Role of Fisheries
In collaboration with our many partners, we will continue to assess and, as needed, reshape the Service perspective on where the Fisheries Program is now, where it needs to be in the future and why it is important to get there.
Through the voice of our partners the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a collaborative Fisheries Program effort aimed at defining and focusing the roles and responsibilities of the Service’s Fisheries Program in this new century. The planning effort spawned a national strategy that has developed into a geographically focused implementation strategy in each region of the United States. The Pacific Region Strategic Plan emphasizes partnerships across several focus areas which include species and habitat conservation, aquatic nuisance species, science and technology, public use, Tribal cooperation and recreational fisheries.
Our current responsibilities can be grouped into four distinct categories: conservation, mitigation, restoration, and recovery
Public and private demands to meet economic and social needs continue to impact the natural resources of this nation. As these resources decline, it becomes more difficult and complex for resource management agencies to make decisions that perpetually promote commercial, recreational, and tribal fisheries and maintain fish populations that can ultimately naturally sustain themselves.
Successful management of the nation's aquatic resources requires that environmental, biological, and human dimensions all be successfully addressed. The Fisheries Program seeks to foster successful management of those native fishery resources that are of particular federal significance; for example, inter-jurisdictional (or trans-boundary) fish populations. These are resources whose management and allocation of use are the collective responsibility of two or more States, Tribes, and/or other Nations.
The Fisheries Program actively participates in technical and policy level committees, councils, commissions, and other important forums, especially where treaty Indian fishing rights and/or national interests is involved. We strive to work with our partners to make available a full range of skills, expertise, scientific information, and tools to: (1) provide accurate, timely and objective scientific information for decision makers; and to (2) promote decisions that protect native fish populations and their freshwater and estuarine habitats.
Federal water development projects, federally licensed or permitted alterations of the nation's waters, and other federal activities that modified fish habitat (e.g., dams, roads, highway) have often adversely and broadly impacted fish populations that existed prior to such development. These impacts most often result from habitat loss, the creation of insurmountable barriers to fish passage, pollution, or the introduction of non-native species.
The Fisheries Program is charged to work with the federal construction agencies (such as the Army Corps of Engineers or the Bureau of Reclamation) to prevent or minimize adverse impacts. If such impact is unavoidable, we work to assure that the fishery resources affected are replaced in-kind or by acceptable substitutes; this is "mitigating" for these losses.
Such mitigation must be continued for as long as habitat losses are sustained, for the life of the project and as long afterwards as the effects of the project persist. In addition to working with federal construction agencies to address fish and habitat losses incurred by federal projects, the Fisheries Program also aides directly in compensating for the fish losses incurred by mitigating the losses with hatchery-produced fish. In some cases, we operate and produce fish at National Fish Hatcheries as a result of the specific legislation that authorized the original project. In other cases, we are reimbursed for our efforts by the agency operating the federal project. In all cases, mitigation measures must be undertaken in a manner that is consistent with other federal conservation laws.
Restoration includes returning fish populations and their habitat to levels not only sufficient to replace themselves, but also provide an opportunity for fish to be harvested without the continued need for captive propagation. These restored populations then serve as an ongoing, self-sustaining source to support the many uses of the fish (such as fishing, ceremonial use, food for other wild creatures, etc.)
The coordinated allocation and management of these uses are primarily the responsibility of the States, Tribes, or other regulatory bodies (such as Pacific Marine Fisheries Commission). A successful restoration program will address the cause of the population decline, specify corrective actions, and accommodate agencies in the resumption of full-scale commercial, recreational, and tribal fisheries. All of these should be on the condition that necessary restrictions are imposed on the causes of decline, timely monitoring is performed, and needed changes are made so that depletion doesn't happen again.
The Fisheries Program restoration responsibility addresses depleted, inter-jurisdictional and trans-boundary resources. We are involved in monitoring the effectiveness of habitat restoration efforts, evaluating whether or not projects benefit targeted species, and assessing the impacts of such activities on other species. We are also directly engaged in a number of independent and partnership projects with other agencies to conserve and restore watershed and riparian habitats. Restoration of healthy functioning ecosystems can also help reduce the impacts of aquatic invaders by creating conditions that favor the native species.
The Service has the lead federal role for implementing the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but shares responsibility for the listing and recovery of salmon and steelhead with the National Marine Fisheries Service. To recover species listed by these two agencies, the Fisheries Program engages in the following activities: