Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Bill in WA State Legislature Threatens Wild Fish Recovery


A misguided bill making its way through the Washington State Legislature right now is seeking to silence an increasingly vocal and effective opposition to hatchery programs that are jeopardizing wild salmon and steelhead recovery around the state. The bill would seek to silence hatchery opponents by denying Salmon Recovery Funding (SRF) Board funding, money intended to support habitat restoration and strategic scientific initiatives, to organizations that are engaged in litigation against state hatchery programs.

Here's more information from the Wild Steelhead Coalition:

SB 5551, introduced by Senator Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe), would deny state Salmon Recovery Funding Board contributions for any project or activity if the project sponsor has brought any legal action against the state before a court or administrative tribunal relating to fish hatchery facility operations within ten calendar years.
 

Sound science has repeatedly demonstrated that excessive hatchery production can have serious negative impacts on the recovery wild salmon and steelhead. Many advocacy organizations in the Northwest are working to recover populations of these iconic wild fish; through habitat restoration, harvest improvements, and hatchery reform.
 

Individuals and Non-governmental organizations have long sought redress in the courts to insure compliance with state and federal legislation. This is a well-established component of our American democracy, and an effective tool for the conservation of our shared natural heritage. These advocates argue SB 5551 deliberately jeopardizes this legal right with the threat of funding ineligibility, setting a dangerous precedent for our state.
 

Many of the same organizations who have challenged misguided or excessive hatchery programs in court also apply for and receive state Salmon Recovery Funding Board contributions for habitat restoration or in-stream connectivity work. Funding that would be preemptively denied if the sponsors of SB 5551 are successful.
 

The Washington state Salmon Recovery Funding Board provides “funding for elements necessary to achieve overall salmon recovery, including habitat projects and other activities that result in sustainable and measurable benefits for salmon and other fish species.” This funding was created specially to support the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead stocks. There is clear scientific evidence that excessive hatcheries can harm and impede wild fish recovery. Wild fish advocates argue that if passed, SB 5551 would severely undermine the very purpose of the Salmon Recovery Board funding.
 

Representatives from the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office and other state agencies tasked with salmon recovery have repeatedly said over the years that for “overall salmon recovery” to be successful, it will take a diverse group of citizens, agencies and organizations working together.
Unfortunately, it seems a small group of legislators is not interested in working together to tackle all the problems facing these iconic fish, including hatcheries. They would rather ignore science and play revenge politics against organizations whose views on fish hatcheries they disagree with, seeking to deny state funding for projects that benefit wild salmon and steelhead recovery, and the many people who want to see them make a comeback in our region.


Contact your state representative and voice your opposition to SB5551:
https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/bill/5551

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