Senators Stabenow, Peters Urge Funding to Keep Fisheries Healthy, Strengthen Great Lakes EconomyThursday, June 11, 2015
U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters today urged Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to fund mass marking programs in next year's budget. Mass marking is a tool used to collect data and measure the effectiveness of fish protection, habitat, and water quality. If approved, these programs will allow researchers to tag Great Lakes fish with a barcode chip prior to stocking. This practice will help researchers understand how hatchery fish affect the population levels of wild fish. Senator Stabenow is the Co-Chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. Senator Peters joined this year after serving on the House Great Lakes Task Force.
The letter reads in part: "Mass marking provides critical data for determining the effectiveness of fish protection, habitat, and water quality measures, and for evaluating the abundance of hatchery and wild fish populations. While the specific needs of fishery managers in Great Lakes and Pacific Coast states differ, marking programs have been utilized effectively in both regions."
Great Lakes states and tribes annually stock 25- to 30-million salmon and trout to restore native fish populations and diversify sport fisheries. At the request of the Council of Lake Committees and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established the Great Lakes Fish Tag and Recovery Laboratory in 2010 to better understand the impact of hatchery fish on native fish.
The full text of the letter can be found below:
Dear Secretary Jewell:
We write to urge you to request funding in FY2017 for mass marking programs, a critical tool for science-based management of hatchery and wild fish populations.
Mass marking provides critical data for determining the effectiveness of fish protection, habitat, and water quality measures, and for evaluating the abundance of hatchery and wild fish populations. While the specific needs of fishery managers in Great Lakes and Pacific Coast states differ, marking programs have been utilized effectively in both regions. In the Great Lakes, mass marking supports the responsible management of Chinook and alewives and enhances our understanding of the contribution of Lake Trout to the diverse ecosystem. In the Northwest, selective gear enables hatchery fish to be harvested while allowing for the release of wild fish, many of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Marking all hatchery salmon, steelhead, and lake trout in freshwater lakes and oceans also allows for the identification and separation of hatchery and wild adults returning to their respective spawning grounds. Scientific research in the Northwest and California demonstrated that two wild fish spawning together in their native habitat have twice the productivity or survival rate as two hatchery fish spawning in the wild. Additionally, recovery under the Endangered Species Act requires wild spawning adults as opposed to hatchery adults spawning in the wild.
In advance of your FY2017 budget request, we respectfully urge you to include robust funding for mass marking programs, which have proven to be a vital scientific tool for managing fisheries valued at $16.5 billion annually.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
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