WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

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June 16, 1997
Contact: Jeff Weathersby, (360) 902-2256

American Fisheries Society Praises WDFW Draft Wild Salmonid Policy

OLYMPIA -- A team of American Fisheries Society scientists has concluded the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's draft Wild Salmonid Policy "will move the agency in a direction favorable to wild salmonids and the people and ecosystems that depend on them."

"Overall, we found the document very refreshing," the six scientists reported. "In an era of growing cynicism towards agencies delegated responsibility for administering public resources, we did not expect to see such a candid admission of past failures that resulted from catering to a clientele of special interest groups rather than to the wild salmonid resource."

Bern Shanks, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said he was gratified by the study's findings.

"The American Fisheries Society report is important because it was conducted by experts in the field who have no vested interest in the process or in our success or failure in rebuilding Washington wild salmon and steelhead runs," Shanks said.

The draft Wild Salmonid Policy, produced in response to a legislative mandate, is designed to be a road map for rebuilding wild salmon and steelhead runs in Washington.

The draft policy has been the focus of 12 public meeting across the state in recent weeks as well as one formal hearing in Tumwater by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. The commission has scheduled an eastern Washington public hearing for on the draft policy at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Ramada Inn Clover Island, 435 Clover Island, Kennewick. The commission is scheduled to select a preferred alternative from the five options contained in the draft policy at a workshop meeting July 18-19 in Tumwater.

As part of the public comment process, Shanks had asked the prestigious American Fisheries Society to conduct a formal scientific peer review of the draft policy.

The review was conducted by six scientists with different areas of expertise in fish science. The scientists were not identified.

The scientists' report said, "We believe those drafting the (draft environmental impact statement) have succeeded in making the resource their client, and we applaud them and their product for doing so."

They also commended the department for the "very large body of information they have brought together into a comprehensible package, on their willingness to face problems of the past, acknowledge the political and economic pressures, and outline a series of alternatives."

They noted other agencies and organizations around the country also are moving in the direction of recognizing the importance of wild, self-sustaining populations of salmon, trout and char.

The American Fisheries Society report criticized the draft policy for not fully recognizing the resilience of salmonids or the possibility that climate changes may improve ocean conditions for the fish.

The scientists also said the policy may be too optimistic about the prospects of for protecting and restoring fish habitat. While the Department of Fish and Wildlife can regulate fish harvests and hatchery operations, it has very little control of the habitat that provides salmonids with cold, clean water and other life needs.

(Editor's Note: The press can call Jeff Weathersby at 360-902-2256 for copies of the AFS report.)