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Small Fry

By Dan Pens

I'd have to bone up on my state history to say for sure which agency pioneered the strategy, but the Department of Corrections and the State Fisheries Department both have a good thing going. And they know it.

If I had to put money on it, I'd say the Fisheries Department hit on the idea first. You see, it's pretty dang simple: The more hatchlings you process, the more adult salmon return in the coming years. The more adult salmon you get back, the more of their progeny you can expect to process as hatchlings. Which means that you can expect even more adult salmon for the future -- and well, it just goes on.

"More hatcheries! We need more hatcheries!" came the cry from the Fisheries Department. More money! More jobs! More fish to fry! It's good business. Good for the economy they say.

Well, the success of our Fisheries Department hatchling Management Program is such a good story that word spread far and wide. DOC must have got wind of it and sent a team of experts to investigate. I imagine that's how it might have happened.

"We tag 'em," says the Game Warden, "We give em numbers and keep a record of every one of them. Then we let "m go."

"Let 'em go!?" gasp the DOC experts.

"Yep. We got their numbers. We know they'll be back. Why not let 'em go? Adult fish, that's where the money is."

"Ohhh...hmmmm, not a bad idea."

It might have gone something like that. Who knows? How else could you explain Washington State's practice of "processing" (incarcerating) over four times the national average for juvenile offenders? It's the highest rate in the nation.

"We go their numbers. We know they'll be coming back."

More prisons! More money! More jobs! More prisoners to fry! It's good business. Good for the economy they say.

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