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Other view: U.S. puts fish above families

By Greg Addington, Rayburn Guerin and Russ Brooks -- Special To The Bee
Published 2:15 am PDT Saturday, July 16, 2005

This view is referring to The Bee's editorial "Klamath in crisis," which appeared July 3. Greg Addington is executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association. Rayburn Guerin is president of the Oregon Trollers' Association. Russ Brooks is an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation.

On May 4, families and communities in Oregon and Northern California who depend on fishing for their livelihoods had their businesses taken away by the federal government. The National Marine Fisheries Service cut the chinook salmon fishing season in half, leaving fishermen with idle boats, workers without jobs and businesses that depend on fishermen without customers. 

Despite huge salmon runs in many rivers, including the Sacramento, the service claimed commercial fishing for chinook salmon had to be cut in half because too few fish were expected to return and spawn in just one river, the Klamath.

The truth is the government doesn't "count" all the fish before making decisions that put entire communities at risk, intentionally ignoring hatchery fish. If all fish were considered, the forecast for Klamath River fall chinook is 110 percent of the 2004 preseason forecast. The forecast for the Sacramento River and Central Valley chinook is twice the 2004 preseason forecast - the highest on record.

Congress mandated that the National Marine Fisheries Service consider the economic impacts of its regulation on commercial fishermen and small businesses dependent on the fishing industry, but the service claims it just didn't have time.

Some, including The Bee's editorial, have suggested this is a battle between fishermen and farmers - each of whom depend on water in the Klamath. We join together to flatly say there is no such battle. The government bankrupted farmers to protect fish. Now they are going to bankrupt fishing families and coastal communities to protect fish - fish that are in greater abundance today than last year.

Put simply, the federal government has given in to activists who put the needs of fish over the needs of people, families and communities that depend on commercial fishing. The Oregon Trollers' Association, joined by fishermen, businesses and the Pacific Legal Foundation, in June filed a lawsuit to stop this action. While we await victory, boats sit idle and families suffer.

Meanwhile, fish will return in robust numbers to rivers in Northern California and Oregon. In the Sacramento River, one official told The Bee there are so many fish - nearly 10 times what are needed - that fish will be washing up on the river banks.

Federal decisions have consequences. Sadly, these misguided decisions will put many fishermen out of business, costing them their homes, boats and livelihoods. Worst of all, this will happen for no good reason.





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