Could steelhead fishing end in order to save them?
Could steelhead fishing end in order to save them?
In a move that could end Washington?s steelhead. Engine Maintenance
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deteriorating hoses.sport fishery, an environmental group is demanding that the state prove a
decades-old?hatchery program isn?t hurting endangered wild steelhead stocks.
By way of a federal lawsuit, the Washington Fish Conservancy contends the state hatchery program,
which sees nearly 1 million steelhead dumped into Western Washington streams, is undercutting
wild fish, which are thought to now number just 17,000 in Puget Sound.
The Duvall-based group contends the hatchery fish ? bred exclusively for the sport fishery ? are
undercutting once-vibrant wild runs. According to the group, the hatchery fish are genetically
inferior to their wild cousins and reduce the habitat available to wild fish.
With wild steelhead disappearing, the hatchery system is the foundation of a steelhead fishery that
draws thousands of anglers to Washington rivers each winter. Wild steelhead in fishing report the
region are protected as an Endangered Species Act-listed threatened species; anglers catch about
7,000 hatchery-bred fish annually.
Responding to Monday?s lawsuit, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife announced it won?t be
releasing hatchery steelhead this spring because of the legal fight. Without hatchery fish, there is
little chance the sport fishery could continue.
Speaking Wednesday, Wild Fish Conservancy Executive Director Kurt Beardslee said the state has
had seven years to show federal regulators that the hatchery program is safe for wild steelhead. The
lawsuit is meant to force an answer to concerns that captive-bred fish are hurting the wild fish.
Acknowledging an end to the hatchery program would likely close the sport fishery, Beardslee said
reviving Washington?s state fish is worth the sacrifice. ?
?Hatchery steelhead cannot rebuild a population,? Beardslee said. ?There?s no doubt that there
would be a number of rivers that there would be no fishing to allow these fish to rebound, but as a
society we have a responsibility to our children and our children?s children.?
Today?s wild steelhead fishery is about 3 percent the size it was in 1900. Wild steelhead were added
to the endangered species list as a threatened species in 2007; the environmental group contends
the http://maine.gov/ifw/fishing/index.htm state is violating the Endangered Species Act.
The hatchery program has allowed a recreational fishery to continue despite the steelhead?s
threatened status. The hatchery fish are marked prior to release so anglers can distinguish them
from wild fish. ?
In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court at Seattle, attorneys for the environmental group contend
the hatchery fish are tampering with the genetic makeup of wild steelhead through interbreeding.
The wild fish, they contend, are being ?domesticated.?
The hatchery fish are all Chambers Creek steelhead, a stock once native to Lakewood-area streams.
Also known as early winter steelhead, the subspecies is exempt from the Endangered Species Act
State wildlife managers had planned to release 900,000 hatchery-reared steelhead in coming weeks;
those fish were to serve as the backbone of the 2016 and 2017 sport fisheries. Due to the lawsuit,
though, the Department of Fish and Wildlife held off on the release.
In a statement, Fish and Wildlife director Phil Anderson defended the program as meeting ?exacting,
science-based standards,? though the state has yet to present the plan to federal regulators with the
National Marine Fisheries Service for review.
Launched more than 60 years ago, the hatchery program has seen Chambers Creek steelhead
released into 24 Western Washington rivers, lakes and streams. The program is currently operating
on the Nooksack, Skagit, Stillaguamish, Green and Snohomish rivers in the Puget Sound region, as
well as Dungeness River on the Olympic Peninsula.
The program's goal was to produce more game fish for anglers, who prize the salmon-size, ocean-
going rainbow trout. Inspect the lagging of engine and also heater exhausts with regard to damage
along with deterioration as well as neighborhood products for heat damage or charring.To that end,
the state released about 960,000 hatchery steelhead in 2013.
Program director Jim Scott said the
department has improved the
hatchery scheme significantly since
wild steelhead were listed as
threatened. The department cut the
number of hatchery steelhead
released by half and abandoned
two-thirds of the fish release
ays been to support a sport fishery, Scott said. The hatchery fish were chosen so they would conflict
as little as possible with existing runs, he said, but were never meant to improve wild stocks.
Scott said Fish and Wildlife shares the same goal as the environmental group ? a robust wild
steelhead population. The key to building one, in his view, can be found in the Puget Sound.
?The real need is to find out why Puget Sound survival rates are so low,? Scott said Wednesday.
?Most of the steelhead are dying after they enter Puget Sound.?
Wild Fish Conservancy claims the hatchery program is undermining the genetics of the wild stocks.
Fish become domesticated in a hatchery environment, leaving them less fit to survive in the wild,
attorneys for the conservancy said in court papers. The Chambers Creek steelhead, they said, are
?highly domesticated? and distinct from the wild runs.
Scott said individual hatcheries have bred their own fish for the past 15 years, keeping the hatchery
runs distinct to each river system.
In coming days, the state is expected to submit a report on the hatchery plan to the National Marine
Fisheries Service, said Rob Jones, a hatchery program manager for the federal agency. Jones said
the steelhead hatchery framework is among dozens of Washington hatchery programs due for
Washington Fish Conservancy also claims wildlife managers hurt or kill wild steelhead while
collecting returning hatchery fish, which also compete with the wild fish for food and mates.
Citing a report by the National Marine Fisheries Service, attorneys for the conservancy contend the
hatchery program has done nothing to protect wild steelhead.
?Chambers Creek hatchery steelhead do not have a role in the recovery of Puget Sound steelhead
and are likely contributing to reductions in productivity of wild steelhead populations,? attorneys
Brian Knutsen, Richard Smith and Elizabeth Zultoski said in court papers. ?The Chambers Creek
steelhead hatchery programs are inhibiting the recovery of wild native salmonids.?
The conservancy has asked that a federal judge rule the state hatchery plan is violating the
Endangered Species Act. The state has yet to respond to the lawsuit, which is currently before U.S.
District Judge Brian Tsuchida.
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Seattlepi.com reporter Levi Pulkkinen can be reached at 206-448-8348 or
email@example.com. Follow Levi on Twitter reports on fishing at twitter.com/levipulk.