Myths and Factoids

 An idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not true.
An unfounded or false notion.

An invented fact believed to be true because it appears in print.

Here is just a small list of some of the common Myths and Factoids used in this debate:

Wild Salmon.

Hydro turbines are fish blenders and kill 90-95 percent of Salmon.

Lewis and Clark walked across the backs of Salmon on the Snake River.

Salmon runs in Idaho and Redfish lake have been destroyed by the Four Lower Snake River Dams.

Orcas are dying and starving because of the Four Lower Snake River Dams.

The Four Lower Snake River Dams are not economical and cost to much to operate and maintain.

The following is from the Washington State Farm Bureau ( Aug 2001 )
 and is one of the best explanations of the complicated and complex Salmon saga in the Pacific Northwest.

The Truth about Salmon in the Pacific Northwest

FACT -- There are six species of salmon or steelhead in the Northwest ( pink, coho, chinook, chum, sockeye, and steelhead ), and not one of these species is in danger of becoming extinct.  In fact, contrary to common perception, none of those species is even listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.  These species are abundant in the wild, and we can produce as many more salmon as we want in hatcheries.

BACKGROUND --  The National Marine Fisheries Service has arbitrarily divided theses species into Evolutionary Significant Unites and then listed these ESUs for protection under the ESA.  For example, all chinook salmon that spawn in rivers and streams leading into Puget Sound are considered " Puget Sound Chinook " which are listed as threatened.  But chinook that spawn in rivers and streams that feed into the Columbia River are divided into at least eight different ESUs, some of which are listed and some which are not.  NMFS has further divided some ESUs into smaller units, or populations, to cast the broadest possible net of control over local resources.

REALITY CHECK --  State and federal fisheries biologists estimate the spring run of returning chinook salmon on the Columbia River alone will exceed 440,000 this year -- more that anytime since counting began in 1938!  About 90,000 of these fish are believed to be " wild salmon ".  Tribal fishermen this year are bing allowed to catch more that 53,000 chinook, including more that 10,000 " wild sallmon " that are listed under the ESA.  The record run convinced the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife to authorize the first sport fishery for chinook on the lower Snake River --above the dams -- in more than 30 years.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, the Department of Commerce agency that is charged with protecting salmon under the Endangered Species Act,  is also responsible for authorizing and managing the commercial harvest of salmon.  For 2001, NMFS more that tripled the allowable commercial harvest of coho salmon off the Columbia River from 20,000 last year to 63,000 this year.  The ocean sports -- fishing harvest for the same region was increased from 40,000 to 112,000.  The tribal gill-net harvest for chinook salmon on the Columbia River was set at 53,000.  This spring there were more that 500 gill-nets stretched across the Columbia River.

The term ESU is not applied to any other species except Pacific Salmon.  The Term was invented by the National Marine Fisheries Service to apply solely to its efforts to list individual runs of the same species of salmon.  The concept of the ESU is applied differently to different populations of salmon to meet the needs of federal regulators and was never submitted for peer review to determine if there is any scientific justification of the artificial distinction between stocks.

Despite claims by the National Marine Fisheries Service that ESUs exhibit evolutionary adaptations to specific rivers or streams ( or stretches of rivers or streams ) developed over centuries,  if not millennia, a University of Washington study published last summer showed that salmon imported from on region can adapt to individualized habitat conditions in as little as 13 generations.  In other words, a new " evolutionary significant unit " can " evolve " in about 40 years.

Salmon are the only " species " listed for protection under the ESA that can be caught legally and sold commercially,  This year's catch of spring-run chinook was so plentiful that commercial buyers were offering tribal fishermen just 50 cents per pound, while fresh chinook were being sold from pic-up trucks along the Columbia River for $2 a pound.

Chinook salmon range from Northern California to Alaska.  They are the largest of the Pacific salmon and are also known as King salmon or Tyee salmon.  Chinook fry spend one to 18 months in freshwater before migration to the sea where they live an average of four to five years before returning to spawn.  They generally return to the same rivers and streams whee they hatched, but salmon are a colonizing fish and can wander wildly, taking advantage of new habitat, and salmon from one " ESU " often end up fertilizing eggs from another.


FACT -- Hatchery salmon are Genetically identical to " wild salmon ".

BACKGROUND --  There are no credible scientific studies to suggest that the genetic makeup of hatchery-bred salmon is any different that the genetic makeup of naturally spawning salmon.  The differences cited by the National Marine Fisheries Service are differences in allele frequencies, resulting from mass production techniques, but do not represent actual genetic differences, or behavior differences that are the result of hatchery rearing.  Both of these issues can be addressed by reforming hatchery practices.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has refused to produce so-called genetics studies cited in the 1999 listing of several chinook ESUs, despite a court order and a Freedom of Information request filed by Common Sense Salmon Recovery.  These studies are supposedly a part of the administrative record, but there is no evidence they actually exist.

REALITY CHECK --  The first hatcheries were established on the Columbia River in the 1880's, after commercial fishing depleted natural runs.  Salmon for these first hatcheries were imported from the Sacramento River in norther California.  Since then, dozens of other hatcheries have been established in the region using eggs and sperm from naturally spawning salmon taken from various rivers and streams in the Columbia River Basin.  Over the past century, millions of salmon have been produced in hatcheries and released into the Columbia River system.

Not only are there no credible scientific studies to suggest that the genetic makeup of hatchery-bred salmon is any different that the genetic makeup of naturally spawning salmon, most fisheries biologists concede that it is unlikely that any pure "wild" salmon exist.  Hatchery fish, which are progeny of "wild" fish to begin with, have been spawning with "wild" fish for more that 100 years.  In March 2000, Stephen Smith, regional hatchery director for the National Marine Fisheries Service told the Associated Press that there are probably no "pure" salmon left in the Northwest.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife all consider the progeny of hatchery salmon that are allowed to spawn naturally in rivers and streams to be "wild" fish.  Nevertheless, surplus returning hatchery salmon - those in excess of what are needed to produce the next generation of hatchery fish - are clubbed to death and their eggs and sperm destroyed, rather that allowing them to spawn naturally and rebuild "wild " runs.

The only way to tell a hatchery salmon from a "wild" salmon is by the adipose fin,  Hatchery workers clip the adipose fin on salmon fry so they and salmon fishermen can distinguish them from "wild" fish whey they return to spawn.  Without this mechanical marking, not even fish biologist or geneticists can tell "wild" from hatchery salmon.

The Endangered Species Act specifically refers to "artificial production" as appropriate or conservation measure.

The National Marine fisheries service, which refuses to consider hatchery salmon as part of an "ESU" in the Northwest, includes hatchery salmon in its definition of "species or Distinct Population" for Atlantic salmon.

While most hatchery salmon are not protected under the ESA, NMFS has listed a hatchery stock for protection in the Methow Valley in north-central Washington becasue no "wild" salmon exist.

NMFS also ordered the elimination of a hatchery stock that has proven viable in the Methow Valley in favor of a different hatchery stock it considers more genetically similar to the region's original "wild" fish, which no longer exist.  Last June, public outrage prevented NMFS from destroying more that two million " surplus" spring chinook eggs, and instead, alloing them to be used for salmon supplementation efforts elsewhere.  In October 2000, Donald Sampson, ececutive director ot the Colubmia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said the federal action would ensure that salmon remain threatened in the Methow Valley, Adding that NMFS had failed to provide and "scientific evidence taht shows the genetic difference" the agency claims exist between the stocks.

REALITY CHECK --  If hatchery salmon were counted along with "wild" salmon, there would be no justification to list any salmon as threatened or endangered.  Unlike panda bears or other ecotic species taht almost never reproduce in captivity, we can produce as many salmon as anybody wants -- in hatcheries, or fish farms, or naturally in river and streams.

Salmon are the only "species" listed for protection under the ESA where the stated government goal is to restore "wild" fish to commercially harvestable levels.  Imagine the outrage if the goal for bald eagles or wolves or grizzly bears was to increase their numbers to historical levels so hunter could again kill as many as they wanted for their feathers, their fur or their meat.

Species recovery programs routinely use artificial propagation efforts to boost the numbers of truly threatened or endangered animals.  The federal courts specifically ordered the creation of slamon hatcheries after the Snake River dams were built to mitigate for the impacts on salmon populations.  Yet the National Marine Fisheries Service refuses to recognize hatchery salmon as "real" salmon.  Are condors release into the wild in California less that "real" condors because their eggs were collected in the wild and hatched in an incubator, or because the fledglings were raised in captivity?

Many scientist, including James E. Lannan, Emeritus Professor of Fisheries at Oregon State University, believe that hatcheries are essential to protect genetic diversity in salmon.  Isolated "wild" runs can fall victim to inbreeding.  Hatcheries can be managed to promote genetic diversity.


FACT --  Hatchery salmon have show they are capable of migration downriver past numerous dams, thousands of fish-eating birds and other predators, surviving three to four years in the ocean, and returning upriver past dams - only to be clubbed to death by hatchery workers.

BACKGROUND  --  Juvenile hatchery salmon can exhibit behaviors that are ill suited in the wild, such as resting too close to the surface where they are more susceptible to osprey, Caspian terns and other fish-eating birds.  But these are behavioral traits, not genetic differences, and are the result of the way hatcheries are managed,  Hatchery fish are fed by scattering food on the surface: therefore, the fish lear to hang around the surface to feed,  These poor behavior traits can be remedied by changing the way hatcheries are managed.

The Umatilla tribe in Eastern Washington has successfully used hatchery salmon to rebuild naturally spawning salmon runs on the Umatilla River.

A hatchery stock has established itself as a "wild" run in the Methow Valley in North-Central Washington where no "wild" chinook exist.

Many fisheries biologist believe the lineage of all salmon in the Northwest can be traced back to hatcheries, which have been used for more that 100 years to supplement runs for commercial harvest.  Only recently have biologist been concerned with the possibility that returning hatchery fish might spawn naturally in the wild.  Even the National Marine fisheries Services acknowledges that some "wild" runs are the progeny of hatchery stock.

REALITY CHECK --  Studies have shown that salmon adapt rapidly to changing conditions,  It some runs are in decline, then maybe hatchery salmon that have shown their ability to survive in today's environment - including hydroelectric dams, miles of gill-nets strung across the Columbia River, industrial pollution and a burgeoning population of predators that are also protected by the ESA - are the salmon that we should be encouraging to spawn in our rivers and streams.  In March 2001, Endre Talbot, chief geneticist for the Columbia River Inter - Tribal Fish Commission, recommended allowing hatchery fis to spawn with"wild" fish to create a healthier stock that reproduces at a faster rate.