Cover image for King of fish : the thousand-year run of salmon
King of fish : the thousand-year run of salmon
Montgomery, David R., 1961-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boulder, Colo. : Westview Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xii, 290 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


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QL638.S2 M646 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The salmon that symbolize the Pacific Northwest's natural splendor are now threatened with extinction across much of their ancestral range. In studying the natural and human forces that shape the rivers and mountains of that region, geologist David Montgomery has learned to see the evolution and near-extinction of the salmon as a story of changing landscapes. Montgomery shows how a succession of historical experiences -first in the United Kingdom, then in New England, and now in the Pacific Northwest -repeat a disheartening story in which overfishing and sweeping changes to rivers and seas render the world inhospitable to salmon. In King of Fish , Montgomery traces the human impacts on salmon over the last thousand years and examines the implications both for salmon recovery efforts and for the more general problem of human impacts on the natural world. What does it say for the long-term prospects of the world's many endangered species if one of the most prosperous regions of the richest country on earth cannot accommodate its icon species? All too aware of the possible bleak outcome for the salmon, King of Fish concludes with provocative recommendations for reinventing the ways in which we make environmental decisions about land, water, and fish.

Author Notes

David R. Montgomery is Professor of Geomorphology at the University of Washington. His research focuses on landscape evolution, including the impact of erosion and sedimentation on biological systems. A member of advisory committees to governmental bodies and private organizations dedicated to protecting rivers and wildlife, Montgomery lives in Seattle with his wife Anne, and his field assistant Xena, a black lab-chow mix.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Drawing on a combination of scientific, historical, sociological and political research, Montgomery, a professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington, traces the tragic and steady decline in salmon populations in Europe, New England, Eastern Canada and the Pacific Northwest. Using his detailed analysis of the destruction of native salmon runs at each site, Montgomery demonstrates that the decline has been caused by the same four actions: polluting rivers in the name of technology, changing the natural environment by damming rivers and clear-cutting forests, overfishing, and ignoring regulations and laws imposed to help salmon populations recover. Montgomery's history of salmon moves from awe inspiring (their ancestors go back some 40 million years) to heartbreaking ("Lonesome Larry was the only sockeye [salmon] that made it back [to Redfish Lake] in 1992"). But when the book's focus changes from fish to the likes of Queen Anne, King George, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, who were all unsuccessful in stopping the salmon's slide toward extinction, Montgomery's tone becomes decidedly bleaker. Though the nature of the salmon's struggle to survive against these recurring threats to its life and habitat causes the book to be somewhat repetitive, Montgomery saves his best writing for the last chapter, where he courageously outlines the scientific evidence surrounding the salmon's plight and presents a no-nonsense plan for the fish's tenuous hope for survival. Photos and maps not seen by PW. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

As suggested by the title of this book, the rather intriguing anadromous life history of Atlantic and Pacific salmon, combined with their importance as fishing and food resources, has made them icons of temperate waters in the Northern Hemisphere. Montgomery (Univ. of Washington) emphasizes the parallels between the causes for the depletion of the two salmon resources, separated in time by several decades and in space by an entire continent. In the first ten chapters he documents the variety of human impacts on the fishes' resources and on the landscape of their freshwater spawning and rearing habitats, mostly from an historical perspective. Though he gives prominence to Pacific salmon, he stresses parallels to the earlier demise of Atlantic salmon to effectively illustrate the similarities in the paths taken and in the results. In the final chapter the author argues for a number of steps that he believes are needed to protect and restore these silvery icons of temperate coastal rivers. Written with a strong personal flavor, this book makes a very effective case for the importance of considering the cumulative impacts of individual environmental perturbations on living natural resources. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals/practitioners. W. K. Hershberger United States Department of Agriculture