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Commentaries and editorials

Extremists' Views on
Wild, Hatchery Salmon Don't Make Sense

by Norm Semanko
Idaho Statesman - January 13, 2005

Shooting the messenger won't change the facts: Hatchery fish matter.

Some things are a given. For example, if you cannot dispute the message, go after the messenger. That was the case in the recent tirade against me by Bob Krumm of Idaho Steelhead and Salmon United (Reader's View, Dec. 15) regarding the relative value of hatchery versus wild salmon.

I'm flattered he believes that I have so much public influence. But truth be known, he's swimming up the wrong creek. He first needs to talk to Idaho's political leadership, then look at the scientific and legal realities, and finally apply some common-sense logic.

How can hatchery fish be hurting salmon and steelhead populations when they are returning to Idaho in such numbers? It is the same formula that has proven so successful in re-establishing Idaho's birds of prey over the past few decades. Nobody doubts that these birds, raised not in the wild but in captivity, are real birds.

Name-dropping a list of Ph.D.'s does not make a hatchery fish genetically different than its wild counterpart.

All sides of the wild versus hatchery debate have their lists of scientific experts. The fact is that there is no genetic difference, and where there is no difference, the law says that the fish need to be considered together in determining whether they are really endangered.

Finally, it never hurts to apply common-sense logic. Two chinook salmon are born in Idaho, one in a hatchery and the other in a creek. As youngsters, they head west, migrating together the tough 900 downstream miles to the ocean where they will spend two or three years.

Then as adults, they head home to Idaho together. When they arrive, they will have survived the same challenges and eventually arrived at the same spot to spawn and then die. The offspring of both fish will be considered "wild." It just doesn't make any sense to say one fish is inferior because it was born in a hatchery. No wonder so many people in the fishing community and throughout Idaho disagree with Mr. Krumm's purist position. It just doesn't make sense that hatchery fish, genetically identical to their wild counterparts, should not be considered when making decisions about salmon and steelhead. For these people, Mr. Krumm included, those hundreds of thousands of hatchery born salmon and steelhead coming back to Idaho do not exist.

If I were them, I guess I wouldn't want anybody carrying that message to the public either.

Related Pages:
Radio Advertisement in Southern Idaho, by Coalition for ID Water

Norm Semanko is executive director of the Idaho Water Users Association and president of the Coalition for Idaho Water.
Extremists' Views on Wild, Hatchery Salmon Don't Make Sense
Idaho Statesman, January 13, 2005

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