Vermont TU Ups the Ante to Try to Save Trout Hatchery

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We had a number of difficult options on the table to close our budget, and this [the proposed closure of the Salisbury fish hatchery] is the best of those options. — Commissioner of VT Fish & Wildlife Louis Porter

Vermont Trout Unlimited (VT TU) has upped the ante in their effort to try to stop, or delay, the proposed closure of a state-owned trout hatchery by submitting a written letter suggesting the state find alternate sources of funding to keep the hatchery going.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott proposed closing the hatchery to help address a $500,000 budget shortfall. The proposal was supported by Vermont Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter.

The hatchery is also facing a $13 million upgrade to mitigate pollution issues. According to Vermont Fish & Wildlife (VT F&W) Commissioner Porter the hatchery "produces a significant amount of fish waste that discharges into a nearby stream."

But it’s not just a matter of the $250,000 [projected savings]. Salisbury will soon need a projected $13 million in upgrades to conform with clean water standards - Commissioner of VT Fish & Wildlife Louis Porter

VT TU opposition to the proposed hatchery closure started when a senior State Council officer publicly blogged that he did not support the proposal while defending "trout in the pan" and calling for "more trout not less”, including “stocked” trout:

From a Facebook post…

From a Facebook post…

While TU is by definition a “wild” trout and not necessarily “native” trout organization, it is not a “stocked” trout organization. In fact, TU has strict policies against stocking and according to a letter forwarded to NFC, two New England chapters were recently censored for stocking over wild fish.

How Bad is the Problem?

If you fish in Vermont, there’s a good chance the last trout you caught began its life at one of the state’s five fish hatcheries

The quote above comes from an article on the Vermont Public Radio website. Whether this is an accurate statement or not has a lot to do with where you fish and what you fish for. If it is trout in lakes, ponds, and rivers you are pursuing, the statement is unfortunately a reasonably accurate one.

Like many eastern states and most New England states, Vermont has become dangerously reliant on hatcheries and accepting of stocked fish. Stocked trout are becoming, and in some cases have become, the rule not the exception in much of Vermont.

According to VT F&W Commissioner Porter, “The hatcheries also contribute to environmental conservation.” Porter goes on to say, “We encourage people to care about and be engaged in the natural world. One of the ways we do that is through stocking fish that they go out and fish for." By most definitions, the terms “natural” and “stocking” are conflicting not complimentary.

Who Supports the Proposed Hatchery Closure?

Sadly, the Vermont chapter of Native Fish Coalition (VT NFC) appears to be the only formal group to publicly support the proposed hatchery closure:

I’ve only read about one group in support of the plan to shut down the hatchery, and that was a native fish advocacy group that is opposed to almost all stocking and believes the state’s funds and efforts should go toward improving habitat and recovering native brook trout - Manchester Journal.
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Interestingly, the reporter stated that VT NFC was “opposed to almost all stocking” which is not the case. While we only actively support restoration stocking such as that being done by Downeast Salmon Federation, we only actively oppose stocking when it is being done over wild native fish.

NFC’s policy on stocking is clearly documented and readily available on our website:

Q: WHAT IS NATIVE FISH COALITION'S POSITION REGARDING STOCKING?

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Conflict of Interest?

One of the reasons that VT TU is opposing the proposed hatchery closure is the potential that it would lose its source for eggs to support its Trout in the Classroom program. NFC is requesting a copy of the letter:

The Vermont Council of Trout Unlimited has written a letter suggesting the state find alternate sources of funding to keep the hatchery open for a few years to ease the transition on the stocking program and keep the eggs flowing to the Trout in the Classroom program - Manchester Journal.

According to the article, VT TU’s letter states, "An important part of the [Trout in the Classroom] program is the egg source, which currently is provided solely by the Salisbury hatchery." VT TU goes on to say, "If the hatchery closes, it is questionable whether other egg sources would be available to compensate for the loss of the Salisbury egg production. An abrupt closure of Salisbury would likely result in the suspension of TIC in schools that may never recover, even when eggs became available from another Vermont hatchery."

The statement above that implies a suspension of egg availability, if in fact that would even happen which is not known at this time, would doom the Trout in the Classroom program is alarmist, unsubstantiated, and I believe inaccurate. Many programs have rebounded post temporary suspension.

But those trout eggs came from the Salisbury fish hatchery, as did the eggs for the other 96 schools in the [Trout in the Classroom] program this year - Manchester Journal

Click Here to Read Full Article


Conclusion…

There are a lot of reasons to support or not support the proposed closure of Vermont’s Salisbury trout hatchery, including budget shortfalls, pollution, recreation, tourism, fishing license sales, jobs, etc. Some of these are legit, some are not.

But should the Trout in the Classroom program, or any non-prof program for that matter, be coming into play here? Is any program more important than economic and environmental concerns?

Lastly, should a conservation non-prof get in the way of attempts to close a costly and polluting fish hatchery and defy a Governor and Fish and Wildlife Commissioner who are trying to address the problem?

Native Fish Coalition does not believe so…