Help make the Grays and Chinook Rivers Washington’s next Wild Steelhead Gene Bank.
This past summer, anglers across the Pacific Northwest united to convince the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) to create Wild Steelhead Gene Banks on the Skagit, Elwha, and Puyallup rivers. We are fortunate to once again have an opportunity to create a much needed gene bank – this time for the Grays and Chinook rivers. TAKE ACTION TODAY!
Wild Steelhead Gene Banks are rivers that are managed exclusively for wild steelhead and are not planted with hatchery steelhead. As a result, these rivers are wild steelhead sanctuaries, where wild fish populations can recover without the negative impacts of hatchery fish. It is important to note that rivers designated as gene banks can remain active fisheries as long as conservation goals are met and Endangered Species Act conditions are satisfied.
For the last five years, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has been working to establish Wild Steelhead Gene Banks across the state to protect and restore some of the most important wild steelhead populations. This effort is part of an ongoing process to accelerate the recovery of wild steelhead on select rivers through hatchery reform actions while still supporting sustainable fisheries. To date, the Sol Duc, Wind, East Fork Lewis, and North Fork Toutle/Green rivers have all been established as Wild Steelhead Gene Banks.
Over the past year, the Wild Steelhead Coalition (WSC) and the Native Fish Society (NFS) have participated in a collaborative work group with diverse stakeholders to help WDFW select the next Wild Steelhead Gene Bank in SW Washington. After considering all of the selection criteria such as health of the wild populations and habitat, WSC, NFS, and the majority of work group stakeholders voted in favor of designating the Grays and Chinook rivers as the next Wild Steelhead Gene Bank.
We believe the Grays and Chinook rivers are the best option for the next Wild Steelhead Gene Bank because:
- Wild winter steelhead populations on the Grays and Chinook rivers are relatively healthy, stable and have met or exceeded escapement goals for the last decade.
- The Grays River has failing hatchery infrastructure and the Department’s long-term expectations are that the Grays River Hatchery will be closed.
- Designating the alternative (Mill, Abernathy and Germany creeks) will create a conflict with existing hatchery steelhead research by US Fish and Wildlife on Abernathy Creek, and could put an end to valuable research that seeks to better understand the interactions of hatchery and wild steelhead.
WDFW is accepting public comments from January 25 – February 26. Please take advantage of this important opportunity to protect wild steelhead by submitting a comment encouraging WDFW to designate the Grays and Chinook rivers as Washington’s next Wild Steelhead Gene Bank!
Thank you for your tireless support of wild steelhead!