The second piece to come out of my shared journey to the west coast of Vancouver Island:
Recording Salmon. At the show opening, a few people asked me about the title, looking puzzled. Recording? I meant the word in the sense of documenting. Placing salmon in time. Helping us to pay attention.
After two days of travel to reach the departure dock, we awoke at 5am to a chill morning. We carried our many belongings down an aluminum ramp to the dock, then sat on coolers and coerced one of our travelers to unpack his coffee pot and brew steaming cups (for which we will be forever gratefu).
The low visibility from the forest fire smoke demanded the use of both the radar and sonar on our vessel. We stood and watched the map and blips over the captain’s shoulder, fascinated by the technology that allowed us to travel through the yellow-tinted haze. Responding to our interest, he was proud that he could find each fish under the water.
A child of the Star Trek and Star Wars era, I have spent decades marveling at human technical ingenuity. These days, though, my admiration is tempered by my sense that it has gotten out of hand. We can find every fish from the surface? I recall my time on the Chesapeake Bay, hearing fishermen talk about their personal fishing spots, often shown to them by their fathers and grandfathers. Theirs is knowledge of place, and shows respect for the fish that forms their livelyhood. Identifying every fish by electronic means? Not so much.
from the flip side
In another unpremeditated encounter, we motored past a series of pens set in a pattern on the water, with floating docks connecting them. What is that? we ask…and are told that it was meant to be a shellfish farm. When the owner applied for approval, it was given with the stipulation that shellfish would be farmed, not fish. For three years the owner raised scallops. This year, however, he had changed to salmon. Now the local tribe is trying to shut the farm down, afraid that the farmed fish will transmit disease and pests to the wild salmon in the region.
It was the first fish farm I had seen in person, so once home I looked for more information. Have you seen the overhead shots of round pens stuffed with fish swimming head-to-tail, round and round? As a gardener, I am reminded of pot-bound plants. We plant them by breaking up the roots that have circled round and round the pots, ‘showing them’, in essence, that they can now grow down as well as around. The forced limitation of swimming in a never-ending circle seems a particularly poignant form of torture for a wild thing meant to traverse from stream to ocean and back again.