Umpqua River Steelhead hatchery program to be eliminated?
Northern California anglers to pay attention to what is happening in Oregon.
May 2, 2022, A letter from the Oregon Anglers Alliance to its members:
On April 22, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 4-3 to eliminate yet another hatchery program on the Umpqua river.
The Umpqua Summer Steelhead hatchery program was vital to our ecosystem and the communities that depended on it because:
1. There is no harvest of wild summer steelhead allowed, only hatchery fish provided harvest opportunity. That opportunity is now sadly gone. 2. The hatchery program provided a buffer for wild fish, lessening predation and providing much needed ecosystem nutrients for everything from bugs, to bears, to barnacles. That wild fish population will now be challenged more than ever.
3. This program provided economic, cultural, and environmental benefits to the angling public, businesses, Tribal communities, and to future generations. These are now gone.
4. These fish provided an important “lifeboat” to help ensure survival of this population.
This petition had been brought forth to the Commission at an earlier meeting by the North Umpqua Coalition, a collaborative group of organizations that are opposed to hatcheries and harvest. The Petition was denied. But that did not stop them. It was again proposed at the April 22 meeting.
There was an overwhelming wave of testimony in support of continuing the program. Some of those included ODFW Staff, five different Tribal Councils, Douglas County, Coos County, local businesses, river guides, Association of Northwest Steelheaders, many private citizens and of
course, the highly acclaimed, Oregon Anglers Alliance Science Review Panel. Popular opinion is that this meeting had what may have been the highest quality testimony ever provided, and that the hatchery program supporters completely out-weighed the opposition. Unfortunately, the evidence indicates that the decision to eliminate the program had been made before the meeting ever began. Native Fish Society, Trout Unlimited, the Conservation Angler, and others had worked hard for months corroborating incessantly with the Commissioners to swing their votes. They succeeded. We knew before the meeting began that the decision had already been made.
A majority of Commissioners that include Chair Mary Wahl, Jill Zarnowitz, Kathayoon Khalil, and Leslie King, added this fishery to the list of 33 harvest fisheries that have been reduced and/or eliminated from the Umpqua basin alone since the ’90’s.
1.What’s worse, is that they ignored and wasted countless angling license dollars and the 136 -page Science Review that had been completed by OSU that stated repeatedly that the hatchery program had no negative impact on fish of natural origin.
2. They completely ignored ODFW recommendation and a host of highly accredited independent and organizational fisheries scientists with similar conclusions.
3. For the first time ever, our indigenous partners testified in a Commission meeting. They pleaded to continue the program. Their requests were blatantly ignored and disrespected.
4. The 4 Commissioners based their vote on nothing more that an “abundance of precautionary principle”. This has now set the stage to enable them to eliminate every hatchery supplementation program in Oregon by using this logic!
This decision is an embarrassment to not only the Commission, but to Oregon as a whole. Other States are pointing to Oregon and shaking their heads, calling them an activist Commission that intends to “reimagine” our model of fish and wildlife conservation.
A RAY OF HOPE:
On Tuesday, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, the Umpqua Fishery Enhancement Derby, and local fishing guide Scott Worsley filed a legal petition seeking judicial review of the State Fish and & Wildlife Commission’s decision to permanently terminate the summer steelhead program on the North Umpqua River and dispose of 78,000 smolts currently held at the Rock Creek Hatchery.
Douglas County, UFED and Worsley claim the commission’s decision unlawfully: *failed to support its decision with substantial evidence, including ignoring its own staff recommendation and ODFW’s determination that terminating the program would provide no benefit to wild fish and, *ignored multiple management directives and objectives in the existing fisheries management plans; *followed a rushed process that failed to follow formal notice, comment and hearing procedures. The plaintiffs also say their complaint filed in Circuit Court claims that the commission ignored the: *best available science; social, economic and recreational needs of the local community; *findings of the ODFW’s scientific assessment; *needs of federal recognized Tribes. The Corollo Law Group in Roseburg is representing the Plaintiffs.
A CALL TO ACTION:
Please contact the Commission and express your opinion at:
Call Governor Brown and leave a message at: 503-378-4582
Let your elected officials know that due process was ignored and that we need to review and/or rescind this terrible decision.
We can do this, but it will take an outcry of many. Thank you for being the solution to bringing back our fisheries.
Gratefully, and on behalf of the Oregon Anglers Alliance, Leonard Krug, President