Cast a wide net to ensure future for salmon in our communities

Carolyn Long

Recovering our salmon and steelhead populations must be a priority for every elected official at every level of government in Southwest Washington, including anyone seeking to represent our community in Congress. I’m glad my opponent has continued former U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings’ and former Rep. Brian Baird’s work to control the sea lion population along the Columbia. But everyone involved in recovering our salmon and steelhead populations knows we can’t stop there if we hope to preserve salmon fishing as a cornerstone of Southwest Washington’s economy and our way of life. What we need now, and have needed for some time, is leadership committed to bringing stakeholders together to craft a comprehensive strategy to address this crisis, but we’ve been lacking that leadership in Congress for the last eight years.

That strategy must bring local, state, tribal, and federal resources to bear on this ecological and economic crisis. Salmon in the Columbia have lost two-thirds of their genetic diversity in recent years, putting the entire population at increased risk of disease that could cripple the fishing industry. Commercial and sport fishing accounts for billions of dollars annually of our state’s economy, and supports thousands of jobs statewide. We literally cannot afford to leave any options for recovering our salmon stocks on the table.

Salmon fishing, both recreational and commercial, remains as central to our way of life in Southwest Washington as it is to our state’s economy. My husband and I have taken our daughter fishing for salmon in the Columbia for years, and I know we are far from the only family who has bonded in the beautiful open spaces along the Gorge.

I’ve heard from countless sport and commercial fishermen on the campaign trail, and one issue is universal; passing on the heritage of our work and play is becoming increasingly more challenging for our families because of our declining salmon and steelhead stocks. As someone who learned a trade from my father, there is great pride on passing on our trade, or catching our children their first salmon. We need change, and we need it now.

The good news is that there’s no shortage of experienced and committed people working on this issue. Industry experts and independent scientists agree that we need collaboration and understanding of the science among all stakeholders. That means allocating more resources for proper water management, wild and hatchery fish production, and curbing sea lion predation. If we don’t deal with this crisis holistically, we risk the extinction of our salmon and steelhead.

But my opponent is trying to make it harder to put these recommendations into practice. She voted in favor of HR 3144, also known as “The Salmon Extinction Bill,” that would overrule local experts and require an act of Congress to change how we implement proven scientific strategies to recover our salmon and steelhead. And we all know how Congress works, don’t we?

I’m tired of representatives who approach difficult problems like this from a place of “no” when they should be casting a wide net to find every possible solution available. Southwest Washington can’t wait for Congress to start working again to address this crisis. We need the flexibility to follow local experts’ recommendations, not rigid prohibitions from politicians in D.C.

I’ll bring the leadership at the federal level to provide that flexibility and will start working on day one to make sure our fishing-dependent communities thrive, not just barely survive.

Carolyn Long, a professor at Washington State University-Vancouver, is the Democrat seeking election to Washington’s Third District seat in the U.S. Congress.

Southwest Washington can’t wait for Congress to start working again to address this crisis. We need the flexibility to follow local experts’ recommendations, not rigid prohibitions from politicians in D.C.

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