Ransom

Salmon are fascinating creatures.

Many people don’t realize that Salmon are born as fresh water fish, change into saltwater fish, and then change back into fresh water fish before dying in the same place they were born.  At least that was the way things worked normally.  So many Salmon never made it back to their birthplace with dams, pollution, over-fishing, dried up rivers and streams, and disease preventing it.

Human intervention and innovation teamed up with science to find ways to supplement the Salmon population.  In the Pacific Northwest, a home to Salmon fishing for generations, the American Indian has struggled to regain control of the dying fish that has meant so much to their spiritual center and culture.  The native fisheries were paramount to regaining that control.

When the manager of the Suquamish Tribal Hatchery found all his fish dead for a second time without explanation, he called for help.  Tribal Sheriff Ransom Johns made another call and the feds sent me.

The Sheriff was bigger than I had expected.  He was also a little testy.

“Did you get lost Ms. Kwan?”

“I’m sorry about the time Sheriff.  I was delayed.”

“Not traffic?” he wasn’t buying my explanation.

“No.  Not traffic.  Are you familiar with SAC Hinch?” I ventured a guess.

“Oh.  Yes.  Very familiar. Say no more.” He finally cracked a smile.

He offered his hand then.

“Sheriff Johns, Suquamish Tribal police.”

“Bobby Kwan, Private Investigator. Nice to meet you.  I hear you have a fish problem.”

The Tribal Fish Hatchery was larger than I expected.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  There were high fences all around the long pools, or pens, as the Sheriff referred to them.

“The fences are not to keep people out.  They keep the predators out; mainly the crows and gulls.  They are pretty smart and could easily pick out the fish from these pens.  The netting over the top needs repair almost daily.  The damn birds make holes so they can get in and feast.”

I walked the perimeter.  There were several sets of pens.

“Why so many pens?”

“There are different pens for different species.  Within each pen there are several long pools.  Each is used for different life cycles.”

He pointed at one.

“This one has juvenile Sockeye.  As they grow to older stages, they are moved into the other pools.  They keep moving until they are mature enough to be released into the stream.”

He pointed at the nearby stream.  I could see gates that held back water from the final pools where the mature fish could be released into the wild.

“What are those buildings for?”

“That building is the nursery.  Eggs are fertilized, incubated, and hatched there before the young ones are dumped into the first pen.  The other buildings are for administration and maintenance.  The power houses are behind there.”

We walked towards the power houses.

“This is where the saboteur came in.”  He knelt down and pointed at a part of the fence line that had been severed.

“The fence was cut?”

“That is how we know it wasn’t a predator.  You don’t see too many cougars carrying wire cutters.”

Next – A Bad Night