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What A Waste

Public's help sought in Celilo fish wasting case

Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish and Wildlife Division in The Dalles want the public's help in locating those responsible for the unlawful take and waste of a large number of Pacific lamprey and steelhead from the Columbia River on the west end of Celilo Park, across the way from Wishram.

OSP Fish and Wildlife Division troopers are investigating a citizen's discovery of 181 dead Pacific lamprey and 37 steelhead at the park, 13 miles east of The Dalles on the Columbia River. The fish were found about 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 5, submerged in water near a boat ramp.

All of the fish were wasted and beyond salvage with varying degrees of decay, including 22 wild steelhead that had been gutted and with markings indicating they were caught with a gill net. OSP Sgt. John Katzenstein and Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) district fish biologist Rod French recovered the fish.

Pacific lampreys were listed in 1993 as an Oregon State "sensitive" species and were given further legal protected status in 1996 through restriction of harvest and harvest methods. It is widely accepted by fish managers that populations of Pacific lamprey have significantly declined. A petition was submitted for their protection under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2003, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that insufficient population information existed to warrant listing.

Harvest of Pacific lamprey is not authorized in the Columbia River. Their harvest is limited to federally recognized Indian tribes under permit by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission at Willamette Falls on the Willamette River, and Sherars Falls on the Deschutes River. Pacific lampreys are culturally important to many Northwest Indian tribes for food and ceremonial purposes.

Mid-Columbia River Steelhead are currently listed as "threatened" under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Fifteen of the steelhead discovered were adipose fin-clipped indicating they were hatchery-reared fish, and 22 steelhead were not fin-clipped which indicates that they were wild fish.

ODFW, along with other affected agencies, tribes, and the public recently drafted a Mid-Columbia River Steelhead Recovery Plan. One of the goals of the recovery plan is to restore Mid-Columbia River steelhead in Oregon subbasins to the point where their protection under the ESA is no longer needed and a range of societal benefits are met.

"Considering the small size of some of the listed populations in the Mid-Columbia, actions such as this incident can have significant long-term effects on the population's persistence and recovery," said French.

A reward of up to $1,000 is being offered through the Turn in Poachers (TIP) Program, which is administered through the Oregon Hunters Association, for any information that leads to the arrest of the suspect or suspects.

If anyone has information regarding this activity, contact Sgt. Katzenstein at the Oregon State Police office in The Dalles at (541) 296-9646, or the Turn In Poachers (TIP) hotline at (800) 452-7888. Information may be kept anonymous.

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