With ESA protections of hatchery and wild fish called into question by a controversial court opinion last fall, groups today file for wild-only listings for 15 salmon and steelhead stocks.
Salmon Policy Coordinator
503.827.5700 x. 13
4/25/2002 -- Portland, Ore. -- A group of 17 national, regional and local conservation groups will today file petitions with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for Endangered Species Act protection of only the wild fish among 15 West Coast salmon and steelhead stocks.
The move serves as the latest salvo in the widening national debate over ESA protection of hatchery-born and naturally reproducing fish. Trout Unlimited and Oregon Trout, the two lead groups on the petitions, adopted the widely used definition of wild fish as any naturally spawned fish belonging to an indigenous population.
Last September, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan ruled that for salmon and steelhead stocks (ESUs) that are made up of both hatchery and wild fish, NMFS could not list only one component of that stock under the ESA, and not the other. That ruling triggered a number of actions, including a slew of petitions to de-list more than two-dozen listed stocks by virtue of their mixed hatchery/wild fish makeup. Conservation groups, on the other hand, are using the Hogan precedent to secure exclusive protection for wild fish.
“Judge Hogan’s ruling gave us a legal foothold to bring ESA protections for wild fish in this region up to date with the latest science,” said Kaitlin Lovell of Trout Unlimited. “It’s the wild fish that need protection, and the science increasingly shows that one thing they need protection from is hatchery fish.”
While the Hogan ruling has been stayed under appeal, the hatchery-wild debate has continued, with special interests seeking to seize the opportunity to relax or do away with current ESA protections.
"Despite clever PR-jockeying by some interests, the ESA is about recovering wild fish in their natural environments, not protecting fish raised in swimming pools,” said Joe Whitworth of Oregon Trout. “NMFS' own biologists, properly, have never strayed from the position that hatchery fish generally impede wild fish recovery. These petitions provide NMFS a road map to arrive at proper biological outcomes that do not run afoul of the law."
The 15 wild stocks being petitioned today have faced and continue to face significant threats from myriad sources, which individually or in combination threaten the survival of the stock. Those threats include predation, competition and genetic disruption from interactions with hatchery fish, destruction and modification of habitat from logging and agriculture, urbanization, dams, stream channelization and water withdrawals, pollution from mining and industry, and many others. All 15 are currently listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA, but are defined to include both the hatchery and wild fish.
The petitioned stocks include: wild Snake River spring and summer chinook, wild Snake fall chinook, wild Puget Sound chinook, wild lower Columbia River chinook, wild upper Willamette River chinook, wild upper Columbia chinook, wild southern Oregon/northern California coho, wild Columbia chum, wild Hood Canal summer-run chum, wild upper Columbia steelhead, wild Snake basin steelhead, wild lower Columbia steelhead, and wild mid-Columbia steelhead.
If successful, the wild-only listings would result in no appreciable change in the management of the petitioned wild stocks, but could change management practices for hatchery-born fish.
The groups signed on the petitions include Trout Unlimited, Oregon Council of TU, Washington Council of TU, California Council of TU, Idaho Council of TU, Oregon Trout, Washington Trout, Native Fish Society, Oregon Council of Federation of Flyfishers, Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Associations/ Institute for Fisheries Resources, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Save Our Wild Salmon, American Rivers, Audubon Society of Portland, National Wildlife Federation, and Siskiyou Regional Education Project.
For more information: Jason Miner, Oregon Trout: 503.222.9091 x. 17