Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Counties Begging for more Hatchery Handouts

Four counties, Pacific and Wahkiakum in Washington and Clatsop and Columbia in Oregon recently sent a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) complaining that the recent DEIS for the operation of Mitchell Act hatcheries on the Columbia is flawed. They argue that the plan, which outlined ways which federally funded hatchery operations could reduce their impact on ESA listed wild stocks is flawed because it should actually be providing more funding for increased hatchery production on the Columbia system. This letter demonstrates the sad reality of what the Columbia hatchery system has become, social welfare for communities which have become dependent on artificially produced fish to support both sport and commercial fishing. The assertion that the Columbia river system needs more hatchery fish is absurd, the river system is already home to 178 hatchery programs. Simply put, the numbers of hatchery fish is not limiting down river fishing opportunity.

Instead of dragging their feet and resisting change to a broken system, the counties should realize that commercial and sport fishing opportunities will continue to be limited as long as some upriver stocks are teetering at the brink of extinction. Hatchery fish are already extremely abundant in the Columbia, ESA listed wild fish are currently the limiting factor as fisheries must be managed to limit by-catch of fragile populations. How about developing more mark selective fisheries? How about understanding that wild populations cannot recover to a level that will allow the type of fishing pressure these counties want until hatcheries are no longer limiting their productivity, undermining their genetic integrity and adaptive potential? Fighting for the broken status quo is like fighting harder to escape quicksand. The DEIS is based on the best available science and if adopted it would be the biggest step forward for salmon and steelhead on the Columbia since the era of dam construction and hatchery supplementation began.

Here's a link to the story in the Oregonian:

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