President’s salmon joke fails to connect with realityJanuary 26th, 2011 by cdunagan
UPDATE, Jan. 27:
Since I first posted this item, Scott Veirs pointed out that the recovery of Atlantic salmon is under the joint jurisdiction of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I was not aware of this, and it could help explain the president’s statement. Thanks, Scott. See below for Scott’s comment and my response.
President Obama made a joke about salmon in his “State of the Union” speech last night, but his statement didn’t ring true to me, so I did some checking.
Obama used salmon as an example of redundancy in government and the need for reorganization. His point was valid about how a confusing number of agencies are involved in salmon and their habitat, But I’m afraid he’s mistaken about who’s in charge when it comes to these migrating fish. Here’s his statement:
“… Then there’s my favorite example: The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in freshwater, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in salt water (laughter). I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked (laughter and applause).“
The truth is the National Marine Fisheries Service is in charge
of most salmon
listed under the Endangered Species Act, no matter where they are.
NMFS, of course, is an agency under the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, which is under the Department of
The Columbia River is a big body of freshwater, but NMFS is the agency that reviews the recovery plans for listed salmon. The agency also is in charge of all fish that spend their entire lives in salt water. The list of protected fish managed by NMFS can be found on a webpage of the Office of Protected Resources.
In contrast, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency of the Department of Interior, is in charge of fish that generally spend their entire lives in freshwater.
As for the president’s point about a confusing number of agencies being involved in salmon restoration, there are no fewer than 10 federal agencies involved in the effort to restore salmon on the Columbia River. Together, they are called the Federal Caucus, and their roles are outlined on the Salmon Recovery website.
Before leaving this mundane subject, I have to call attention to a news release sent out this afternoon by Earthjustice attorneys Todd True and Kristen Boyles, who could not resist using the president’s confusion about jurisdictions to register their own views about salmon recovery.
“Earthjustice agrees with the President’s inclination to streamline federal salmon oversight. The best way to do this would be to make sure the money we spend to restore salmon is guided by the best science and the best scientists. Right now, salmon are in trouble up and down the West Coast because political science has trumped biological science. All of the government agencies are too focused on protecting powerful economic interests instead of taking the steps we need to take to bring salmon back and support the communities and people that depend on them.”
“Streamlining is fine, but stream protection is what we really need. All federal agencies need to follow the best science that protects and restores salmon habitat and clean water. That’s the way we’ll make sure our economy and environment don’t go up in smoke.”
That sounds like a vote for smoked salmon but a vote against a smoked environment.