Help protect and recover threatened populations of wild steelhead in once prolific Puget Sound rivers by telling Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to establish strong, effective wild steelhead gene banks.
One of the most significant and scientifically recognized impediments to the recovery of wild steelhead populations are hatchery steelhead. According to NOAA, planting hatchery steelhead can pose genetic and ecological threats to wild steelhead runs, from competition for suitable habitat and increased predation to loss of genetic fitness.
As part of Washington’s Statewide Steelhead Management Plan, WDFW is establishing a number of rivers in Puget Sound as wild steelhead management zones or “gene banks” to help address the hatchery problem.
These rivers will be managed exclusively as wild steelhead rivers and will not be planted with hatchery steelhead. As a result, they will become wild steelhead sanctuaries, where wild fish populations can recover without the negative impacts of hatchery fish. This gene bank designation program has already seen budding success on the Olympic Peninsula’s Sol Duc River, and gene banks have recently been selected on several lower-Columbia River tributary rivers.
As WDFW works to establish these gene banks, they are seeking public input to help determine which rivers and how many rivers to designate. Over the next few weeks, WDFW will be hosting several meetings for the public to learn about this issue and submit their comments. The schedule is:
- Educational Workshop – Monday, July 13 from 5:00 – 9:00 PM in Seattle at the Phinney Center: Room 7 (6532 Phinney Ave N)
- Public Comment Meeting – Tuesday, July 21 from 6:00 – 9:00 PM in Seattle at the Phinney Center: Room 7 (6532 Phinney Ave N)
- Public Comment Meeting – Monday, July 27 from 6:00 – 9:00 PM in Mount Vernon at Skagit PUD (1415 Freeway Dr.)
- Public Comment Meeting – Tuesday, July 28 from 6:00 – 9:00 PM in Sequim at Trinity Methodist Church (100 S Blake Ave)
For the benefit of wild steelhead recovery and the natural and angling heritage of future generations, it’s important that significant Puget Sound river systems, not just minor tributary streams, are designated as wild steelhead sanctuaries.
As a supporter of wild steelhead, please attend one or more of the public meetings and voice your opinion. Also, please stay tuned and look for updates and recommendations from us via email and on our Facebook page as this issue unfolds.