Trout Unlimited Continues Call for Listing
4/14/2000 -- -- Contact:
*Jeff Reardon, New England Conservation Coordinator, Trout Unlimited, (Camden, ME): (207) 882-4791;
*Maggie Lockwood, Director of Press Relations, Trout Unlimited: (703) 284-9425
April 14, 2000. Augusta, Maine. Trout Unlimited, the nation's leading trout and salmon conservation organization, repeated its call for an endangered listing of Maine's Atlantic salmon today. In a 19-page document filed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), TU submitted its final comments on the proposed listing of the Maine salmon. The comment period closed today.
Last year fewer than 300 salmon returned to eight rivers proposed for listing. Historically, U.S. rivers from the St. Croix in eastern Maine to the Connecticut supported hundreds of thousands of salmon annually.
"The 1999 Status Review shows that Maine salmon are at considerable risk of extinction, and TU supports the listing proposal," concludes TU's comment letter. Says TU's CEO Charles Gauvin, who is a New Gloucester, Me. resident, "The comments cite historical, genetic, and life history data presented over the past five years that demonstrate clearly that salmon in Maine were never extirpated, and they retain important biological traits that make them distinct from all other populations of salmon in the Atlantic Ocean. [See below for background information.]
"The genetic data alone are compelling evidence that there is such a thing as a 'Maine salmon.' That genetic information is supported by empirically observed biological differences between Maine and Canadian salmon that have been observed since the 1870s."
TU's comments also sharply criticize implementation of the Maine Atlantic Salmon Conservation Plan, unlawfully accepted by the USFWS and NMFS as an alternative to listing in 1997. "Virtually every phase of the Plan is behind schedule, and the state has either taken no action on critical components of the plan or left them sorely underfunded," says Dick Walthers, who chairs TU's Maine Council. The comments cite the state's failure to address the known threats to salmon and their habitat within the time frame outlined in the Plan two years ago.
"We know what threats to salmon we can control," says Jeff Reardon, TU's New England Conservation Director. "Habitat loss, water withdrawals, and containment of escaped aquaculture fish can all be controlled by the state of Maine. Over the past two years, Maine has simply chosen not control them."
Even where the state has addressed known threats to salmon, lack of coordination in state policy puts salmon at risk. "Look at how they handled closing the fishing season," says Walthers. Maine closed its salmon rivers to catch-and-release fishing in December 1999, after biologists and conservationists had called for the conservation closure for over two years. In March, an emergency bill to reopen the rivers to salmon fishing passed the Maine Senate, but was defeated in the House.
"Maine has clearly demonstrated that it has neither the will nor the ability to protect its salmon without the oversight of the Endangered Species Act," said Gauvin. "With salmon on the brink of extinction, it's time to use the best tool for species conservation: the Endangered Species Act."
Trout Unlimited's Maine Council includes 1,200 members, and TU's members and local chapters have played a leading role in documenting and protecting the remaining populations of Maine's wild salmon. Founded in 1959 in Grayling, Michigan, Trout Unlimited is America's leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization. TU's 115,000 members in 500 chapters nationwide are dedicated to the conservation, protection, and restoration of North America's trout and salmon and their watersheds.