Thursday, December 5, 2013

Make Your Voice Heard, Support Wild Steelhead in SW Washington!



In fall 2012 the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) issued a Hatchery Genetic Management Plan (HGMP) for steelhead hatchery programs on the Lower Columbia. In it, WDFW outlined plans to maintain the status quo of hatchery releases and outplanting in several rivers with important populations of wild summer and winter steelhead. After an outpouring of opposition against this plan, including almost 500 written comments from wild fish advocates, WDFW decided to go back to the drawing board on the HGMP and initiated a stakeholder driven planning process that focused on the identification and establishment of thee Wild Steelhead Genebanks. These genebanks, also commonly referred to as Wild Steelhead Management Zones (WSMZ), would eliminate all releases of hatchery steelhead within a watershed,  setting aside the entire river system for wild steelhead populations and the fisheries they support.

On November 25th of this year WDFW released a document outlining their plans for the establishment of three wild steelhead genebanks in the SW Washington region. These include the Green River, a major tributary of the North Fork Toutle, the East Fork Lewis, an important watershed for both winter and summer-run steelhead in the region, and the Wind River, a watershed that has been managed as a de facto wild steelhead genebank since the 1990's when releases of hatchery summer-run steelhead were eliminated. Taken together, setting aside these three watersheds for wild steelhead is a major step forward for the department and for wild steelhead recovery in Washington. 

The plan does have flaws, including continued/increased hatchery releases on the Coweeman and South Fork Toutle without adequate collection facilities which means that these watersheds will continue to suffer the impacts of high numbers of hatchery fish spawning in the wild. Further, continuation of the status quo on the Kalama, and in particular the mining of wild summer runs for a broodstock program that has failed to create any detectable benefit to wild fish is ill-advised. 

WDFW is accepting comments on the proposed Wild Steelhead Genebanks until December 13th. Please take 5 minutes to submit comments and support wild steelhead in SW Washington!

Submit comments to: TeamVancouver@dfw.wa.gov

In your comments tell them:

1. You wholeheartedly support the designation of the Green, East Fork Lewis and Wind as Wild Steelhead Genebanks. This is a major step forward for WDFW and for steelhead recovery in our state. 

2. You are concerned about plans to continue hatchery releases in the Coweeman and to expand the number of non-native summer-run steelhead planted in the South Fork Toutle. In both of these systems inadequate collection of returning hatchery fish means that WDFW is dangerously out of compliance with the recommendations made by the Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG), threatening these ESA listed steelhead populations with introgression, reduced fitness and productivity as well as numerous ecological impacts of hatchery fish. 

3. You believe that the wild-broodstock hatchery program on the Kalama has not benefited wild summer-run steelhead, and should be discontinued immediately. 

4. You would like to see the department initiate more rigorous monitoring of hatchery impacts on wild populations in SW Washington and if there is evidence that hatchery programs are failing to comply with HSRG recommendations take swift action to eliminate hatchery plants. 

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