Author: Bernie Taylor
Publisher: EA PRESS, May 2004
Debunks the idea that variations in the timing of salmon runs are due to fluctuating water flows & temperatures. Covers the mechanisms that cue salmon and steelhead to migrate, spawn, feed and rest; how native people use this knowledge to time when and where these fish can most efficiently be harvested; plus timing cues and tribal hunting strategies for deer, elk, waterfowl and other animals. B&W illus; 7x10 inches, 224 pgs.
Anglers and fishery biologists have long attributed the variations in the timing of salmon to fluctuating water flows and temperatures. They describe these fish as being "early or late" due to these weather-induced factors. Author Bernie Taylor debunks this idea in his book Biological Time by demonstrating that the salmon are just working on different clocks than we measure them against.
To support his hypothesis, Taylor uses data from Oregon, Washington, and Alaskan state fishery agencies to show that both the natural cycles of light and darkness from the sun and moon are key clocks the salmon use to time themselves. "Juevenile and adult salmon migrate to and from the ocean under the darker nights of the lunar cycle and they group before they spawn around the Full Moon," says Taylor. "The fish are conditioned to these rhythms at the earliest stages and are required for them to feed and escape from predators." The author does not discount tidal rhythms. He demonstrates that in-migration of the adults through the estuaries of some rivers is most pronounced following the Neap Tides (lowest of the high tides over the lunar cycle).
"These fish appear to be early or late from one year to the next because the cycle of the moon does not synchronize with that of the sun," the author relates. He uses the timing of Easter to demonstrate the phenomena. This religious holiday is set on the first Sunday that succeeds the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox. In 2004 Easter was on April 11, whereas the dates for 2005 and 2006 will be March 27 and April 16, respectively. This apparent movement in time is because the 29.5-day lunar cycle of light does not divide equally into the 365-solar year. Taylor's hypothesis reveals that when the salmon synchronize an event to both the sun and moon, the timing similarly appears to move around from one year to the next.
What is most extraordinary about Taylor's hypotheses is he provides evidence that the basic principles were practiced by indigenous peoples in the Pacific Northwest and still carried on in tradition by one tribe. "The Tulalip in northern Washington guages the arrival of the first salmon by a solar-lunar methodology," says Taylor. "They target a Spring Tide (highest tide of the lunar cycle) during the month of June for salmon in the Bay of Tulalip. This suggests that salmon are congregating in the bay at the Spring Tides." He also shows that the Yurok tribe in Northern California once utilized a solar-lunar methodology to more efficiently catch salmon in the Klamath River. "The Yurok counted a specified number of lunation from the Winter Solstice to build and then use a large fish dam under the New Moon," says the author. "This is an opportune time to harvest fish because the salmon adults migrate more prolifically in rivers when the nights are dark."
Taylor proposes that the understanding of how the salmon time themselves has been the missing link in the understanding of the fluctuating salmon populations and conservation policies airmed at restoring them, especially on the Columbia River, which was riddled with controversy throughout the last century. He points out in his book that the barging juveniles downriver, as presently managed, does not take into account these rhythyms of the animals and puts them in harms way. "The answers to many of our questions about the salmon have been in front of us all along," says Taylor. "We just didn't look in the right places."
Taylor takes his hypothesis beyond the salmon. He demonstrates in his book that a wide range of animals, such as insects, zooplankton, geese, deer and elk, have similarly timed behavior. "Timing is the most important and overlooked aspect of animal behavior," says the author. "Animals have to synchronize critical events, such as reproduction. They couldn't survive without reliable cues and are rarely early or late."