Portland Press Herald Editorial: King can blame self for salmon's listing
Maine has not been aggressive enough in efforts to save the species
11/19/1999 -- -- Gov. King's disappointment over the federal government's decision to list the Atlantic salmon as endangered is misplaced. Rather than finding fault with the federal government, King should look to his own administration. Nearly two years ago the governor committed to a plan to bring back the salmon in exchange for avoiding an endangered listing under the Endangered Species Act. The federal government settled for not listing the Atlantic salmon on King's promise to take steps to protect it. Now the feds want to list it as endangered, a development which can be blamed, at least in part, on the governor not living up to his end of the bargain. Consider that:
- The state is just getting around this week to holding hearings on restrictions on recreational fishing in rivers inhabited by Atlantic salmon.
- The state's aquaculture industry has been allowed to exploit a loophole in a Maine law forbidding it from using European strains of salmon. (Escaped salmon from the farms pose a major threat to the Atlantic salmon, both in terms of disease and cross breeding.) The fish farmers don't use European stock or eggs as the law prescribes, but do cross-breed local eggs with European strains.
- While local watershed councils have been formed to help improve salmon habitat, they've not received the money or authority they need to manage salmon habitat effectively.
The governor argues that he has made progress on his plan to save the salmon and that it should be given a full five years to work. That argument, however, ignores the fact that the Atlantic salmon could be gone in five years if more is not done to protect it. King also says that the federal government shouldn't proceed with a listing until it is sure that the Maine salmon are a genetically distinct species. While that's an important question, there is enough evidence to support the species as distinct to conclude that the federal government shouldn't risk losing it. It's time for Gov. King to stop impeding efforts to save the Atlantic salmon. Instead he should embrace its listing so that strong action can be taken to protect it.