The Coastal Post - July, 1997

Salmon And The State Of The Nation


The salmon is a very symbolic fish. It represents one of the purest forms of romance. Two individuals literally give their lives for the next generation. They also represent great mystery with their ability to return to the same river that their parents spawned in. Considering how large the ocean is and how small one river is, the thought of "smelling" that river is mind-bending. The salmon also represents one of our nation's tragic flaws, the greed and disrespect that run our country.

Where the salmon once swam free they now are much like the American Indian where they only have reservations, or in this case, salmon hatcheries. Today in California there is not even one river that isn't dammed. So the romantic pair must settle for a cement holding pond instead of a wild river, and instead of spawning together on the traditional grounds of their ancestors, they are first killed then randomly the eggs and sperm are mixed in a five gallon bucket and the young are raised in incubators and eventually moved to more cement holding ponds where they will spend their first year of life.

It is a testament to the tenacity of the salmon that, though we have done so much to destroy their way of life, they still thrive.

Salmon is also an industry in our country. The fishermen, fish farmers, fish markets and countless governmental agencies survive on salmon. (It has been said that there are at least two government people for every fisherman in California.) The huge consumer ripoff that surrounds salmon is symbolic of the state of our nation. The fishermen who catch the fish are the most regulated group, and this year they received $1.17 per pound. The average price in the stores was $7.99. Where does all that extra money go? To the ''middlemen'' of America. This is the "buy low, sell high, and take as much as you can because you can" mentality that is rotting this country from the inside out. We subsidize other countries to farm-raise salmon while we let our local fishing fleets die off. (There were 2900 salmon boats in California in 1988; there are less than 600 today, and the ocean is full of salmon.) The wholesalers pay $3.75 for farmed fish and $1.17 for wild fish and mix them together because the average consumer can't tell the difference and doesn't know to ask, and they make out like bandits, while the fishing fool keeps fishing and the dumb consumer keeps buying without asking where the salmon came from. The markup is insane, and they do it because they can, regardless of the consequences.

I have often wondered what would happen if all the farmers, fishermen, carpenters, mechanics-all the people who actually produce something with their labor-were to take a few weeks off and let the "middlemen" find themselves with nothing to buy low and sell high. I wonder if then the producers would be more appreciated.