OLYMPIA (May 17, 2006) – What you don’t see can’t hurt you. Right?

Everyone who lives in the Puget Sound region enjoys the beauty of the mighty estuary. People see the glimmering water, bordered by snow-peaked mountains and bright city lights, and they think all is well with Puget Sound.

Unfortunately, they’re wrong. What they don’t see in Puget Sound can hurt them. Whoever they are and whatever they do for a living, their quality of life and the economic well being of the region are connected to the health of Puget Sound.

People don’t see the dioxin, heavy metals, PCB’s, or fecal coliform that are present in Puget Sound waters. Many don’t give a second thought to the poisons that line the bottom and suspend invisibly in the water. They don’t think about the oxygen in the water that’s being stolen by leaking septic systems, irrigation and stormwater runoff, and waste discharge.

Most don’t even miss the declining runs of salmon, orcas or forests of kelp and eelgrass. These are all things most people don’t usually see. So, from their perspective, they don’t really matter — at least not enough to do something about it.

Think of it like cancer. A victim of this dreadful disease might not see it as it creeps into their system, first infecting one vital organ and then another. People often see its consequences, though, as our relatives and friends succumb to its effects. More and more people are realizing that early detection and affirmative action does make a difference. It does save lives-the life of our own bodies and the life of Puget Sound.

Please, think of Puget Sound as something that does matter, because it does. The health of Puget Sound is vitally connected with your own. And please, open your eyes to the fact that Puget Sound has cancer of a sort, because it does.

Already, part of Hood Canal is dying, and time is of the essence if we are to keep it from becoming a dead zone, devoid of life. The cancer is spreading, too. Parts of South Puget Sound are beginning to show some of the same early signs that led to conditions in Hood Canal.

Yes, the cancer is creeping up on us all. But most people simply don’t see it.

If they did, each might not insist on having their own dock or bulkhead, which can harm salmon habitat. They might not ignore those leaky septic systems. They might take a stronger interest in conserving water and in restoring our precious habitat. And they might actively insist that their city, county, and state elected officials take a strong stand in support of the Puget Sound Partnership initiated by Governor Gregoire.

Restoring and protecting Puget Sound and its tributaries is a responsibility we all share, and it’s one for which each and every one of us is accountable. So open your eyes. Squint if you have to, but realize once and for all that the fight to save Puget Sound is a fight for our lives.

Billy Frank Jr. is the chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.


For more information, contact: Steve Robinson or Tony Meyer, NWIFC (360) 438-1180