Bush Administration Takes Next Step to Reduce Wild Salmon Protections

Hatchery fish policy final


Earthjustice, Kristen Boyles, 206-343-7340 ex 33

Today, the Bush administration unveiled the latest weapon in its ongoing effort to undermine the Endangered Species Act and open wild salmon habitat to development. The administration finalized a policy to include hatchery-bred salmon when determining the health of salmon stocks. The new rule ignores and contradicts the latest scientific reports on the differences between hatchery and wild fish.

As recently as the fall of 2004, an independent panel of distinguished scientists called together by the National Marine Fisheries Service found that “it appears that the new hatchery policy directly violates the thinking of leading NMFS scientists.”

The administration seized on an opening provided by a district court ruling in 2001, when a federal judge ruled that once the National Marine Fisheries Service identified groups of salmon, it could not then distinguish between hatchery and wild fish within each group. The administration did not appeal this ruling, nor did it redefine hatchery salmon as fundamentally different from wild, naturally reproducing fish, a choice available to it and recommended by many salmon experts.

Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973 to keep America’s wildlife, including salmon, from disappearing from the landscape. The Endangered Species Act also serves people, as it protects the air, land, and water we all need to live. The Endangered Species Act requires protection of rare species and the natural habitat they need to recover to abundant populations.

“We’ve just seen the Bush administration try to change the science of global warming,” said Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles. “Now we see the administration ignoring the scientific evidence that calls for treating hatchery and wild salmon differently.”

Salmon live much of their lives in the sea but require high quality, clear, cold freshwater rivers and streams to reproduce and rear as young fish. Ocean waters off the west coast provide high quality saltwater habitat for the fish. However, the freshwater, land-based habitat has been steadily degraded due to human activities including dam building, mining, logging, road building, and grazing. All these activities have provided short-term profit for some while seriously damaging the rivers and streams needed by the salmon.

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