Friday, October 30, 2009

Koenings Testifies on Culvert Removal

Former WDFW director Jeff Koenings testified before US District Judge Ricardo Martinez last week in a lawsuit pitting a coalition of NW Native American tribes against the state of Washington. The Tribes are demanding that the state expedite the removal of more than 800 state owned culverts currently blocking access by anadromous fish.

Koenings testified that removing barriers might do, "more harm then good," arguing that removal of migration barriers would allow hatchery fish to access the habitat and spawn ultimately doing more harm then good...can he possibly believe that? It is completely perverse, you have the choice of opening up hundreds of miles of currently unoccupied habitat which historically supported spawning and rearing and you aren't going to allow fish in because hatchery fish might spawn there? Since when was the state so deeply concerned about hatchery fish spawning in the wild? Its a convenient argument but until they actually reform the hatchery system, we're not buying it. What harm could possibly come from allowing fish access? Hatchery fish spawning with wild populations are known to be detrimental to the productivity of wild stocks, but how can providing more spawnig and rearing habtiat do harm, even if a few hatchery fish end up spawning there? A hatchery fish which strays into newly accessible habtiat to spawn was more than likely going to spawn in the wild anyway. After all more than a few hatchery fish end up spawning in the wild already, should we cut off access to the whole river because, heaven forbid a hatchery fish might be spawning there?

This is a perfect example of the backwards logic that our state constantly employs in the management of fisheries. They openly acknowledge that loss of historic habtiat is a problem, and that hatchery fish spawning in the wild is undesirable from a management standpoint, but it is ludicrous to use one impact to justify not dealing with another. Does Koenigs need reminding that hatchery programs are largely state funded and operated? If they're such a huge problem why not reduce the number or scale of hatchery supplementation? However while Koenings was director the state made little to no progress on the hatchery reform front. The state simply doesn't want to be forced into pouring money into culvert removal right now, but having the former director testifying underoath that we shouldn't open access because of hatcheries is a farce. Clearly removing culverts wont bring back wild salmon, but it is a part of the puzzle, so is hatchery reform. Under their current logic a logging company might argue that logging riparian areas is justifiable becasue degraded habitat will be utilized by hatchery spawners and their offspring. Since we dont want hatchery fish successfully spawning in the wild we probably should just log right down to the riverbank. The unfortunate truth is wild fish are taking it from all sides, habitat loss and degradation, hatcheries, and quite obviously politically motivated management.

See the associated press story


Schuyler Dunphy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
spey said...

This is one of the most astonishing pronouncements I have ever heard made doubly so by the fact that the author's dissertation predicated the requirement that healthy thatsalmon populations dependend upon their ability to fully utilize all available habitat where they could express the widesst range of life histories.

Additionally, the author was the director of the Washington Fish & Wildlife Department which operated the majority of the hatcheries which he decries in this ridiculous pronouncement. There is, of course, no question that hatcheries are extremely harmful to wild stocks. The question here is why Koenings did nothing about them when he had both the authority and responsibility to do so.