Monday, January 28, 2013

Does the Endangered Species Act Doom the Potomac Sturgeon?

Convinced that one of the Potomac’s signature fish might be gone for good, the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin has thrown its support behind a Maryland and U.S. Fish and Wildlife plan to use 60 domesticated Atlantic sturgeon, mostly from New York’s Hudson River, to restock the Potomac.

But the effort to bring them back has its own troubles. Last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fishery service listed four varieties of Atlantic sturgeon populations as endangered — the New York Bight, Carolina, South Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay listing has all but dashed the hope of restocking using the Hudson River sturgeon kept at a Maryland hatchery. To preserve the genetic purity of protected animals under the Endangered Species Act, rules prohibit mixing wild and tame species, no matter how much they look alike.

Long story short, Hudson sturgeon aren’t allowed to potentially mess around with their wild cousins in the Potomac. The result is that the Potomac will almost certainly lose its oldest, largest and most distinctive fish.
Not that there is a viable population of sturgeon in the Potomac now:
The last time fishermen caught an adult Atlantic sturgeon in the Potomac, “The French Connection” was a hit movie, Ike and Tina Turner topped the record charts with “Proud Mary” and an American Motors Gremlin four-door sold for $2,000. Forty-three years later, river watchers are only noting unreliable sturgeon sightings.
Now, Gene Hackman is beating up homeless bumsTina Turner is leaving the United States for Switzerland (our loss and their gain) and the Chevy Volt is being subsidized by the public to the tune of $10,000 each.

If only the Librarian of Congress had the authority to grant exemptions from the Endangered Species Act for egregious stupidity...

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