Fishing is one of the state’s oldest industries, as the original Native Americans on both sides of the Cascades depended on Columbia River salmon and other fish for much of their diet, and coastal Native Americans from the Neah Bay area were whalers. Commercial fishing, less important to the early settlers than logging and other industries, wasn’t firmly established until the 1860s, when canneries, new salmon-fishing techniques, and new markets at home and abroad led to the industry’s rapid expansion.
Until the 1980s, the Pacific Northwest salmon industry harvested more than 250,000 pounds of salmon annually, worth more than $100 million. In the 1990s, the runs collapsed due to a combination of warm oceanic currents, the destruction of spawning habitat by dams and logging, overfishing, and droughts. Ocean fishing was banned off the coast of Washington and Oregon, and except for certain tribal fisheries and a few short openings, it has remained closed.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition