The President Muffed it on Salmon

by Dan Rohlf | January 28, 2011

In his State of the Union speech to Congress Tuesday night, President Obama suggested that reducing inefficient federal bureaucracy can help reduce federal spending and promote economic growth. Stretching to find a lighthearted example of government ineptness, the President quipped that “the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked."

This remark may have elicited chuckles in the Capitol building, but really it's not so funny for the parts of the country where salmon conservation raises significant environmental and economic issues.

Critics have rightly jumped on the line (see Earthjustice, Slate). First, the President got his bureaucratic story mostly wrong. On the west coast, Pacific salmon are under the jurisdiction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – an agency within the Department of Commerce – regardless of whether they are in the ocean as adults, or struggling to pass safely upriver through a gauntlet of federal dams to reach their spawning grounds (the more lethal trip, actually, is typically when young fish must try to avoid the dams' turbines on their way downriver to the ocean). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) manages some hatcheries designed to mitigate for habitat damage caused by the federal dams, but unfortunately hatcheries can themselves contribute to the threats faced by wild salmon runs.

On ...

Egg Industry's Effort to Push Salmonella Problem as Consumers' Fault A Worrying Example of "Risk Avoidance" Policy Approaches to Health and Safety Regulation

by Catherine O'Neill | September 01, 2010
According to the egg industry, the thousands of people sickened by eggs contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis have only themselves to blame. As USA Today reported: "Consumers that were sickened reportedly all ate eggs that were not properly or thoroughly cooked. Eggs need to be cooked so that the whites and yolks are firm (not runny) which should kill any bacteria," says Mitch Head, spokesperson for the United Egg Producers. "Some people may not think of an egg as you would ground ...

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