OLYMPIA – New management plans for Washington steelhead, based on a scientific report developed over the last two years, will aim to address concerns that prompted the federal government to propose listing Puget Sound steelhead as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.
The scientific assessment, which will be released for public comment in May, was developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and has been reviewed by treaty tribes. Based on that document, steelhead management plans will be developed in the coming year for individual watersheds across the state.
“We believe these conservation-based management plans may well address the concerns that prompted the federal government’s proposed listing of Puget Sound steelhead,” said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings, Ph.D.
The state’s steelhead scientific report outlines the geographical distribution, status, population trends, life history, habitat requirements and harvest history of steelhead in Washington.
NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency that manages protected ocean-migrating species including steelhead and salmon, today announced a proposal to list Puget Sound steelhead as a threatened species. A final listing decision would be made next year.
Management plans developed from the steelhead scientific report will address hatchery and harvest management issues. Statewide hatchery improvements being implemented for wild salmon recovery will be extended to steelhead, Koenings said. For example, efforts will likely be increased to segregate hatchery-origin steelhead from wild steelhead.
In addition, habitat improvements for salmon recovery, being implemented by the Shared Strategy for Puget Sound, will benefit steelhead as well, Koenings noted.
There are no directed fisheries on wild steelhead in Puget Sound and most of the state, although wild steelhead fishing is allowed on some coastal rivers under a one-fish annual limit.
Selective fisheries are allowed on hatchery steelhead that are marked as hatchery- origin fish through removal of their adipose fin.