TU Fears Babbitt’s Atlantic Salmon Listing Efforts Won’t Survive the Politics of a New Administration
Federal Register Outlines Potential Aquaculture Regulations
11/17/1999 — — While the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service formalized their intentions to list Maine’s Atlantic salmon under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, Trout Unlimited (TU) fears anything less than immediate emergency listing will be lost to political stalling. TU, the nation’s largest coldwater conservation organization, notes that Atlantic salmon can’t afford to wait out the likely transition of a presidential election which will overlap the schedule outlined by Secretary Babbitt for listing protections.
“We have lost an additional 80 percent of our wild Atlantic salmon in Maine in the past decade,” stated TU President Charles Gauvin. “Following the conventional course, Secretary Babbitt’s ESA listing could take up to 15 months and could be further delayed by a new presidential administration making a transition into power. The last thing these wild Atlantic salmon need is more politics. Emergency listing is the only way to avoid further political stalling.”
“Secretary Babbitt has read the federal agencies’ recent status report, which declared Maine’s ‘Atlantic salmon (are) in danger of extinction,’ and understands the odds against the salmon,” continued Gauvin. “The status report makes it abundantly clear that the price of further delay is extinction of Maine’s Atlantic salmon. Secretary Babbitt has the power to protect them under an emergency listing now rather than waste another 15 months talking about it.”
TU was encouraged by proposed regulations outlined by the federal agencies that could require aquaculture operations within 12 miles of the mouths of Maine’s wild salmon rivers to: raise sterile fish; discontinue use of European-strain salmon; mark the fish they are raising so they can be identified if they escape; or develop more secure net pens to prevent escapes. Gauvin suggested that regulations on the industry are long overdue and felt the agencies’ outline of aquaculture guidelines was an “important first step, but they need to follow through.”
In August, after years of salmon restoration work with the State of Maine and federal agencies, TU and the Atlantic Salmon Federation were forced to file a lawsuit for federal protection of the Atlantic salmon under the Endangered Species Act as a last resort attempt to save the United States’ remaining wild Atlantic salmon runs from extinction. For more than a year, both conservation organizations have been calling on the State for better regulation of salmon farming and irrigation, both of which the federal status report identifies as major, as-yet ineffectively addressed threats in Maine’s salmon conservation plan.
Responding to sharp declines in Maine’s remaining wild salmon populations, in 1995 the United States Fish & Wildlife Service proposed listing Atlantic salmon under the ESA. In 1997, in lieu of protection under the ESA, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service accepted the State of Maine’s conservation plan. For the past several years, both ASF and TU, along with their respective Maine Councils, have worked to implement and improve the plan. ASF and TU members have fought for protective water withdrawal regulations helped to build citizen watershed councils, and introduced legislation to strengthen the Maine Atlantic Salmon Authority.
In mid-October, a joint federal Biological Review Team (BRT) led by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (http://news.fws.gov/salmon/asalmon.html) produced a status review which concluded Maine’s “Atlantic salmon is in danger of extinction.”
Trout Unlimited, the nation’s leading coldwater conservation organization, celebrated its 40th Anniversary this year. TU’s 500 chapters and more than 100,000 members nationwide are committed to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.
To read the ‘U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposed Endangered Status for Maine Atlantic Salmon’ in the Federal Register click here