the film
Commentaries and editorials

When Fish Come Before Humans,
Something is Wrong

by Sonya D. Jones
Idaho Statesman, September 4, 2007

The Statesman editorial board claims that "wild salmon are different - stronger and hardier - than their hatchery-raised brethren" (Salmon ruling makes policy adhere to science, Aug. 21). That statement relies neither on any scientific consensus, nor any common sense.

Promoting the survival of salmon is a worthy goal, but does it really matter if a fish's ancestors are from a hatchery or naturally spawned? As it is, many so-called "wild" or naturally spawned salmon were all but gone and brought back through the use of hatcheries. Given that hatcheries have been around for over a hundred years, it is doubtful that any "wild" salmon lack ancestors who were not hatchery-raised.

There is a lot at stake in these questions affecting a lot of people living in the Pacific Northwest. Protecting the salmon will make water much more difficult to obtain, and without irrigation permits, many farmers and ranchers will have to stop watering their crops and livestock.

Large areas of private property will have to be set aside for any species listed as threatened or endangered at tremendous, and often uncompensated, cost to farmers and ranchers. The commercial and recreational fishing industries in the Northwest, which generate more than $2 billion annually, also will be affected.

Even federal district court judges in the Pacific Northwest cannot seem to agree. In 2001, Judge Michael Hogan, of the District of Oregon in Eugene, rejected the claim that hatchery and naturally spawned salmon were different as being "arbitrary and capricious." Hogan then ruled that the listing of the Oregon Coast coho as endangered was unlawful under the Endangered Species Act because of the way National Marine Fisheries Service treated the differences between hatchery and "wild" salmon in assessing the overall health of the salmon populations.

In mid-June, Judge John Coughenour, of the Western District of Washington in Seattle, said that "human interference" and the "unnatural" way that hatcheries maintain salmon populations was unlawful under the ESA. The case is Trout Unlimited v. Lohn. Coughenour then encouraged appellate review to settle the dispute between the Washington and Oregon courts.

Recently, in Alsea Valley Alliance v. Lautenbacher, Hogan once again ruled on this issue, but without overturning his prior decision. This time he approved distinguishing between naturally spawned and hatchery fish for protective regulations as long as the hatchery fish were considered in deciding whether the fish were endangered under the ESA in the first place.

In other words, these judges cannot agree on whether hatchery fish should be counted in deciding whether salmon are threatened or endangered under the ESA.

Moreover, if hatchery fish must be counted under the ESA, it seems illogical to us that they should then be excluded when deciding how to protect the salmon species.

The ESA seems pretty clear: To protect and provide for conservation of species. To define hatchery and naturally spawned fish as different species is an unlawful interpretation of the ESA.

There are no biological or genetic differences, only a clipped fin on hatchery fish. Environmental groups claim there are behavioral differences, but behavioral differences are not criteria that may be considered for listing purposed under the ESA.

All of these decisions highlight the importance of balanced environmental policies. When fish are held in higher regard than humans, by severely impacting farming and ranching, something is wrong.

An appeal is imperative to uphold the plain language of the ESA and to protect citizens from the overreaching and overzealous governmental regulation of private property.

Pacific Legal Foundation is appealing both the recent Trout Unlimited and Alsea Valley Alliance decisions and welcomes review by the 9th Circuit.

Related Pages:
Salmon And Trout Hatcheries Cause 'Stunning' Loss Of Reproduction by Oregon State University, Science Daily, 10/5/7

Sonya D. Jones is an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation in Bellevue, Wash., and is the lead attorney for Alsea Valley Alliance.
When Fish Come Before Humans, Something is Wrong
Idaho Statesman, September 4, 2007

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