Portland, OR- The member tribes of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (Yakama, Warm Springs, Umatilla, and Nez Perce) expressed disappointment and frustration at the filing over federally funded Columbia Basin hatchery programs. The tribes believe that the misguided attack disregards constitutionally protected promises made to them by the United States to replace fish runs that were damaged by the construction and operation of federal hydroelectric dams.
The lawsuit further delays NOAA’s Endangered Species Act consultations and seeks to halt funding for hatchery programs that restore salmon that were lost due to the construction and operation of Columbia River dams. These programs, which support tribal and non-tribal fishing, are key to the Yakama Nation’s program to sustain the ancient tribal fishery on the Klickitat River and are an important tool in restoring natural runs of salmon in the Klickitat, Wenatchee, Umatilla, and Clearwater river basins.
“Lawsuits like these are expensive distractions from the important work of salmon recovery, and they jeopardize the livelihoods of tribal and non-tribal fishing communities,” said Jeremy Wolf, chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “The lawsuit is based on the flawed logic that hatcheries caused the decline of wild salmon abundance and wrongly asserts that simply closing hatcheries will increase wild salmon abundance. In the tribes’ experience, that path only leads to fewer fish in the rivers and does virtually nothing to improve the condition of natural runs. The tribes have demonstrated with their own successful programs how carefully managed hatcheries can rebuild abundant naturally spawning runs in our rivers and streams. Those truly interested in recovery are better served by putting their efforts into restoring the wild rivers that salmon need.”
Tribal hatchery programs have been an important component of salmon recovery efforts throughout the Columbia River system in recent decades. While not all of those programs will be directly impacted by today’s litigation, tribal programs on the Klickitat and Yakima rivers in Washington could be impacted.
“Columbia Basin salmon were not decimated because of hatcheries. The Columbia Basin has hatcheries because natural fish were decimated,” Wolf added. “The Fish Conservancy litigation won’t do anything to help the fish, but it will certainly hurt the most vulnerable fishing community: tribal members who rely on these programs. Litigation like this perpetuates the myth that all hatchery fish are bad and cannot be used in recovery. We should not allow a tiny special interest group with a narrow agenda to distract the rest of us from the big picture of refining hatchery practices and working together to rebuild abundance.”