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Outdoors Outpost
Fishy in Oregon
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 • Posted February 14, 2013

For years, literally, I’ve been vexed by a nagging question. It’s a question that doesn’t really have a satisfactory answer; at least not one I’ve been able to come up with. And I’ve tried. I’ve thought about this question, real hard, for upwards of two and three minutes at a time. Nothing.

No, it’s not the question of why the semicolon was invented, although that’s a good one. I can’t see any reason for a semicolon, and don’t believe any writer should ever use one. If you can use a semicolon, you’ve got two different sentences; that’s what I think, anyway.

And it’s not where those individual socks go when they disappear from the washer or dryer. That’s a good one, too, but I figure there’s a deserted island somewhere in the South Pacific with a bunch of single socks lying on the beach, sipping drinks with little umbrellas in them.

My question is much more complex than those. I’ve always wondered what the animal rights advocates would do if they were pushed into a corner, and had to choose between saving one endangered species or another. Assuming, here, they couldn’t save both, and had to pick one.

Now, we have plenty of evidence that these people don’t want to hurt any of the animals, at all, under any circumstances, no matter whether their methods are detrimental to humans, or how much of other peoples’ money they have to spend. There are plenty of examples of that.

For instance, the Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, which, incidentally, decided to name their state organization after a Texas airport, has been dealing with a problem for years that involves having to choose between saving one critter or another. This happens pretty often in nature since, the way God set things up, animals eat each other. It’s normal.

But the Oregon DFW found itself in a dilema. Steelhead and Chinook salmon, which are fish, swim up the Willamette River once a year to play poker, or watch the Super Bowl, or spawn, or something. I just scanned the Outdoor Hub article, so I’m a little vague. But this happens every year, about the same time every year, like clockwork. Or calendarwork, anyway.

The problem is that the Oregon DFW is not the only organization that knows about this annual migration that happens every year. Sea lions also got wind of it, and as luck would have it, they are rather fond of steelhead and Chinook salmon. Matter of fact, those fish are right at the top of the sea lion list of desirable consumables.

The sea lions’ attitude is, pretty much, that God annually lays out a sushi buffet for them on the Willamette. The salmon and steelhead’s attitude is that they HAVE to swim up the Willamette, although they don’t know why. At least no fish has yet given a satisfactory reason. It’s not like they couldn’t play poker just as well somewhere else. And the Oregon DFW’s attitude is that nature is wrong, and the sea lions shouldn’t eat the fish, but since it’s pretty much impossible to reason with nature, they have to come up with a way to circumvent it. And they came up with – fireworks.

The Oregon DFW is using fireworks to run the sea lions back down the river, away from the fish. They use boats to herd the sea lions a mile downriver, where there are supposedly allowed to eat whatever they find. This is, supposedly, good for the fish, although a case could be made against that view, I suppose. After all, something is going to get eaten, one way or another. The sea lions, on the other hand, are getting the short end of the stick, since they don’t get to eat what they want, assuming they are too dumb to ignore the fireworks or elude the Oregon DFW, which is also doubtful.

Still, the point is that man is trying to control nature, and we’re not even talking about endangered species here. I think that’s a bad idea, not to mention the fact that it costs a lot of money. And the fish probably don’t even appreciate it.

There is an upside, though. People like to fish for the Chinook salmon and steelhead, and the fewer fish the sea lions eat, the more are left for people to catch. So the Oregon DFW isn’t really saving the fish, they’re just giving them what you might call a temporary reprieve.

On the other hand, if there is another hand, the sea lions are seasonal visitors from California. They’re California sea lions. So it probably won’t be long before the fish and wildlife people in California decide to take umbrage at the efforts of the Oregon DFW, and complain that their residents are being discriminated against. You may think I’m kidding, but far stranger things have happened.

The bottom line, I think, is that if the animal rights folks wanted to save two endangered species, and could only save one, they would try to save both. Because when you get right down to it, animal rights advocates are just as hard to argue with as nature . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who like fireworks. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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