Last August, the Wild Steelhead Coalition, Washington Council of Trout Unlimited, Native Fish Society and Steelhead Committee of FFF, and members of the Steelhead Summit Alliance provided their comments and recommendations for the new WDFW Strategic Plan. In general, there was agreement with the materials in the basic draft and suggestions are made to add a few significant concepts to the important priorities and to help with the construction of goals and objectives.
Adding “Achieving Healthy Rivers & Ecosystems” as a top concern under the section “Priorities and Initiatives”, because recovery of wild fish will depend on the actions taken to recover and preserve river basins and their historical ecosystems.
Under the category of “Recovering Salmon and Steelhead Populations” and other subsections as appropriate, the WDFW should note the importance of applying modern science and even cutting edge science to stock/DPS (Distinct Population Segment) recovery, rebuilding and management programs. Due to the political framework that WDFW must work in, and the fact that managers often continue in the same management mode due to time, past experiences and historical limitations, we have noted that new science often takes several decades to be incorporated into management. We also suggest that WDFW perform evaluations on old scientific management practices that are presently in use.
A second recommendation for this category is noting the importance of recovering and managing wild salmonids through higher levels of the Viable Salmonid Population (VSP) parameters. VSP levels should include perspectives from the historical record on abundances, life history diversity and the distribution of wild fish.
The Category of Climate Change should include major objectives such as reducing the threats of flooding due to the already damaged condition of all Washington watersheds; and the synergism with logging, agriculture, etc with early winter large flash floods due to climate change.
In Renewing our Conservation Focus WDFW should provide information in this priority category on the importance of managing wild salmonids at elevated Zones VSP levels to improve wild stock health, increase stock resilience and decrease the future potential of depletions from the uncertainty of riverine habitat impacts from climate change, natural environmental damages (as large landslides), extended periods of unproductive ocean conditions, past and ongoing hatchery impacts, cyclic management error and over harvests, and the impacts from man’s activities. WDFW should also assure that correct management science is applied to harvest planning by completing all fisheries management plans before fishing.
The category of Managing and Reforming Hatcheries and Harvest might be split into two categories, given the importance of each.
Under reforming hatcheries we again suggest the strategic plan draw attention to the literature and the new science that exists on subject.
Harvest Reform should implant the idea of managing for conservation and for healthier stocks rather than immediate harvests that impede recovery or impact listed or declining stocks.
We suggest in this priority that WDFW briefly discuss alternative methods to prosecute fisheries including the use of selective fishing and selective gear. As example, today most steelhead fishers prefer longer fishing opportunity instead of wild stock harvests and shorter seasons. There has been a loud public call for the release of wild steelhead to assure their continued health and provide the opportunity for stock rebuilding. This approach might be incorporated into salmon fishing as well where stocks are struggling to make their minimal required escapements and there is high fishing pressure on the runs.