So long, salmon!

If you thought that maybe, just maybe, the Bush administrationforgot its anti-environment campaign while confronting allegationsof prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib or are too busy quellingaccusations of the lies that initiated war in Iraq, you thoughtwrong.

Timothy Egan reported in the Sunday, May 9, New York Times thatthe Bush administration plans to unveil a new plan for dealing withshrinking salmon runs, a plan which has set the scientificcommunity, including Bush’s own advisors, afire.

If implemented, the plan will allow hatchery fish to be countedwhen determining the eligibility of a species for protection underthe Endangered Species Act.

Although hatchery fish and wild salmon have genetic make-up incommon, this does not mean that they are interchangeable. Wildsalmon exhibit more diversity and, unlike hatchery salmon, stillrely on natural cycles and habitat for existence. In addition, itis suggested that farmed salmon contain more PCBs (polychlorinatedbiphenyls) than wild salmon due to the process of bioaccumulationbecause they are often fed contaminated ground fish meal and fishoils. For those of you who don’t know what PCBs are, all you needto know is they’re toxic! And that’s no good.

The Fisheries Service hired an outside scientific panel toadvise on a new policy, but the advice went unheeded in favor of apolicy that favors, unsurprisingly, agriculture and timber interestgroups, which have complained of restrictive laws. I don’t thinkit’s unwarranted to note that these groups contributed in no smallamount to the Bush administration’s campaign coffers.

Also unsurprising is that the legal advisor to the NationalMarine Fisheries Service is none other than Mark C. Rutzick,formerly employed as a lawyer for the timber industries, to topplewildlife protections.

Incidentally, Republican Senator Gordon H. Smith recommendedRutzick for the job, if you want to remember that tidbit comeelection time.

When he was attorney for the timber industry, Mr. Rutzickclaimed in a memorandum that experts believed that using farmedsalmon was an excellent way to restore wild salmon runs, butaccording to advisory panel member and fisheries biologist, Dr.Ransom A. Myers, as quoted in Egan’s article, “No creditablescientist believes this.”

With the financial ties and alliances between the Bushadministration, Mr. Rutzick and agriculture and timber industry,it’s not shocking that scientific advice is being ignored. This isa blatantly political move intended to ingratiate campaigncontributors.

The salmon runs that have been a part of the Northwest muchlonger than the tale of Lewis and Clark, have been endangered foryears as their habitat is destroyed through logging, industry anddams. This is just another blow to their rapidly dwindlingnumbers.

A species is considered endangered according to its ability tosustain itself (without human intervention) in its native habitat.I fail to see how salmon raised in a cement tank, whose nextgeneration of eggs are stripped from the bodies of spawning fishthat return to the farm, are naturally sustainable.

There is just one thing I can’t figure out about the peoplemaking these decisions. Are they incredibly greedy, faithful thatnature will save herself from us or just completely stupid? My betis on the first.