Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Hatchery Accountability by ODFW

Ever wonder how much those coastal hatchery summer steelhead cost? I can tell you they cost a hell pf a lot. We pay a premium price for our fishing here in Oregon but are we getting our moneys worth?

By Bill Bakke
The Native Fish Society has asked the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to complete a cost/benefit analysis of Oregon’s hatchery system. Fiscal and ecological accountability is needed in the operation of Oregon’s hatchery system. This need is even more acute now with the recently announced declines in the state’s general fund.
Oregon’s fish hatchery program is growing at the rate of about a million dollars a year. This growth rate is unsustainable given the likely loss of general tax revenues that currently help fund the program. The only way to compensate for the loss of state taxpayer support for the hatchery program would be for the recreational and commercial anglers to support additional large increases to their license fees.
NFS has asked the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to complete a cost/benefit analysis for each of its separate hatchery programs in order to help determine the risks of these programs to native species and to help prioritize individual hatchery operations as reductions in these programs occur. The Hatchery Accountability Project provides a legitimate process that the department could use to determine which hatchery programs need to be reduced or eliminated. This process could lead to a smaller and more fiscally sound and sustainable hatchery program over the long term.
Oregon operates a fish hatchery system statewide that includes several dozen separate facilities. These facilities produce millions of salmon, steelhead and trout each year for release into the waters of the state to support commercial and recreational fisheries. For many years, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has said reform of the hatchery system is underway. The only major visible reform that NFS has seen has been the relocation of coastal coho releases to the Young’s Bay area and the expansion of supplementation and acclimation programs. These small changes are relatively insignificant and some may actually be counterproductive. There has not been any fundamental change to the way ODFW operates the hatchery system.
The Hatchery Accountability Project would provide the department with a legitimate way to prioritize its various programs based upon which programs are the most cost effective, which ones provide the largest benefit to the most anglers and which projects have the least potential for inflicting harm to native fish and wildlife resources. Saving the best programs and eliminating the worst ones should help lead to a more sustainable state hatchery program.
The Oregon Hatchery Accountability Project is based upon the following criteria:

• What is the return on investment in terms of fish caught in commercial and recreational fisheries?

• Are the angling opportunities provided commensurate with the investment?

• What are the environmental risks and costs associated with each hatchery program?

NFS has asked ODFW to begin the analysis on hatchery programs that a) seem overly expensive b) only serve small segments of the angling community or c) have a high risk of adversely effecting native fish and wildlife populations. Examples of such programs include:
1. The Atlantic salmon stocking program

2. The Cascade lakes brook trout stocking program

3. Trout stocking in flowing waters

4. The Willamette basin summer steelhead program

5. Programs that utilize non-native or introduced fish stocks

6. The transfer of anadromous salmonids among watersheds

“The Native Fish Society believes that the information provided by the Hatchery Accountability Project will provide ODFW, the Governor, the Oregon Legislature and the public with valuable tools to use in assuring that Oregon’s fish hatchery program is operated in the public interest for the long-term benefit and health of our native fish populations,” said NFS Executive Director Bill Bakke, “All we ask is that ODFW conduct an annual cost-benefit analysis of its hatcheries. That way the taxpayers, who are paying for the hatcheries, can make informed decisions about them. It just makes sound business sense to do so.”

The ODFW Commission will decide on the agency’s budget at their July 16 meeting, and it is NFS’ hope that the Commission will direct the agency to begin the Hatchery Accountability Project at this time.

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