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King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon
     

King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon

by David R. Montgomery
 

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The salmon that symbolize the Pacific Northwest's natural splendor are now threatened with extinction across much of their ancestral range. In studying the natural and human forces that shape the rivers and mountains of that region, geologist David Montgomery has learned to see the evolution and near-extinction of the salmon as a story of changing landscapes.

Overview

The salmon that symbolize the Pacific Northwest's natural splendor are now threatened with extinction across much of their ancestral range. In studying the natural and human forces that shape the rivers and mountains of that region, geologist David Montgomery has learned to see the evolution and near-extinction of the salmon as a story of changing landscapes. Montgomery shows how a succession of historical experiences -first in the United Kingdom, then in New England, and now in the Pacific Northwest -repeat a disheartening story in which overfishing and sweeping changes to rivers and seas render the world inhospitable to salmon. In King of Fish, Montgomery traces the human impacts on salmon over the last thousand years and examines the implications both for salmon recovery efforts and for the more general problem of human impacts on the natural world. What does it say for the long-term prospects of the world's many endangered species if one of the most prosperous regions of the richest country on earth cannot accommodate its icon species? All too aware of the possible bleak outcome for the salmon, King of Fishconcludes with provocative recommendations for reinventing the ways in which we make environmental decisions about land, water, and fish.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Drawing on a combination of scientific, historical, sociological and political research, Montgomery, a professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington, traces the tragic and steady decline in salmon populations in Europe, New England, Eastern Canada and the Pacific Northwest. Using his detailed analysis of the destruction of native salmon runs at each site, Montgomery demonstrates that the decline has been caused by the same four actions: polluting rivers in the name of technology, changing the natural environment by damming rivers and clear-cutting forests, overfishing, and ignoring regulations and laws imposed to help salmon populations recover. Montgomery's history of salmon moves from awe inspiring (their ancestors go back some 40 million years) to heartbreaking ("Lonesome Larry was the only sockeye [salmon] that made it back [to Redfish Lake] in 1992"). But when the book's focus changes from fish to the likes of Queen Anne, King George, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, who were all unsuccessful in stopping the salmon's slide toward extinction, Montgomery's tone becomes decidedly bleaker. Though the nature of the salmon's struggle to survive against these recurring threats to its life and habitat causes the book to be somewhat repetitive, Montgomery saves his best writing for the last chapter, where he courageously outlines the scientific evidence surrounding the salmon's plight and presents a no-nonsense plan for the fish's tenuous hope for survival. Photos and maps not seen by PW. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Wild salmon may be headed for the Land of the Dodo, argues Montgomery (Geomorphology/Univ. of Washington), unless obvious measures are taken to protect and restore their environment. As humans go about changing the face of the earth, some species are bound to suffer. Salmon, the King of Fish, Montgomery says in this explicit and urgent, if at times starchy and quite repetitive study, are a case in point. They have been hounded to extinction through over-fishing and, more devastatingly, through habitat change, or, often enough, habitat destruction. So many actions have interfered with salmon reproduction—from damming and gross pollution to the less obvious problems associated with siltation, logjams, rising water temperatures, and sea lions—that this indicator of clean rivers has disappeared from most of Europe and New England and is rapidly diminishing in the Pacific Northwest (where much of Montgomery’s research is centered). The author reviews the historical waters of the fish, its biology and behavior, tenders a short course in fluvial morphology, and details how each of the rivers has been altered to the woe of the salmon. Yet, "actions to stem known causes remain either mired in institutional, corporate, or societal denial, dissipated by spin-doctoring, or thwarted by political agendas and bureaucratic inertia." Even when "treaties implied that government had a responsibility to preserve salmon runs through habitat protection and land use restrictions," such protection and restriction have not occurred. Time and again, Montgomery steams, the simple and logical proposals to give the salmon a fighting chance have been too radical for policymakers. A sorry, scary future forsalmon and their ecosystem if this author’s warnings go unheeded. (25 b&w photographs, 2 maps, not seen)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786739936
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
04/28/2009
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

David R. Montgomery is Professor of Geomorphology at the University of Washington. His research focuses on landscape evolution, including the impact of erosion and sedimentation on biological systems. A member of advisory committees to governmental bodies and private organizations dedicated to protecting rivers and wildlife, Montgomery lives in Seattle with his wife Anne, and his field assistant Xena, a black lab-chow mix.

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