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Oregon Editors Say:

Hatcheries play a crucial role

Without them, Oregon anglers would have no salmon to catch

The (Albany) Democrat-Herald

The Bush administration has clarified its policy on fish hatcheries and how they play into the overall federal fish policy. The new statement makes a good deal of sense, particularly because it links hatcheries to the continued fishing for salmon and steelhead.

No, the head of NOAA Fisheries has told members of Congress in a letter, we're not going to cancel all listings of threatened fish species just because we have tons of hatchery fish swimming in our streams.

Instead the agency planned to renew the listing of all 26 currently listed species of salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest. Last Friday it said it also intends to list a 27th, a run in the lower Columbia.

The central tenet of the hatchery policy is the conservation of naturally spawning salmon and the ecosystems upon which they depend, Conrad C. Lautenbacher wrote to Congress. As our preliminary conclusions indicate, appropriate consideration of hatchery fish does not lead to wholesale de-listing of species as some are claiming. Equally erroneous is the suggestion our policy would allow the purposes of the (Endangered Species Act) to be satisfied by having all the salmon in a hatchery.

But, he added:

— Salmon hatcheries have long played an important role in the Northwest, including fulfilling trust and treaty rights of Northwest Indian tribes, and supporting sport and commercial harvest cherished by Northwest citizens. NOAA is encouraged by improvements in hatchery management, and is seeing their increasing contribution to speeding the recovery of salmon.

In case it didn't sink in: Without copious numbers of hatchery fish coming back up our rivers, Northwest anglers would have no salmon to catch. The government could not allow the systematic killing of a species of fish that has been listed as threatened or endangered. Doing so would be like establishing a hunting season for the northern spotted owl.

Most people who talk of salmon as though it were some symbol of the indomitable spirit of the Northwest really mean that they like to go catch and kill some from time to time. As long as those fish are listed under the endangered species law, this would soon be illegal without the output the hatcheries provide.