The canning of salmon was begun in 1866 by Hapgood, Hume and Company at Eagle Cliff, Washington, about 50 miles up the Columbia. They packed 4,000 cases that first year. Packs peaked at over 500,000 cases five times--in the early 1880s, the last half of the 1890s, during World War II, in the mid 1920s, and in 1941. After World War II, the canned salmon pack declined until the last pack in 1977. The peaks reflect market factors stimulating demand for salmon. The decline of the salmon pack was due to increasing consumer preferences for fresh salmon, shortage of supply, and a shift of fishing effort to ocean trolling. The data for this curve are from Smith (1979:110-112) and the Pacific Fisheries Review Edition of the Fishermen's News.
Spring chinook were the mainstay of the Columbia River canned salmon industry in the 1880s. The run was pretty well fished down before the building of dams in the 1930s. The graph shows how big drops occurred after the big mainstem Columbia River dams came into service--Bonneville, June 6, 1938, and Grand Coulee, September 28, 1941. After a strong rebound in the 1950s, another decline occurred as the four Snake River dams were finished--Ice Harbor, December 18, 1961; Lower Monumental, May 28, 1968; Little Goose, May 19, 1970; and Lower Granite, April 15, 1975.
In the 1970s several actions were designed to improve salmon
conditions. The first ocean salmon plan was prepared in 1978. The
Northwest Power Act in 1980 was to settle the Columbia River
hydrosystem responsibility for salmon decline. The 1985 Pacific Salmon
Treaty was to settle the distribution of ocean caught salmon
between the Northwest, British Columbia, and Alaska. Columbia River
gillnet catch show the hopes for improvement have not been met.
Columbia River Spring and Fall Chinook
The graph shows catches as a percent of the average catch for 1970-75. In only one year since the early 1970s has the fall chinook catch exceeded the average 1970-75 catch for either spring or fall chinook. Spring chinook runs have declined and not rebounded. Fall chinook have been the primary source of supply for the inriver fishery since the 1970s, and too, have declined.
The premier stock of salmon has declined substantially since 1938,
when Bonneville Dam make possible the counting of numbers of salmon
traveling up the Columbia.
Columbia River Gillnet and Treaty
In 1974 the Boldt Decison established that the treaty tribes had the right to take half the catch. The 50% goal was achieved for the first time in 1990. While Columbia River treaty fisheries have achieved their 50%, the size of their catches not much different than when they received only 5% of the catch. In 1994, the treaty catch was the lowest since 1957-66 after The Dalles Dam innundated the traditional fishing grounds at Celilo Falls.
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