Salmon: To Kill or Not to Kill
by Glen Squires - Washington Wheat Commision
WHEAT LIFE November 1999
The conflict between spending billions of dollars trying to save endangered salmon while managing their harvest is likely to become more intense, particularly for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The 199 harvest season set by NMFS would allow for a 20 percent harvest of endangered salmon. Washington and Oregon fish managers allow a 31.3 percent in-river harvest level for Snake River endangered Fall Chinook. Fishery agencies thus set both a public kill threshold for some people and a no-kill threshold for others.
While habitat in some areas is in need of enhancement, there is a bit of irony as NMFS moves inland to address habitat issues. Armed with the Endangered Species Act, a landowner's action on his property may be deemed harmful to "critical habitat" for fish and thus considered as "taking" an endangered species, even if it occurs through a series of ripple effects. The landowner is thus subject to severe penalties and restrictions on property use; kind of a "you can't kill" approach.
On the flip side, it appears the normal mode of operations for fisheries agencies is that when increased numbers of fish are projected to return to, say, a river system the number of fish allowed to be directly killed is bumped up accordingly, sort of a "you can kill so many fish," approach. The problem with NMFS eliminating the very fish they (we) are trying to save will become more pronounced as multi-million dollar recovery plans and positions are rolled out for public comment over the next few months.
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