Consider Harvest and Hatcheriesby Scott Corwin, Guest Columnist
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 9, 2006
Only a truly comprehensive approach to salmon recovery, addressing all causes of mortality throughout the salmon life cycle, will lead to sustained recovery of the runs. The Clinton administration came to that conclusion, as has the Bush administration. It is not partisan; it is just good policy.
The Seattle P-I missed this important point when it criticized the administration for suggesting that impacts of harvest on salmon should get closer scrutiny ("Salmon plan: Phony as a lure," Friday). In a Jan. 25 speech in Portland, James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, made the case once again. Noting that up to 60 percent of the adult population of Snake River fall Chinook are caught, Connaughton said only a strategy effectively integrating work in all of the " H's" of salmon policy has a chance to succeed. These "H's" are habitat, the hydropower system, hatcheries and harvest.
Connaughton correctly pointed out that the bulk of the focus in recent years has been in the habitat and hydro part of that equation. Indeed, there has been great progress in fish passage through the hydro system in the past two decades. That work continues through major investments in new technology.
Despite inclusion in salmon planning documents for many years, serious action on harvest and hatchery policy changes is long overdue. That is why a bipartisan group from Congress, including Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, and Reps. Norm Dicks and Brian Baird, both D-Wash., is holding hearings on those issues. That is why Connaughton's statement is a much-needed call for an increased focus on the impact that fishing and use of hatcheries has on salmon and steelhead protected under the Endangered Species Act.
More specifically, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries service is scheduled to start a review of how harvest and hatcheries are affecting the recovery of legally protected salmon and steelhead. This review could better inform a process already under way in which federal agencies are collaborating with states and tribes to create a robust plan to benefit salmon.
Calling for a review of harvest and hatchery practices does not equate to the end of fishing in the Northwest. It may only mean we get better at prioritizing when and how fishing takes place in order to minimize accidental impacts upon the specific runs of fish we are working so hard to protect.
Historically, fishing had a dramatic impact on runs of salmon. In 1883, 43 million pounds of Columbia salmon were canned. By 1894, four decades before construction of the first large dams on the Columbia, the Oregon Fish and Game Protector warned that Chinook populations were "threatened with annihilation." The impact of fishing practices is not a new issue.
How we treat these adult fish returning to the Columbia is critical because these are the lottery winners in the salmon life cycle. They survive huge variations in habitat over thousands of miles -- a journey that makes "The March of the Penguins" pale in comparison. After all that, it just makes sense to ask the tough questions about how and why endangered fish are caught right before they can spawn.
Many of us in the Northwest enjoy fishing and its long tradition here. It is an important part of the culture of both tribal communities and more recent fishing traditions. But, it is time to act on the warnings that have come from all sides of the political spectrum for at least a decade. A truly comprehensive strategy for salmon recovery cannot downplay the impacts that harvest and hatcheries have on endangered fish.
Related Pages: Salmon Plan: Phony as a Lure by Editors, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/3/6
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