roughly 33,500 salmon.

“It works out to about 90 fish a boat. Eight years ago, you’d catch that in a morning,” Collins says, and then pauses. “I’m hoping a lot of guys aren’t going to bother.”

In comparison, the southern resident orca population needs about 1000 good-sized chinook per day.  So, the limited opening that the Pacific Fishery Management Council has allowed could potentially reduce Southern Resident food supply by about one month.  We’ll have to delve into the PFMC analysis to understand what led them to decide that allowing OR and CA fishers to harvest 93,000 salmon from all runs would be “safe.”  Is that “safe” for the salmon populations, the orca populations, the human fishers’ livelihood, or some subset of influential politicians?

This spring, Democratic Congressmen Jim Costa and Dennis Cardoza and Republican George Radanovich, who represent the valley, wrote to Gary Locke, the Cabinet secretary who oversees the federal salmon-protection program, to decry a “double standard” of allowing salmon fishing while farmers still face water cutbacks. Then in April, Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic senator and former mayor of San Francisco, joined Costa and Cardoza in again complaining that “tens of thousands of acre-feet (of water) are now flowing unchecked past the pumps and into the ocean.”

Despite those water cutbacks, California still managed to grow its largest tomato crop in history last year. The 13.3-million-ton harvest was so big, in fact, that some farmers tilled a portion of their crop back into the ground. “It’s the greediest bunch of creeps I’ve ever seen in my life,” says fisherman Collins. “We haven’t worked in two years, and they’re crying like little girls.”

Perhaps it’s time to ascertain which crops are most water-intensive and to a coast-wide or even Inter/national boycott of them.  The article suggests cotton and tomatoes.  What other crops would be a worthy target?  Would progressive stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods participate?  Or would this need to be a grassroots effort activated by orca enthusiasts around the country and globe?

BP threatens Northwest’s orcas
This morning, John Burbank scribed a disconcerting account of oil politics in the southern residents’ backyard.  The following paragraphs provide a glimpse into how the complex interactions of the petroleum industry and our State political system increase risks for killer whales in the Northwest.

BP also has its own salaried lobbyist dedicated to keeping watch over the Legislature. Their man in Olympia is William Kidd, whom BP pays $120,000 a year to prevent any new taxes or regulations from becoming law. He also has an expense account to wine and dine legislators. For example, Kidd took Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, out to dinner on July 12 in Boise. He took Morris out to dinner again on July 14. And again on Sept. 2. And again on Nov. 4 and Nov. 5 in Regina, Saskatchewan. And again on Dec. 8 in San Diego. (Lobbyist expenses are public records in Washington, and available at )

What’s all the interest in Jeff Morris? He is the speaker pro tem, sort of like vice president of the House of Representatives. He also sits on the House Technology, Energy and Communications Committee, which deals with energy production. He is the CEO of Energy Horizons, which is sponsored by the oil company ConocoPhillips, and by the giant utility Pacificorps, among others. Morris’ district includes Anacortes, home of two oil refineries, and is close to two more refineries, including the BP refinery in Blaine recently cited for 13 serious safety violations.

So why not wine and dine Rep. Morris and make sure that a word here or there could cast doubt about legislation for cleaning up Puget Sound? It is money well spent. BP refines 225,000 barrels of crude oil a day in Washington. The Clean Water Act would have cost BP at least $200,000 a day in new fees. Paying Kidd $120,000 a year and picking up the meal tabs for a few legislators was a wise investment — for BP, not for us. Not for Puget Sound. And not for our future.

We have at least 5 refineries in western Washington: 2 in Anacortes (Tesoro and Shell), Tacoma (U.S. Oil & Refining), 1 in Blaine (BP’s Cherry Point Refinery), and 1 in Ferndale (Conoco Phillips).  Anyone know how much oil is transported to/from each of these facilities, and by what means (tankers, pipeline, rail, truck, etc)?

Salmon & orcas in Patagonia catalog

The new Patagonia catalog (out yesterday) has a full page spread by Steven Hawley entitled “The Idaho Tide.”  It eloquently connects the wolves of Idaho’s Frank Church Wilderness with Snake River salmon and the southern residents, and it includes a great paragraph (below) with a quote-worthy line by Ken Balcomb:

“I think any reasonable biologist will tell you the only way to take advantage of [the intact salmon habitat left on the Snake River] is to tear out the dams.” — Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research

The full text of the piece is appended (and archived as a PDF). Inspired readers can take action here (too bad such a link wasn’t provided in the catalog!)…

Thanks to Dan Drais of Save Our Wild Salmon for the heads up on this one.  Watch for Hawley’s new book next year, “Recovering the Lost River” (the Columbia).