Wednesday, March 24, 2010



This study is an evaluation of the failure to incorporate science into fishery management on the Columbia River for salmonids over the last 80 years. It is the road not taken and the consequences of not taking a science-based program for fish has lead to ESA protection, extinction, and reduced fisheries at the expense of billions to the public that funds this work.

The authors present a lucid and distressing account of what has taken place in the name of fish management, presenting a time-line of events that comprise a series of decision points that could have meant salmon and steelhead recovery rather than degradation. If salmonid sustainable decisions had been made it is likely that there would be fewer fish listed for protection under the ESA because they would be healthy and productive. But that was not the road taken. Fish management is deaf to science, turning away from a factual and rational fish management program that is based more on agendas, politics, and funding than it is on healthy wild salmonids in productive watersheds. The outcome for these decisions is what we now have a future that is likely to cause the extinction of salmonids, hatchery and wild, in the Pacific Northwest. As fish managers try to compensate for bad decisions they are delivering a likely outcome that is expensive biologically and a waste of public funds. The public is paying for it with billions of dollars and lost opportunity. This study is important to read because it sets out a history of our collective failure to be effective stewards of our salmon and steelhead. Knowing how we failed paves the way for correcting this 150 year dedication to it.

Abstract.—The Pacific Northwest states of Oregon, Washington, California, and Ida-ho are engaged in a massive effort to restore depleted populations of Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp. The region’s largest watershed, the Columbia Basin, is the focus of what has been called the world’s largest attempt at ecosystem restoration. After 26 years of implementation, the failure of the program to achieve its modest recov-ery goal was the result, in part, of a failure to incorporate the latest science into the program. The fundamental assumptions and principles that guide the selection of recovery tasks and their implementation were not based on the latest scientific under-standing of the salmon production system. Three impediments to the incorporation of science into management and recovery programs are identified: an inadequate conceptual foundation, fragmented institutional structures, and political interference. Each impediment is illustrated and discussed using case histories from the Columbia River.

The Timeline: (taken from the text)

1893: R.D. Hume, recognized differences in salmon populations from different streams and incorporated those observations into management recommendations.

1933: Anticipating the work of Hume and later the research of Willis Rich on salmon management, some fish culturists recognized the implications of the stock concept of management that was not desirable, so the Oregon Fish Commission constructed salmon management units to facilitate harvest regulations and these artificial constructs were sometimes referred to as stocks. The importance of biological stocks received little attention for the next several decades.

1939: However, it was not until 1939 that Willis Rich, after reviewing the results of salmon tagging experiments, describes the importance of the stock concept for Pacific salmon to describe the biological organization of salmonids.

1970s: Interest in biological stocks surfaced again and in the 1980s and 1990s management agencies began inventorying biological salmon stocks.

1995: Fifty-seven years after Rich identified stocks as the basic unit of management, researchers reported that one of the factors contributing to the decline of the lower Columbia River stocks of coho salmon was the continued stocking of universal donor coho stocks in the lower river tributaries, essentially ignoring the stock concept.

2010: Today, 71 years after Rich’s paper, the harvest of salmon in the Columbia River is not based on escapement targets for biological stocks, but on mixed stock aggregates defined as fish passing convenient counting sites such as mainstem dams. This approach does not take into account the different productivities of the individual stocks or the variation in habitat quality of the different tributaries. This is not limited to the Columbia River. Fisheries science has recognized the importance of the biological stock as the basis of sustainable management; however, that realization has not yet been incorporated into all appropriate management activities in Columbia River Basin.

The Power Planning and Conservation Council:

1980: The U.S. Congress enacted the Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Act. One purpose of the act was to create parity between fish and power production from dams. To implement this act, Congress created the Northwest Power and Conservation Council made up of two representatives from the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana and directed them to develop a fish and wildlife restoration program funded by the Bonneville Power Administration using power revenues. (It should be noted here that the National Marine Fisheries Service had already initiated a review of upper Columbia River and Snake River salmon and steelhead for protection under the Endangered Species Act, but this effort was dropped in the belief that the Power Council and the authority given it by Congress would provide the funds and measures to save the salmon. Bakke)

1982: “The first fish and wildlife program was adopted by the Council characterized as the largest ecosystem restoration program in the world. The Council estimated the pre-development salmonid abundance in the Columbia River was 10-16 million. This abundance has declined to an average of 2.5 million fish, most of which are of hatchery origin. A goal was set to “double the run” a common goal at the time, but have failed to do so. The total run ranged from 750,000 to 3 million fish, largely the result of improved ocean environments. However, from 1982 to 2003 the Council spent 1.16 billion in direct funding of the fish recovery program. When indirect expenses such as forgone power production to improve fish passage at dams is included the total cost during this time period is 6.45 billion dollars.”

2000 – 2003: “Salmonid runs increased to 3 million, however, monitoring at the ecosystem level is inadequate to determine how much of this increase was due to the effects of the ocean environment or the fish and wildlife program.”

1982 to 2002: After twenty years the fish and wildlife program has failed to reach its goal of doubling the runs.

1999: The Independent Science Group (ISG) was asked by the Council to review the scientific foundation of the Council’s fish and wildlife program (FWP) when the run declined to 750,000 fish in 1995. The ISG reported in 1999: “After reviewing the science behind salmon restoration and the persistent trends of declining abundance of Columbia River salmon, we concluded that the FWP’s implied conceptual foundation did not reflect the latest scientific understanding of ecosystem science and salmon restoration.”

The authors of this paper ask: “How could the Council’s salmon recovery program, with its massive financial backing, fail to incorporate the latest science?”

The authors make a “distinction between fishery science and fishery management including restoration programs. Fishery science includes the body of research conducted by academic and fish and wildlife management institutions, and others. Fisheries management includes programs and policies intended to conserve and/or recover fish resources and their habitats.”

“The incorporation of the latest science into management and recovery programs is not automatic…impediments exist to the incorporation of fishery science into the Columbia Basin’s principle salmon recovery program.”

1994: The Council’s fish and wildlife program included nine measures of importance to wild salmonids:

1. Develop a Policy to protect wild spawning populations.
2. Evaluate salmon survival throughout their life history to understand the ecology and capacity of the basin.
3. Adjust hatchery releases to river carrying capacity.
4. Collect baseline data on population status and life history of wild populations.
5. Conserve genetic diversity.
6. Review procedures for conducting population vulnerability analyses.
7. Evaluate systemwide and cumulative impacts of existing and proposed artificial production projects.
8. Establish a biodiversity institute.

The authors confirm that these are the elements that are basic to an ecosystem approach to salmon recovery in the basin. However, the fish managers disagreed and did not implement any of the measures. Instead, the managers decided to submit measures related to hatchery supplementation and new hatchery construction.

The authors say, based on recommendations of scientific panels that the “Council’s attempt to incorporate an ecosystem approach to salmon recovery consistent with the latest science was thwarted by the implementation proposals submitted by salmon managers.” In conclusion the authors say, “Both the Council and the fish managers bear responsibility for the failure to implement the 1994 fish and wildlife program consistent with the latest science.”

Hatchery Production:

1878: The first salmon hatchery on the Columbia was established on the Clackamas River by the commercial packers to boost the declining salmon catch.

1903: There is evidence in the record that “some biologists recognized that they had little scientific basis for their hatchery programs.” Chamberlain (1903) said, “Until the salmon industry or the people choose to pay for several years of careful, expensive investigation, propagation must be taken on faith. Without this, even if our fish-eries should increase, we could not be sure it was from the hatchery work…”

The authors say, “The success of hatcheries was taken on faith for another 20 years when two evalu-ations of artificial propagation were under-taken. The study showed that artificial propagation was no more effective than natu-ral propagation. Following the publication of those results, hatcheries in British Columbia were closed. The statistical analysis of Co-lumbia River hatchery releases and adult harvest did not find evidence that artificial propagation influenced the supply of salmon to the fishery; however, those findings had no effect on the operation of hatcheries in the Columbia Basin (Lichatowich 1999).”

“…managers used artificial propagation to mitigate for the expected loss of salmon production. Hatcher-ies were relied on to make up for lost habitat, even though fish culturists had not yet dem-onstrated the efficacy of artificial propagation (Lichatowich 1999). Biologists still took the success of hatcheries as a matter of faith, or “idolatrous faith” as one biologist described (Cobb 1930).”

The Secretary of Interior in the 1930s responded to the construction of mainstem dams on the Columbia and assembled a board of consultants to evaluate the threat mainstem dams to salmon. The uncertainty of hatchery mitigation lead the board to recommend that hatcheries be treated as an experiment “only for so long as the results may reasonable appear to justify its continuation.”

The Power Planning and Conservation Council began a review of hatchery propagation sixty years later and that review confirmed the idea that hatcheries are experimental and should be evaluated. The authors conclude, “ Given the status of salmon in the Columbia Basin, it’s clear that artificial propagation failed to achieve its early objectives of maintaining the supply of fish to the fishery and its later objectives of mitigating for lost habitat.”

In 2003 the Independent Scientific Advisory Board for the Council “concluded that even though it was considered experimental, (hatchery) supplementation was being carried out in a way that will make comprehensive evaluation unlikely. Implementation of ‘experimental’ uses of hatcheries without actually carrying out the experiment is a persistent problem.”

As a consequence, the authors conclude, “After more than a century of use…artificial propagation not only failed to meet its goals, but it has contributed to the depleted state of the salmon.”

In 1991 when several populations of chinook and sockeye salmon were listed as protected species under the federal Endangered Species Act (initiated by the public not the fish managers who resisted) it was necessary to evaluate the effect of hatchery fish in the ecosystem and their impact on imperiled wild salmonids. The question that needed an answer according to the authors: “Are artificially propagated fish equivalent to naturally propagated fish for the purposes of listing or delisting Pacific salmon?” NOAA Fisheries answered in the affirmative in by counting wild and hatchery steelhead in the upper Columbia River tributaries so that endangered steelhead could be treated as threatened species, making their protection less of a burden. Environmental groups, including Trout Unlimited and the Native Fish Society, brought this issue to the attention of the federal court. Even though they prevailed in district court it was reversed on appeal by deferring to the expertise of the management agency.

According to the authors, both of whom have participated in Northwest Power Planning and Conservation Council science panels for many years, the Council’s fish and wildlife program lacked an adequate conceptual foundation they describe as “a set of principles, assumptions, and beliefs about how an ecosystem and its fish production system function.” They go on to conclude that the Council’s fish and wildlife program has numerous problems. They say, “Among those problems were the failure to implement any of the biodiversity measures in the 1994 version of the fish and wildlife program; the lack of stock specific escapement targets; the reluctance to deal with the impacts of artificial propagation to the ecosystem beyond the hatchery; and the reliance on an approach to salmon recovery based on halfway technology and command and control management. Halfway technology results in the natural environment and ecosystem function becoming more brittle, less resilient, and less capable of long-term sustainability (Holling and Meffe 1995).”

The Council science panels tried to correct these problems but were ignored. The Council’s fish and wildlife program continued to pour billions of public funds into fish conservation measures, following the direction of the fish managers, that were bound to fail, proving in its grossest sense that money alone will not recover salmon.

The National Research Council reviewed the salmon decline on the Pacific coast and concluded, “The current set of institutional arrangements is not appropriate to the bioregional requirements of salmon and their ecosytesms,” and that, “the current set of institutional arrangements contributes to the decline of salmon and cannot halt the decline.” (NRC 1996)

The authors also say, “For fisheries, (the current institutional structure), favors a conceptual foundation based on simplifying assumptions about production processes and an emphasis on harvest management and artificial propagation. Those activities cause little conflict with the activities and jurisdictions of other institutions. In fact, mitigation hatcheries can help further economic development that conflicts with salmon conservation.”

No factual review of this region’s failure to actually establish a credible salmon conservation management and restoration program is complete without a comment about political interference. The authors define political interference “as the attempt to present a policy decision made for political or economic reasons as the outcome of scientific analysis when the science does not support the decision.

Among many examples it is worth mentioning one of the most egregious examples accomplished by NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency with the responsibility for salmon recovery under the ESA. When they develop their draft hatchery policy and asked a science panel they appointed to review it, NOAA Fisheries rejected that science review. The science panel said the hatchery “policy did not reflect the published scientific research on the differences between hatchery and wild salmon and the implication of those differences for management and recovery programs.” NOAA Fisheries insisted that the panel’s recommendations be taken out of the report. In order to make their recommendations known, they published them in an independent scientific journal.

Further investigation points to political interference of a Bush Administration political appointee. The authors say, “when the scientists are asked to strip out their scientific findings to give cover to a salmon hatchery policy that runs counter to science, then the process has slipped into political interference.”


This important paper documents the failure of the institutions charged to protect and recover West Coast wild salmon populations. They have failed to establish ecological objectives for salmonids; a set of principles, assumptions and beliefs about how the ecosystem and its fish function; failure to base management on stock specific spawner abundance targets; failure to address the impacts of the hatchery program on the ecosystem and the fish; and perpetuation of a simple salmon management model dedicated to stocking salmonids for kill fisheries. The reason this problem persists on the West Coast is that the salmonid management institutions are not accountable for their management programs and how they spend public funds to support it. This problem has continued for 150 years and the authors of this study lay the foundation for a complete overhaul of salmonid management. However this will not take place as long as the public remains ignorant of the cost of this institutional transgression against salmon, steelhead and trout and until Congress continues to fund the old system of management. Reform of salmonid management is well beyond our grasp until the public decides to correct this problem.


Lichatowich, James, A., and Richard N. Williams. 2009. Failures to incorporate science into fishery management and recovery programs: Lessons form the Columbia River. Am. Fish. Soc. Symposium 70:1005-1019.


Chamberlain, F.M. 1903. Artificial propagation. Pacific Fisherman 1: (11) 10.

Cobb, J.N. 1930. Pacific salmon fisheries. U.S. Bureau of Fisheries Document No. 1092. Washington, D.C.

Holling, C. and G. Meffe. 1995. Command and control and the pathology of natural resource management. Conservation Biology. 10:328-337.

Lichatowich, James. 1999. Salmon Without Rivers. Island Press

National Research Council (NRC). 1996. Upstream: salmon and society in the Pacific Northwest. Report of the Committee on Protection and Management of Pacific Northwest anadromous salmonids for the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. National Academy Press, Washington D.C.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Alexandra Morton blog, 14th March 2010
The Migration
I have decided it is time to take the issue of industrial salmon farming to the people in an unprecedented way. I have written letters, done the science, met with government and industry around the world, engaged in government processes, talked to thousands of people, been the subject of international media and films and today I stand facing a vertical wall of impenetrable denial. Nothing has brought reason to this situation. We will lose our wild salmon if government continues to carelessly put farm salmon before wild salmon every time.

Because there has been no significant progress in spite of this enormous effort and time spent by many, I no longer feel there is hope of reforming this industry. Government is allowing Norwegian salmon farmers to continue denying even the most basic issues, like sea lice and ISA virus introduction. If we let this play out our wild fish simply will not survive

So it is time for the Get Out Migration. I am not talking about all aquaculture. I am referring specifically to the massive scale Norwegian feedlots. There are Canadian fish farmers who know how to use tanks on land who are not impacting our wild salmon and herring. This is about saving wild salmon and all of us who depend on them.

I will begin deep in the beautiful Ahta River in late April with the salmon and move by boat through the Broughton Archipelago to Sointula. On Earth day I will simply start walking to Victoria and ask people join me to stand up along the way and be counted. I will communicate our progress and connect the countries facing this industry through the website We hold salmon as sacred because they so generously feed our world. They built the soil of this province with their flesh, they grow our children, they feed the trees that make the oxygen we breath, they are food security in a world losing ability to even pollinate flowers.

When we get to Victoria, we will meet with representatives from government.

We cannot match the corporate PR machine, nor their lobbying power. So I am simply inviting people to make themselves visible by joining us on foot, electronically and by mail. This will be peaceful, colourful, musical, fun, family oriented. Unless we stand up and become visible, government will continue to degrade the laws of Canada to the benefit of the salmon farming industry, as suggested in the most recent throne speech. The salmon farming industry must be free to grow relentlessly to meet their responsibility to their European shareholders. We will carry a message to the Federal government – do not degrade the Fisheries Act again so that it no longer protects the fish that belong to the people of Canada.

Please stand up for wild salmon by joining a migration emerging from the Broughton Archipelago on then leaving Sointula on 22nd April and closing with a blessing in Victoria on Mothers’ Day (9th May). If you are interested in hosting other events, leading a migration arm from the Fraser River Valley, Gold River or other places in B.C. or just joining us for one step of the way please let us know.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010



We have all heard of natural selection, a concept created by Charles Darwin in 1859. It is the primary way in which animals and plants adapt to their environments through sexual reproduction.

There is another form of selection having to do with cultural forces, a system of beliefs, assumptions, and values. Institutional selection imposes compliance among people in agencies and business. If one wants to rise within the institution a clear record of compliance to institutional values and beliefs is required. These selective factors are often unspoken, but those who want the institutional rewards are nonetheless very much aware of them.

Public agencies are influenced by having to be responsive to public concerns and involve the public in policy development. The problem for the agency is that the public can interfere with agency culture. They are constantly having to deal with public proposals and are obligated to hold public hearings on issues that can result in agency change. For this reason public agencies have developed a sophisticated resistance to outside interference. As one administrator once told me if you poke us too much in one direction, we build a callus.

The first level of resistance comes when the agency is confronted with a policy change over how it administers its system of assumptions, beliefs and values. The public initiatives arrive without invitation from outside the agency. As one director of the Oregon fish and wildlife department once said, “we can recover salmon if the public would just stay out of our business.” This candid burp was rather revealing for its honesty.

Public agencies are also burdened with a commission that can, when they feel forced, be responsive to public initiatives to change agency policy. The commission is always a wild card that the agency staff is constantly worried about, for it could mean a reflexive change in the why things are done, so they spend a lot of time tuning the commission up to support staff’s natural abhorrence to any change whatsoever. But change happens and the agency has developed a way to slow change down and defeat it, if given enough time.

The first thing that staff does with cooperation of its legal department is make sure that any policy change has no clauses of accountability embedded in it, something the public can use to pester the agency about non-compliance through the courts. So all policy changes are cleansed of deadlines, deliverables, numerical values or anything else that the public can use to threatened the status quo of agency operations.

Another useful tactic is to know your public. This is necessary because the agency is often called upon to assemble a public advisory group to help in the process of policy development. A useful precautionary tactic is to stack public advisory groups with people who are supportive of the agency status quo, but to appear non-partial they appoint one or at the most two people who are progressive in their views knowing they can be controlled or out voted. A novel refinement of this tactic is to invite people who are opposed to the agency altogether. They are useful in creating conflict with the feared change makers giving the agency the middle ground. For example, when deciding the Native Fish Conservation Policy, the ODFW invited the private property advocates to the table. These folks were opposed to fish protection because they believed private use of land was threatened. Including them on a committee to develop conservation plans for the protection of native species insured conflict. This was an unusually perceptive adjustment by staff to protect the agency status quo for it created a strong opposition to those seeking a strong conservation policy and at the same time gave the agency staff the middle ground. The staff ran shuttle diplomacy between the two opposing groups in the committee, telling each one what they wanted to hear, thus strengthening the conflict. This increased the agency capacity to maintain the status quo.

Another artful dodge is to maintain a policy in draft form for as long as possible so that it is not binding on the agency and no matter how hard the public might press them to implement the policy, the agency reminds them that it is only a draft.

These tactics are for the single purpose of protecting the agency from change, especially those threats generated by the public.

Once a policy development committee is seated, it is obvious to the agency staff that change is inevitable, so additional tactics are necessary to slow change down.

The second level of resistance is to not implement or make implementation impossibly slow so that those wanting change get busy on other things and public pressure is dissipated. Too often the public assumes that once a policy is adopted by the agency and becomes administrative law, that the agency will practice due diligence and implement that policy. The public spends a lot of time in policy development but attention wanes when it comes to carrying out the policy on the ground.

When the Oregon department of fish and wildlife adopted the Oregon Wild Fish Management Policy in 1978 and revised it several times later to remove legal handles that could prove inconvenient, it was discovered that the policy was not actually being applied agency wide. The policy was never popular and it was left up to staff to implement if they wanted to do so. The environmental advocates for this policy assumed that it was being applied across the state to provide protection for wild fish and were shocked to find out that it was an elective.

When the public was successful in convincing the commission to implement a slot regulation for Deschutes River trout fishery, one agency administrator complained that ODFW no longer managed the Deschutes, the public did. The slot regulation did away with bait and allowed a restricted kill of trout in number and size. This lead to a catch and release fishery, which is not favored by an agency that believes a kill fishery is the only way to sell licenses.

The following is provided to show just how strong resistance to institutional change can be. The Oregon Legislature passed a state law that said it is the obligation of the fish and wildlife department and commission to “prevent the serious depletion of indigenous (native) species.” Serious depletion was not defined so the agency had plenty of interpretation room to avoid compliance. The ODFW commission got into the act and said that the law also directed the agency to provide social benefits and concluded that conservation was balanced by the requirement to provide those benefits such as harvested fish. They developed a code for killing fish called “fishing opportunity.”

At the request of the public, the Oregon Attorney General’s office provided the ODFW with its assessment of this statute in 1997 and again in 2003. In those legal reviews the agency was told that its “overriding obligation is to prevent the serious depletion of indigenous species” and the agency is unable to provide social benefits unless this happened. Thus, the balancing argument of the ODFW commission was set aside, but their dedication for it was not.

Also at the public’s request, the ODFW director distributed the 1997 legal opinion from the AG’s to the staff so they would be fully informed about the law and their obligation to it. However, this law did not mesh well with the understood institutional mission of the agency by staff. One did not advance their careers by being an advocate for wild fish. One staff person who left ODFW told me he left because he did not like getting in trouble for following the rules.

In 2003 the AG’s office once again reminded the agency of its overriding obligation to protect native species from serious depletion as they sought to adopt the Native Fish Conservation Policy. In 2010 this state law still has no real traction within the agency in their day to day management. It was disturbing when a commissioner told me that he did not know how to deal with this responsibility.

It can be argued that when the state assigns a species as sensitive, which means it is precarious and vulnerable to extinction, or when a species is provided protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, that it is certainly seriously depleted. With regard to ESA-listed species, the states must get coverage from the National Marine Fisheries Service to run its hatchery and harvest programs. This would appear to be a serious check on any agency’s institutional mission, but it isn’t, for even though the federal agency requires the agency to justify its actions, it is not often different from what the agency would have done anyway. The only difference is the additional paper work.

In the state of Washington, the WDFW commission adopted a Wild Salmonid Policy. The director that led this adoption struggle and the staff person that drafted the policy lost their job soon after this policy was adopted. Since its adoption, the agency has quietly ignored it for it requires change in hatchery and harvest structures that have been in place a long time.

More recently, the WDFW commission adopted a Wild Steelhead Management Plan. This plan calls for Wild Steelhead Management Zones to be adopted. The public requested this and was successful. However, when asked why there has been little movement in setting up Wild Steelhead Management Zones, including the 20 that the public recommended, they are given a number of reasons.

The first artful dodge is that this policy is still in draft form so it is not binding on the agency. That reasoning inflames the public so other reasons had to be found. Since their co-managers, Native American tribes, did not sign this policy, the agency cannot implement it. That is a better excuse because someone else is to blame. When reminded that the WDFW has an obligation to secure 50% of the available harvest for its constituents in a shared resource with the tribes, there is ample room to provide for wild steelhead management zones. When the public advocates are willing to forgo harvest to increase the spawner abundance of steelhead in these WSMZs it is unreasonable to allow the tribes to harvest the forgone and so-called surplus from the recreational fishery. But because the agency does not establish a steelhead harvest management plan prior to the fishery starting, it claims there is no power to make changes to protect spawners and achieve spawner escapement goals in each river that is co-managed. So the agency, by not doing its job creates an excuse to harvest all the fish, including those needed for spawning. In order to do this and still appear to be managers of good faith, the recreational fishery is closed while the tribal fishery continues to fish. The conclusion is that wild steelhead are not getting the needed protection.

In lower Puget Sound hatchery fish harvest zones were created to maximize the harvest of hatchery coho. Wild coho spawner objectives by watershed have not been established because that would interfere with the harvest of hatchery fish. A recent petition to list wild coho in Puget Sound by the public is an attempt to correct this problem. By not protecting wild spawner abundance the WDFW is ignoring the best available science that has been in place for 72 years following the research of Willis Rich.

The conflict over conservation of native wild fish populations is created by the fish management agencies. As one retired ODFW biologist told me, wild fish and their habitat are irrelevant to the agency. They manage by a simple model of stocking hatchery fish and running kill fisheries. If one challenges that, one threatens the institution that is based on an industrial model of production and consumption where wild fish are considered a constraint on commodity production.

Fish and wildlife agencies have developed an elaborate resistance to changing their institutional structure of beliefs, assumptions and values. Even though they are public agencies they have created proven ways to blunt the effect of public reform efforts. They have rationalized state laws when they are in conflict with agency operations. They are able to do this because elected officials such as legislators, Congress, and governors, are not interested in resolving the problem.

The public makes its demands and it can have a modest effect on the institutional culture of fish management, but unless the public is fully engaged constantly, agencies find a way to step around and reduce the effect of the changes. The public cannot assume the fish management agency will follow through on its commitments, tell the truth or follow the law, and for that reason, the public needs to be organized so that it is applying pressure constantly year after year to make sure conservation policies are implemented.

Most public groups are themselves not organized to be vigilant protectors of Nature. For one thing policy development and accountability do not sell as well to foundations as do “shovel ready” short tem action projects that have a short life span. First the environmental groups need to make a commitment to follow through on policy development and implementation and find the donors that will help make that commitment a real force for conservation. The other important thing to do is work to elect public officials that actually care about how the state and the nation is protecting the environment and to have elected officials leverage the public’s concern for protecting nature.

Lacking that commitment the public groups are constantly fighting a rear-guard action plan and responding to crisis issues. This means that the agencies will not be reformed, and in the case of salmon, wild native species will not be recovered and there will be no end of populations being listed as endangered species and the rapid rate of extinction will not be addressed. Public agencies are organized to serve the narrow interests of their constituents rather than maintain the productivity and benefits of natural resources they are charged with protecting for the public good.

Recommended Reading:
Jim Lichatowich, Salmon Without Rivers
Lichatowich and Williams, Failure to incorporated science into fishery management (see the Native Fish Society web page for this article)
Rick Scarce, Fishy Business