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Hatchery policy, salmon protections topic of meetings
The Times-Standard  9/23/04

Hearings on a federal policy on hatchery salmon and on changes to protections for wild salmon will be held around California over the next month.

The proposed policy was leaked to the press and shook the coastal West earlier this year when the Bush administration suggested hatchery fish may be counted along with wild salmon when considering their populations for protection. There are 27 populations of salmon and steelhead on the West Coast; 10 are in California.

The policy followed a 2001 federal court ruling that found hatchery managers in Oregon acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner when they killed hatchery fish. It was an effort to protect wild salmon from interbreeding with hatchery fish and weakening wild stocks.

In May, 75 U.S. lawmakers demanded that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration include both independent scientists and the public in making the policy. They claimed the administration was ignoring experts and people whose livelihoods would be affected by it.

Hatchery fish are generally considered inferior to wild fish and incapable of sustaining their own populations. They can also compete with, and spread diseases among, wild salmon.

NOAA has told Congress that it intends to leave protections in place for nearly all populations of salmon and steelhead, though there are some changes.

NOAA now wants the public to comment on the policy and the changes in protection, which have been published in the Federal Register. Copies of that notice and other information can be found at www.nwr.noaa.gov

Meetings in this area include:

* Sept. 22 at the North Coast Inn at 4975 Valley West Blvd. in Arcata.

* Sept. 28 at the Best Western Hilltop Inn at 2300 Hilltop Drive in Redding.

* Oct. 12 at the Radisson Hotel Sacramento at 500 Leisure Lane in Sacramento.

Written comments can be sent to Assistant Regional Administrator, NMFS, Protected Resources Division, 501 West Ocean Blvd., Suite 4200, Long Beach, Calif., 90802-4213. Identify the subjects as either "Hatchery Listing Policy" or "Proposed Listing Determinations."

Comments are due by Oct. 20.

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