GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The Bush administration sees a larger role for hatcheries in restoring Pacific salmon in danger of extinction, but counting hatchery fish along with wild will not immediately take any runs off the endangered species list.
A review of the 26 Pacific salmon runs protected by the Endangered Species Act, prompted by a 2001 federal court ruling that gave hatchery fish the same protection as wild fish, found that all should stay on the list. That includes the Oregon coastal coho, whose threatened species status was rescinded by the federal court order that prompted the review.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration agency in charge of restoring salmon, NOAA Fisheries, said one other run -- lower Columbia River coho -- should be added to the list for a total of 27. The listing proposals will be reviewed over the next year.
The review and details of a new federal policy on salmon hatcheries prompted by the 2001 ruling were to be formally announced today in Seattle by Commerce undersecretary Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., and NOAA Fisheries Northwest Regional Director Bob Lohn.
"Hatchery fish will not be considered a substitute for existing naturally spawning runs," Lohn said. "For those who were thinking that putting fish in concrete would provide an easy way out, this plainly says that won't be acceptable."
Though 27 of the 51 distinct populations of salmon and steelhead on the West Coast still merit protection, the vast majority are improving as a result of improved ocean conditions and habitat restoration, Lohn added.
"The overall goal is the restoration of naturally spawning salmon runs," Lautenbacher said.