Judge Says a Salmon is a Salmon Is ...by The Associated Press
The Idaho Statesman, September 17, 2001
Ruling says wild and hatchery fish must be treated the same
LEWISTON -- A decision by a federal judge in Oregon could have indirect repercussions on endangered species listing of salmon and steelhead in Idaho, Washington and northeastern Oregon.
U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service erred when it protected wild coastal coho but didn't protect hatchery coho, even though they belong to the same subspecies.
The decision has no direct effect on Idaho's Snake River chinook and steelhead, but it opens the door for a similar ruling in Idaho. That possibility worries people like Bill Sedivy, executive director of Idaho Rivers United in Boise.
"I got to tell you it makes me really nervous," he said. "Hatchery fish are not the same as wild fish that were bred and reared and grew up in the wild and are much better suited to survive in that environment than hatchery fish are."
Others say the ruling could have some positive effects.
"It gives us more creativity," said Jamie Pinkham, director of the Nez Perce Tribe's fishery program.
The tribe contends hatchery fish can be used to rescue declining wild stocks.
Pinkham said the tribe doesn't want to rely on hatcheries to produce each generation of fish, but does want to use them to increase the number of fish that spawn in the wild.
"We still want to see rebuilding of wild populations," he said. "What we are saying is, don't dismiss the hatchery as a contributor to help rebuild the wild populations."
Sharon Kiefer, anadromous fish manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Boise, said if such a ruling were made on Snake River salmon and steelhead, it would decrease either protection of wild fish or the ability of anglers to catch hatchery fish.
Large numbers of hatchery steelhead and salmon have been returning to Idaho this year. If the government elected to list hatchery and wild fish, both would be protected by the Endangered Species Act.
"What do you think that does to our sport-fishing opportunities?" she asked.
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