Agencies Must Get Serious to Save Listed Northwest Fish
Largest Salmon Conservation Group Says Volunteers Alone Aren’t Enough
3/15/1999 — — Volunteer and local efforts won’t restore endangered trout and salmon without a coordinated, forceful effort from state and federal agencies, says Trout Unlimited, a 100,000-member organization that has epitomized volunteer action to restore fisheries habitat.
As federal agencies prepare to list nine more stocks of Pacific salmon and steelhead under the federal Endangered Species Act, Trout Unlimited, long a leader in volunteer efforts to improve fish habitat around the nation, welcomed the call for the states and local governments to sponsor additional volunteer efforts to restore watersheds, but said that the time for incremental efforts has passed.
“There’s no doubt that local conservation action must play an important part in bringing fish back – particularly on private lands,” said Bill Robinson, Executive Director of the Washington Council of TU. “But it won’t be enough to save the region’s salmon and steelhead stocks unless state and federal agencies use all the tools at their disposal to protect salmon and steelhead habitat under the Endangered Species Act. That will mean enforcing all the state, local and federal laws that protect habitat.”
“Historically, the federal agencies have been reluctant to do everything necessary to protect vital salmon and steelhead streams,” said Jeff Curtis, Western Conservation Director for TU. “Well, it’s time to change that. This is not a drill. Without immediate, coordinated, forceful action from everyone involved, we’re going to see the extinction of Pacific salmon runs. Extinction is forever, and forever is a very long time.”
Included on the list of species likely to receive the protection of the Endangered Species Act are chinook in the Puget Sound, Willamette River, lower Columbia chinook as well as the spring run of upper Columbia chinook. The upper Willamette and Mid Columbia steelhead will also receive protection along with chum salmon in the lower Columbia River and in the Hood Canal area of Puget Sound. Finally, the Ozette Lake sockeye are likely to be listed. With the listing of these fish, the majority of the salmon runs in the Northwest will be recognized as being in danger of extinction or likely to become endangered unless dramatic actions are taken. In a little over a century, a species that not only provided sustenance to Native Americans for millennia, but through the transfer of nutrients from the ocean back to the land built the great forests of the Pacific Northwest, has been driven to the edge of oblivion.
TU also renewed its call for a speedy conservation-based end to the stalemate that has plagued U.S.-Canada negotiations over the Pacific Salmon Treaty. In January, representatives of TU’s Canadian and U.S. organizations presented a plan for resolution of the treaty to the Pacific Salmon Commission and the two governments, recommending 10 common sense recommendations for resolving the stalemate.
The Pacific Salmon treaty governs the interceptions of salmon that originate in the streams of one country but are caught in the other country. Unfortunately, for the last five years, the U.S and Canada have been unable to agree on how to conserve the salmon and share the harvest equitably. The result has been over harvest of salmon stocks that originate in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
“What many folks fail to recognize is the impact that fisheries in Canada and Alaska are having on salmon from Washington and Oregon,” said Curtis. “Fish from Puget Sound are caught in large numbers in Canadian waters, particularly in the Strait of Georgia. Significant numbers of Willamette River Spring chinook are caught in northern British Columbia. The time has come for the federal government to sit down with their counterparts in Canada and fix the treaty.”
“Every generation has its test of character,” said Curtis. “For our generation, the test is whether we have enough decency to leave a space in our civilization for salmon. If we fail, history will judge us harshly, but probably not as harshly as we will judge ourselves.”
Founded in 1959 in Grayling, Michigan, Trout Unlimited is America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization. TU’s 100,000 members in 455 chapters nationwide are dedicated to the conservation, protection, and restoration of North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds.