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Conservationists Sue To Stop Planting Hatchery Fish In The Elwha

Feb. 10, 2012 | OPB
CONTRIBUTED BY:
David Steves


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  • Larry Ward, Lower Elwha Tribal Hatchery manager, in the fall of 2011. Ward is releasing one of the first coho salmon into the middle section of the Elwha River after almost 100 years. credit: Katie Campbell
Larry Ward, Lower Elwha Tribal Hatchery manager, in the fall of 2011. Ward is releasing one of the first coho salmon into the middle section of the Elwha River after almost 100 years. | credit: Katie Campbell | rollover image for more

Four conservation groups are suing several federal agencies and officials of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe for operating fish hatchery programs in Western Washington’s recently undammed Elwha River.

The conservation groups allege in their lawsuit that the agencies and tribal leaders are violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and ignoring the best available science and threatening the recovery of killer whales, Chinook salmon, and native steelhead.


View Elwha River Dams in a larger map

“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.”

Beardslee’s comments were included in a press release announcing the lawsuit.

The conservation groups behind the lawsuit say a review released this week by the independent Hatchery Scientific Review Group, which was organized and funded by Congress, underscore their own concerns.

The Peninsula Daily News of Port Angeles, Wash., which first reported the legal action, said there was no immediate comment from the tribe, ONP or the other defendants.

The paper noted that in September, Robert Elofson, river restoration manager for the Lower Elwha, noted that without stocking the Elwha with nonnative fish, the tribe might not have anything to catch at the end of a five-year fishing moratorium because wild runs will still be too fragile.

© 2012 OPB
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