Publication Title

Pacific Northwest Quarterly



Document Type



To be blunt, the salmon boat fisherman is as obsolete as the buffalo hunter. The "secret'"traps and weirs; they make salmon catching absurdly easy and can be operated at 1/20 to 1/30 the boat-catching costs. Hunting for salmon on the high seas is like chasing bees in a meadow. Why not wait until the bees return to their hive, or until the salmon return to their spawning stream? Hunting for salmon with boats makes economic sense as a temporary palliative to an unemployment problem; it makes economic nonsense as a permanent industry in a competitive society in a competitive world.

Why is such gross inefficiency allowed to continue? The surprising answer is that state laws insist upon it. Alaska, Washington, and Oregonand British Columbia tooall have laws barring traps and weirs. The laws go even further; they bar many new devices designed to increase efficiency, such as sonar, monofilament gill nets, spotter aircraft, and even large fishing vessels. The original idea was to give everyone a chance at the fish. Everyone now has his chance, if he promises to fish with one hand tied behind his back. Such featherbedding laws are anomalous in a society which prides itself on economic efficiency and in a world where foreign fishing fleets adopt new fishing techniques almost as fast as they can be conceived.



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