Salmon: A Scientific Memoir investigates a narrative that is important to the identity of the Pacific Northwest Coast – the salmon as an iconic species. Traditionally it’s been a narrative that is overwhelmingly about conflict. But is that always necessarily the case?
The story follows John Steinbeck’s advice: the best way to achieve reality is to combine narrative with scientific data. By following ecologists, archaeologists and fisheries biologists studying salmon, humans and their shared habitat, the reader learns about the fish through the eyes of scientists in the field.
Each chapter focuses on a portion of the salmon’s journey to and from their natal streams; on one of the five Pacific salmon species most commercially important to North Americans; and on the different ways scientists study the fish. It’s also about the scientific journey of ecologists, archaeologists and fisheries biologists and how the labs gathering data today echo coastal indigenous people who have harvested salmon successfully since the end of the last ice age. Each group established a reciprocal economic system, one that revolves around community and knowledge, a system with straightforward rules, sometimes as simple as “you get what you give.”