Meadville Tribune

Opinion

February 26, 2013

State Fish and Boat Commission may be cutting off its fins despite its gills

HARRISBURG —

On the face of it, the decision by the Fish and Boat Commission to reduce the number of trout produced by the agency’s hatcheries by 750,000 seems odd when you consider that 70 percent of people who buy fishing licenses spend the extra couple bucks to get a trout stamp.

Why would you produce less of the type of fish that people are most interested in catching?

But even if you are not a fisher-person, there is another reason to wonder about the wisdom of the move: The state just put millions in tax dollars into renovating the Bellefonte hatchery.

The Fish and Boat Commission says closing the hatcheries is part of a strategy to narrow a $9 million funding deficit. Closing the hatcheries will save about $2 million.

Just three years ago, the state completed $4.3 million in repairs to the filter system and other fish-breeding stuff at the Bellefonte hatchery. And about half of that money was paid through Growing Greener grant dollars, said Rep. Gary Haluksa, Democratic chair of the House Game and Fisheries Committee.

Spending grant money to fix up facilities you turn around and close is questionable policy no matter how you slice it.

Fish and Boat Commission executive director John Arway told the House committee that they selected Bellefonte as one of the hatcheries to close because it is the most expensive hatchery operated by the agency. There will be no changes at the Linesville hatchery in Crawford County and the Corry hatchery in Erie County.

Haluksa said that the decision to close a facility so soon after the state spent money to renovate it cannot look good.

“That might come around and bite them in the (donkey) the next time they ask for grant money,” Haluska said.

He didn’t say donkey, by the way.

Haluska suggested that the Fish and Boat Commission could generate revenue by raising the cost of a license rather than cutting the number of fish.

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