Washington Law Review


When we think of pollutants, we either consciously or unconsciously draw a bright line between pollutants and what might be called "natural." That which is natural cannot be a pollutant; that which is a pollutant cannot be natural. It seems odd to speak of live fish as pollutants, as odd as it would be to speak of dioxins as natural. Nevertheless, the traditional definition of fish as natural may be fading as our awareness of the adverse environmental effects of accidental or poorly planned fish introductions increases. Along these lines, a federal court recently found that non-native Atlantic salmon that escape from their pens are "pollutants" within the meaning of the Clean Water Act. Because wild Atlantic salmon is listed as an Endangered Species, Salmon mariculture provides a particularly stark example of when society might aptly consider "fish" to be pollutants. The biological, philosophical, and legal underpinning of our argument, however, transcends aquaculture into the realm of fisheries management, where we advocate that managers focus on improving water quality to the point where the native fish that historically were dominant in the habitat are once again abundant, rather than on managing aquatic ecosystems for stocked species of fish that are relatively unaffected by degraded water quality.

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