Friday, March 8, 2013

Occupy Skagit

For those unfamiliar with Occupy Skagit, it is a grassroots movement of anglers concerned with the ongoing closure of the Skagit River and the lack of proactive movement from WDFW and NOAA to  develop a plan to restore wild steelhead and the beloved spring time fishery on the Skagit and Sauk. It is refreshing to see a group of anglers catalyzed behind an issue, and while we are supportive of the goals at Occupy Skagit we thought we would share some thoughts on the bigger picture.

If you want to join the movement and Occupy Skagit, anglers will be meeting up April 6th on the banks of the skagit in protest to the ongoing closure of the Skagit and Sauk.

More info:

The following is an open letter to all anglers who care about the Skagit and Sauk, but is particularly focused on some aspects of the comments posted by an organizer of the Occupy Skagit group on our post last week:

Dear Occupiers,

While we respect and appreciate your passion for Skagit River steelhead and we share the view that a catch and release sport fishery could be opened on the Skagit through April without inflicting serious impacts on wild steelhead in the Skagit and Sauk, we have to take issue with a few things you have said. 

Our principle concern is that by asserting "All is well" on the skagit on the basis of an MSY goal of 3800 we are setting the bar very low. We agree that the Skagit is much better off than many other Puget Sound Rivers (hence our support for the idea of a catch and release fishery), but the reality is that as recently as the 1950s 30,000 wild steelhead returned each year on the Skagit and historic abundance in the basin probably ranged between 40 and 100 thousand fish annually. 

We hope that in advocating for fisheries on the Skagit and other Puget Sound rivers the Occupy Skagit movement and others will not lose sight of this big picture. In advocating for fisheries we must first and foremost advocate for the recovery of wild fish that support those fisheries and in the skagit that means protecting and restoring the habitat and importantly, discontinuing releases of hatchery fish at the Marblemount hatchery and managing the Skagit as a Wild Steelhead Management Zone.  

We need to acknowledge the full suite of impacts on wild steelhead in the Skagit. We also need to ask WDFW to invest in improved monitoring, pre-season forecasting, and research on the Skagit and other important watersheds. 

Thank you for caring about wild fish and the Skagit River. We all agree that wild fish are a treasured part of our regions cultural and ecological heritage and we look forward to working with you to advance the cause of wild steelhead recovery!

Will Atlas
FFF Steelhead Committee

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