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Move Hatcheries Upstream, and Fish Harvest Too

by Patrick McGann
Lewiston Tribune, October 24, 2003

Columbia River salmon and steelhead restoration is governed by the law of self interest expressed in the code of saving fish. The players talk-talk conservation and fight-fight consumption. It's a rough game and Idaho, the upstream tribes and Washington's upstream counties have been coming up short.

Another review of salmon and steelhead hatcheries -- this one by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council at the request of Congress -- has determined that hatcheries are too focused on downriver interests.


The implication, and wishful thinking it may be, is that by moving hatcheries upstream to help mitigate fish loss from the dams, more fish will move upstream along with the hatcheries, and that's not a safe assumption at all.

First, one reason the hatcheries are down there is former Sen. Slade Gorton. His strategy to protect the dams was to write off the upstream fish runs, compensating upstream loss with increased hatchery releases in the lower river.

The thinking was -- with a wink and a shrug -- that as long as gross numbers of hatchery fish and harvest stayed the same basinwide, what's the problem if it all shifts downstream a little?

With Slade out of the picture, the lower river combatants, after beating themselves silly in court, Congress and cabal, finally got quiet and recognized their common goal: Screw 'em upstream -- for the sake of the salmon.

This is not a startling revelation, of course. Idaho has been consistent in its surly but ineffective resistance to the drumbeat of the Columbia River Pact, which has saved salmon -- for downstream users -- for a quarter century.

So a study says that the hatchery effort should be weighted more upstream where the negative effects of the dams are most felt and the benefits are least enjoyed.


What difference does it make where the hatcheries are if the fish aren't allowed to get back up here? What is the difference between consumption of water, consumption of electricity and consumption of fish? As Billy Frank, a legendary Yakama tribal leader always said, "When you turn on a light, salmon flow out." That's true, but the lights are switched on in Seattle and the salmon flow up and down I-5.

In the Columbia drainage's world of talk-talk, fight-fight, to argue against consumption is to surrender consumption to someone else. It's time to understand that this is, finally, a regional conflict as much as a resource, energy and cultural conflict, and everyone above McNary Dam is in the same boat, whether they realize it or not.

Related Sites:
The full draft report is available at:
Hatchery Review Seeks Priority Change by Eric Barker, Lewiston Tribune, 10/21/3

Patrick McGann
Move Hatcheries Upstream, and Fish Harvest Too
Lewiston Tribune, October 24, 2003

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