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GLIN==> Fisheries Experts Reach Unprecedented Agreement on Recommendations forNational Fish Hatchery System




----- Forwarded by Rich Greenwood/R3/FWS/DOI on 04/26/2001 08:05 AM -----


April 25, 2001
Laury Parramore 703-358 2541

Fisheries experts from a wide variety of backgrounds agree significant
changes and clarifications about funding, focus and management are needed
to strengthen the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) National Fish
Hatchery System. This unprecedented consensus within the fisheries
community was reached after a year-long effort by the Sport Fishing and
Boating Partnership Council (SFBPC).

The Council's recently released report, "Saving A System in Peril," was
created by a 23-person steering committee comprised of fisheries
professionals from organizations as diverse as BASS (Bass Anglers Sportsman
Society), Pure Fishing, Trout Unlimited, American Sportfishing Association,
Native American Fish and Wildlife Society, National Aquaculture Association
and state and federal agencies.

"Although there have been previous national efforts to coalesce
stakeholders' views about the National Fish Hatchery System, none has been
as inclusive nor as consensus-driven as this effort by the Council," said
FWS Acting Director Marshall Jones.  "The report is a critical document
that will be used as the Service creates a strategic plan for the system."

The Council's involvement in the project stemmed from a May 1999 letter
from 10 members of the U.S. Congress who asked the Service to "convene a
diverse committee that includes a broad spectrum of views regarding the
hatchery system's future role...." In August 1999, the Service requested
that the Council "build consensus among natural resource stakeholders to
provide recommendations to assist in the development of the Service's
National Fish Hatchery System strategic plan." Jones said the Council will
be invited to continue to advise the Service as the strategic plan is
developed.

"I am deeply proud of the perseverance and vision the Council's hatchery
project steering committee demonstrated throughout the entire process,"
said SFBPC Chair Helen Sevier. "Steering committee members and their
employers donated many days of diligent work to cultivate the remarkable
consensus achieved by the group. These experienced and committed fisheries
leaders embraced the objective of instigating meaningful change for the
National Fish Hatchery System. We look forward to working with the Service
as it develops the strategic plan."

The National Fish Hatchery System, comprised of 70 national fish
hatcheries, seven fish technology centers,
and nine fish health centers, has serious problems. Funding for hatchery
maintenance and operations dropped 15 percent in constant dollars since
1992; the system has more than a $280-million maintenance backlog; and one
in four hatchery personnel positions is vacant. This erosion of support has
left the system incapable of keeping pace with rapid evolutionary changes
in fisheries science and technology.

In its report, the Council acknowledges the National Fish Hatchery System's
roles in meeting federal mitigation obligations, restoring and maintaining
native fisheries, and participating in the recovery of threatened and
endangered aquatic species.  The report also states that the system is
uniquely positioned to influence and benefit state and tribal fishery
programs, fulfill tribal trust responsibilities, and provide technical
assistance to private aquaculture.  The report notes that the overriding
considerations for fisheries conservation and management are:

?   Maintenance of healthy, wild fish populations through habitat
conservation and improved harvest management.

?   Maintenance of genetic diversity.

?   Proper use of hatchery stocks in achieving fishery management
objectives.

In addition, the report emphasizes the need for the Service to create a
national strategy not only for the hatchery system but for its entire
fisheries program. "It is essential that the FWS move aggressively to
ensure that the National Fish Hatchery System and the products it produces
fit within a publicly reviewed national strategy developed with state and
tribal partners and stakeholders," the report states. "The FWS must commit
to implementing the plan it produces, and the FWS, the administration and
Congress must be prepared to fund adequately the activities outlined by
this plan."

Note: Copies of "Saving A System in Peril: A Special Report on the National
Fish Hatchery System by the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council's
National Fish Hatchery Project Steering Committee" can be printed from the
SFBPC's Website at http://sfbpc.fws.gov or can be obtained by calling
703-358-1711.

The Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council was formed in January
1993 to advise the Secretary of the Interior through the Fish and Wildlife
Service Director about sport fishing and boating issues. The Council
represents the interests of the public and private sectors of the sport
fishing and boating communities and is organized to enhance partnerships
among industry, constituency groups and government.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System which encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands
of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70
national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological
services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws,
administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations,
restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife
habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their
conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that
distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and
hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

                                  - FWS -

      For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
                 visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov

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