Salmon stocks and how they are counted [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Salmon stocks and how they are counted

Rick J
05-04-2004, 08:26 AM
Got this post the other day - kinda scary!

WASHINGTON -- Sweeping changes in how salmon and their habitat are protected could result from a Bush administration proposal that would gauge the health of Northwest salmon by counting, for the first time, hundreds of millions of hatchery fish along with those born in the wild.

Critics immediately denounced the plan for ignoring scientific realities and potentially stripping away crucial protections now granted under the Endangered Species Act.

Carried out to its fullest, fishery experts said, it could result in some salmon stocks' being taken off the endangered species list after years and billions of dollars spent to restore dwindling populations.

Removing the fish from the list would weaken -- or even remove
-- land-use restrictions designed to protect habitat, representing a boon to timber, mining, agriculture and construction interests that have been barred from working on the protected land.

"I feel like the people of the Northwest woke up to a bombshell this morning," Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said in response to reports, first published in The Washington Post and The

(Portland) Oregonian, that hatchery salmon would be used to determine the overall salmon population.

The policy, if adopted, would represent a fundamental shift. For years, federal fishery experts have pegged the health of chinook, coho and steelhead to the number of fish born and living only in the wild. Scientists generally agree that wild fish have the greatest biological diversity and are the most accurate measure of the salmon's present and future condition.

Critics fear that the Bush administration will reject the prevailing science for a policy that appears to benefit its political interests, in this case timber, mining, agriculture and commercial development.

"I'm very concerned we're moving away from science, which is what our policy has been based on, for some political judgment or political expediency," Cantwell told Conrad Lautenbacher, the Commerce Department undersecretary responsible for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, at a hearing yesterday.

If hatchery-raised fish are added to the analysis, fishery biologists said, the salmon population will increase dramatically, which could lead to the fish being removed from the Endangered Species Act.

"It gives them a hole in the ESA large enough to drive a hatchery truck through. That's what it does. It gives them the flexibility to say we have enough (fish) that we can remove them from the list," said Jeff Curtis, Western conservation director for Trout Unlimited.

05-04-2004, 10:02 AM
Read a couple of on line posts (other boards) that suggested they're just reacting to a Court imposed order. One more instance where a 'Judge knows best.'

05-04-2004, 11:05 AM
I am sure GW and his group would like you to believe that excuse. Hard to argue with a court ruling especially when you don't choose to appeal a lower court's decision.

Seems to me just another example of this administration's failings on environmental issues.

Just my $.02

05-04-2004, 01:00 PM
Rick J,

There is a thread titled "HATCHERY SALMON ARE NOW WILD" in the Worldwide Flyfishing" forum here on the FFF that has all the information in it on Judge Hogan's ruling, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmation of Hogan's ruling, and Judge Redden's order requiring NOAA Fisheries to redo the salmon recovery plan so that it reflects Judge Hogan's decision that hathery and wild salmon are the same fish geneticaly. Hogan's ruling also requires NOAA Fisheries to remove wild salmon from the threatened or engandered species list if there are hatchery fish of the same species in a river system.


Hogan's ruling was appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the 9th Circuit affirmed Judge Hogan's ruling through making ruling that there was nothing wrong with Hogan's application of the Endangered Species Act; therefore, the 9th Circuit Court had no reason to review the ruling, and they sent it back to the Oregon Federal District Court Hogan sits on to have a timetable set up for NOAA to have a new salmon recovery plan reflecting Hogan's ruling.

In other words, the case was appealed and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to have a full review of the case because they saw nothing wrong with Hogan's ruling. To say that the administration did not appeal Hogan's ruling is not accurrate. The ruling was appealed and the appeals court sent it back to the originating court. This means that the case is dead at that point for furthur appeal and it cannot be appealed to the Supreme Court. Also, since there were not Constitutional issues in the wild salmon vs hatchery salmon decision of Judge Hogan's, the likelyhood of the Supreme Court taking the appeal and holding a hearing even if the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had held a full hearing would be virtually zero.

05-04-2004, 04:08 PM

It was my understanding and I could certainly be wrong but the appeal you mention was limited to a very narrow procedural focus and did not include a challenge to the validity of the scientific determination of the "sameness" of hatchery and wild stocks. Such a challenge, while argued for by most in the scientific community, was abandoned my NMFS.

The question is why didn't NMFS challenge the science behind Hogan's decision? Could it be they were told that the administration did not support such a challenge? Was the decision made on legal grounds? Dogmatic grounds? Pragmatic grounds? If these questions can be answered factually, then maybe we could get a clear idea if the Bush administration is environmentally evil or just ignorant of their actions.

I know, I know, somewhat inflamatory but since I voted for him, I figure it gives me the right to call him as I see him.


05-04-2004, 04:49 PM

Since the appeals court had as part of its determination (or ruling) to deny an appeals hearing on the appeals motion that Hogan was correct in saying hatchery and wild fish were the same per the Endangered Species Act, there is no appeal of that possible. Also, Judge Hogan said in his findings of facts portion of the ruling that there was no genetic difference on the species level (which is what the Endangered Species Act is concerned with) between wild and hatchery salmon. This means that the difference between hatchery and wild salmon is not at the species level, only at the "race" level (kind of like saying that a yellow lab is a different dog than a black lab).

Therefore, my guess is that NOAA decided from purely pragmatic and legal standpoints that it would be a waste of time, energy, and money to pursue further appeals. Alos, I see pragmaticism in abiding by the court order throughout the Pacific Northwest instead of just in Oregon, where the Hogan's ruling technically applies at this time, because the Pacific Legal Foundation is poised and ready to file the same lawsuit in Washington, California, Idaho, Alaska, and Montana federal district courts to force NOAA to spend the time, money, and energy to defend a wild fish are different than hatchery fish policy.

Don't forget, since the 9th Circuit has already weighed in and said that Hogan was correct in calling hatchery and wild fish the same species, NOAA would lose any other case on the same matter either in the federal district court or the 9th circuit court.

Remember, I'm not a happy camper with Hogan's ruling either. But blaming anyone or any group other than Judge Hogan is counterproductive and keeps us form focussing on what we can do within the parameters of his ruling. I sincerely hope we don't go down the same road we did with Bolt and all the mis-directed energy and resources that were done instead of taking actions withing the parameters of Bolts's decision.

05-04-2004, 05:40 PM

This ruling has been a burr in my saddle, and now the whole thing is on the edge of blowing up. Maybe I am just being paranoid, but if this single court decision is extrapolated to the fullest extent, extinction is all but guaranteed.

It makes me feel as though we have just jumped back 100 years and now have to start the whole conservation process over. Habitat protection means absolutely nothing because there will be concrete raceways to mitigate all damage.

Where in the hell is the science showing how narrow gene pools of hatchery runs are compared to wild runs? Could this not prove the point that they are indeed genetically different?

Next thing you know, the wonderful US court system is going to pass into law, since all living organisms contain DNA, we are all just one massive organism.

Trying not to over-react,


05-04-2004, 08:28 PM

There are many times when a decision by a federal judge boils my blood and gets under my craw in a major way. This decision by Judge Hogan and the 9th circuit's denial of the appeal is just one of the latest onese. It is very obvious that this judge thnks in terms of species level identification and that if wild fish become greatly diminished (as we know they are in many rivers) or disappear, it matters little since the hatchery fish will ensure the species continues to exist in the river systems so effected.

05-05-2004, 12:06 PM
And if they are indeed extinct, then they no longer need protection. Which opens the doors to wholesale raping of the land. Right?

Now, as was mentioned in one of the other threads on this subject, Hogan's ruling was not that hatchery fish and wild fish are the same. He simply said that if you are going to count the hatchery fish along with the wild fish in any fish count, then you have to include both wild and hatchery fish in all fish counts.

That is not to say his ruling is meaningless, or will have little or no impact on the river(s). What it does mean is that, for the time being, we have been out maneuvered by our enemies.

Timber, mining, land developers, construction, even PETA, have no party affiliations when it comes to achieving their goals. They will throw their money wherever they have to in order to have it their way.

05-05-2004, 01:42 PM
It is my understanding that the Hogan decision is confined to one specific ESU (Oregone coast Coho) and is stated as such but the Bush administration is now going to apply it to all ESU. So please don't say they didn't have a choice on what they did. They saw a hole in the system and ran for it. They should be ashamed of themselves. And this is coming from a person who is a die hard republican, at least I was.


05-05-2004, 03:47 PM

Although Hogan's decision only pertains to one rivery system in Oregon, the Pacific Legal Foundation (the timber/agriculturr/power producer/developer/builders strwman who filed the lawsuit in Oregon) has put California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and NOAA fisheries on notice that they will file new lawsuits using Hogan's ruling as the basis to have the threatened/endangered status revised on any river system that has wild and hatchery salmon. Since Judge Redden (also of Oregon federal court) has already ordered NOAA Fisheries to revise its Pacific Salmon Recovery Plan so it includes hatchery fish and wild fish when deciding if a run is threatened or not.

NOAA is responding to Judge Redden's order in a case that was brought by the power producers, agricultural interests, timber, Snake and Columbia River shipping companies, and irrigators with the Pacific Legal Foundation filing friend of the court briefs in support of making a ruling requiring hatchery fish to be considered (Redden used Hogan's ruling as part of the basis for his ruling) and since the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has already agreed with Hogan's ruling (remember the can of worms Hogan's ruling opened), an appeal by NOAA to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals would probably uphold Redden's ruling requiring NOAA Fisheries to consider hatchery fish when determining threatened/endangered status. I think they made a pragmatic decision not to appeal because of this.

Todd Ripley
05-10-2004, 06:34 PM
I'm kind of short on time right now, but here are a few clarifications of some inaccurate procedural assertions from above.
I'll try to put them in an order that makes sense to my own head...hopefully it will for yours, too.

First, the ESA is not only concerned with "species"...there are provisions for preserving population segments if they satisfy some criteria, like being biologically significant for the entire species, having some sort of reproductive isolation, among others. That is where the idea of an ESU (evolutionarily significant unit) comes from.

Judge Hogan's decision is binding only on coastal coho in Western Oregon. Other fish and other areas within the 9th Circuit are not bound by the decision...but the decision would be quite persuasive to other district courts within the 9th Circuit.

The ruling itself did not say that hatchery and wild fish are the said that the distinction made by NMFS/NOAA Fisheries on the coastal coho was not legally defendable through the ESA.

The "new" policy will be to count fish that are only "moderately divergent" from the wild stocks as wild fish...those that are more than "moderately divergent" from wild stocks will not be counted as wild fish. While "moderately divergent" hasn't been defined yet, it looks like Chambers Creek stock steelhead wouldn't be counted as wild fish anywhere, since they themselves were a mish mash of different stocks before they were shipped all over the northwest. Skamania summer runs scattered around wouldn't be counted, either. However, hatchery fish derived from locally adapted stocks probably would be.

The new policy will also be up for public comment later this summer.

As far as petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the case, it doesn't matter what the 9th Circuit is only important that it does (in most cases). The 9th Circuit can NOT make any ruling that is not reviewable by the Supreme Court...if they could, then what exactly would the Supreme Court ever hear?

Now, just because it is indeed reviewable by the Supreme Court, I doubt very much that they would accept cert. if they were approached with it. They would likely wait until there were several other rulings, especially if they were in conflict with each other, before they would step in.

And now for my editorial comment...NOAA Fisheries did not do this for the sake of pragmatism...the current Administration's advisor on salmon issues in the PNW is the former attorney for the PLF (Pacific Legal Foundation, timber, development, agricultural, and private power company consortium). This was a direct attack on the ESA and the habitat destruction restrictions inherent in the ESA's application.

Any lip service about how hatchery fish can save wild fish, and how hatcheries can be part of the river habitat that wild/hatchery fish can depend on to continue recovery, is just that...lip service. Any and all science runs directly counter to such BS. This is about the beginning, in the middle, and at the end.

I have more to say, but I'll leave it at that for now...

Fish on...


Brian Simonseth
05-10-2004, 08:18 PM
Thanks, Todd
For clearing some of it up for us.

05-10-2004, 09:23 PM

Thanks for your post on this.

I have a question for you on your editorial about the NOAA Fisheries proposed change in the salmon recovery plan being a direct attack on the ESA. The question is: Since the 9th Circuit Court has agreed with Hogan (granted it only applies to one rivery system in Oregon) and as you said, "...the decision would be quite persuasive to other district courts within the 9th Circuit.", how high is the probability that NOAA would win in the various district courts if they did not adopt a policy very similar to the 5 paragraph proposed one?

Todd Ripley
05-11-2004, 05:28 PM

The question is: Since the 9th Circuit Court has agreed with Hogan (granted it only applies to one rivery system in Oregon) and as you said, "...the decision would be quite persuasive to other district courts within the 9th Circuit.", how high is the probability that NOAA would win in the various district courts if they did not adopt a policy very similar to the 5 paragraph proposed one?

Hard to say...if they made the exact same arguments, chances are more likely that the same result would occur...unless they could convince a different judge that J. Hogan was wrong, which judges don't really like to believe. If the other judge wanted to rule in favor of NOAA-F, then they'd have to give him/her something to hang his hat on, i.e., a new argument.

I haven't seen the record, so I'm not sure what exactly NOAA argued, but I'm sure that they could come up with something new if they needed/wanted to.

Overall, I'd say that it would be an uphill battle, but not impossilbe by any means.

Just to make it clear for everyone, in case it isn't, since I've been hearing so many different interpretations lately...the Bush Administration's declaration and Judge Hogan's ruling are not at all the same thing.

Judge Hogan ruled that NOAA/NMFS's distinction between hatchery and wild fish in listing coastal coho in Oregon was not legally defensible. He didn't say that they must be counted...he said that they must be unless a better distinction was to be made between them and wild fish.

The Bush Administration policy says that some hatchery fish are going to be counted, and some are not. The ones that derive from locally adapted stocks are to be counted, and ones that aren't from locally adapted stocks are not. At least, that's how it looks it will be interpreted. It hinges on how they define "moderately divergent"...and I'll be very cynical here and point out that it could be defined as " a steelhead is a steelhead", or as "a chinook is not a silver" for definitive purposes...we'll have to see how it all shakes out.

Fish on...


05-11-2004, 06:04 PM
Thanks Todd.

I have one more question: What would happen if NOAA-F made no substantive changes to the current salmon recovery plan and in effect ignored Judge Redden?

Todd Ripley
05-11-2004, 08:39 PM

My understanding of J. Redden's holding (which I have not read yet, so my understanding may not be too solid) was that NOAA-F had to consider hatchery fishing in listing and delisting decisions. Previously, they haven't been considered at all, except in a few circumstances where the hatchery fish were listed, too, like the upper Columbia steelhead.

If they ignored Redden, then they wouldn't consider hatchery fish at all.

They could consider hatchery fish, say that they don't warrant inclusion in the ESU (based on a distinction between hatchery and wild fish that would satisfy J. Hogan's ruling), and the effect would be the same as doing nothing, except that they would have "considered" hatchery fish...and rejected them.

Third, they could do what it looks like they are going to do, which is count some and not count others, depending on how closely related they are to the wild fish that they reside with (the "moderately divergent" test).

Fourth, they could just count all the hatchery fish, every time.

I'd say that choice one would violate both Hogan's and Redden's holdings, but two, three, and four would not.

There may be a little something to the "pragmatic" choice argument, on second thought, because #3 seems like it would be the easiest way to try and satisfy the courts, the industries, and the environmentalists...the judges would be fine with it, and industry and enviros would both not like it, so it's probably as close to fair as it could get...politically.

Scientifcally, I still think it's hogwash...but I've been known to get pretty cynical when politicians get involved too much in scientific arguments...especially when the politicos are in D.C., the fish and the experts are here, and the administration in charge is already going to lose this area in the next election, so doesn't really need to have any political accountability here to anyone except industrial campaign donors.

Fish on...


05-11-2004, 11:28 PM

Your reasoning is why I saw NOAA-F's proposed policy as being pragmatic. It will satisfy the courts and have many in industry and the enviros unhappy. However, since the courts would be satisfied, NOAA-F would most likely prevail with any court challenge and not have to rewrite the recovery policy again.

Like you, I don't like the change. Hoever, satisfying the courts appears to be the most important thing for NOAA-F to do at the moment in order to avoid more litigation and another rewrite of the recovery policy.

Thanks for your analysis.

Todd Ripley
05-11-2004, 11:54 PM
Thnaks for the discussion, FT...


05-12-2004, 09:22 AM
I believe you are a lawyer, so you do have a slight advantage over the rest of us in interpreting the rulings, but i am still impressed. Your explanation and reasoning about the rulings and their implications is far better than any i have seen so far including certainly all of the newspapers. Despite how I am sure you feel about these rulings, you have also clearly separated your beliefs from the facts. Thanks for helping the rest of us out!

05-12-2004, 09:51 AM
Todd-- I think both you and FT have done a lot to clarify things for a lot of us, or maybe I should just say me.

While you are skeptical of politicians, I am skeptical of them but have added scientists (the folks who gave us large wood debris removal in streams in the '70s) and journalists. Actually, the only person whose motives I trust is me, and at times I'm not so sure...

I don't mean to be inflammatory or controversial, but I'm still looking for someone to explain to me the problems with the NOAA-F policy draft. I don't see anything in it but a concern for protection of wild fish, a realization that hatcheries can do harm to wild stocks, and a recognition that in some streams have no untainted (if any stream does) stock of wild fish.

I'm not looking for speculation or extrapolation. I just want to know what you object to in this draft. Please?



05-12-2004, 10:01 AM
I'm amazed at the time and energy Todd has spend on several boards helping to sort out the BS. He's helped a lot of us keep current with the actual implications of many of these rule changes and challenges, and I for one want to offer him a virtual Red Hook in thanks!

Cheers Todd!!!

Todd Ripley
05-12-2004, 02:34 PM
Here are three editorials/letters to the editor from today's papers...two ripping the new policy, and one response from NOAA...

PI Editorial

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Salmon recovery efforts must be based on science


The Pacific Northwest faces a new threat to the long-term survival of our wild salmon runs: environmental policy decisions based on federal politics, not science.

The Bush administration proposes in a draft policy to count millions of hatchery fish as part of West Coast wild salmon runs, when in fact they are very different animals. The administration is all but saying that hatchery fish production can make up for land use and industrial actions that destroy salmon habitat and harm water quality for people. The administration is wrong.

There is overwhelming scientific evidence that hatchery fish are no replacement for wild ones and large hatchery runs are no excuse for dodging or delaying meaningful habitat protections for chinook, kokanee and bull trout. Hatcheries are extensions of -- not replacements for -- habitat protections that will ultimately be the foundation of sustainable and harvestable salmon populations.

We've proven we can fertilize and hatch salmon eggs in a pond but when compared to wild fish, hatchery fish are genetically inferior, more susceptible to disease and less adaptable than their wild counterparts. Their size and number threaten wild fingerlings by attracting predators and competing with them for food and habitat.

Because hatchery fish are brewed in a tank, they don't imprint on their home streams like wild fish do. Like an unleashed computer virus, once launched into the wild, hatchery fish travel freely to a variety of streams, bringing with them increased risks to wild fish.

Recent headlines proclaim record returns of salmon. But the question to ask is, "Record returns of what?" The answer: returns of hatchery sockeye or chinook that represent a tiny percentage of the historic runs of wild salmon that used to thrive in our rivers.

Using the federal government's own scientific review from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, nine rivers around the Puget Sound have lost wild chinook runs. About one-third of the Puget Sound basin's historical chinook runs have gone extinct and current returns may be one-tenth -- or less -- of what they were. This means, on average, where we had 5,000 chinook returning in the past we now have only 500, and where we had 1,000, we now have only 100. This is a terrible and alarming record that spans more than a century. But we can recover some of what we've lost -- if we base our recovery efforts on science.

King County is preserving key habitat areas in Bear Creek and the Cedar River. King, Pierce and Snohomish counties are implementing the road maintenance standards that received NOAA approval for the habitat and salmon protections they support. We are also moving toward implementing conservation plans for Lake Washington and the Green and Snohomish rivers, and working through the shared strategy process to have a chinook recovery strategy in place by June of 2005.

People also benefit from the environmental conditions needed to keep salmon viable. Habitat preservation and restoration help keep the drinking water clean for approximately 20,000 Kent and King County residents who get their water from Rock Creek.

Now is not the time for the other Washington to gut the efforts of local citizens and their government partners. Puget Sound and Pacific Northwest people have made tremendous investments to return our salmon populations to robust health and preserve our quality of life. It's unacceptable for the Bush administration to forsake us by defying local policy and long-established scientific evidence to allow hatchery stock to count the same as wild salmon. Current Endangered Species Act protections save salmon, promote healthy habitat for fish and people and support sustainable fisheries. Don't defy the scientific evidence and threaten our success by miscounting our fish.

Ron Sims is King County executive. Larry Phillips is chairman of the King County Council and represents District Four.

Another PI Editorial

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

New hatchery policy part of attack on ESA


Officials at NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency responsible for managing salmon and administering the federal Endangered Species Act, recently admitted they were going to consider hatchery fish along with wild salmon in deciding which of the 27 stocks of ESA-protected salmon will remain on the protected species list.

In defining a salmon population, NOAA will lump wild fish together with all of the hatchery fish that are "genetically no more than moderately divergent from a natural population."

Aside from using an incredibly vague standard (a friend pointed out that, genetically, humans are no more than moderately divergent from chimpanzees), the policy reverses a long-standing policy under ESA and contradicts virtually all of the recent scientific studies confirming that, in fact, wild fish and hatchery fish are different.

This should not come as a surprise. Hatchery fish are spawned in plastic buckets, incubated in plastic trays and raised in concrete raceways. Wild fish emerge from the gravel of the streams and rivers and spend their time before migrating to the ocean foraging for food, dodging predators and imprinting on their home waters. No wonder scientists have discovered that hatchery fish show evidence of domestication after only one generation.

The science tells us that each salmon population is genetically and behaviorally distinct. Hatchery fish are more likely to get eaten by predators and get lost in migration and they are less successful in spawning. When hatchery fish mate with wild fish or each other in the wild, their progeny are less likely to contribute to the next generation. In many instances hatchery fish compete with wild fish for food, cover and, by interbreeding with wild fish, harm the species' ability to adapt to river and ocean cycles.

The hatchery policy is part of a larger Bush administration attack on the ESA. By allowing for hatchery fish to be "counted" when the administration makes the upcoming salmon listing determinations, the result will very likely be that some salmon stocks will be removed from the protected species list for the stated reason that using hatcheries will reduce the threat to the species.

Salmon listings provide a significant degree of federal protections on just under 150,000 square miles of federal land as wells as providing constraints on hydropower operations and a host of other development activities. Salmon advocates won't be surprised if species that are at the heart of some of the major controversies in the Northwest, like Snake River fall chinook salmon, Oregon Coast coho salmon and the Southern Oregon/Northern California coho stocks (which include Klamath River coho) will be among the victims of this policy.

Trout Unlimited is not opposed to hatcheries. To the contrary, we have recently published a report written by two of the top salmon scientists in the region that provides a blueprint for hatchery reform. Properly designed and managed hatcheries that are integrated into the watersheds in which they are located have a role in salmon restoration and providing fish for commercial and recreational fisheries.

But the determinations of which species deserve ESA protections should be based on the health of the wild salmon and not on the abundance of hatchery fish. To do otherwise would condemn the wild salmon that we are doing so much to restore to a very uncertain future.

Jeff Curtis is western conservation director for Trout Unlimited

NOAA's Letter to the Editor

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Letters to the Editor

NOAA, like court, doesn't equate wild, hatchery fish
Your recent article on salmon hatcheries made some interesting points but didn't tell the entire story.

It is important to realize hatcheries have existed in the western United States for well over a century. There is now a scientific case that historic operations of hatcheries have contributed to the loss of genetic diversity, reduced productivity of wild populations and encouraged unsustainable harvest rates. Hatcheries have also helped maintain and rebuild populations that would otherwise be extinct. Recovery of natural salmon populations remains a priority. However, run properly and used carefully, hatcheries can serve as gene pools -- safety nets -- for populations on the verge of extinction.

Why is the federal government looking into this issue? A federal court has ruled that the way NOAA Fisheries accounted for hatchery fish when it considered listing salmon under the Endangered Species Act was wrong. Once we defined a population of salmon, the court said, all the salmon in that group, hatchery and wild, had to be listed, or not listed, together. Lost in the intense debate that followed was what the court didn't say: It didn't say one hatchery fish is the equivalent of one wild fish or that a listing determination is a mere numbers game. The real question is not how many fish a hatchery can add but how it can, or cannot, contribute to the overall recovery of the total population, including naturally spawning fish.

NOAA Fisheries is developing a draft hatchery policy that will take into account all the effects of hatchery fish when it decides whether listing an entire group of Pacific salmon is warranted. If listing is warranted, all members will be listed. This draft policy will be open for public comment for at least 90 days.

I must emphasize this does not mean we will no longer need other recovery measures because some hatcheries contain fish that are genetically identical or closely related to fish in the wild. Habitat improvements and protection of naturally spawning runs will remain at the heart of salmon-recovery efforts in California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Recovery will remain essentially a story of restoration and conservation of the ecosystem upon which living resources depend.

Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr.
Under Secretary of Commerce for
Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator
Washington, D.C.

Todd Ripley
05-12-2004, 03:04 PM
I think I can boil my personal feelings about this policy shift down to one single issue...which all the rest will flow from.

How is "moderately divergent" defined?

It's the type of definition that really means nothing, and when those types of definitions are used by the experts (which the courts define as the agencies charged with implementing the policy...i.e., NOAA Fisheries and probably the USFWS), the courts tend to defer to the definition given by the agency.

The broader the definition, the more hatchery fish will be counted, and the less money and time will be spent on upgrading concerns within the 4 H's. The narrower the definition, the more protections...

Here's a BIG issue for me...if it is defined broadly, then more effort will go into broodstock programs to create more "essentially" wild fish, using hatchery raceways as "habitat" to help recover salmon and steelhead stocks.

All of the science shows that this does not work, that with proper habitat, two wild fish left in the river to do their thing will produce more returning adults than will the same two fish put into a hatchery situation.

Accepting that as a truth (it continues to be debatable, for some reason, but no one has ever produced a peer reviewed study to say anything but that), there are two options.

Option one is to NOT have broodstock programs, continue to have hatchery fish that are more than "moderately divergent", the so-called "segregated" hatchery programs, and use manipulation of the other 3 H's to recover wild fish.

Option two is to rely on broodstock programs to create loads of fish that are less than "moderately divergent", utilize hatchery raceways as the preferred habitat of these "wild" fish, and continue to degrade the river habitat, which won't be necessary to recover wild runs because of all the raceway habitat that we will have.

If option one was the one that the administration was going to go with, then they wouldn't have had to do's essentially what we're doing already...only counting truly wild fish.

So...since they're attempting to change somthing, rather than keep it the same, I see Option #2 coming down the pike.

By the time the science is proven out in widespread practice, that this won't work, it will be too late. With no more truly wild fish to rely upon to create more "wild" hatchery fish...well, I don't even want to go there.

This is how the runs will eventually maintain the less than "moderately divergent" status of the hatchery fish, there is a certain amount of truly wild fish that must continue to be introduced into the hatchery stock to, a percentage, say, 25% for argument's sake.

As the amount of truly wild fish dwindle, so does its contribution to hatchery programs. To maintain the proper percentage, less hatchery fish will have to be utilized. This, of course, will lead to less fish overall. As the cycle continues...less and less fish return, until all are listed again under the ESA, only now we have less fish and less habitat.

The tradeoff for this is increased revenues for the habitat destruction industry, for a limited time, which will also stop when the re-listing occurs.

Again being cynical...short term economic benefits for a few, long term economic and ecological costs that will almost certainly outweigh those short term benefits...but that will be someone else's problem by then.

This assumes, of course, that there are fish left to re-list,:eek: , which is far from assured, unless we use fish that are "moderately divergent" from hatchery fish that are "moderately divergent" from wild fish. And so on...

Fish on...


05-12-2004, 03:26 PM

You hit the issue that has me most concerned sqaurely on the head, the "moderately divergent" definition. I foresee a tremendous amount of pressure from the industry groups to have as broad a definition as they can get, and this is precisely why I don't like Redden's order to have NOAA-F rewrite the salmon recovery plan. I have a strong suspician that NOAA-F will use broodstock hatchery programs for those ESU where the fish are threatened/endangered in order to get the fish delisted. I also see industry putting a tremendous pressure on NOAA-F and state hatchery programs to do the same.

I am also of the opinion that if NOAA-F or the state hatchery programs don't increase brookstock usage, the Pacific Legal Foundation will be filing lawsuits to force them to do so. In other words, I see NOAA-F and the state fisheries folks being put between the proverbial rock and hard place, at least for the next 10 or so years because I think that industry will file suits to try and force the use of broodstock in hatcheries to increase the number of "wild" fish genetics in rivers with stocks in trouble.

Unfortunately, I think the courts will agree with industry and order NOAA-F and state hatcheries too use broodstock to "save the fish" because there will not be much "genetic divergence" if any from wild fish. I'm concerned about this because in the end, the wild fish will probably lose.

05-12-2004, 03:54 PM
I am completely confident, and prepared, that the worst case scenario will happen.. Unless something changes with the way this country operates....

Divergent is divergent, where in the world does this BS of "moderate" play into the equation? If that divergence is human influenced, no matter the degree, does that not satisfy the court that they are indeed different? Or is this because that definition does not suit this particular argument?

Can we take Hogan's ruling and apply it to human reproduction? Worst case scenario is taking the reproductive choices of the fish out of their hands and placing it into ours. By setting this precedence, why not extrapolate it to 'us' and have our reproduction completely, and artificially, run by a governing body? Hell, if we are smart enough, all life could be managed under our umbrella.


Either they are wild or they are not. Period. Now it must be scientifically proven and become law for all species before it truly gets out of hand.


05-13-2004, 01:32 PM
Todd-- thanks for taking the time to clarify your position. It takes a lot of work to respond thoughtfully, and I know it takes time. And FT-- as always, you're a big help.

I think there are two issues coming out of this re-drafting of policy. The first, as you noted, is the "moderately divergent" phrasing. The second is the use of hatcheries to supplement or complement wild runs, and they are so closely intertwined as to be inseparable.

It is likely, in my opinion, that the folks who want to de-list stocks for benefits of relaxation of ESA rules will push for the broadest definition possible. It seems imperative that it be kept as narrow as possible; perhaps a restriction that eggs taken for hatchery purposes come from fish native or returning to the river and not from other watersheds or broodstock. Certainly egg-taking should occur from all stages of the run: early, middle and late. To conserve the genetic resources, it's imperative that as many individuals as possible contribute to the spawning efforts, albeit done in the hatchery.

I realize that a report on hatchery reforms is coming out, and it seems a good idea to wait until it's out to comment further. I do believe we can get some help in wild-fish restoration from hatcheries, but it would have to be evaluated carefully to make sure that it helps and doesn't hinder restoration efforts.

Unlike some on the board (and perhaps contrary to the WSC), I would like to see hatcheries used to produce more fishing opportunity, especially for salmon. This is a selfish reason: I like to catch fish, and hatchery stock is great on a barbecue. However, I think some efforts need to be made to evaluate whether massive hatchery production of salmon interferes with wild stocks outside of the river. As an example, the Hamma Hamma, Duckabush and Dosewallips rivers used to have pretty good runs of coho, but now they are effectively non-existent. Is this somehow correlated to the large hatchery programs at Finch Creek and the Skokomish drainage? Does it have anything to do with the commercial harvest of chum that takes place in the Canal each fall?

A side issue that is coming out of the policy re-draft and the de-listing are issues concerning habitat and riparian land use. De-listing a stock doesn't remove all protections, and I think some believe it does. There are state regulations in place, but I need more information on the TFW protocols before I could comment. Besides, in many watersheds, other listed stocks that are threatened or endangered (such as bull trout/Dolly Varden and searun cutthroat) will control land-use decisions. I think that it's necessary to separate land-use concerns from whether or not the NOAA-F policy is workable or not.

I ramble, and I apologize. I wanted to thank you guys for the efforts you've put into this and for helping me see more clearly what I should be concerned about and working on.


05-13-2004, 02:27 PM
I thank all who has posted on this thread for keeping it and the other similar threads a civil discourse of the issues. Through having an informative and civil discourse, all of us benefit because of the increased understanding and knowledge we all gain as a result.

Todd and Keith your thoughtful input has been invaluable in keeping the discusion focused on the importance of basing our opinions on facts instead of emotion.

Again Kudus to all participants!

05-13-2004, 05:29 PM
In April 2004, the Hatchery Scientific Review Group published Hatchery Reform: Principles and Recommendations of the Hatchery Scientific Review Group. This document includes the principles, tools and recommendations that resulted from the HSRG's three-year review of over 200 hatchery programs at over 100 hatcheries

You can read more about it and download a copy of the full report from this site:

The NOAA draft policy on how to deal with hatchery fish in ESA listings, by the way, was leaked to the press just a week or two after the HSRG press-conference on the completion of their final report.

05-13-2004, 08:36 PM
Thanks for the insight Howzer