The Facts about Atlantic Salmon: What Can We Do Better to Save Salmon?
1/10/2000 -- -- Governor King says the Maine Salmon Plan is "a comprehensive, cooperative approach that identifies every threat to the salmon within our control and sets about mitigating or eliminating them". Governor King concludes that there's no reason to list salmon under the Endangered Species Act. Trout Unlimited and the Atlantic Salmon Federation disagree with both the premise and the conclusion. Here's what we think needs to be changed:
# 1. The plan to save Maine's salmon needs to be accountable. The Maine Salmon Plan will only be implemented when there is a strong and continuing commitment to making it happen. What will happen if Maine's next Governor fails to provide even the tepid support the Plan has received under Governor King? As long as it relies on purely voluntary measures-and voluntary funding-the State of Maine will be unable to respond to threats to the King of Gamefish. The voluntary agreements that cover water withdrawals and containment of aquaculture stocks should be codified and enforced when they are violated.
# 2. The plan to save Maine's salmon needs to be funded. When the Maine Salmon Plan was accepted, it included a budget for $3,398,000 (plus an additional $40,000 per year) to fund high priority items scheduled for implementation through 1999. (Maine Atlantic Salmon Conservation Plan for Seven Rivers, March 1997. River Specific Tables) It also included an ambitious-and unfunded-plan to protect riverfront lands adjacent to salmon habitat along both banks of over 150 miles of the seven rivers. According to Governor King's Maine Atlantic Salmon Briefing Packet, total funding through December 1, 1999 was "nearly $1 million". If we are serious about implementing the items in the plan, we need a dependable, ongoing source of funding to support Watershed Councils and state agencies in these efforts.
# 3. The plan to save Maine's salmon needs to address the very real threats posed by some practices of the aquaculture industry. The federal status review of Atlantic salmon stocks identifies current practices of the aquaculture industry as a major threat to wild salmon. To address this threat, the industry needs to:
- Use the best available science and technology to contain its fish.
- Institute a verifiable method to document the number of escapees.
- Mark all fish so that they can be identified if they escape.
- Screen freshwater hatcheries to ensure that they do not leak foreign fish into the rivers.
- Stop using European and other non-native strains of fish for broodstock until they can demonstrate that escapes are not a problem.
- Work with federal agencies to site pens are a safe distance from the wild salmon rivers.
# 4. The plan to save Maine's salmon needs to guarantee that water withdrawals and other forms of habitat alteration will not harm salmon. Habitat loss is the leading cause of extinction and water flow and water quality are critical to the health of salmon in Maine's rivers. The vast majority of Maine salmon habitat has already been lost to dams, pollution, and other human activities. Maine's remaining salmon habitat needs permanent protection.
Unfortunately, the Maine Plan has been unable to offer this level of protection. An ESA listing will offer accountability, increased access to federal funding, and mechanism to deal with current and future threats to salmon and their habitat.