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Washington Trout: Preserve, Protect, Restore
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Dates Set for Public Hearings on Proposed NOAA Hatchery Policy

Comments due 10/20/04


In May 2004, The Bush Administration announced a new policy regarding the treatment of hatchery and wild salmon and steelhead in federal ESA-listing decisions. The administration intends to count hatchery fish in determining health of individual stocks, something most scientists say likely will impede long-term recovery. The policy could result in the early and inappropriate removal of ESA protections from declining wild salmon populations and their habitats. The policy faces broad opposition throughout the region from scientists, wild-fish advocates, environmentalists, community leaders, regional policy makers, and members of Congress. (See Wild Fish Runs, July 04)

Written comments on the proposal are due by October 20, 2004. Information about submitting comments is available at the NOAA Fisheries web site, Dates have also been set for Public Hearings throughout the region in September and October, where the public can offer input about the proposal.

The foundation of NOAA’s new policy, that hatchery salmon are capable of contributing to the recovery of ESA-listed wild populations, is completely unproven. Hatchery fish threaten the long-term viability of wild salmon and steelhead populations by decreasing the genetic fitness of wild populations, competing for food and habitat, spreading disease, and promoting increased predation. Hatchery runs create harvest pressures that declining wild runs cannot support. Even if hatchery salmon were not an actual threat to wild fish, the statutory mission of the ESA is to recover naturally reproducing populations by preserving and restoring the natural ecosystems they depend on, not mass-producing artificial facsimiles.

Respected scientists maintain that a policy that combines hatchery fish in with wild fish will jeopardize the recovery of listed wild populations. Representatives from NOAA’s own scientific advisory panel noted in the prestigious journal Science, “much evidence exists that hatcheries cannot maintain wild salmon populations indefinitely.” Meanwhile agricultural, industry, and development groups, who favor the removal of ESA protections for both hatchery and wild fish, plan on using the policy to open the door to early de-listings. Already NOAA is using this policy to say that the Columbia River dams don’t jeopardize the future of salmon!

We need your help in fighting this bad policy. NOAA needs to hear from you about how and why you oppose including hatchery fish with wild fish in making ESA listing decisions. Tell NOAA that wild salmon, steelhead, and their habitats need continued protection, that hatchery fish can NEVER replace wild salmon and steelhead, and that concrete raceways are NOT habitat!

To find out more about the policy, the science of salmon, and what you can do to help, visit the Washington Trout website ( for important information and links.

            In the meantime, check to see if there’s a NOAA hearing in your area (all meetings 6:30-9:30 pm):


Sept. 14

Wenatchee, Wash.

Chelan County PUD Auditorium

Sept. 16

Kennewick, Wash.

Red Lion Hotel

Sept. 22

Newport, Ore.

Shilo Inn

Sept. 28

Salmon, Idaho

Stagecoach Inn

Sept. 30

Lewiston, Idaho

Red Lion Hotel

Oct. 5

Seattle, Wash.

Radisson Hotel (SeaTac)

Oct. 7

Roseburg, Ore.

Umpqua Community College

Oct. 13

Portland, Ore.

Portland Building