The story no one will touch. Any and all investigations on this topic have been quashed in one way or another over the decades.
One hears and sees many stories about the disappearance of salmon in Washington State and the blame always laid at someone’s feet, but no blame is ever laid here.
As tens of thousands of hard working commercial fishermen in Washington State battle for a small share of the harvestable salmon, others make great fortunes and grow wealthy from the ‘disappearance’ of millions upon millions of eyed salmon eggs exported to Chile every year for the past 35 years by the state.
There is a why to this story, but it would involve mostly speculation, and would be very long and nearly infinitely complex. But then, what better way to hide a multi-billion dollar enterprise then in plain sight, behind a long involved explanation?
Who would have the time to listen or the money to do anything about it?
The Shepard Letter is the only known existent official document on the sale of live salmon eyed-eggs for export. The tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
Background: (Added 7/22/2007) – The export of eyed-salmon eggs was historically outlawed by Washington and Alaska to keep Western salmon a local resource and valued industry; an industry which historically made a significant contribution to the U.S. balance of trade. The vast bulk of harvested salmon were exported to Japan and France. Japan valued sockeye salmon roe as an expensive delicacy, while France valued smoked silver salmon as a prized food.
Both of these countries based their purchases on the current exchange rates: dollar to yen, dollar to franc. In this arrangement, what was termed ‘new dollars’ were brought back into the local and the U.S. economies, resulting in a net plus in the balance of trade. Every commercial salmon fisherman directly or indirectly supported and made possible seven other jobs.
But other forces were at work, hidden from most commercial salmon fishermen, busy most of the year harvesting salmon and other saltwater species. During these decades, the PIF, like everyone else in the industry, had only the month of May to haul his boat out of the water and make repairs, purchase new nets, and finish hanging the netting on the cork and lead lines. We had no idea that we had been betrayed by the State – sold down the tube: lock, stock and boat.
By the time this story broke, we were already disillusioned to the point of quitting. In the summer of 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court killed our faith in the law when it decided that we as Non-Indians were second class citizens who had no real rights under the U.S. Constitution, only privileges which had been revoked.
By the mid-80’s the French had purchased enough eye-coho (silver) salmon eggs to raise and smoke their own fish. The Japanese began mass purchases of farmed salmon, thereby decreasing the amount they could pay for wild caught fish.
Around the mid-80’s we had gotten over most of the worse we thought. Then Reagan was elected President. He had campaigned vigorously for the California Tuna seine fleet. However, when he took office, they were the first to go when he allowed the environmentalists to have their way on catch regulations. So en mass they left the US for more favorable waters. This was followed closely by more regulations on safety at sea, forcing fisherman to purchase ever more closely and cumbersome equipment. Many left the industry at this point. It was just too expensive to continue.
The following documents as closely as possible the early days and the opening shots in the still on-going War Against Natural Resource Harvesters:
Chum Salmon Spilled On The Dock, Early Morning 1977, Lower Hadlock, WA.