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Washington’s Wild Future: Making Steelhead a Priority

Category: WSC Updates | Posted by: Paul Moinester | 10/28/15 | Comments: 0

Summary: The wild steelhead is Washington’s state fish and one of the most iconic fish species on the planet. If WDFW is truly committed to Washington’s wild future then conserving and rebuilding the state's threatened wild steelhead populations needs to be a top priority.
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In an effort to determine the department’s priorities for managing and conserving Washington’s fish and wildlife, WDFW has launched a multi-year initiative called Washington’s Wild Future: A Partnership for Fish and Wildlife. The objective of the initiative is threefold:

  1. Help WDFW strengthen the department’s relationships with communities
  2. Increase support for conservation and outdoor recreation
  3. Help ensure WDFW programs and services meet the public’s needs

We think there is no better way to ensure Washington’s wild future than by prioritizing the health of wild steelhead populations. The wild steelhead is Washington’s state fish and one of the most iconic fish species on the planet. Yet Washington’s steelhead populations are a fraction of their historic abundance, with five of the seven Distinct Population Segments listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

If WDFW is truly committed to Washington’s wild future then conserving and rebuilding the state’s threatened wild steelhead populations needs to be a top priority.

To read more about Washington’s Wild Future and WSC recommendation, please read the letter WSC submitted to WDFW:

 

Dear Director Unsworth,

On behalf of the Wild Steelhead Coalitions and its (plug in number) members, I am writing to encourage the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) to prioritize the health of wild steelhead populations as part of Washington’s Wild Future. If WDFW is truly committed to Washington’s wild future then conserving endangered wild steelhead populations needs to be a top priority.

The wild steelhead is Washington’s state fish and one of the most iconic fish species on the planet. Yet Washington’s steelhead populations are a fraction of their historic abundance, with five of the seven Distinct Population Segments listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

Despite their horrific decline, Washington’s wild steelhead populations can rebound and become a vibrant, growing component of the state’s wild future. To accomplish this recovery, the Wild Steelhead Coalition encourages WDFW to take the following seven steps. These steps will not only help maintain and restore steelhead populations but also benefit passionate anglers and local communities across Washington.

  1. Stand up for sport fishermen and ensure these anglers have access to wild fish throughout the State of Washington.
  1. Effectively implement the Statewide Steelhead Management Plan and abide by its mission of restoring and maintaining “the abundance, distribution, diversity, and long-term productivity of Washington’s wild steelhead.”
  1. Develop and implement sport fishing rules that prioritize conservation and seek to protect individual wild steelhead as well as wild steelhead populations.
  1. Utilize conservation-minded hatchery management practices that take a precautionary approach to steelhead protection.
  1. Take bold steps on the Olympic Peninsula and in Southwest Washington to ensure these imperiled wild steelhead populations do not join Washington’s other five Distinct Population Segments (DPS) on the Endangered Species List.
  1. Where possible, allow sport fishermen to fish through recovery on rivers such as the Skagit.
  1. Push for signed Steelhead Harvest Management Plans from co-managers before any fishery commences. Additionally, work with co-managers to ensure in-season fisheries are monitored and maintained at a healthy, sustainable level.

Taking these steps does not require significant funding, dramatic shifts in policy, or the creation of anything new or cumbersome. All it requires is WDFW following through on its regulatory commitments and utilizing its existing policy toolbox to maintain and restore Washington’s steelhead populations as well as anglers’ abilities to pursue these magnificent fish.

I encourage WDFW to take these seven steps and ensure that Washington’s “wild future” is full of wild steelhead.

Thank you for considering this request.

Sincerely,

Jonathan

Chair, Board of Directors

Wild Steelhead Coalition

 

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