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Bill Seeks to Spare Hatchery Salmon

by Associated Press
The Oregonian
- April 8, 2000

A Washington legislator proposes a moratorium on killing hatchery fish,
but managers say it's necessary to save wild fish

KENNEWICK, Wash. -- State Sen. Bob Morton wants to save the salmon. Hatchery salmon, that is.

Morton, R-Orient, introduced a bill Thursday to ban for at least two years the killing of salmon that return to Washington hatcheries.

Morton, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environmental Quality and Water Resources Committee, and others are upset about being asked to pay for salmon recovery efforts while wildlife managers club to death thousands of hatchery-born fish.

A widely circulated videotape of Oregon officials beating fish is the most recent flash point in the debate.

Some hatchery salmon must be killed to prevent them from overwhelming wild runs, said Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle.

"What seems at first blush to be a terrible mistake is actually a sensible thing," Gorman said.

Hatchery salmon, produced by the billions in the past several decades in the Northwest, have been controversial for years.

Gorman said biologists "almost universally agree" wild stocks are genetically more varied and more valuable than hatchery fish.

"What (the bill) will do is further weaken wild fish," he said. "It doesn't make sense to load excess hatchery fish into the system."

Morton isn't convinced.

"In some areas, we are depending solely on hatchery fish to return near-extinct runs, then in other cases, the government claims hatchery fish are not good enough to use in this manner," he said. "We really need some consistency."

Last year, 183,000 of the 463,000 salmon returning to hatcheries were killed and their eggs destroyed, he said.

"We are spending as much as $1 billion each year to try to recover our salmon runs," Morton said. "In the meantime, we kill 40 percent of the adult fish that make it back to spawn."

His bill would impose a two-year moratorium on destruction of salmon returning to hatcheries until the practice gets a "more thorough examination."

The issue is too complex for simple solutions, said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Washington Trout, a conservation group.

"If you only use logic, yes, it really appears on the outside that what is being done is wrong," Beardslee said, "but it's a very complex issue."

Associated Press
Bill Seeks to Spare Hatchery Salmon
The Oregonian April 8, 2000

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