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Reform Should Help Recovery of Wild Populations

by Frank Urabeck
Seattle Times, April 27, 2009

Salmon Hatchery Reform

(Shawn Raecke) Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologist Mike Peterson holds a male sockeye salmon for the camera crews before releasing him into Redfish Lake near Stanley Tuesday morning, 900 miles from the Pacific. The event including State, Federal and local officials including Governor Butch Otter were all on hand to release 56 sockeye salmon into the lake. Jim Waldo's guest commentary reflects a long-developing understanding by scientists and politicians of what is needed to protect our rapidly diminishing populations of wild salmon while maintaining reasonable harvest fisheries for all user groups.

This all began with landmark legislation passed by the Washington Legislature in 1995, mandating the mass-marking of state hatchery-produced chinook and coho salmon by removing the adipose fin before the juvenile salmon are released. Subsequent expenditures of many millions of dollars of state and federal taxpayer funds for special machines have resulted in nearly all hatchery chinook and coho salmon being mass-marked for easy identification when surviving fish return as adults.

We now have the ability to have our cake and eat it, too, so to speak. This program allows all harvesters -- tribal, commercial and sports -- to mark selective fish for the surplus hatchery salmon, enabling the Endangered Species Act-listed species to escape to the spawning gravels. More hatchery fish are harvested, reducing negative impacts on wild salmon, and also providing a better economic return on the public's significant investment in hatcheries.

Waldo's guest commentary makes clear that we now have the means to phase out use of nonselective gill nets that continue to hamper a speedier recovery of wild-fish populations. Now only political will is required. Let us not fail in making the changeover in the interest of conservation.

Frank Urabeck, Bonney Lake
Reform Should Help Recovery of Wild Populations
Seattle Times, April 27, 2009

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