Happily, I found this opinion piece from the Dec. 27th, 1888 Marin Journal. I’m happy as it shows we have been aware of the problems of over fishing and pollution “way back when”, one hundred plus years ago. It is disheartening to see that some of the same problems exist today.
Marin Journal, 27 December 1888
Save the Fish.
The action of the Fish Commissioners in arresting the Italians who have been committing wholesale slaughter among the salmon in Russian river, is one that commends itself not only to every sportsman, but to every lover of law and decency. The streams are filled with salmon that are making their way up to the spawning beds. So strong is this instinct in the fish that they are deterred by no obstacle that they can surmount in anyway. If a high fall intervenes, they will leap at it until they have passed it or until they exhaust themselves. The law, having in view the preservation of the species, tries to protect them against extinction by ordering “fish-ladders” built around dams, and forbidding manufacturers to allow the poisonous materials used in their work to escape into the stream. It also forbids the stretching of nets from shore to shore. There must lie a portion of the width of the stream left free for the passage of the fish. All these provisions are persistently and openly disregarded by rapacious and brutal men. Nets are stretched across the stream from bank to bank. In Sonoma creek it is said that on moonlight nights the stream is so covered with nets that an eel could scarcely wiggle through. Giant powder is exploded in the pools, stunning and killing everything, great and small, within a large radius. In Paper Mill creek the stream is polluted with the refuse from the mill, killing large numbers of fish, and those that are able to ascend the “ladder” are met by a gang of ruffians with spears and clubs who kill them unmercifully. This stream is one of the most beautiful in the state and should be one of the best fishing streams, but the large army of anglers seem to have been willing to give up their rights to the lawless greed of a few unprincipled law-breakers, and the fair stream is converted into a foul cess-pool and a bloody death-trap. We hope that these men will be made to feel the power of the law, that they will be hounded and dealt with without mercy. Unless a stop is put to this bus-
iness the day will come when we shall have no salmon in our streams. If the fish cannot get up to their spawning grounds there will lie no spawn cast and no young hatched. The fish return every year to the stream in which they were hatched, and, salmon once domesticated, so to speak, in a stream, will revisit it annually, providing abundant of fish for all reasonable sport or for food; but once destroy the breeders or make the stream unwholesome, and it is exceedingly difficult to restock the water. The Hudson river was formerly a famous salmon stream, but it was deserted by them for a long time until a few years ago, when an effort was made to re-intro-duce the fish, which attempt has been partially successful, we believe. It is time that fishing laws were enforced ; we are glad to believe that some effort is being made in that direction, and we hope that the day will come when the salmon butcher and the “trout hog” will receive the punishment and be treated with the contempt that they merit.