Letters to the Editor

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ELWHA: Native fish need a fighting chance

Letter by Jim Kerr, Forks on Sep. 27, 2011 at 12:19 pm | 3 Comments »
September 28, 2011 10:41 am

Re: Removal of the Elwha Dam.

Remember, hatcheries are very expensive to build and run, and native fish are free. So build a multimillion-dollar hatchery, suppress the native population of salmon, then allow a commercial fishery and here is what you get: taxpayers paying up to several dollars a pound to create hatchery fish, then commercial interests harvesting the fish and selling them at market to the people who paid to create them while destroying the native populations that came back for free.

The Elwha River is different. Some of the Elwha’s native fish stocks are actually quite robust. They lack only habitat to survive, and the dam removal will give them that. If we start a major fish hatchery there, the native genes that have survived exploitation for more than 60 years will be lost forever.

The upper Elwha native summer steelhead are a precious time capsule; they are the last of the best remaining in the Northwest, and there is no doubt that the proposed hatchery project will at least damage if not destroy their chances.

Fisheries biologists say that there are three main obstacles to salmon recovery: habitat, hatcheries and harvest. In the case of the Elwha, we are fixing the habitat, imposing a temporary ban on harvest and . . . building a hatchery?

The thing about hatcheries is it is never too late to build one, but once you start one you can never go back. Isn’t it worth giving this awesome river and it’s fish a fighting chance?

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