Fishing, logging, urban sprawl and other forces killing Washington’s wild salmon runs must be better managed if the fish are to be saved from extinction, a long-awaited state report said Thursday.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife, in a draft of a proposal ordered by the 1993 Legislature, said: “The documented case histories of fish resource management successes throughout the world share one common denominator. The people involved clearly recognize that the resource was their client.”
In Washington, protecting wild salmon too often has not been the primary concern, but has had to compete with the interests of other fisheries, developers, loggers and others, the draft impact statement said.
The result is a dying population of wild salmon - defined as salmon hatched in the wild as opposed to hatcheries.
The draft, released by Fish and Wildlife Director Bern Shanks, said if wild salmon, especially chinook and coho runs, are to be saved, several painful steps must be taken:
Stop mixing the management of wild and hatchery salmon in which the two are considered a single resource available for harvest. “Many wild chinook and coho salmon populations carry the nomenclature tag of ‘secondary protection.’ What this means in plain language is deliberate, planned overfishing designed to harvest co-mingled hatchery fish. The logical end point is genetic extinction of wild fish.”
Manage hatchery fish as a separate species, making it possible to identify and control the taking of wild salmon. Hatchery fish would be marked by clipping the adipose fin. “We must be able to clearly identify wild fish everywhere we observe them - on the spawning grounds, in catches, at hatchery racks, in fishways, and in juvenile populations.”
Adopt and enforce environmental protection regulations to better control “killer flood flows” that have severely damaged wild salmon spawning and rearing grounds in recent years. Among other things, the floods are caused by the increasing presence of impervious surfaces from parking lots to rooftops and from logging of forest canopies, which speeds water flow, raises stream temperatures and causes other damage to habitat.
Enforce laws that require proper equipment to allow passage of migrating salmon through culverts, dams and other obstacles and to keep them from being sucked into irrigation pipes.
Make as the first priority sufficient escapement of salmon to spawning grounds before fishing is allowed.