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

September 30, 1997
Contact: Jeff Weathersby, (360) 902-2256

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WDFW to close three hatcheries in response to federal budget cuts

OLYMPIA -- The closure of three state hatcheries and severe production cutbacks in others in October will mean severe reductions in future fishing opportunities for salmon and steelhead in the ocean and Columbia River, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today.

The hatchery closures and cutbacks are necessary because the National Marine Fisheries Service has notified the department it appears Congress will maintain earlier Mitchell Act cuts and plans another $2.4 million reduction for fiscal year 1998. For the past two years, the Legislature appropriated supplemental state funds to maintain fish production in lower Columbia River hatcheries supported by Mitchell Act funds.

"The federal government committed itself in 1949 to provide the funding to operate these hatcheries through the enactment of the Mitchell Act. This federal commitment was enacted to partially compensate Washington for fish habitat lost with the construction of Columbia River dams," said Bern Shanks, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"The Mitchell Act money helped us produce hatchery fish for tribal, recreational and commercial fisheries. The dams continue to operate but our ability to produce salmon and steelhead for rebuilding natural spawning populations and providing commercial and recreational fisheries is being severely constrained by these large federal reductions," he added.

Shanks also noted the severe reductions of hatchery production along the Columbia River will make it more difficult for the state to negotiate international harvest agreements and strains the co-management relationship the department has with tribes.

The department will have to close the Grays River, Elochoman and Fallert Creek Hatcheries and reduce production at other facilities in October unless WDFW is able to obtain more $1 million from the federal government or other sources to support them.

Shanks said the facilities annually produce almost 1.8 million coho, 7.7 million fall chinook and 500,000 spring chinook. The agency also plans to reduce the annual production of 1.1 million steelhead at the Skamania and Beaver Creek hatcheries to 900,000.

"The timing of the proposed budget reduction is especially unfortunate because it puts at risk recent progress made to provide selective fisheries in the Columbia River basin. We have been clipping hatchery coho for the past two years so that fishers could harvest them while protecting wild spawning salmon," Shanks added.

Fisheries along the Columbia already have been reduced because Oregon severely reduced its hatchery program two years ago in response to the Mitchell Act cuts. The salmon from Oregon and Washington hatcheries on the Columbia also support major fisheries in the ocean along the Washington, British Columbia and Alaskan coasts.

Shanks said the department went through a careful analysis, which included such factors as hatchery age and efficiency, to select facilities for closure.

Shanks said WDFW will attempt to transfer employees impacted by these closures and reductions to other facilities.