Watch our short video on the issue and then take action to let Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch know that wild steelhead should be taken off the menu!
Recently, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch – a guide for helping consumers make sustainable fish choices – designated wild steelhead from Washington’s coast as a sustainable fish choice, labeling it a “Good Alternative”. This designation means that increasingly threatened populations of wild steelhead can be sold nationwide in stores like Whole Foods Market as a sustainable fish choice. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For decades wild steelhead populations on famed Olympic Peninsula Rivers such as the Hoh, Queets, and Bogachiel have been returning at a fraction of historic abundance. Unfortunately, in recent years this decline has accelerated. With these wild steelhead on the verge of being listed under the Endangered Species Act, this designation could be the nail in the coffin for these iconic wild steelhead.
There is significant scientific data that demonstrates the precarious future of these wild steelhead populations, so it is absurd that Seafood Watch and their partners such as Whole Foods Market would label these fisheries a “Good Alternative”. For the past year, scientists at Trout Unlimited and Wild Salmon Center were working with Seafood Watch and providing this data on the declining runs, even pointing out discrepancies in their assessment process. Not only does this label threaten these famed wild steelhead populations, but it also misleads well-intentioned consumers who will unknowingly purchase a threatened icon spiraling toward an endangered listing.
Recently, sport fishermen sacrificed their harvest rights and adopted less impactful fishing practices because they know wild steelhead are on the brink of collapse. Meanwhile, many tribes harvesting wild steelhead with gillnets refuse to implement stricter harvest plans, catch monitoring guidelines, or more responsible fishing practices for these nearly endangered fish.
We respect tribal treaty rights to responsibly harvest salmon and steelhead when abundance allows. However, the long-term decline of wild runs, their current dire state, and the use of non-selective methods such as gillnets make it grossly inappropriate for these wild steelhead fisheries to be labeled as “sustainable”.