Sandy River Hatchery Program Lawsuit Update

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The lawsuit challenging hatchery practices on the Sandy River, east of Portland, continues in court, with our own local McKenzie Flyfishers joining other conservation groups in the action. Native Fish Society, McKenzie Flyfishers, the Federation of Fly Fishers, and the Wild Steelhead Coalition were asked by the National Marine Fisheries Service to submit comments on the draft Environmental Assessment (EA) relating to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Hatchery and Genetic Management Plans (HGMPs) for the management of wild anadromous fish on the Sandy River. The McKenzie Flyfishers comments on the proposed EA are available on the club’s website here.

By now, you should be well aware that fish enhancement programs (hatcheries) have demonstrated negative effects on populations of wild fish. Hatchery fish compete with wild natives for food and spawning grounds, have lower survival rates and lower return rates than wild fish, and can interbreed with wild populations thereby weakening the genetic fortitude of wild fish. When the wild fish populations being considered are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, as they are on the Sandy River, it means that NMFS and ODFW have a responsibility to plan for the recovery of listed species. On the Sandy River, ODFW’s HGMPs assume that there is no serious threat to the status of listed Chinook, Coho, and winter steelhead on the Sandy, despite a well documented decline in the numbers of remaining wild fish in the system. NFS and McKenzie Flyfishers have much more comprehensive information on the status of Sandy River Salmon, so check their websites for the full story.

If you’re interested in learning more about the fight to save wild Sandy River salmon, point your browser to Native Fish Society’s website, spend some time reading McKenzie Flyfishers comments, and consider supporting the groups involved in the lawsuit.

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5 Responses to Sandy River Hatchery Program Lawsuit Update

  1. Arlen says:

    Thanks guys for helping to keep this issue on the front burner. We fervently wish it weren’t necessary to take such actions, but both the ODFW top brass and the federal agency NMFS that regulates their threatened-species hatchery operations have consistently declined to follow the spirit and the letter of the Endangered Species Act. We believe that both agencies are ignoring the latest and best scientific evidence about the effects of hatchery operations on threatened wild fish, as we detailed in our comments to NMFS. The most egregious and critical of those negative effects are on the genetic integrity and diversity of the wild stocks, a phenomenon that the general public is mostly unaware of.

    Trying to follow the alphabet soup of all the acronyms (NMFS, ESA, EA, EIS, HGMP, etc.) and what they mean can appear somewhat daunting, but what it boils down to is that federal law requires anyone, including state fish and wildlife agencies, to follow certain procedures to insure that threatened or endangered species are not unnecessarily harmed. We have attempted to explain some of that on our website home page (, under the “News” section. For a more extended discussion and documentation of the effects of hatchery fish on their wild counterparts, click on the “Conservation” tab at the top of that page, and then select “Wild Fish Management”.

    Arlen Thomason

  2. RC Cone says:

    Hey guys, I’ve been “lurking” this blog for a few years now, I love the pictures of you guys slaying the Ol’ Redsides down on the McKenzie.

    I just wanted to say I appreciate your participation in the proper management of the Sandy and keep up the good work. Cheers!

  3. Moon says:

    Quote from Arlen –

    “The most egregious and critical of those negative effects are on the genetic integrity and diversity of the wild stocks, a phenomenon that the general public is mostly unaware of.”

    After reading through countless basin management plans, odfw native fish policy, not to mention the countless studies by the bio’s in the field who work for the same agencies who are responsible for not only enhancing but protecting the wild fish populations. (“my opinion here” they’ve enhanced the hell out of everything, but kinda missed the first directive of protecting in the name of license sales)…..anyway after reading through all the above and more that shows the science that our wild fisheries are in trouble. I got to say thanks for all the hard work that has been done and all the hard work to come.

    I find it incredulous that given the studies done by the agencies in charge that we even have to sue for protection of our wild fish stocks that unless you belong to the flat earth society are obviously in dire trouble. But I also blame the same agencies for not only the decline but the predicament they now find themselves. They know damned well they need to move in another direction, but have painted themselves into a corner.

    As I said, I blame the agencies themselves. Given the science at hand from there own studies and though they know the wild fish populations are in trouble and also knowing they need to move in another direction to save aforementioned. They have done nothing to educate the public on said science.

    You can go to the ODFW web page and find every piece of water stocked from the beginning of time till now. They should also shelf the 25 year plan that obviously is a harmful and archaic practice that has no place in the future.

    Does anyone really believe that our wild fish stocks (especially the salmon stocks) are going to get better before they get worse?

    But try and find the studies mentioned above on that web page….. ODFW has done a terrible job in educating the public on said issues and until they do, they can blame themselves.

    After all, they were charged and still are with the duty at hand to first protect said public resource.

  4. Sherwood says:

    Thanks for posting the update. If you would like to learn about the issues for wild fish on the Sandy River you can visit our Save Sandy Salmon Campaign page on the Native Fish Society website:

  5. Arlen says:

    Everyone who is interested in fish conservation should take Mark Sherwood up on his invitation to visit the NFS website. NFS has been in the forefront of these issues for some time, and has taken the lead on the Sandy situation. After you read the information there on the Sandy, I recommend visiting the NFS web page called “Wild vs. Hatchery Salmonid Interactions”. There you will find an extensive list of original publications where you can read the evidence on that subject first hand, and you can download most of those publications directly from NFS. That page is a very valuable resource for anyone who who wants access to first-hand information.

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