The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is accepting comments on a proposed 5 year fishing moratorium and a public meeting will be held December 15th in Port Angeles. This summer Elwha and Glines canyon dam will come out on the Lower Elwha, opening the upper 90 miles of river to anadromous salmonids for the first time in 100 years. Closing fishing during the period following dam removal is essential for the recovery process and 5 years should be considered an absolute bare minimum. Five years is one generation for Chinook, and Steelhead which means very little recovery is likely to have happened in that time. True recovery will take time as salmon and steelhead will have to stray into the newly available habitats, diversify and become locally adapted. Luckily the habitat on the Elwha is some of the most pristine in the lower 48 with most of the river protected in the National Park and eventually salmon and steelhead should be able to return to near historic levels of abundance.
Unfortunately it appears, at least at present that continued supplementation of the Elwha with hatchery fish will continue even during the fishing moratorium. During the last century hatcheries were built on the Lower Elwha to mitigate the effects of the dams and lost habitat and support both sport and commercial fisheries. Now that the habitat is once again accessible and the fisheries will be closed for at least five years there is little need for hatchery supplementation. Particularly concerning is the fact that WDFW plans to continue planting almost 60,000 chambers creek steelhead throughout the recolonization process. Chambers creek fish are a segregated stock, planted with the express purpose of supporting harvest and with fishing closed there is absolutely no need to continue that program. Furthermore WDFW's own data shows that Chambers Creek fish have much lower reproductive success than their wild counterparts when they spawn in the wild. Allowing these fish to spawn in the wild will only slow the process of recolonization by reducing the reproductive success of wild fish.
WDFW is accepting comments on the Elwha fishing moratorium until December 31st. Please submit comments and support the fishing moratorium. The Elwha recover is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Tell the department:
- Five years should be considered a bare minimum for the fishing moratorium and longer closures should be considered if populations have not recovered after 5 years.
- Chambers creek steelhead should absolutely not be planted in the Elwha during the recolonization. Segregated hatchery stocks are intended to supplement harvest and with a harvest moratorium in place there is no need to continue this program.
- Chambers creek steelhead spawning in the wild are likely to hinder wild steelhead recovery on the Elwha. This is unacceptable and can be easily avoided.
WDFW Rules Coordinator Lori Preuss at Lori.Preuss@dfw.wa.gov or 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501.
Contact WDFW biologist Ron Warren with more questions: 360-249-4628
More information on the WDFW website: