Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cutting the Fat: Quality Food Source Removed from ODFW Budget

A food additive that produces
quality table fare hatchery trout
is being axed from ODFW's budget
Are costs associated with hatchery food really relevant in the big picture of lost fishing opportunity?

A discussion among a joint committee this May about how to account for millions of dollars in lost revenue from the decrease in sales of hunting and fishing licenses led to drastic scare tactics by the ODFW director of what programs might be on the chopping block from the state's budget. The story in the Statesman Journal quotes committee Co-chair & Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis as beginning with the opening statement: 

"I mean, so you're short $9 million. You make $9 million in cuts this year … What happens in two years? What happens in four years?

Without an increase in fees, the fish division would lose funding for the Bandon and Alsea fish hatcheries, as well as the Oregon Hatchery Research Center, the North Santiam River summer steelhead program at Leaburg Hatchery on the McKenzie River. The wildlife division would lose 13 field positions and 5 Fish and Wildlife Division Troopers with the Oregon State Police.

Spending reductions accounted for in the ODFW budget
comprise the blue slice of this pie. "Costs associated with
hatchery food" comprise roughly 3 percent of those reductions
and %.0015 of the department's budget.
In order to reduce costs on a biennial basis, the printing, storing an distribution of regulation booklets as well as the number of pages would be reduced (if only that meant there were less rules instead of a smaller font!). Additional costs would be balanced by the sale of advertisements (wouldn't that mean more pages?) This change is projected to save $375,000 between 2015-2017. Reducing travel costs is projected to save a $500,000. Consolidating regional administrative costs is projected to save $450,000 while eliminating excess IT costs is projected to save the department $200,000.

While these are significant, six-figure budgetary changes, there's one more smidgen of expenses on the chopping block... "Reducing costs associated with hatchery food." This will save the department $45,000 but at what cost? By comparison, the "costs associated with hatchery food" are somewhat insignificant, and more specifically related to food additives that create quality table fare out of hatchery trout.

Freshly stocked hatchery trout fed with quality food at the hatchery will hold the pink color from astaxanthin, a chemical compound found in food sources like shrimp and krill. While the fish may only contain a small concentration of astaxanthin in comparison to it's food source, the additive is a crucial element to creating a quality final product. The additive, as well as the palatability, is being removed from the diet of hatchery fish as part of the budget cuts.

The sale of licenses provides a primary source of revenue that funds a majority of the department's budget, yet the drop in license sales is the scapegoat for imbalances. Events like Free Fishing Weekend, which occurred the first weekend in June, provide a gateway opportunity for new anglers to get a preview of what the fees from purchasing a license go towards. Imagine the bad taste left in the mouth of new anglers that brought home trout for dinner, only to have poor table fare serve as a first impression of the work done by the department's license-funded hatcheries.

Photo by Rob Morganti
Graph source:

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