Experts say Fishing's
by Don Jenkins
VANCOUVER -- U.S. Rep. Brian Baird on Tuesday challenged statements from fisheries experts that commercial and sport fishing aren't helping push wild salmon toward extinction.
"I don't accept that premise," Baird said after a half-day meeting on salmon survival. "I think it is part of the problem."
U.S. Reps. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., and Greg Walden, R-Ore., joined Baird, D-Vancouver, for the first of three hearings on how to get more adult wild salmon upriver to spawn.
The other meetings will be held in Dicks' and Walden's districts. Dicks represents the Olympic Peninsula, and Walden represents all of central and Eastern Oregon.
The meetings come after a summer in which a federal judge ordered the Bonneville Power Administration to forego generating approximately $75 million worth of electricity to spill more water and help fish.
Tuesday's hearing touched on power rates, sea lions and almost everything else related to saving salmon. Most of the meeting focused on harvesting wild salmon in the Pacific Ocean and rivers.
Dicks said too many wild salmon are caught to dismiss the catch as the "incidental take" allowed by the Endangered Species Act.
"We don't take eagles, wolves ... no other endangered species," he said.
But Ed Bowles, fish division administrator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said a low percentage of young salmon make it past dams to reach the ocean and grow into adults.
He called other fish-killing factors relatively minor and said there was "little room for improvement" in managing fisheries.
Pacific Fishery Management Council executive director Donald McIsaac agreed and said fishing is being unfairly blamed for the disappearance of wild salmon.
Because so few salmon survive the swim downriver past dams, fish taken in the ocean appear to be a significant percentage, he said.
The fishery management council was created by federal legislation to oversee fishing in U.S. waters off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California.
According to the agency's Web site, McIsaac worked for Washington and Oregon fish management agencies for 25 years before coming to the council.
After the hearing, Baird said the environmental and economic consequences of breaching dams are too huge. "My guess is that it won't happen."
Along with improving habitat and hatcheries management, lawmakers should look at whether too many wild salmon are being caught, he said.
Baird said he doesn't believe the catch has been accurately measured. "How someone can definitively say it's not a problem escapes me."
Baird said the four tribes that have fishing rights on the Columbia River under 19th century treaties have done a good job of managing the resource. But fishing practices off the coast of Vancouver Island need greater scrutiny, he said.
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