If you weren’t aware the Wild Fish Conservancy and the WDFW have been battling for several years over the release of hatchery steelhead.
In its March 31 complaint, the Duvall-based non-profit group claimed the department’s Puget Sound hatchery steelhead programs violate the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) by impairing the recovery of wild steelhead, salmon, and bull trout. All three species are listed as “threatened” under the ESA.
The theory being that hatchery steelhead harm the survival rates of wild steelhead. For now the two have agreed to suspend the lawsuit while the WDFW has their steelhead Hatchery Genetic Management Plans (HGMPs) reviewed and approved. Before this lawsuit, the WDFW was going to release about 900,000 juvenile steelhead into Puget Sound rivers. Now they will release only 180,000 and only into the Skykomish river.
Other provisions of the federal court agreement include:
- WDFW may release up to 180,000 hatchery steelhead in 2014 and again in 2015 into the Skykomish River, which flows into the Snohomish River near Monroe.
- The Conservancy will not sue WDFW over its Puget Sound hatchery programs during the next 2 ½ years, or until NMFS approves those programs, whichever comes first.
- WDFW will refrain from planting early winter (Chambers Creek) hatchery steelhead into most rivers in the Puget Sound region until NMFS completes its review.
- A 12-year research program will be established in the Skagit River, during which no early winter steelhead will be released into the watershed. In cooperation with the Conservancy, WDFW will work with tribes to evaluate and potentially implement a steelhead hatchery program in the Skagit River using native steelhead.
- The department may release hatchery steelhead into other rivers around Puget Sound when NMFS approves the department’s HGMPs. This provision will not apply to the Skagit River watershed, which will not receive early winter hatchery steelhead releases during the 12-year study period.
- Early winter steelhead from WDFW hatcheries that cannot be released into Puget Sound-area rivers will be released into inland waters that have no connection to Puget Sound. The department will give the Conservancy 14 days’ advance notice of those releases.
- WDFW will pay the Conservancy $45,000 for litigation expenses.
Is This Decision Good Or Bad?
Drop a comment below and let me know what you think? Is it better to protect the biodiversity of the wild steelhead, or more important to keep good returns of catchable steelhead coming back?