by Carmen Macdonald
Last Thursday I made the evening meeting at ODFW headquarters in Salem regarding the proposed Multi-Species Management and Conservation Plan. I've been watching the plan for more than a year, keeping tabs as it maneuvered and changed within the process.
Just a few thoughts...It's a hatchery and harvest plan, not a comprehensive management plan.
Make no mistake, this plan is about hatcheries and harvest. ODFW has pumped up the pages concerning habitat, but in essence the habitat plan is to outline a plan for making a plan and then punt to other venues. What so many of us anglers don't understand is that ODFW has no control over habitat. They talk about it a lot. They clearly described the future of fish in Oregon as requiring habitat work as issue number one, but they're powerless to do anything about it.
So all ODFW can manage is hatcheries and harvest. Without a habitat piece with teeth, calling this plan comprehensive is calling a glass of milk a well-rounded meal. Deja vu
We did this same plan in the 1990's- minus all the hoopla and focus groups Governor Kitzhaber has associated with the process this time around, and yes, the Governor is behind this plan, as he was in the 1990's. In the 1990's all the hatchery programs were revised, most switched from segregated stocks to broodstock and nearly all were reduced in size or eliminated.
The operative question for the rest of the public meetings is- "what was accomplished the last time we did this?" ODFW owes anglers some answers. In the present state, the proposed plan would run 12 years and then go through review (oddly similar to the 1990s and now). If were not going to do any assessment of what happens, are we just going to get together again in 12 years and talk about how we have to cut hatcheries and harvest yet again? Frankly it's a little maddening. No measurables
The only thing measured in numbers in the plan are the changes to hatchery fish production. The rest is broadly described in verbiage. Let's see some hard numbers. If removing hatchery fish from the Kilches is going to produce a "significant positive effect" as one of the straw man documents states, how many wild fish are there now and what is the expected number after a decade? Anglers deserve to know what the goals are and whether or not anything meaningful is being accomplished in cold hard numbers.
WIth regard to hatchery and wild fish interactions, ODFW is using a general statement that hatchery fish "pose some risk" to wild fish. It's time to define that statement. The "hatchery fish are bad" crowd interprets the science to say hatchery fish destroy wild fish. The "hatchery fish are good" crowd look at rivers like the Nehalem, Miami, Tillamook Neskowin, Smith and others and wonder if those totally unremarkable streams are the best we can do. ODFW needs to put some measurement to it- quantify what the science says in the real world. They've failed in this regard for at least the last 15 years. Do we want to offer another 12?Opportunity missed
Within this plan there was an opportunity that's not taken. Like the wildlife side of ODFW has done with mule deer emphasis units, this plan could have described a couple intensive wild fish emphasis rivers. Where current wild fish management includes doing nothing except removing hatchery fish and catch-and-release fishing regulations because ODFW has no power over habitat, this plan could have rounded up other agencies to descend on a couple rivers to make them the examples of what could be done with regard to wild fish.
This plan could have taken a river like the Nehalem and defined action items to address the water temperatures, flows, sediment and every other evil apparent in the river. It's sad this opportunity was not taken. All anglers want thriving populations of wild fish, a lot of where we differ is in regards to whether or not they're attainable.
In total, I grow tired of hearing "less is more" from ODFW. Anglers vote with their time and from what I can see, they're voting for programs like the WIlson and the Nestucca in droves. Increasing the number of these quality opportunities are not part of the plan.
If removing hatchery programs is going to save fish...show me. Show me some demonstrative results, because at this point ODFW and Governor Kitzhaber completely lack this. If it's and buts were candies and nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas.
It's a shame.