Leading ecologists conclude that real recovery, not artificial abundance provided through hatcheries, should drive policy decisions, including listings under the ESA
Western Conservation Director
503.827.5700 x. 11
3/26/2004 -- Portland, Ore. -- Trout and salmon conservation organization Trout Unlimited (TU) said today that the findings announced by a team of leading scientists charged by the federal government with reviewing federal Pacific salmon recovery efforts parallel many of the positions regarding hatchery and wild salmon TU has been advocating for years.
Chief among those conclusions is that hatchery fish should not be counted in salmon population assessments used to determine the necessity of protection under the Endangered Species Act. Currently 26 stocks of Pacific salmon and steelhead are listed under the ESA. Trout Unlimited (TU) was one of two primary groups in April, 2002 which filed petitions with NOAA Fisheries to exclude hatchery fish from ESA protection among 15 salmon and steelhead stocks located up and down the Pacific Coast. Conversely, logging and development interests have filed petitions to de-list 15 stocks from the ESA, arguing that the presence of hatchery fish mixed in with the dwindling wild population can combine to comprise one essentially healthy stock. That precedent could allow future stocks to be maintained simply by producing enough hatchery fish to meet demand while allowing the wild fish to blink out.
“We’ve said since the beginning we’ll let science dictate policy when it comes to making the tough decisions necessary to recovery these fish,” said TU Salmon Policy Coordinator Kaitlin Lovell. “It is heartening that a group of independent and unimpeachable scientists appear to agree with the same sets of principles that have founded TU’s positions on these issues all along.”
In the authors’ press release issued today, panel Chairman Robert Paine of the University of Washington said “Pacific salmon are under threat of being eliminated to make way for development. We should not open the legal door to maintaining salmon only in hatcheries. The science is clear and unambiguous; as they are currently operated, hatcheries and hatchery fish cannot protect wild stocks.”
The team of six ecologists appointed by the government as an “external review committee for the recovery efforts for Pacific salmon” will publish their conclusions in the “Policy Forum” section of the tomorrow’s issue of the journal Science. According to the authors’ press release issued today, those conclusions were deemed “inappropriate” for NOAA Fisheries’ official reports by the agency because their “conclusions regarding endangered salmon populations and hatchery fish . . . went beyond science into policy.”
The group then opted to publish in Science “to make sure the policy implications reached a wide audience because of their concern for the recovery of populations of wild salmon in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.”
NOAA Fisheries is currently undertaking a review of all 26 listed Pacific stocks, and is scheduled to announce at the end of this month its policy regarding the inclusion, exclusion or other treatment of hatchery fish when assessing the health of wild salmon stocks. The agency has filed for an extension on that deadline.
While Trout Unlimited has argued vociferously that hatchery fish should not be counted with wild fish in considering ESA listings, the group also has been clear that hatcheries can play a constructive role in recovering salmon and steelhead, especially hatcheries that model artificial production practices after the natural adaptations of local wild fish and local ecosystems. Trout Unlimited recently released a white paper “Hatchery Reform in the 21st Century: The Landscape Approach” by lead authors Rick Williams and Jim Lichatowich that outlines such strategies for making hatcheries more of a solution and less of a problem for wild salmon stocks.
“We all want to see salmon recovered, but it is in no one’s interest to settle for short-term fixes that compromise the long-term well being of these fish,” said TU’s Chris Wood. “It is our hope that these findings will guide development of government policies that ensure the long-term health of wild salmon and steelhead.”
View the Science article by calling 202.326.6440 or through email@example.com 
Trout Unlimited’s hatchery reform paper or the wild-only salmon and steelhead petitions can be downloaded at www.tu.org. 
Mission: Trout Unlimited is North America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. The organization has more than 130,000 members in 450 chapters in North America.