A fish wheel, also known as a salmon wheel,is a device situated in rivers to catch fish which looks and operates like a watermill. However, in addition to paddles, a fish wheel is outfitted with wire baskets designed to catch and carry fish from the water and into a nearby holding tank. The current of the river presses against the submerged paddles and rotates the wheel, passing the baskets through the water where they intercept fish that are swimming or drifting. Naturally a strong current is most effective in spinning the wheel, so fish wheels are typically situated in shallow rivers with brisk currents, close to rapids, or waterfalls. The baskets are built at an outward-facing slant with an open end so the fish slide out of the opening and into the holding tank where they await collection. Yield is increased if fish swimming upstream are channeled toward the wheel by weirs.
Fish wheels were used on the Columbia River in Oregon by large commercial operations in the early twentieth century, until were banned by the U.S. government for their contribution to destroying the salmon population (see below).The wheel's prevalent use in catching salmon, (in particular, salmon species Chinook, chum, coho, sockeye, and pink) and other anadromous species of fish, has given fish wheels their second name as salmon wheels. Although salmon were prioritized by commercial fishers and Indigenous peoples (albeit for different reasons,) other fish such as steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss irideus), ooligan (Thaleichthys pacificus), and Pacific lamprey (Entosphenus tridentatus) were also considered valuable catch. While the fish wheel is best known for its presence on the northwestern coast of North America, there is debate whether the technology arrived via Asian migrants who had come to labor in the gold fields, by Scottish and Russian migrants, or was a potentially Scandinavian invention sometime during the turn of the twentieth century.
The advent of fish wheel technology in the early twentieth century also drew interest from various First Nations communities of northwestern North America, as well as dog-sledders. Ultimately, the efficacy of the wheel proved an excellent means of subsistence for hungry sled dogsand humans alike, and began to draw communities toward fertile rivers where they started using wheels to feed themselves. This changed routine hunting grounds for many communities including some Northern Athabaskan First Nations (such as Haida and Tlingit), who began to place more emphasis on fishing than hunting.
Since this time, despite being a foreign technology, the fish wheel has become a culturally embedded tool for self-subsisting communities and Indigenous peoples of the northwestern area of North America; the latter of whom have incorporated it in some ways with their traditional ecological knowledge.As well, the fish wheels of today are enjoying a sort of beneficial renaissance wherein strict rules and regulations from both Canada and the United States have been instituted to restrict them in commercial uses, and instead, are encouraged as a means to feed small off-grid communities, and in conservation efforts.
The implementation of fish wheels in the Pacific Northwest at the dawn of the twentieth century made salmon a lucrative commodity for new settlers,but they also significantly contributed to the destruction of various salmon populations along the coast. This not only implicated the environmental ecology of the area, but was also greatly problematic for the surrounding Indigenous communities, as salmon have long been a culturally embedded food and species for such First Nations peoples for many reasons that can be seen in their traditions of smoking salmon meat, to clothing used in rituals, and the prominent featuring of salmon in First Nations art. The unique life cycle of salmon—wherein the fish migrate from the ocean up rivers to spawn and die, and whose spawn repeats the cycle by returning to the ocean to mature —made for an interesting source of food, in particular because different species of salmon spawn at different times during the year, and in different rivers. Therefore, as a food not omnipresent throughout the year, the coming of new salmon journeying up river to spawn was a celebration. Despite the variance of cultural traditions between the many coastal tribes of the Northwest, this celebration, known as the First Salmon Ceremony, is a ceremony that all such communities share in common, and all rejoice in the return of the salmon. Such a dependence on the return of these fish made Indigenous communities of the coast sensitive to the healthy procreation of journeying salmon, and in this way, just as the return of salmon heralded a season of harvest, it also cautioned fishermen to reap only a selective number, so there was enough salmon left to spawn, and ultimately, return the following year. This model of seasonal adherence and moderation made for a dependably renewable food source, and a naturally sustainable relationship between people and salmon. With this in mind, traditional ecological knowledge of Indigenous peoples is increasingly becoming an important topic of conversation in addressing policy-related issues of environmental sustainability. Industrialized fishing brought about by Euro-American settlers in the late nineteenth century not only greatly disturbed the food sovereignty and food security of local Indigenous communities, but was interpreted by these communities as both disrespectful to the salmon, and also their way of life. This, among many other things, contributed to tensions between Indigenous, and non-Indigenous communities of the Northwest.
The abundance of salmon in the Columbia River of Oregon state made the area popular to Euro-American traders and business-people in the nineteenth century, those whom quickly anchored a profitable business of trade with Indigenous communities, river boats, and steamships traveling along the Pacific coast. However, the landscape of trade changed drastically with the boom of the industrial revolution, and the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad to Oregon in 1883. The revolution also brought with it new technologies in food preservation—canning, in particular—and consequently, new types of entrepreneurs who saw opportunity in the Columbia River as grounds to establish salmon canneries. These companies placed their factories strategically at the beginning of the salmon's upstream migration, when the fish were not yet weakened and wounded from their journey. This, however, meant for captured salmon that had yet to spawn, which would prove greatly injurious to the population.By the end of the 1880s, thirty canning companies had been erected, and brought with them new harvesting techniques, including shore seining, gillnets, and fish wheels. The wheels, in particular, were tremendously effective in the churning waters of the Columbia. One fish wheel, for example, recorded a catch of 227,000 pounds of salmon in one day in 1894. By 1900, seventy-six fish wheels had been erected between the Cascades, Celilo Falls, and the Dalles Rapids. 1911 marked the highest year of harvest at forty-seven million pounds of fish, but also drew attention to a rapidly declining salmon population. The efficacy of fish wheels made them unpopular with other fishers on the Columbia, including Indigenous communities dispossessed of their traditional hunting grounds, downriver gillnetters, and even sport fishers who found the wheels ignoble. Contrariwise, the fish wheel operators pointed blame at the gillnetting fleets for being responsible for destroying the salmon population. The argument grew heated and drew the attention of conservationists and government officials who soon joined the conversation, and eventually legislation to limit salmon harvest was enacted, including restrictions on gillnets, and the prohibition of fish wheels, which were officially outlawed in Oregon by 1926 and in Washington in 1934.
The legal battle entitled United States v. Winans exemplifies the climate of Indigenous relationships with the state at the time, in regards to land and water dispossession by the encroaching establishment of such fishing industries. The United States had recently entered into several treaties with certain First Nations tribes of the Pacific Northwest wherein land occupied by the First Nations was taken by the state in exchange for monetary compensation and small land reserves ("reservations") where said tribal communities were guaranteed the security of practicing their cultural traditions—including hunting and fishing.With these treaties newly in place, fishing and canning companies were free to erect their industries on what was once Indigenous land. Brothers Lineas and Audubon Winans, for example, established a state-licensed fish wheel operation near Celilo Falls in the 1890s, which devastated the local salmon run that was otherwise of critical importance to tribes situated downstream, such as the Umatilla, Yakama and Nez Perce peoples. Likewise, under the protection of these newly-established treaties, the Winans brothers' operation also legally and forcibly prohibited passage to these Indigenous peoples to their traditional fishing grounds. The battle was fought by First Nations peoples against the state to reinstate rights to their lands whereupon the Washington State Court ruled for the Winans on the basis of their exclusive rights to private property. In response, the Indigenous community brought suit to enjoin the brothers' operation to cease using their fish wheel.
In 1949, a man running a fish wheel some twenty miles south of Fort Yukon sparked a small gold rush when he discovered pea-sized nuggets of gold caught in the baskets of the wheel, and a local radio station caught the news. Bush aircraft brought many prospectors who set up a camp along eight miles of the Yukon river, which included a small coffee shop and a clothing store, and set about panning the river bed. Unfortunately, no gold was found, and all but two of the initial nuggets were discovered to be brass. Those two that were gold were suspected to have belonged to the remains of an old prospector's cache, and were reported to have been only worth two dollars.
In Alaska and the Yukon Territory, the harvest of salmon is important for self-subsisting communities and individuals for both people and dog sled teams. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will allocate permits for the use of fish wheels in such personal circumstances, but under strict rules and regulations, and only in specific areas of the Chitina and Copper rivers.Given these rivers traverse between the countries of Canada and The United States, state-sanctioned rules and regulations between Alaska and the Yukon are similar. Additionally, given the precarious situation of the local salmon population and its importance to Indigenous communities, community-driven initiatives like the Yukon River Panel offer critical suggestions to government policy-makers in both countries that consider the cultural relevance of salmon, and the importance in conserving their species. For example, one of many initiatives driven forward by this panel is a program for First Nations youth that involves, among many other traditional interactions with salmon, instruction in operating a fish wheel.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game currently employs nine fish wheels situated along the Yukon River to help quantify the population of migrating salmon species,as does the Nisga'a Fisheries Board, with wheels in the Nass River of British Columbia. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also uses fish wheels for salmon stock assessment, and does not permit the use of them for commercial gain. However, multiple studies have found that this method of live-capture, where the fish were kept for periods of time in holding tanks, then physically handled in marking procedures, initiated stress in released specimens, and ultimately impeded their ability to swim upstream. In an effort to mitigate the stress induced in these procedures, from 2001 to 2003, researchers tested the implementation of an event-triggered video-recording system on fish wheels in Alaska's Yukon River drainage. In these systems, captured fish would trigger a camera shutter which would document every fish that passed through the wheel thereby removing the need for human handling. In these experiments, this method also demonstrated an improvement in fish-counting accuracy, however the cost of the video-recording equipment makes implementation on a large scale restrictive.
Salmon is the common name for several species of ray-finned fish in the family Salmonidae. Other fish in the same family include trout, char, grayling, and whitefish. Salmon are native to tributaries of the North Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. Many species of salmon have been introduced into non-native environments such as the Great Lakes of North America and Patagonia in South America. Salmon are intensively farmed in many parts of the world.
The salmon run is the time when salmon, which have migrated from the ocean, swim to the upper reaches of rivers where they spawn on gravel beds. After spawning, all Pacific salmon and most Atlantic salmon die, and the salmon life cycle starts over again. The annual run can be a major event for grizzly bears, bald eagles and sport fishermen. Most salmon species migrate during the fall.
Steelhead Trout is a name given to the anadromous form of the coastal rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus. m. irideus) or redband trout (O. m. gairdneri). The steelhead are native to freshwater and ocean environments across North America, but have been introduced to every other continent except Antarctica. Steelhead use aquatic obstructions like vegetation, boulders, and fallen trees as protection. Steelhead migrate to spawn during the summer months and the winter months.
Gillnetting is a fishing method that uses gillnets: vertical panels of netting that hang from a line with regularly spaced floaters that hold the line on the surface of the water. The floats are sometimes called "corks" and the line with corks is generally referred to as a "cork line." The line along the bottom of the panels is generally weighted. Traditionally this line has been weighted with lead and may be referred to as "lead line." A gillnet is normally set in a straight line. Gillnets can be characterized by mesh size, as well as colour and type of filament from which they are made. Fish may be caught by gillnets in three ways:
The chum salmon is a species of anadromous fish in the salmon family. It is a Pacific salmon, and may also be known as dog salmon or keta salmon, and is often marketed under the name silverbrite salmon. The name chum salmon comes from the Chinook Jargon term tzum, meaning "spotted" or "marked", while keta in the scientific name comes from the Evenki language of Eastern Siberia via Russian.
The Chinook salmon is the largest species of Pacific salmon as well as the largest in the genus Oncorhynchus. Its common name is derived from the Chinookan peoples. Other vernacular names for the species include king salmon, Quinnat salmon, Tsumen , spring salmon, chrome hog, Blackmouth, and Tyee salmon. The scientific species name is based on the Russian common name chavycha (чавыча).
United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312, aff'd, 520 F.2d 676, commonly known as the Boldt Decision, was a 1974 case heard in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. It reaffirmed the reserved right of American Indian tribes in the State of Washington to act alongside the state as co-managers of salmon and other fish, and to continue harvesting them in accordance with the various treaties that the United States had signed with the tribes. The tribes of Washington had ceded their land to the United States but had reserved the right to fish as they had always done, including fishing at their traditional locations that were off the designated reservations.
The sockeye salmon, also called red salmon, kokanee salmon, or blueback salmon, is an anadromous species of salmon found in the Northern Pacific Ocean and rivers discharging into it. This species is a Pacific salmon that is primarily red in hue during spawning. They can grow up to 84 cm in length and weigh 2.3 to 7 kg (5–15 lb). Juveniles remain in freshwater until they are ready to migrate to the ocean, over distances of up to 1,600 km (1,000 mi). Their diet consists primarily of zooplankton. Sockeye salmon are semelparous, dying after they spawn. Some populations, referred to as kokanee, do not migrate to the ocean and live their entire lives in fresh water.
Pink salmon or humpback salmon is a species of anadromous fish in the salmon family. It is the smallest and most abundant of the Pacific salmon. The scientific species name is based on the Russian common name for this species gorbúša (горбуша), which literally means humpie.
The coho salmon is a species of anadromous fish in the salmon family and one of the five Pacific salmon species. Coho salmon are also known as silver salmon or "silvers". The scientific species name is based on the Russian common name kizhuch (кижуч).
Oncorhynchus is a genus of fish in the family Salmonidae; it contains the Pacific salmon and Pacific trout. The name of the genus is derived from the Greek ὄγκος + ῥύγχος, in reference to the hooked jaws of males in the mating season.
Puget Sound salmon recovery is a collective effort of federal, state and local authorities and non-profit coalitions of universities, scientists, business and industry aimed at restoring Pacific salmon and anadromous forms of Pacific trout (Oncorhynchus) within the Puget Sound region. The Puget Sound lies within the native range of the Pacific Salmon (Oncorhynchus) and two sea-run forms of Pacific trout, the coastal rainbow trout or steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout. Populations of Oncorhynchus have seen significant declines since the middle of the 19th century due to over fishing, habitat loss, pollution and disease. Salmon species residing in or migrating through the Puget Sound to spawning streams include Chum, Coho, Chinook, Sockeye, and Pink salmon. Pacific salmon require freshwater rivers for spawning and most major tributaries of the Puget Sound have salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout spawning runs.
The Alaska salmon fishery is a managed fishery that supports the annual harvest of five species of wild Pacific Salmon for commercial fishing, sport fishing, subsistence by Alaska Native communities, and personal use by local residents. The salmon harvest in Alaska is the largest in North America and represents about 80% of the total wild-caught catch, with harvests from Canada and the Pacific Northwest representing the remainder In 2017 over 200 million salmon were caught in Alaskan waters by commercial fishers, representing $750 million in exvessel value. Salmon fishing is a nearly ubiquitous activity across Alaska, however the most valuable salmon fisheries are in the Bristol Bay, Prince William Sound and Southeast regions.
Pacific Northwest cuisine is a North American cuisine of the states of Oregon, Washington and Alaska, as well as British Columbia and the southern Yukon, reflecting the ethnic makeup of the region, with noticeable influence from Asian and Native American traditions. With significant migration from other regions of the US, influences from Southern cuisine brought by African Americans as well as Mexican-American cuisine as Latinos migrate north from California, can be seen as well.
The survival of wild salmon relies heavily on them having suitable habitat for spawning and rearing of their young. This habitat is the main concern for conservationists everywhere. Salmon habitat can be degraded by many different factors including land development, timber harvest, or resource extraction. These threats bring about the traditional methods of protecting the salmon, but a new movement aims to protect the habitats before they require intervention.
A salmon cannery is a factory that commercially cans salmon. It is a fish-processing industry that became established on the Pacific coast of North America during the 19th century, and subsequently expanded to other parts of the world that had easy access to salmon.
The Pacific Salmon Commission is a regulatory body run jointly by the Canadian and United States governments. Its mandate is to protect stocks of the five species of Pacific salmon. Its precursor was the International Pacific Salmon Fisheries Commission, which operated from 1937 to 1985. The PSC enforces the Pacific Salmon Treaty, ratified by Canada and the U.S. in 1985.
Salmon population levels are of concern in the Atlantic and in some parts of the Pacific. Salmon are anadromous - they rear and grow in freshwater, migrate to the ocean to reach sexual maturity, and then return to freshwater to spawn. Determining how environmental stressors and climate change will affect these fisheries is challenging due to their lives split between fresh and saltwater. Environmental variables like warming temperatures and habitat loss are detrimental to salmon abundance and survival. Other human influenced effects on salmon like overfishing and gillnets, sea lice from farm raised salmon, and competition from hatchery released salmon have negative effects as well.
The Coast Salish people of the Canadian Pacific coast depend on salmon as a staple food source, as they have done for thousands of years. Salmon has also served as a source of wealth and trade and is deeply embedded in their culture, identity, and existence as First Nations people of Canada. Traditional fishing is deeply tied to Coast Salish culture and salmon were seen "as gift-bearing relatives, and were treated with great respect" since all living things were once people according to traditional Coast Salish beliefs. Salmon are seen by the Coast Salish peoples are beings similar to people but spiritually superior.
The Pacific Salmon War was a period of heightened tensions between Canada and the United States over the Pacific Salmon catch. It began in 1992 after the first Pacific Salmon Treaty, which had been ratified in 1985, expired, and lasted until a new agreement was signed in 1999. Disagreements were high in 1994, when a transit fee was set on American fishing vessels using the Inside Passage and a ferry was blockaded by fishing boats in Friday Harbor, Washington.
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