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New book by Columbia City researcher offers salmon solutions

Jim Lichatowich's new book published Oct. 1 by OSU Press


A Columbia City fisheries biologist argues in a new book that current and past practices have led to the decline of the Columbia River’s salmon population, and that salmon management agencies need to avoid “repeating the same mistakes” to reverse the trend.

Jim Lichatowich’s “Salmon, People, and Place: A Biologist’s Search for Salmon Recovery,” his second published book on salmon in the Pacific Northwest, was released Tuesday, Oct. 1. The book was published by the Oregon State University Press.

“This book basically describes some of the experiences I’ve had over the last 43 or 44 years as a salmon biologist,” Lichatowich said. “And it tries to lay out what I learned from those experiences.”

Among Lichatowich’s conclusions: river damming and what he calls “poor hatchery practices” have contributed to salmon’s decline, and current efforts are meeting with little apparent success.

Lichatowich seems especially frustrated by what he believes are inaccurate views of salmon caused by “the shifting baseline” — people, including biologists, getting used to depleted fish populations as the “new normal” for the species.

“Contrary to some of the reports that say there’s more fall Chinook than there ever was in the Columbia River, that’s just not true,” said Lichatowich, referring to the king salmon run widely reported to be the largest since the Bonneville Dam was built. He said in the past, runs are believed to have been significantly larger.

“You keep being satisfied with less and less ... but it’s still pretty small compared to the historical abundance,” Lichatowich concluded.

Lichatowich’s first book, “Salmon Without Rivers,” specifically dealt with “the history of the salmon crisis,” as he puts it. He said it has sold about 15,000 copies since its 1999 publication by Island Press.