In recognition of the extinction crisis facing many Northwest salmon populations today, more than 229 food professionals – chefs, brewers, market owners, farmers, fishermen, and others from across Washington State – sent a letter today to Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Patty Murray, and Sen. Maria Cantwell.
To the food professionals, salmon is much more than fish; it is a valued and respected business partner. The health and availability of Pacific Northwest salmon impact the bottom line of small businesses, the ability to maintain good jobs, and the ability to provide fresh, healthy food to customers.
The letter stresses that urgent action is needed to prevent the extinction of salmon in the Columbia basin and restore abundance for all. Collaborative efforts are underway between Tribal sovereigns, stakeholders, state and federal policymakers, and the Biden Administration to develop and fund a comprehensive plan that restores the lower Snake River and invests in communities and critical infrastructure.
Chef Renee Erickson, chef and co-owner of Seattle’s Sea Creature Restaurants said:
“Chefs need foods produced by both farmers and fishers to create meals for our customers. I want to source foods as close to home as I can for my restaurants – so we need policies that will provide fishermen and farmers alike greater certainty and the opportunity to thrive.”
The Pacific Northwest is home to innovative technology and ingenuity. The opportunity is now to rebuild salmon populations by providing resilient habitat while finding a solution to serve the stakeholders — including farmers, shippers, and power producers — who rely on the services provided by the four dams on the lower Snake River.
People in the restaurant industry need to be creative to stay in business. Chef Kristi Brown opened Communion in Seattle with Damon Bomad during the pandemic and sees creativity as essential to salmon restoration:
“If we learned anything in the last two years it’s how to survive. What had worked pre-COVID was not going to keep the doors open. We had to come up with new strategies. Our elected officials need to take this kind of approach to restore salmon abundance in the Snake River Basin and across our region.”
As a keystone species, salmon abundance benefits many other species in the Northwest. As juveniles they feed birds and other fish; as adults, they play an essential role as prey for endangered orca and many of other fish and wildlife. For decades, fishing and farming communities have needlessly been at odds while salmon populations have edged ever closer to extinction.
The letter closes with a call to action: “We need new policies and programs in 2022 that will provide both fisherman and farmer greater certainty and the opportunity to thrive. We ask you to seize the window of opportunity before us to develop and deliver a comprehensive investment package that restores the lower Snake River, recovers healthy salmon populations, and keeps farmers and fishermen gainfully employed and feeding our communities.”