The Environmentalist/Harvester Alliance

Unfortunately, the fishermen have hired the best lawyers the environmentalists have, the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (now known as the "Earthjustice" Legal Defense Fund), to focus all attention away from fishing to the dams. As explained below, the litigation offensive mounted by the Sierra Club Legal Defense fund on behalf of its fishery industry and environmentalist clients has been remarkably successful in persuading the public that catching, killing and eating salmon doesn't hurt salmon populations¾just dams do.

Given the ecological damage caused by fishing, this unholy alliance of commercial fisherman and environmental organizations ought to receive a lot more attention. Fishing organizations such as the Washington Trollers Association and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman are parties in nearly every lawsuit described in this book. Nearly always, they are capably represented by the Seattle office of the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. Because non-profit organizations are not generally required to disclose their sources of funding, we never have found out just what percentage of these suits were bought and paid for by the fishermen.

So powerful is the political alliance between commercial fisherman and environmentalists that Northwest environmental groups have repeatedly opposed legislative initiatives to reform salmon harvest. When the sportsfishermen of Oregon succeeded in getting Measure 8 on the ballot in 1992, which would have required selective harvest techniques in the Lower Columbia River, and thereby outlawed most gillnetting, environmentalists opposed it. Environmentalist Ed Chaney wrote in the Voter’s Pamphlet that the measure “will only compound the damage to people and communities already victimized by the real fish killers, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration”.34 The voters rejected the initiative.

The Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund have even assisted the fishermen in their fight against farmed salmon, by providing legal services to challenge the environmental permits for fish farms.35

Perhaps people would take a more critical perspective on the claims of environmentalists if people knew where their money was coming from. As liberal environmental reporter Gregg Easterbrook has warned, “. . . money colors the ability of interest groups to see issues clearly. Institutional environmentalism must come to terms with the fact that by the 1990s it had been a long time since greens took any important position that ran counter to their own financial interests.”36

34 Excerpted in J. Cone & S. Ridlington, The Northwest Salmon Crisis 330.

35 S. Doughton, “Farm Salmon: an industry in straits”, The News Tribune, Dec. 22, 1996.

36 G. Easterbrook, A Moment on the Earth 224.

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