Agencies review Puget Sound hatchery plans – Tacoma News Tribune

This has been a highly contentious issue, with lawsuits by environmental groups trying to stop all hatchery releases and the sports fishermen and the Tribes opposed to that. The environmental groups have very solid science showing that when you compare rivers like the Skagit and the declines over 70 years to almost no steelhead, with similar rivers in Oregon, like the Umpqua, which have seen virtually no change in steelhead production over the same period in time with no hatchery fish released, it begs the question of ‘why not ban all hatchery fish for a 10 year period?” The courts seem inclined to go along with that arguement. For some of the Tribes and the sports fishermen, it  seems as if science doesn’t matter, and that they want to fish to the last wild fish. They may get their wish. As one scientist said at hearings in Olympia on this last spring, “Without wild steelhead, you will not have hatchery fish.” So if you lose the wild run, it’s game over. 

How Puget Sound fish hatcheries will operate in the future could be determined by an environmental impact statement now being developed. As part of that process, NOAA Fisheries is holding public workshops this week to discuss the draft environmental impact statement that assesses alternative operations of salmon and steelhead hatcheries around the Sound. The proposed action alternative in the draft would operate hatcheries under two state and tribal resource management plans developed jointly by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and Puget Sound treaty tribes, according to a NOAA news release. The proposed action would maintain hatchery production at current levels. Jeffrey P. Mayor reports. (Tacoma News Tribune)

2 Responses

  1. “For some of the Tribes and the sports fishermen, it seems as if science doesn’t matter, and that they want to fish to the last wild fish. They may get their wish.”

    No one. least of all the tribes, wants to catch the last wild fish. The tribes are leaders in the salmon recovery effort. Science does matter, but so do treaty rights. This is a classic case of the larger society wanting to have its cake and eat it, too.

    Destroy the wild salmon’s habitat, then build hatcheries to replace that lost natural production, then close the hatcheries because of their effects on wild fish. No habitat plus no hatcheries equals no fish.for harvest by anyone..

    Tribes would rather not have hatcheries either, but without them there would be no fishing at all, and no value at all to the treaty right. Tribes and their treaty rights are one of the few things strong enough to stand between the larger society’s reckless actions and the extinction of salmon.

    Tony Meyer

    • Thanks for the feedback Tony. I appreciate the work that the NWIFC is doing. And I agree with your overall point that no Tribes want to catch the last salmon. I also understand that the notion of the Tribes is not a unified entity, and that the Tribes, much like the UN, all represent similar but different points of view.

      The point I was reacting to was that there seemed to be very solid scientific *hypothesis* (not necessarily proven yet), that the hatcheries are contributing to the end of the wild stocks. The notion that similar rivers that don’t have hatcheries have healthier runs of wild stocks is worth exploring. It may be that all fishing in some rivers will have to stop to achieve a test of that hypothesis. The interesting thing in exploring that, is that while you say “this is a classic case of the larger society wanting to have it’s cake and eat it too,” I think that you could say that about the Tribes that want to denounce that hypothesis without seriously exploring it. If in fact, the hatchery fish are a root cause of the problem, along with other causes, then you might have to shut some fisheries down, for a length of time, to save the wild stocks.

      I think that to those of us watching this from the outside, the hatchery folks have had their way to prove you can do both. It seems fair to say they have failed in that multi decade test. Now, with the numbers crashing of wild stocks in those rivers, it might be time to call a halt to try something radically different.

      I have to say, that as I traveled across the Olympic Peninsula, interviewing elders of all types who had fished here over the last 50 years, I over and over again heard them call for a total ban on fishing to help restore wild stocks. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have also shown that banning all fishing of a certain type can restore stocks. But you and I know that some Tribes are against that notion for the very reasons you state.

      I stand by my thoughts that radical solutions that may upset the status quo, whether that status quo is white or Tribal, may eventually be needed, and that what I saw in that testimony was a united front by that status quo to denounce what seemed like a hypothesis that had merit. You might notice that there was no one who even wanted to float a trial of that on any river in the Salish Sea. So it sadly sounds like the courts will be the final arbiter in the decision. Or maybe the loss of the wild stocks will be.

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