Toys in the Reservoirs? A Century of Failed Western Fishery Policy

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  • Discusses basic problems with fishery policies in the state of California and at the federal level which have led to the misdiagnosis and false treatment of fishery problems. In the 1870's, fish hatchery efforts took place on California's McCloud River to try to stem the decline in fish numbers, but Spencer F. Baird, first director of the U.S. Fish Commission, recognized the program's failure in the 1880's and called a halt to the plan. The author argues that lessons learned then have been forgotten, as man continues to introduce technological solutions, such as fish hatcheries, to solve ecological problems that should be addressed by ecological solutions.
  • As an example, cited at some length is an explanation of why the mixing of domestic (hatchery) fish with wild fish already present in rivers is an unworkable scheme. The author presents his analysis of the situation by referring to governmental fishery policies as "serialistic policies," and declares that implementation of these policies has resulted in the decline of ecosystems and watersheds, and that symptoms of those declines are treated technologically instead of treating the original causes of decline. To reverse this trend, the author suggests that realistic water policies need to be introduced, and a decision made to arrest and reverse the root causes of fish declines.


  • Baird, Spencer Fullerton 1823-1887
  • United States Fish Commission


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


This article was reprinted from "Illahee," formerly "The Northwest Environmental Journal," and bears a 1994 copyright from the Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Washington. This article is taken from the author's book "California's Last Salmon: The Unnatural Policies of Natural Resource Agencies," forthcoming from the University of California Press.

Contained within

Illahee Vol. 10, No. 4 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


Winter 1994


  • Policies
  • Endangered ecosystems
  • Secretaries
  • Ichthyology
  • Fisheries
  • Ecology
  • History
  • Endangered species
  • Fisheries--History


  • United States
  • California

Physical description

p. 275-78

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