Billy Frank Jr. released this statement earlier this week, in response to a lawsuit challenging the release of steelhead from state hatcheries:

Hatcheries were built for one reason. That is to make up for lost natural steelhead and salmon production caused by damage to their habitat. Both Indian and non-Indian fishermen depend on tribal and state hatcheries and the fish they provide.

Unfortunately, the lawsuit by the Wild Fish Conservancy is forcing the state to decide not to release Chambers Creek Hatchery steelhead. Indian and non-Indian fishermen and their families will suffer the effects of the decision directly and immediately, and those effects will be felt for a long time.

Instead of addressing the real problem of steelhead habitat loss and damage, the lawsuit will once again force fishermen to unfairly pay the price for habitat destruction that hatcheries were supposed to make up for. That’s not right.

“Hatchery steelhead and salmon are essential to fulfilling the promises of tribal treaties with the United States, Frank said. Those rights depend on fish being available for harvest.”