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Fishermen and loggers square up over salmon

作者:侯算    发布时间:2019-02-28 01:20:08    

By Bob Holmes THE spotted owl may have started the fight between American loggers and conservationists, but the coho salmon looks likely to provoke all-out war, with loggers pitted against fishermen, and anti-regulatory crusaders against conservationists. In a move that is certain to provoke a bitter battle in Congress, the US National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed listing three west coast populations of coho salmon as threatened. If the listing is finalised next year, it will be the first time a species of such commercial value has come under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. “This species is in real deep trouble,” says Hilda Diaz-Soltero, the southwest regional director of the NMFS. “It is essential to recover it because of the huge economic and social impact on the west coast.” Coho salmon populations have fallen to less than 5 per cent of their former size along the coast of Oregon and northern California. Both commercial and sport fishing for coho have been banned in both states for the past two years, at a loss of between $60 and $70 million a year to the fishing industry. The coho are in peril mainly because of degradation of the coastal streams where the adult fish spawn and the juveniles spend the first half of their lives, says Diaz-Soltero. Logging, agriculture, and the diversion of water for irrigation all contribute to this degradation. However, most of the land surrounding coho streams in California and Oregon is timber country, and if the coho is to recover there will have to be changes in logging practices to protect stream habitats, she says. Conservationists and the fishing industry both welcomed the proposed listing. “It became patently obvious that unless they listed coho, they were going to go extinct, because nobody was doing a damn thing about protecting watersheds,” says Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. The timber industry, however, lays the blame elsewhere. “Habitat is not the major problem,” says Ward Armstrong, executive director of the Oregon Forest Industries Council. “The major problem has been ocean conditions, overfishing and hatchery practices.” The NMFS attaches much less importance to these factors than to forestry. Armstrong argues that logging companies already operate under tight guidelines to preserve stream habitats. “I’m disappointed. We’re basically doing everything we know how to do in habitat management,” he says. Nor is the fight between the loggers and the conservationists the only trouble in the offing. The listing of the coho salmon seems likely to fuel the already heated debate surrounding the Endangered Species Act this year. The Republican-dominated Congress will be debating the act’s renewal in the autumn, and many Republicans are calling for changes that would sharply curtail the government’s power to force private landowners to protect endangered species on their property (This Week, 22 April). More than half of the coho’s stream habitats – and a massive 90 per cent in central California – are on private property. Officials from the NMFS say the current political climate has made them tread softly. “We had to walk a very fine line between making certain we did the right thing in terms of science and making a practical proposal,” says Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the NMFS. It will be several months before the NMFS releases detailed plans to protect the coho, but Diaz-Soltero expects a cooperative approach rather than a confrontational one. “We need to have the cooperation of the private landowners,

 

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