: 2/7 WSJ article: Hatchery fish vs. Natives
02-10-2000, 10:20 PM
Did anyone happen to read Monday's (2/7)Wall Street Journal article on a battle occurring in Oregon over hatchery policies, specifically at Oregon's Fall Creek?
Gist of the article is as follows: Ronald Yechout, an Oregon banker, was out hunting one day when he came across a group of men netting, then clubbing to death, coho salmon. He was outraged and videotaped them. Turns out they were state employees of the Fall Creek Hatchery and they were killing hatchery-raised coho as part of a program by the Oregon Dept of Fish & Wildlife to end production of coho at the hatchery.
Yechout is apparently touring the Pacific Northwest showing his video and gaining significant support as the video is fairly graphic (e.g. coho's to 20 lbs being clubbed with aluminum baseball bats). He apparently disagrees w/state biologists and environmentalists that hatchery fish are threatening native stocks and, unwittingly or otherwise, has attracted support of logging, ranching and others who see this as an opportunity to halt the state's push for tighter restrictions on salmon fishing - the argument being that the govt is also to blame for declining salmon stocks, dams, overfishing, agricultural runoff, and urbanization not withstanding.
Apologies for not doing the full article justice (unfortunately the WSJ website is a paysite so I couldn't get the article online). But I'd be interested to read general thoughts on the hatchery vs. native issue. Juro - if I recall correctly, you're originally from the NW. Any additional insights on the imbroglio?
It would be nice if we didn't rely on hatchery fish for the contined runs of our salmonid stocks, however, the fact is that in some cases hatcheries are required to keep the fish coming back. I know some of you will disagree - and don't get me wrong, I am not a huge proponent of hatchery reliance, but if you look at the situation here in the Northeast (US)we wouldn't have any salmon returning (primarily in the southern extreme of their range, but also to an extent in Maine) if it were not for the federal hatcheries. We have altered the systems to such an extent (i.e., dams and other watershed alterations) that we have lost all of the genetic material unique to the Connecticut and Merrimack Rivers. In order to attempt restoration there is the need to use hatcheries. Of course up in Maine where there is still some natural production going on there is a debate about how the use of hatchery fish for supplementation has diluted, and continues to dilute the genetics of the offspring produced in the river. When you add in the problems associated with aquaculture operations you can see that there is the potential for undesired effects.
What that guy videotaped on the West Coast may have been distastefull for him to witness, but he may not have the full story. Those fish are semelparous (spawn once and die) and perhaps (i don't know) there were some conditions upstream that were not favorable for spawning (i.e., effects of logging, blocked passage, etc.) and in order to not lose a year class they had to strip the fish of milt and roe for hatchery propogation. Again I don't know the circumstances, but perhaps they had already determined that there were enough fish already on the spawning grounds to permit the taking of excess individuals for planting them in another tributary. That would get into a little bit of a grey area, but just because a guy witnessed something doesn't mean he knows all the answers.
Most of the money used for the support of hatchery programs is provided by mitigation money from dam operations - so that should point you in the direction of the real problem, and that is dams and the inability of the dams to effectively pass migrating fish (upstream and downstream). If the mortality associated with dams was reduced, either through the removal, re-engineering of the fishways, or just the alteration of flows to increase survival and decrease timing of migration, we would not have to rely as heavily on hatcheries. But, big business (i.e., aluminum and shipping concerns in the Lewiston, ID area for instance, commercial fisheries, and native subsistence fisheries) and the politicians that represent them put up all sorts of roadblocks - preventing solutions from being put in place, even in the face off all the biological evidence. However, I do think the pendulum is starting to swing towards protection of the resource, but by the time the majority recognize the benefits and demand we change how we operate, it may be too late and we may have lost the stocks.
One last thing - although the motives for the guy with the video may be pure, he may unwillingly fall into the trap of being used by interests that don't have anything else on their mind but the bottom line. If they can promote the fact that it is hatcheries and not bad logging practices (not all logging is bad - it is mostly a road design and construction issue), subsidized electricity production, and irrigation issues that are to blame for the decrease of salmon then they shift the focus from them. Buying a little more time to make the cheap buck and not thinking about the long term.
I'd say you did the article significant justice, normally I would go read the article first before responding but I feel you captured the essence of it such that I could ge read it after I put my .02 in. http://184.108.40.206/images/flytalk/Wilk.gif
You are 100% correct, the issues surrounding preservation of indigenous strains of anadromous salmonids are more than the likes of my "concerns in principal", people are worried about real greenbacks that they scrape together by logging, mining, livestock and farming, urbanization, etc. I believe there is a little bit of the inherent human trait to fear change and fight the force that may bring it about.
Just because entire mountainsides have been clearcut since the turn of the century doesn't mean we can continue to perform such acts of rape against our dwindling resources in the pacific northwest. Remember the spotted owl? How much devastation did that cause to our poor logging communities and the timber baron's shareholders dividends and profits?
! The harvest in millions of board feet of Washington state lumber had never decreased during the entire endangered species battle, in fact record amounts were cut in the heat of the debate. Imagine if the scapegoat owl had not been identified and the ESA was not there to intervene?
One year the access roads to the Upper Quinault River were washed out. The only way to the right bank was to 4x4 up the remnant of the left bank to the bridge, then back down the other side. Knowing this as one of the places where giant natives are found along with incredible solace and the profound sense of pristine, untouched beauty - I was all over that gig. There were nameless creeks bubbling from the ground, fed by glacial melt from the towering Olympic peaks which gleamed through the stark birches as I walked on the deep, soft moss carpet of the temperate rain forest toward the mainstem river. Tracks of cougar were on the deposits of ground igneous rocks that lined the creeks. Suddenly, a motion caught my eye. There were steelhead, some over 15 pounds, spawning in the creek. A creek that had no name, nor needed one - and the fish that had perenially wiggled from the gravel without concrete tanks, pellets, or steroids. Given the chance, nature knows best how to take care of her own. It should be our job to give her the chance. I never cast a fly to these fish.
I came upon a herd of elk 75 strong that day. I have plenty of pictures of that day which I'll have to scan.
Anyway, my point is that (a) hatchery fish are a big mistake where there are native fish (b) mankind often puts personal pleasure or financial gain over the good of a precious resource, and those who value that resource will battle with those that value their own selfish interests every time.
Unfortunately, those that value the resource for it's non-monetary value are few, and the selfish are many. I'd like to think that flyfishermen are among the few, therefore the more people learning to appreciate it the better!
02-11-2000, 10:48 PM
Thanks for the posts. Both truly thought-provoking.