Monday, March 15, 2010

WA State Budget Cuts...How About Failing Hatcheries?

Washington State is facing a 2.8 billion dollar budget shortfall. As might be expected agencies are hemorrhaging funding as the state tries to trim fat and get the budget balanced. WDFW is hardly immune from these problems, meaning the agency will in all likelihood will face substantial budget cuts in the next year or two. At last count Fish and Wildlife was looking at about a 6 million dollar reduction in their budget.

Rather than cutting already underfunded enforcement and research, why doesn't the department consider cutting some a few hatcheries out of the multimillion dollar hatchery system? According to the WDFW website Washington is home to 80 state run hatchery facilities, many of which pump out thousands of fish with very little return. When viewed from an economic standpoint many of the states hatcheries are utter failures. WDFW dumps more fish into the Pacific than any other state agency, meanwhile wild returns continue to dwindle. The state openly acknowledges the impacts of hatchery supplementation and annual closures to meet pitifully low egg take goals is case in point that many hatcheries, particularly those in Puget Sound are failing. All this is without considering the lost economic benefits which would otherwise be afforded by healthy wild returns. It's time the state takes a hard look at the hatchery system here, by closing some hatcheries and finally designating Wild Salmonid Management Zones WDFW can meet their own objectives as laid out in the Wild Steelhead Management Plan and save millions of dollars.

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