Policy review in Science calls for Bush Administration to protect wild salmon

Authors of the Policy Forum in the March 26th issue of the international journal Science call for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to protect wild salmon stocks whose status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is now in jeopardy as a result of legal and political pressures from landowners and timber interests. A substantial fraction of the salmon populations currently listed under the Endangered Species Act in the Northwest are in immediate danger of being delisted not because they are recovering but because their status and presence potentially blocks development.

A U.S. District Court decision puts into question the endangered status of all wild Oregon coho salmon, saying that hatchery fish could be included with endangered wild salmon, thus opening the legal door to delisting the wild populations. As a consequence, there are also petitions to delist 15 evolutionarily significant populations of wild salmon in Oregon, California, Idaho and Washington. Meanwhile, NMFS has been drafting criteria for including or excluding hatchery fish in a population, and has a March 31st deadline for their review of eight such salmon populations. Including hatchery fish with endangered wild salmon would create the legal possibility of maintaining a stock solely through hatcheries.

However six of the world's leading ecologists conclude that fish produced in hatcheries cannot be counted on to save wild salmon. The government appointed team of academic scientists including Robert Paine of the University of Washington, Ransom Myers of Dalhousie University, Simon Levin of Princeton University, Russell Lande of the University of California at San Diego, Frances James of Florida State University and William Murdoch of University of California at Santa Barbara, were requested to serve as an external review committee for the recovery of Pacific salmon. Their independent findings were presented to NMFS, but the group was told that their conclusions regarding

Contact: Ransom Myers

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