TU Calls for Improvements to
Conservationists Ask For ESA Listing Without Further Delay
3/9/1999 — — NOTE: The complete text of Trout Unlimited’s comments on the Maine plan may be downloaded in Adobe .pdf format from TU’s web site at http://www.tu.org/library/conservation.asp
In comments submitted Monday, Trout Unlimited (TU) criticized the Maine Atlantic Salmon Conservation Plan as “inadequate to accomplish its stated goals” and called on the National Marine Fisheries Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Atlantic salmon in Maine’s rivers under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) without further delay. TU, the nation’s leading trout and salmon conservation group, recommended significant improvements to correct serious flaws in the Maine plan, and reiterated its contention that without major improvements and stronger funding and enforcement, the Plan will likely fail to restore Atlantic salmon.
Trout Unlimited President Charles F. Gauvin summarized the conservation group’s assessment of the Plan as follows:
“Despite some progress in implementing the Plan, the Plan’s protective resources are inadequate to accomplish its stated goals. By contrast, protective measures available under the ESA would be far more effective.” “The Plan is deficient for its failure to protect and restore wild salmon populations outside the seven rivers, which current knowledge supports including in the DPS [distinct population segment, the population to be protected under the Plan]. The Plan’s protective measures are also inadequate with respect to threats associated with aquaculture and the use of hatchery-reared fish for supplementation.”
“The Services should proceed forthwith to list the DPS under the ESA.” As evidence of the inadequacy of the Maine plan for salmon protection, Trout Unlimited supplied numerous examples of destruction of or damage to critical salmon habitat in Maine’s rivers over the past 12 months, including pollution from animal feedlots, poorly executed logging in and around streams, and water withdrawals that dried up key salmon spawning and rearing areas.
“There is no doubt in our mind that Maine’s Atlantic salmon need to be listed under the ESA,” said Jeff Reardon, chairman of TU’s Maine Council. “But once that’s in place, it is clear that the Maine plan will form the basis of the recovery plan under the ESA. It is equally clear that the Plan needs a lot of work if it’s going to get the job done. We’ve made dozens of specific suggestions in our comments, and we stand ready to work with state and federal agencies to make the plan work.”
“The plan the state has put together won’t mean a thing unless it is aggressively implemented, and money and resources are allocated to enforcing its provisions,” said TU’s Gauvin. “Unfortunately, the state lacks the funding and personnel to enforce its existing regulations, and has consistently failed to put its money where its mouth is where salmon are concerned. Given the state’s failure to provide funding to implement the plan during the last 15 months, and its failure to respond to numerous calls for improvements in the plan, it’s hard to imagine the state of Maine even coming close to restoring wild Atlantic salmon.”
TU’s comments also focus on the state’s failure to require salmon-farmers to report fish diseases and escapes, and on the potential damage to the state’s few remaining wild fish from hatchery-reared salmon. Maine has no enforceable fish-health protocol, and even the regulations contained in the restoration plan are completely voluntary and rely on aquaculture operators to report their own violations.
“Where salmon farming is concerned, the state’s approach is see no evil, hear no evil,” said Gauvin. “Given what we know about salmon farming impacts on wild salmon in Canada and Europe, we can’t accept such timidity as a substitute for intelligent risk-management.”
TU’s comments include concerns about the unwillingness of Maine to allocate sufficient resources to enforcement of environmental regulations to protect salmon
Trout Unlimited also notes that the Plan does not even mention and does nothing to protect wild salmon populations that are not within the seven rivers to which it applies, despite the likelihood that there is a greater number of wild Atlantic salmon in those waters than in all of the seven rivers.
The comments submitted today also dissect the specific weaknesses in the Plan’s provisions, including its failure to adequately limit recreational angling for salmon during its implementation.
“No level of hooking mortality is acceptable in light of current salmon population levels,” writes TU. “Directed recreational angling for salmon should be closed until populations recover.”
“Maine has got to come to terms with the fact that it has to take real action to recover its salmon,” said Gauvin. “This plan is a pale attempt at a recovery strategy. It won’t work, and at this point, only the Endangered Species Act has enough teeth to force Maine to do what needs to be done. We have given the state a blueprint for fixing the plan between now and April 30, when the federal agencies issue their decision in the state’s annual report. We support the listing of the salmon because we think the state will not do what is necessary to make the plan an effective restoration tool. Of course, we would be pleased if the state proved us wrong on that score.”
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.