Bill would protect yet undegraded fish habitat

A school of pink salmon swim upstream in a creek at Hartney Bay. Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times

A California congressman is looking to protect essential fish habitat not yet degraded against future actions of the federal government through introduction of H.R. 4723, the Salmon Focused Investments in Sustainable Habitats (FISH) Act.

“The Salmon FISH Act will protect and restore the outstanding salmon habitats that still remain so that they can not only support thriving wild salmon, but also the communities and economies that depend on them,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, D- San Rafael, CA., chair of the House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife the co-chair of the Congressional Wild Salmon Caucus.

H.R. 4723, introduced in the House on Oct. 17, would direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate core centers of salmon abundance, productivity and diversity as Salmon Conservation Areas and to designate the most pristine areas of salmon abundance as Salmon Strongholds, using the science and analysis used for essential fish habitat and the Watershed Condition Framework program.

Tribes, states, non-governmental organizations and the public would also be allowed to nominate additional areas for consideration.

The bill has support from the Wild Salmon Center, with headquarters in Portland, Oregon.

“Salmon are foundational for resilient coastal communities: a sign of ecosystem health and clean water, a source of jobs and food, and an inspiration to us all,” said Guido Rahr, president and chief executive officer of the Wild Salmon Center.

The bill would also authorize a federal grant program through 2025 for conservation and restoration projects, and funding to support current watershed health programs.