FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Arpil 27, 2001
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 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 the Service's 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:
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.
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