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Salmon club battles endangered listing

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There’s a worthy saying that goes like this: “Bad things happen when good men do nothing.”

The Veazie Salmon Club, to its credit, is not sitting on its collective hands when it comes to the following issue: the Federal government’s insistence that the declining Atlantic salmon that returns to the Penobscot River must be listed as an Endangered species. Granted, the Atlantic salmon is in deep trouble throughout its native habitat, including Maritime Canada. To warrant the listing criteria as an endangered species the biological evidence must demonstrate that the Penobscot’s returning salmon are, indeed, native or so-called “wild” species.

The Veazie Club, which has been watching this issue closely over the years, contends that there is an abundance of evidence to the contrary, that these salmon cannot be considered wild or native by any stretch of the imagination.

The club is lobbying hard to convince the feds that a relisting of the salmon from endangered to threatened is warranted. The club is urging sportsmen to make phone calls and send letters to policymakers at the state and federal level. Here is an excerpt from the letter being sent to sportsmen far and wide:

Canada and other countries list the Atlantic salmon as Threatened. For decades they have continued to allow limited cold water catch & release fishing seasons. Only Maine has been excluded from the socio-economic benefits that Canada and other countries have enjoyed from catch & release Atlantic salmon fishing. For decades Atlantic salmon fishing brought commerce and international notoriety to Maine. We feel strongly a limited catch & release season with strict rules emulating our Canadian neighbors would bring positive social and economic benefits back to Maine.

At the time of listing Maine state and many federal biologists working on the salmon program in Maine (and most familiar with it) argued for the “Threatened” (not Endangered) designation but were not heeded by those in DC responsible for the listing. This does not make them bad people. They likely felt obligated to list as “Endangered” based on the language, hatchery funding loss threats, and general political climate at the time.

Nobody has ever presented a well-supported argument that the estimated mortality (2%) from a properly executed COLD WATER (<70°) catch and release fishery on the Penobscot would have any measurable effect on the genetic viability or recovery potential recovery of the salmon population. In fact, the math just isn't there to support the contention that catch & release angling has a tangible negative impact on the population. The federal U.S. Fisheries & Wildlife states that a 2% incidental mortality by anglers cannot be tolerated. Yet the same federal government (FERC) approves twice that mortality (5%) at each and every hydro dam on the river annually. This defies logic!

Although using the political process to pressure a change in this listing may be akin to moving a mountain, the effort is laudable and defensible. If you would like to add your two cents worth or write a letter to your senator or congressman, check out the website of the Veazie Salmon Club.
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The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, "Maine Outdoors," heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.

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