Donate a tank of gas to Save Wild Steelhead
Summary: Executive Director Bob Margulis' concern about the future for wild steelhead and what you can do to help.
Driving to a Skagit Watershed Council meeting I found myself thinking of what it used to be like fishing the Skagit and Sauk in the Spring. With the sun shining off Sauk Mountain I might find a fish or two to provide a good grab, throw a deep bend into my rod and make Mr. Hardy sing…but now our ‘S’ rivers are closed in the Spring, as are many other rivers around the state.
Other than the Olympic Peninsula, all Washington wild steelhead are listed under the Endangered Species Act and their populations are approximately 2% of historic run size.
- Attempts to compensate for overfishing, dam construction and habitat degradation with unfit hatchery fish have directly contributed to the demise of our wild steelhead.
- In 2000, after the long-term failure of hatcheries to aid wild fish recovery, Congress funded the Hatchery Reform Project, but the 12 years since are the worst ever for wild steelhead.
- Policies ignore both the scientific studies showing negative impacts of hatchery fish and the spontaneous, even dramatic, wild fish recovery when hatcheries have been removed.
All these efforts so that a few anglers could harvest only 160 hatchery steelhead last winter on the mighty Skagit River. In my lifetime, the Skagit often produced winter harvests of 15,000-20,000 steelhead!
To help wild steelhead recover to sustainable levels, the WSC is focused on creating Wild Steelhead Management Zones (WSMZs)—rivers where steelhead hatcheries are removed—required by the 2008 WA Statewide Steelhead Management Plan and managed by the WA Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW).
Recent accomplishments of the WSC:
- Implemented an annual evaluation of the WDFW’s progress on the creation of WSMZs. The Sol Duc River is now a WSMZ due to the WSC’s efforts
- Organized steelhead conservation groups, guides, angling clubs and fishery enhancement groups to participate with WDFW to select a Lower Columbia WSMZ
- Provided comments to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council regarding hatchery programs in the Columbia Basin, as well as urged them to keep hydro projects off rivers like the SF Skykomish
- Continued in the lawsuit to keep the Elwha free of hatchery steelhead
- The WSC will be reviewing the proposed steelhead Hatchery Genetic Management Plans and NOAA’s upcoming Puget Sound Steelhead Recovery Plan to ensure the best interests of wild steelhead.
- The WSC will convene scientists, agencies, tribes and fish conservation groups in a two day Steelhead Summit focusing on WSMZs.
Help us increase the return of wild steelhead to the waters of the West Coast!
While recovery will take some time and patience, this is not something that has to take generations to achieve as long as we act NOW
. Thank you to those who have already donated to support the WSC’s work to save wild steelhead.
I look forward to the day when I write suggesting that you buy your children steelhead rods for the holidays.
Wild Steelhead Coalition