Conservation groups filed suit this week, against Olympic National Park, NOAA Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and representatives of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, for violating the Endangered Species Act. The Wild Fish Conservancy, The Conservation Angler, the Federation of Fly Fishers Steelhead Committee, and the Wild Steelhead Coalition are charging federal agencies and representatives of the Lower Elwha Klallum Tribe with ignoring the best available scientific data and threatening the recovery of Chinook salmon and native steelhead by funding and operating fish hatchery programs on the Elwha.
The federal government is spending nearly $325 million for the dam removal project on the Elwha, which will open up ninety miles of pristine river habitat in the Olympic National Park. Rather than allowing wild salmonids to naturally repopulate, federal agencies and the Elwha Tribe are proceeding with a plan to release approximately four million juvenile hatchery salmonids annually. The hatchery releases will be conducted by a new fish hatchery built with $16.4 million of Stimulus Act funds.
State and federal agency scientists point out, that the current plan gives no measureable goals for wild fish recovery, provides no timetable for ceasing hatchery production, and that ultimately, wild fish recovery will be hampered by the hatchery program. Scientific data confirms that hatchery fish compete with wild salmonid populations for food, spawning grounds and detrimentally effect the wild fish gene pool. A five year sport fishing moratorium has been placed on the Elwha, giving hatchery produced salmonids plenty of time to effect the recovery of wild fish. A review released this week by the independent Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG), which was organized and funded by Congress, has echoed these concerns.
“While the Tribe played an essential role in removing the dams,” said Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director of Wild Fish Conservancy, “their intent to now plant millions of hatchery fish in disregard of the scientific evidence undermines salmon recovery in the Northwest and the goals of the ESA. However you look at it, it’s a horrible precedent if left to stand.”
To read the entire article, go to: http://wildsteelheadcoalition.org/2012/02/suit-filed-to-block-elwha-hatchery-programs/