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West Coast Salmon Crisis

by Gary Roussan
The Willits News, July 3, 2008

A national coalition of commercial and sport fishermen, conservationists and clean energy and taxpayer advocates, are challenging the latest Bush Administration plan for continued operation of federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers at the expense of wild salmon, calling it a slap in the face to fishermen, fishing families, and coastal communities.

"Today we are taking the only action we can against another legally inadequate plan from the Bush Administration," said Todd True, senior managing attorney for Earthjustice in Seattle, Wash. "Despite two years of work and a clear warning from the federal courts that the administration cannot ignore the Endangered Species Act, we now have a plan that is worse than ever. Our only option is to ask the courts to intervene again, hold the government accountable and require it to obey the law."

In addition to filing litigation, the groups also are calling on congressional leadership for legislative solutions to the declining salmon populations Columbia-Snake and other West Coast rivers that have contributed to unprecedented salmon declines and fishery closures on the West Coast.

"After so many failed plans, we obviously cannot rely on the Bush Administration to help restore salmon in the Pacific Northwest," said Dan Ritzman, Northwest Regional and Alaska director for the Sierra Club. "Today we are urging our leaders in Congress to step up with legislation that will authorize removal of four outdated dams on the Snake River and provide real long-term solutions to the salmon declines that have left people and the environment bearing the brunt of the government's failures."

Among those hardest hit by the West Coast salmon crisis are fishermen, whose livelihoods and family businesses have been harmed by repeated fishery closures and cutbacks in recent years. Fishermen are also among the plaintiffs in the legal challenge being brought against the Bush Administration's federal salmon plan.

"The administration's plan not only deliberately ignores science, it overlooks the tens of thousands of people on the West Coast who rely on these fish for their jobs. Without abundant, harvestable populations of salmon we can forget about long-term economic stability," said Pietro Parravano, president of the Institute for Fisheries Resources and a Half Moon Bay commercial fisherman. "This administration has abandoned fishermen. It's time for Congress to step in and ensure a future for our industry and our families."

The newest salmon plan from the Bush administration, released on May 5, is the latest in a long history of failure by federal agencies to protect and restore wild salmon throughout the West. National conservation, fishing and taxpayer advocates have criticized the plan's lack of science-based analysis.

"The new plan doesn't suggest even a single new action to address long-term impacts from climate change," said Patty Glick, senior global warming specialist for National Wildlife Federation in Seattle. "Science tells us higher river temperatures and altered flows are making salmon populations even more vulnerable to other threats they're facing in the Columbia River Basin, such as the four outdated lower Snake River dams. It's unacceptable that the administration is downplaying the best science we have."

Three of the last four federal plans for the Columbia and Snake rivers have been found inadequate and illegal in federal court.

U.S. District Court Judge James Redden in Portland soundly rejected the federal government's 2004 salmon plan and has indicated "serious consequences" for federal agencies and hydro-system operations would follow if this newest plan did not follow the law and address the needs of salmon.

Despite a history of failure, the new plan calls for cutting several key salmon protection measures and comes with a price tag of more than half a billion dollars per year. While it includes some provisions for habitat, hatchery production and predator control, it calls for no significant changes to the region's federal hydro system and ignores the four dams on the lower Snake River that do the most harm to the basin's endangered salmon. This makes it all the more necessary for congressional leaders intervene.

"Congress needs to hold committee hearings to address the fish declines, they need to come up with legislative solutions such as authorizing the removal of the four lower Snake River dams and they need to insist the federal government bring the river's stakeholders together," said Jim Norton, a river and fishing guide based in Idaho. "It is important that we start collaborating to make sure we have a stable future of river health and salmon recovery. It is my hope Congress and the next president will make this idea a reality."

European Tackle Trade Assocation action on issues

We sometimes think we're the only country that has problems in our manufacturing, retailing and maybe even our wildlife and fisheries.

We're decidedly not, as we learned in recent dispatches from our friends in the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA).

After seeing evidence the fish-eating cormorant is spreading colonies across Europe at a ferocious rate, EFTTA has moved to quickly see what controls, if any, can be enacted to prevent a depletion of fisheries.

During EFTTA's annual General Assembly (the equivalent of our ICAST Show), they saw that the more than one-million cormorants on the continent were eating better than a pound of fish each per day. In areas where fisheries are already dwindling, there is a real concern the cormorant may simply eat them out of existence.

EFTTA Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Bel says, "This is a shock. We all know that cormorant numbers are increasing, but this is the first time I have seen that fact presented in such an impactful way.

"More than a thousand tones of fish a day are being consumed by these birds many of which have migrated inland and are wiping out indigenous freshwater fish stocks.

"Our leaders in Europe cannot afford to sit back and let that happen. Cormorant breeding has to be more tightly controlled. Doing nothing is not an option.

"It is quite horrific and clearly there needs to be a Europe-wide plan to manage cormorants.

So EFTTA's calling for a Pan-European Cormorant Management Plan, in cooperation with the European Angler's Alliance. The plan which calls for a common management plan for cormorants across the continent to "reconcile nature conservation and fishing interests" suggests a five-step approach that works toward comprehensive management.

Hopefully the United States will note the efforts of the Europeans and finally recognize the growing problem of birds depleting populations of endangered fish, such as salmon and steelhead smolts.

Perhaps you have seen flocks of merganser ducks, literally trolling in packs, swimming up and down our rivers and streams. They seem to work in Unisom much like predators like our river otters, surrounding the smolts and herding them into the shallows to be consumed. To my knowledge, no one hunts mergansers or cormorants, as they probably taste like old dead fish if consumed.

There are many reasons why our fish populations have dwindled over the years, and predation by these types of birds should be addressed.

Related Pages:
Columbia River is Thick with Sockeye Salmon by Phil Ferolito, Yakima Herald, 7/3/8

Gary Roussan is an avid Willits sportsman and conservationist.
West Coast Salmon Crisis
The Willits News, July 3, 2008

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