Sportfishing Industry Supports
by William McCall, Associated Press
ESTACADA, Ore. - Representatives of the Northwest sportfishing industry joined fishery scientists Wednesday in a show of support for state fish hatchery management policy that includes clubbing surplus salmon.
"It's important for the public to understand that we have two separate programs, one to raise fish in hatcheries and the other to restore wild salmon and steelhead runs," said Jim Greer, director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Greer said the goal of the hatchery program is to provide salmon and steelhead for sport fishing while state and federal agencies work to halt the decline of wild fish.
But hatchery fish must be kept separate from wild stocks that are considered genetically superior and better able to adapt to changing conditions during migration between streams and the ocean.
Fishery managers sometimes must destroy surplus hatchery fish in order to prevent them from interbreeding with wild salmon and steelhead, and weakening the overall stock, Greer said.
"We have a wild fish policy that we stand behind and believe in very strongly," he said.
Controversy over the policy arose after an elk hunter shot a video of technicians at the Fall Creek hatchery bashing coho salmon in the head with baseball bats and stripping their eggs into buckets.
The footage incensed two state representatives, who have crafted a bill that would bar the state from killing off hatchery fish and create a panel of experts to review the practice.
The Pacific Legal Foundation, a property rights organization, lost attempts to stop killing the Fall Creek hatchery coho, but has a lawsuit arguing that the Endangered Species Act protects the hatchery fish.
On Wednesday, spokesmen for Oregon Trout, the Association of Northwest Steelheaders and the Native Fish Society gathered at the Clackamas Fish Hatchery to show support for the hatchery program.
Gary Benson, co-president of the steelheaders, blamed much of the recent criticism of the hatchery program on private landowners who are resisting state and federal efforts to improve stream and river habitat throughout the Northwest.
"Without restoration of habitat we will never be able to restore wild salmon and steelhead runs," Benson said. "And without hatcheries, there would be no fishing while the habitat is restored."
Benson said private landowners have confused the public by saying excess hatchery fish means the salmon crisis is exaggerated and conservation efforts are unnecessary.
But in fact, landowners simply want to maintain control of their property and avoid making improvements needed to restore salmon and steelhead habitat.
"Their representatives have even gone so far as to suggest that the 'salmon crisis' is a hoax," Benson said. "They say these absurd things because they resent regulatory restrictions being imposed on private lands."
Denny Lassuy, president-elect of the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, said the biologists and other scientists who make up the group agree that hatchery fish are genetically inferior to wild salmon and steelhead.
"The loss of genetic vitality in hatchery fish is very well documented," Lassuy said. "We have 1,500 members and as scientists, they disagree on a lot of things, but on this issue, there is overwhelming agreement."
Lassuy said the society supported the recent destruction of surplus hatchery fish at the Fall Creek Hatchery in the Alsea River watershed that drew media attention for clubbing salmon.
Lassuy said the decision to destroy the fish was based on sound scientific principles after a series of meetings and hearings.
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs