Federal Salmon Plan Threatens Species Protections
Plan Would Substitute Hatchery Salmon For Natural Populations
Experts say hatchery fish are no substitute for wild salmon.|
| Photo: © CHRIS HUSS (SEAPICS.COM)|
The Bush administration at the end of May announced its proposal to include hatchery-reared salmon in population counts for endangered Pacific salmon species, a move that conservationists and fisheries biologists fear will undercut protection and management of these vanishing fish under the federal Endangered Species Act. In formulating this plan, the administration ignored its own panel of experts, composed of six of the world's leading ecologists.
Criticizing the government for disregarding its warnings, the panel in March published an article in the journal Science declaring that hatchery fish cannot be counted on to save wild salmon, a conclusion the administration labeled "inappropriate for official government reports," according to The Washington Post.
"The policy of counting hatchery fish as wild does more than rob future generations of an important wildlife species by blurring the distinctions between wild, self-sustaining salmon and those raised in concrete pools," says Jan Hasselman, NWF counsel in Seattle, Washington. "The administration is trying to loosen safeguards that protect healthy watersheds and clean water in the Pacific Northwest."
The administration proposal, supported by big developers, logging companies and electrical utilities, could undercut the need to protect wild animals and sensitive river habitat, Hasselman says. Logging, damming and other developments in the Pacific Northwest and California have greatly reduced salmon stocks that once numbered in the millions. Some stocks have gone extinct, and 26 others are so close to extinction that they are protected as endangered species, a designation that includes habitat protection.
When wild salmon started to disappear years ago, hatcheries began to play an important role in producing fish to satisfy tribal treaties and fishing demand. However, captive-bred fish were never intended as a substitute for protecting wild salmon and the habitat they and many other species need to survive, Hasselman says. In fact, the presence of hatchery fish in a stream usually makes recovery of wild fish harder, not easier.
"By including hatchery fish in the total salmon count, the numbers will be deceptively skewed and could lead to the elimination of much-needed safeguards provided by the endangered status," Hasselman says. "It's like saying lions in zoos are substitutes for lions in the wild."
Tell the administration not to take the "wild" out of wildlife by substituting hatchery salmon for natural populations. The National Marine Fisheries Service is accepting public comments on the proposed salmon policy for 90 days. Send comments to:
National Marine Fisheries Services
ATTN: Chief, Protected Resources Division
525 N.E. Oregon Street, Suite 500
Portland, OR 97232
You can send a fax directly from the NWF website at: