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Salmon Director

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Subject: Salmon Director
Date: 09-Mar-09

More than 75 fishing and conservation leaders ask President Obama to create new Salmon Director post at White House Council on Environmental Quality Announcement comes at the start of Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting on 2009 ocean fishing options

SEATTLE, Wash. — Today more than 75 commercial and recreational fishing associations and conservation organizations called on President Obama to create a high-level Salmon Director position in the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to restore West Coast salmon populations, protect fishing jobs and rebuild the salmon economy.

The Salmon Director would be responsible for developing, coordinating and executing federal salmon restoration policy in the Pacific salmon states. Fishing and conservation leaders who signed the letter represent the six Pacific salmon states: California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and Alaska.

“The creation of a high-level Salmon Director position within the White House would send a strong signal to our fishing communities that things have really changed,” Zeke Grader, Executive Director of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association (PCFFA), said. “We need to see that the new administration is committed to correcting past failures and putting salmon and salmon fishing families on the road to recovery. People on the West Coast understand that salmon mean business, and restoring healthy salmon populations can and should be one important piece of a larger strategy to rebuild the nation’s economy and get people working again.”

The letter urges the Obama administration to begin work immediately in creating this position to “protect and restore dwindling populations of Pacific salmon and steelhead and the tens of thousands of jobs in our states that depend upon them.”

The Salmon Director position would be empowered to reverse harmful policies by ensuring that scientific integrity is restored to federal decision-making processes. Groups say a tough, no-nonsense director is what is needed; someone capable of coordinating actions of multiple agencies, working with stakeholders, and who understands the importance of the iconic salmon to the West Coast for food and jobs, recreation and commerce, and the region's cultural heritage.

“We’re thankful for the disaster relief, but we don’t want to have to depend on the federal government to bail us out because our salmon populations are collapsing year after year,” Bob Rees, fishing guide and president of the Oregon Guides and Anglers Association, said. “Fishing is the backbone of our economy on the Pacific Coast. With so many agencies and competing missions involved in salmon recovery efforts, we need someone who we know, who is accountable, and who has decision-making authority — someone who can cut through the web of bureaucracy and bring this fish back home.”

Last month, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) released new projections for returning Pacific Coast salmon populations, including the Sacramento, Klamath and Columbia-Snake populations. For the second year in a row, Sacramento chinook populations are not expected to meet the minimum escapement required to sustain a fishery, and Klamath and Columbia-Snake chinook are still nowhere near recovery.

Among those hardest hit by the salmon crisis are commercial and sport fishermen. Low returns of endangered Snake River fish continue to constrain sport and commercial fishing from southeast Alaska to California and inland to Idaho. The Pacific salmon crisis has crippled coastal and rural areas that desperately need the revenue generated from healthy and abundant sport and commercial fisheries.

Collapsed populations in the Klamath and Sacramento Rivers and extremely low returns to the Columbia-Snake in the last several years have forced unprecedented closures for ocean fisheries off the coast of Oregon and California — leaving boats docked and crushing coastal and rural communities. As a result of last year’s closures, fishing communities and allied businesses lost more than $290 million, thousands of fishermen and fishing-related business workers lost their jobs.

Federal agencies charged with creating management plans to protect and restore healthy, harvestable salmon and steelhead populations in the rivers have consistently failed despite spending billions of taxpayer dollars. Management plans for the three major salmon rivers on the West Coast — the Columbia-Snake, Klamath and Sacramento are all currently mired in litigation and managed by court order. In the Columbia Basin alone, 13 populations of salmon and steelhead are listed on the Endangered Species Act and the federal agencies have spent more $8 billion in the last two decades, but returns remain dangerously low.

This week, the PFMC will meet in Seattle and announce ocean fishing options for the 2009 season. Closures, and the economic hardship that they bring are expected. PFMC is expected to close much of the West Coast ocean fishery this year in order to protect severely depressed Sacramento River salmon runs. A final decision is expected in early April.

“A senior-level Salmon Director is essential to restoring healthy salmon,” Jeremy Brown, a commercial salmon fisherman and boardmember of the Washington Trollers Association said. “This will not only restore thousands of family-wage jobs in rural and coastal communities, but also return one of the healthiest meals available to American consumers.”


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