There are various estimates as to how many adult salmon are swimming around in the North Pacific but I like the 650 million number I've seen in a couple of places largely because that is a number I came to as well while bored and seeking a challenging math problem. And the 650 million is much smaller than 5-6 billion because big fish eat little fish and so do other things, as well.
I don't agree with, necessarily, the notion that we are overwhelming the ecosystem, since wild runs used to be exponentially larger, but I do believe that since we artificially release larger smolts and the shear numbers are staggering that we are impacting already severely depleted wild salmon and steelhead.
If the law, which it does, clearly commands us to work on recovery of our wild stocks of endangered and threatened fish, why is the emphasis almost exclusively on hatchery fish by those agencies currently presiding over the extinction of our wild Snake River Basin salmon and steelhead?
The answer to me is quite simple, most people who are likely to care enough to engage in any public process are far more likely to couch their rebuttals if something is bending their rod or filling their net. In short, the very people needed to push the wild salmon and steelhead recovery where it needs to be-at the forefront of the debate and our consciousness-are placated by our assembly line fish.
Are we too far removed from the days when completely wild and native runs of fish created awe in the eyes of our ancestors simply from the shear number of fish that that argument-wild and native will be so much better than what we see today-that society is unwilling to risk the current status quo?
Is modern America devoid of the risk takers that built the nation? Even when it is clear the power generation can be replaced, the river transport is held together simply by expensive subsidy and an unwillingness-new unwillingness trait- to remove the changes that damned our wild fish stocks?
What does it say about a society that views our impermanent constructions as the things that cannot be changed, when we regularly change that which had evolved over eons?
And because it is kind of my theme, how long do ratepayers and taxpayers continue to decide never-ending mitigation and scientific inquiries into the wrong kind of fish deserve our money over the application of an actual, strategic solution for the actual fish that are imperiled (the wild ones)?