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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 27, 2009 at 4:30 PM

Salmon-hatchery reform

Investigation findings are tool, not rule

The treaties of 1855 secured for the Columbia Basin treaty tribes the right to fish in their usual and accustomed places. To fully realize those rights, the tribes address every aspect of salmon recovery, including hatchery reform.

The three-year detailed investigation of the role of hatcheries in restoring salmon conducted by the Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG) reached the same conclusion that the tribes did years ago: Hatcheries are important to recovering the basin’s salmon [“Hatchery reform comes to the Columbia River,” Opinion, Jim Waldo guest commentary, April 24]. The tribes themselves use hatcheries in their salmon-recovery efforts.

The HSRG findings are technical recommendations that are a tool, not a rule. They are one approach of many to addressing declining salmon runs in a dynamic and complex environment. The HSRG recommendations need to be considered in the larger context of existing management agreements, ongoing recovery efforts and mitigation actions required by law for impacts to salmon by hydro operations and habitat loss.

The U.S. v. Oregon technical and policy committees are reviewing the HSRG recommendations for implications to harvest. Any attempt by the HSRG to change harvest activities through their report is inappropriate. Harvest has always been, and will continue to be, managed under the US v. Oregon Harvest Management Agreement.

— N. Kathryn Brigham, chair, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Portland, Ore.

Reform should help recovery of wild populations

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

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