Medicinal Seaweeds

Ryan Drum at Island Herbs on Waldron Island is an interesting guy. I actually met him once in 1975 when he was kayacking and I was boating. His article on medicinal uses of seaweeds is highly informative and motivating. I can’t wait to try some kelp sprinkles in my next cioppino, seaweed sprinkles in my jambalaya, or dulse in my chili. Yum!


Wealth Wasted

As reported in The Tyee, the Alberta Tar Sands bitumen proposed for shipment to China via Port Metro Vancouver would be more wisely and profitably piped as oil through existing pipelines to underutilized refineries in Eastern Canada. Compared to Norway’s oil resource management, the Province of Alberta, says reporter Mitchell Anderson, has failed miserably. Where Norway has used its oil profits to provide full employment and healthcare, free university tuition, universal daycare and 25 days of paid holidays per year, Alberta — which collects petroleum rents for 70% of Canada’s production — has posted its seventh consecutive deficit, frittering away $20 billion in past oil wealth without saving a dime.

Coal and Climate Change

As the Seattle Public Utilities meteorologist warns in the Seattle Times of the need to begin adapting public infrastructure to rising seas due to climate change, health care professionals in British Columbia oppose Port Metro Vancouver’s coal shipping expansion plans. As noted in the Vancouver Sun, the two issues are connected.

Three Strikes Rule

As it turns out, the 487 additional bulk cargo vessels per year — projected to transit the Salish Sea to the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal coal export facility at Cherry Point — are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to endangering Chinook salmon, Pacific herring and Orca whales. The two thousand additional oil tankers carrying Tar Sands crude, should the Port Metro Vancouver be expanded as proposed, would combine to create a fleet transiting the Salish Sea and Gulf of Alaska that — should any of these vessels collide — could decimate salmon populations from the Columbia River north.

As testified at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bellingham scoping hearing on October 27, the juvenile salmon from all these rivers congregate in the Gulf to feed and grow before returning home. According to retired senior planner Barry Wenger (video testimony # 88) from the Washington State Department of Ecology, those juvenile salmon number around ten billion. One disastrous collision there could reek havoc up and down the coast for years to come.

While parties to the 1999 settlement agreement with the Gateway Pacific Terminal proponent SSA Marine are rightly concerned about the threats to local salmon and crab fisheries, the potential devastation to fisheries in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska from the exponential growth in vessel traffic is not to be dismissed. Indeed, the concerns expressed by League of Women Voters, Washington Environmental Council and North Cascades Audubon Society regarding SSAs trustworthiness in honoring its agreements, are well-founded. As noted in an August 1, 2011 press release, SSAs long history of not honoring its agreements is grounds for questioning its commitment to protecting resources under any new agreement.

As made clear by tribal dignitaries speaking at the Seattle scoping hearing on December 13, further risking their treaty guaranteed resources is not an option. Under federal law and executive order, agencies like the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency are obligated to protect these resources, i.e. fisheries and sacred sites, and bound under trust responsibilities to prevent significant harm. The fact that the existing heavy industry allowed at Cherry Point has already caused near extinction of some species, and threatens documented Lummi Nation burial grounds, should bring this proposal to an abrupt halt. Whether the Corps abides by these federal statutes and executive orders remains to be seen.

Whatever the outcome of the EIS process, the fact the applicant has repeatedly broken agreements and violated laws resulting in penalties by oversight agencies should be grounds for denial. Based on what has come to light so far, it would appear the three strikes rule should be applied. Maybe then we could all get on with developing a proposal to protect the resources that are left, and begin making amends to the tribes that have suffered from the malign neglect of the past. Perhaps SSA could even see fit to donate the site to the Lummi for spiritual and ceremonial purposes. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Saltwater People

University and museum archives of the salmon industry are great for documenting the economic and cultural influence of canneries, boatyards and fleets over the last century in the San Juan Islands, but the stories that go with the photos are sometimes difficult to access. Then, there is the annoying habit at these institutions of revising their URLs as they upgrade their archival systems, leaving the rest of us with dead links. Fortunately, outfits like Saltwater People Historical Society have seen fit to fill the gap in our memories and official archives by providing photos embedded in personalized stories.

As a former cannery tender captain in the mid-1970s, I found the story A Day On A Cannery Tender by Gordon Jones delightful. Featuring a photo of the tender Petrel, which bears a striking resemblance to the tender Glovina I once worked on, this type of account gives others a feel for the type of life we led. Stories like The Old Cannery Dock from Friday Harbor, allow readers to view a not-so-distant past when elegant wooden work boats plied the local waters year in and year out.

San Juan Journal stories about the people and boats they loved, are great for remembering familiar sights like the tender Nereid, frequently seen in the islands for decades on end. As agencies, tribes and organizations struggle to restore the once plentiful salmon of the Salish Sea, the inspiration of what that abundance once provided economically and culturally is a vital component of keeping up morale. And for that I say a tip of the hat to the Saltwater People and friends.

First Nations Kinships

When the agents of the Dominion of Canada assigned Coast Salish peoples to reserves in the 19th Century, they brought with them foreign concepts of property and governance. Assigning the 98 Indian bands a fixed location and European style government disturbed a working Salish system of extended kinship and resource sharing that had knit the Coast Salish peoples into a harmonious nation for thousands of years. Now, a century and a half later, eager to gain title over lands usurped from the Coast Salish Nation, British Columbia and Canada are attempting to fast-track a treaty process designed to divide and conquer the tribes. In the four-part series on BCs flawed modern treaty process, now in its 20th year, The Tyee reporter Carly Wignes examines how the tribes are attempting to work things out in their own time-honored way, despite the enormous pressure and coercion from the governments of Ottawa and Victoria.

Where All Life Began

Fifty years on since Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, school children today learn that everything is connected. Spray pesticides to control bugs, and you wipe out birds whose egg shells can no longer protect their offspring. Spray herbicides to control weeds, and cancer rates skyrocket.

Indian tribes on the Salish Sea have known this law of nature for some time; as guardians of where all life began, Coast Salish tribes like the Lummi are well aware of the consequences of the industrial way of life on their rich maritime ecosystem. The once abundant herring, salmon and Orca whales are now imperiled from past industrial development, endangered by present industrial practices, and threatened with extinction by industrial plans for the future.

At Cherry Point, within the territory of the Lummi Nation, is an aquatic reserve designated as such due to the abundance of dungeness crab and once abundant herring. As a nursery where these mainstays of the Salish diet spawn and hatch, there was good reason to maintain it in a pristine state–both for commercial and recreational fishing, as well as tourism. In many ways, it’s where all life began.

As noted in the November 28 issue of Cascadia Weekly, the endangered Chinook salmon live on herring, and the threatened Orcas live on Chinook. Thus, school children might observe, everything is connected. When the State of Washington allowed two oil refineries and an aluminum smelter to develop on the shoreline at Cherry Point, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that all life is vulnerable. When in 1972 there was a Cherry Point oil spill leading to genetic mutation of the herring and a precipitous decline in their biomass, the raucous gulls that feed on the spring spawn of herring were silenced. What you might call the Salish version of silent spring.

Today, while coal companies and shipping companies promote plans to turn Cherry Point into the largest coal export terminal in North America, the Lummi and Chinook and Orca of the Salish Sea are trying to hang on to the remnants of their former abundance. In Salish Bounty — a traveling food history exhibit of the Tulalip Tribes and the Burke Museum — Coast Salish food traditions that create good health are juxtaposed with the commodity foods and fast foods that supplanted the native diet of the Northwest tribes that inhabit the territory between Seattle and Vancouver and the Pacific Ocean.

As noted in an article at Indian Country Today, the new exhibit looks at food to explain the history of Northwest tribes and to imagine a future that revives the Coast Salish food traditions that support the good health of families and communities. More information on Coast Salish traditional plants and foods is available through Northwest Indian College.