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WASHINGTON FOREST PROTECTION ASSOCIATION: LANDMARK STUDY FINDS MULTIPLE CAUSES FOR THE DECLINE OF WILD SALMON STOCKS

 OLYMPIA, Wash., Feb. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- There are a number of land- use, water-use and fish-management causes for the decline in wild salmon stocks in Washington state, according to a comprehensive new study released today by three independent fisheries biologists, the Washington Forest Protection Association (WFPA) said.
 "Most of the debate over diminishing wild stocks has focused on habitat," said Dr. John Palmisano, principal author of the report. "Our study shows that the causes are much wider.
 "Real solutions can't focus on one cause, but must be comprehensive," said Palmisano, a certified fisheries scientist from Beaverton, Ore. "We need to consider all environmental factors, even natural phenomena, and management practices, including spawning escapement goals."
 The six-month study was produced as an objective guide for long-term solutions, said Steve Berntsen, president of the WFPA, co-sponsor of the report. The other sponsor is the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.
 "This is the first time all the existing data on Washington's wild anadromous salmon and trout have been drawn together in one place for analysis," Berntsen said. "It's a landmark study."
 Palmisano was assisted in the work by Dr. Robert H. Ellis, who focused on land-use and water-use issues, and Dr. Victor W. Kaczynski, who wrote the hatchery sections.
 Highlights in the 371-page technical document include:
 -- Fewer wild fish and more hatchery produced fish, compared with earlier years. This may cause present stocks to be less adaptive to natural or human-caused changes in the environment, Kaczynski said.
 -- Reduced body size in today's salmon, compared with earlier years. Smaller fish mean lower reproduction rates, Palmisano said. The reason for smaller fish is unknown, he said. It could be the result of selective fishing practices over the years that harvested large fish, changes in genetic stock or less food available in the ocean.
 -- The Columbia River fishery accounts for only 3 percent of the total Washington commercial catch. This shows how much Columbia River stocks are reduced, Palmisano said, and also that any improvements there, on a per-fish basis, will be very costly.
 -- The statewide commercial salmon catch has remained stable, close to historic levels of about 50 million pounds per year. "The state's successful hatchery program is a major reason," said Kaczynski. "Another key factor here is interception of Canadian sockeye and pink salmon, as agreed to by treaty."
 -- A doubling of the marine mammal population over the last 20 years has led to twice as much predation on salmon -- estimated to be about 12 percent of the total annual average catch. "This is a good example of how human decisions can influence environmental factors," said Palmisano. "We decided to have more seals and sea lions, and they're eating more fish."
 -- Significant human population increases over the past 50 years, especially in the Puget Sound basin, are connected to many of the environmental factors. "Human activity is the most common denominator in the salmon equation," said Ellis.
 Berntsen said that the forest landowners represented by WFPA accept responsibility for the role that forest management has in salmon habitat protection. "We're continuously improving how we protect forest resources, and we're already working toward implementing the recommendations in this study.
 "We're part of the story, but only one part," Berntsen said. "We hope this study brings in the other players so we all can work together for solutions."
 WFPA members are large and small private forest landowners who together manage nearly five million acres of land in the state.
 -0- 2/10/93
 /CONTACT: Mike Munson of the Washington Forest Protection Association, 206-352-1500/


CO: Washington Forest Protection Association; Washington State
 Department of Natural Resources ST: Washington IN: PAP SU:


SW-LM -- SE005 -- 5267 02/10/93 15:02 EST
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Date:Feb 10, 1993
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