Judge: Protect wild fish from hatchery operations
PORTLAND — A judge has ordered federal fish managers to do more to ensure that hatchery fish don't harm wild salmon and steelhead on the Sandy River this year.
Federal Judge Ancer Haggerty's ruling could jeopardize the release of hundreds of thousands of juvenile fish from the Sandy Hatchery this spring — and mean fewer fish returning to the river for anglers to catch between 2015 and 2017, the Oregonian reported Tuesday.
Similar lawsuits cover other rivers in Oregon and in California.
In their suit, two conservation groups argued too many hatchery fish interbreed with wild fish. Conservation groups argue that hatchery fish lack genetic diversity and are less well adapted to survive in the wild, especially as the climate changes.
The removal of two Sandy River dams in 2007 and 2008 opened spawning areas but eliminated the barrier used to separate wild and hatchery fish.
“There is very little evidence to suggest a hatchery can restore a wild population of fish, and the Sandy Hatchery is generally not intended to achieve any recovery goals.” Haggerty wrote in a decision handed down last week. “Rather, it is undisputed that hatchery operations can pose a host of risks to wild fish.”
Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, described the ruling as a “huge concern.”
“That two-year period would be like a desert for the businesses that depend on the fisheries in that river,” Hamilton said.
The Native Fish Society based in Oregon City and the McKenzie Fly Fishers based in Eugene sued the federal service, which approves Oregon's hatchery operation plans.
Mike Moody, executive director of the Native Fish Society, said the evidence shows hatcheries “foster a slow march toward hatchery-induced extinction” for wild fish.
Haggerty's order requires the two conservation groups and the National Marine Fisheries Service to agree on a settlement soon or propose a schedule that would allow him to adopt a plan before hatchery fish are released this spring.
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com