Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Dedication Ceremony of the new Fishery Sciences Building
October 29, 1999
It’s great to be up here with President McCormick, Dean Nowell, and Director David Armstrong. What a fantastic day this is for the state of Washington and the School of Fisheries in the College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences. You’ve been in that seismically-challenged building for long enough. After 10 years, you finally got a new building where all fisheries faculty can meet under one roof to continue the important work you do.
Like many of you, I grew up in the state of Washington. And as far back as I can remember, salmon has been an integral part of family gatherings and social occasions. In fact, that’s how I got to know Kenneth Chew so well. He taught my whole family how to fish for salmon. First my father and my brother, and then me. He’d take us out on his boat with his sons and he’d teach us how to troll, how to reel a fish in…in fact, my brother Jeff’s a better fisher then Ken is now! Fishing for salmon and feasting on salmon has always been a part of life in the state of Washington.
But the salmon issues facing us are more than nostalgia for days gone by.
Western Washington used to have a pristine and intricate series of river valleys. Tens of millions of wild salmon would swim into these river valleys to spawn. But now we’ve built this huge cement society resplendent with dams and impervious surfaces that change the flow and temperature of our rivers and streams, and fill them full of pollutants. And we’ve cut so much of our forests so close to the shores that the waters are also being polluted by soil run-off. And our farming practices often leave too little water for the salmon. In short, the impact human activity has had on the health of our streams, our rivers, and our salmon is utterly devastating. Our salmon are not surviving. As of August of this year, 17 salmon stocks are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
When our wild salmon first began to suffer, we began to use hatchery fish to replace them. But hatchery fish do not have the same genetic diversity as our wild stock. We must find a way to preserve both the diverse genetic code of salmon and hatcheries. Properly used hatcheries can be one of the tools to assist in the conservation of the salmon and bringing the wild stock back. We have a much better understanding of how hatcheries can help recover salmon thanks to the pioneering efforts of Professor Lauran Donaldson. His hatchery, located on this very campus, is visited by thousands of grade school students every year to learn about the necessity of conservation, water quality and habitat preservation.
When we realized the danger our salmon were in, I appointed Curt Smitch to head a team in my administration to come up with a detailed salmon recovery strategy. And last year I pushed the Legislature to provide 84 million dollars in funding for salmon restoration. The Legislature also agreed to create a board of people to make sure that salmon restoration money is spent wisely. I appointed Bill Ruckelshaus to head up that effort. So we’ve got the money, we’ve got the assurance that the money will be spent wisely, and we have a strategy on how to best spend that money. I am convinced we’re moving in the right direction towards salmon recovery.
Our strategy is to reach out and partner with local and federal government and private groups to restore our salmon habitat and protect that habitat from additional degradation.
For one, we worked with the timber industry to develop the Forest and Fish agreement, and then persuaded Legislature to approve it. In this agreement, our state’s vital timber industry has agreed to create large buffers along streams to protect water quality in exchange for regulatory certainty—all in an effort to protect salmon.
We have also negotiated a treaty between states, tribes and Canada—the Pacific Salmon Treaty—to ensure we are all working together to protect salmon. Let’s just hope that last-minute glitches and lack of funding don’t derail the treaty!
We must all protect salmon! Because if we don’t protect salmon, we don’t protect ourselves. Salmon are our indicator species—our canary in the coalmine, if you want to get graphic about it. If their habitat is uninhabitable, ours is, too.
That’s why today is such a significant day. This School of Fisheries is respected around the world for the groundbreaking work you have done not only in salmon, but also in marine fish and especially shellfish. Shellfish is now one of our most valued industries in Washington.
Many graduates of this school run fisheries. This building will ensure the School of Fisheries’ preeminence and further its mission. The research you do here is vital, and becoming downright urgent as more and more salmon stocks are being listed. Here at UW, you are studying the genetics of wild vs. hatchery salmon and finding ways to use hatcheries to maintain instead of dilute the salmon gene pool. You are involved in all areas in our struggle to understand issues relating to fisheries, from forest stream interaction to habitat management to stream restoration—all of these areas of study are vital to salmon survival.
Thank you for all of the work you have accomplished. Thank you for training and preparing undergraduates and graduates to take on the challenges of protecting our fish and preserving our natural resource. Thank you for all of the work you have done and will continue to do to make Washington a better place to live, to work, and to raise a family. Thank you very much.