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OpEd: Sonoma County Salmon Broodstock Program


OpEd: Sonoma County Salmon Broodstock Program

By Ann Maurice, Ad Hoc Committee for Clean Water

Catch a juvenile wild salmon that in adulthood could swim from the Russian River all the way to the Aleutians under its own power, using the strength of its own muscles, its own incredible navigation ability and raise it instead in captivity; incarcerate it with 40 other adult salmon in a concrete tank to spend their adult lives swimming round and round in endless, monotonous, mindless circles for years IN FRESH WATER with NEVER any access to the ocean and

*Feed it powdered processed fish food, NOT freshwater insects, their natural prey as juveniles;

*Inject it with antibiotics;

*Dose it with artificial sex hormones to force reproduction;

*Bathe its eggs in formaldehyde.

Is this a formula for “saving” wild salmon? They are supposed to spend their adulthood in the ocean, in salt water not in a freshwater tank. Where have such controversial commercial “factory” conditions been developed? Right here, sponsored by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Dry Creek at the Sonoma County Fish Hatchery. They have been raising coho salmon in these conditions for 14 years, and spent $94 MILLION doing it. The result? Deplorable. The Department of Fish and Wildlife has declared coho salmon essentially EXTINCT from the Russian River watershed and is declaring a coho disaster after these 14 years. But common sense should have told them this would be the sorry outcome.

CoHo Salmon juvenileAttempting to eke some kind of positive result from the $94 million effort, the Department claims that they are “conserving” the coho’s wild genetics in a “gene bank”. We say, to the contrary, they are undoing generations of genetic evolution, threatening to turn the coho into a domestic animal. Coho evolved in response to severe environmental pressures, their bodies naturally nourished by flies, larvae, and grubs living in local streams, nourishment which allows their kidneys to transition to life in salt water, to have the strength to avoid predators, to resist disease and to be the powerful fish they were meant to be. By contrast, raising successive generations in fresh water captivity, in concrete tanks, in conditions they would never experience in the wild is more like a plan to transform these wild creatures into a freshwater version eventually losing all the inclinations, and phenomenal gymnastic abilities evolved over millenia in the wild.

Why do the managers need to subject these fish to synthetic hormones? Because like zoo animals raised in confinement, they do NOT reproduce readily! Eggs have to be extracted from the females as they bleed to death, and sperm is forced from the males. Such an “Industrial Model” is being abandoned in other agriculture. It must be abandoned at the coho hatchery as well. It is NOT supplementing or enhancing the wild salmon population and there has been NO recovery. So let’s stop pretending to “save the coho”, and admit to a plan to transform them into a new domestic species molded to our lifestyle and current corporate land use. But after 14 years and a small fortune in government funds, it hasn’t worked anyway!

An alternative that will work? Reduce dramatically the agricultural industry’s excessive use of water in the Russian River watershed. Encourage re-planting of vineyards for “dry-farming”. Stop the permitting of new vineyards in the so-called critical areas of the watershed. Stop the unreasonable use of massive amounts of ground and creek water for frost protection. Stop the drift of insecticides into the creeks of the watershed so that the insects that nourish coho salmon can thrive. With the return of the insects and the return of surface flow, salmon, healthy and wild, will return in abundance and we too will become healthy members of a healthy ecosystem.




Salmonid Restoration federation

YouTube: Russian River Coho Salmon Captive Broodstock Program - 2013

Opening of New "Nursery" for Endangered Russian River Salmon - 2012