WDFW will not release 'early winter' hatchery steelhead this spring unless legal issues are resolved

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Andrew Lawrence, Apr 1, 2014.

    600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

    April 01, 2014
    Contact: Jim Scott, 360-902-2736

    WDFW will not release 'early winter' hatchery steelhead
    this spring unless legal issues are resolved

    OLYMPIA –The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will not release early winter hatchery steelhead into rivers around Puget Sound as planned this spring unless it can resolve issues raised in January by the Wild Fish Conservancy and restated in a lawsuit the group filed this week.
    Phil Anderson said WDFW leaders made the “very difficult” decision last week under the threat of litigation by the Conservancy, a non-profit group based in Duvall, Wash. In late January, the group filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the department over its management of early winter (Chambers Creek) steelhead hatchery programs.
    On Monday, March 31, as the 60-day period ended, the group filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Seattle against the department and the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, alleging WDFW has violated the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). The group contends WDFW’s planting of Chambers Creek steelhead undermines the recovery of wild Puget Sound steelhead, salmon and bull trout, which are listed as “threatened” under the ESA.
    Anderson said the department planned to releases about 900,000 juvenile steelhead this spring into rivers that flow into Puget Sound. Those fish are produced at nine hatcheries and represent about two-thirds of all hatchery steelhead produced by WDFW hatcheries in the Puget Sound region. Steelhead planted this spring would return to the rivers in 2016 and 2017.
    He said WDFW is vulnerable to lawsuits over its hatchery steelhead operations because they were not approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) following the ESA listing of Puget Sound steelhead in 2007. WDFW submitted Hatchery Genetic Management Plans to NMFS in 2005 for its steelhead programs, relative to their potential impacts on Puget Sound wild chinook salmon.
    However, NMFS’ review of those plans was not completed. WDFW is nearing completion of updates to its steelhead plans to reflect recent hatchery improvements based on the most current science.
    “We believe strongly that we are operating safe and responsible hatchery programs that meet exacting, science-based standards,” he said. “But without NMFS certification that our hatchery programs comply with the Endangered Species Act, we remain at risk of litigation. We are working hard to complete that process.”
    Jim Scott, who heads the WDFW Fish Program, said the department and the Conservancy were not able to reach an agreement on WDFW’s steelhead hatchery management practices during the 60-day period, but he said discussions will continue in the hope of reaching a settlement by early May so that the 2014 plantings can take place.
    “It’s in everyone’s best interest to quickly reach an agreement that will promote the recovery of Puget Sound steelhead and provide for tribal and recreational fisheries,” Scott said. “Going to court would force us to redirect our staff to defend our programs in litigation, rather than focusing on conservation and restoration of Puget Sound steelhead.”
    Scott said the department acknowledges that scientific findings indicate certain hatchery practices may pose an impediment to wild fish productivity and recovery. But he noted state managers have worked hard to reform hatchery programs and have taken significant steps to protect ESA-listed wild steelhead. Actions since 2004 include:
    • Reducing the number of early winter steelhead released in the Puget Sound watershed by more than 50 percent to minimize interactions between hatchery fish and wild steelhead.
    • Reducing the number of release locations from 27 to nine.
    • Collecting eggs from early-returning hatchery fish to maintain separation in the spawning times of hatchery and wild fish.
    • Using genetic monitoring to guard against hatchery steelhead interacting with wild stocks.
    “We want to continue discussions with the Wild Fish Conservancy in an attempt to address its issues,” Anderson said. “I’m hopeful that our decision last week to hold off on releasing hatchery fish will keep us from having to spend our time in a courtroom, arguing about injunctions, and instead let us find real solutions that promote wild steelhead recovery.”

  2. Makes me glad I don't live in PS anymore. I get it, I really do, but the last time I was fishing full time over there the Cedar was putting out steelhead (below the Library was a good spot), the Green was reliable and people were excited about late winter steel on the Sky.

    All this is starting to feel like a pack of starving dogs fighting over the last scraps.

    Just sucks, thats all.
    Lugan, Upton O, Davy and 2 others like this.
  3. "We believe strongly that we are operating safe and responsible hatchery programs . . ."

    Of course you do.
  4. I see it more as the DFW of both states being taken to task for poor practices. US government at work on both sides. They spend a ton of money to keep people happy, errrrrr, screw things up, then the people call them on it. Eventually it evens out....right?
  5. ...and our state gets sued because the feds don't do their job? What gives?
  6. WDFW reducing hatchery plants without a court order.... April Fools.... right?
  7. No, it's Beardsley, spending Harriet Bullit's money with his "wild fish" conservancy. Wonder what'll happen when she kicks-she's 90 now. He may actually be forced to work:eek:
    KerryS likes this.
  8. It makes sense to me. WDFW is a regulatory agency. As such, they should follow laws and regulations that apply to them. They have been operating the chambers creek program without the necessary federal permits.

    They saw the writing on the wall, and decided to comply with the law before wasting a ton of taxpayer dollars fighting a loosing battle.

    Now, maybe they will have some incentive to explore fisheries that don't rely on removing hatchery fish as thier raison d'etre. Like the Skagit c&r season.
  9. I should state that I'm not a fan of the commission. Too many lawyers on staff, writing what turns out to be a maze of regulations designed to confuse and entrap, rather than make it easy to understand. Insipid bull trout bans, closed streams everywhere, constant "emergency" changes, small wonder they get sued now and again. You want real examples of this razzle-dazzle, simply wander through the hunting regs. Spike elk vs. "true" spike, for example. Even the wardens I know aren't happy with that one!
  10. wdfw has had 10 years from the original lawsuit to comply with the law. 10 years to get their hatchery practices to be legal. 10 years.

    wdfw is solely to blame for this one... or they know their hatcheries cannot meet the legal requirements, which is also their fault.
    triploidjunkie and Chris Johnson like this.

  11. I don't think they will explore opening anything - they will shut everything down in late November and call it good - then blame the ESA 4% mortality on wild fish and put zero funding into our Steelhead fisheries at all - back to the general fund with the cash.

    I sure hope I'm wrong.......................
  12. Sure is a good thing that you all pay so much to fish a few months in the rivers that end in Puget Sound. I believe that you all are taking it in the shorts. Hell,the way they cut fishing in Skinny water, you should all have free fishing licenses.
    Chris Johnson likes this.
  13. The article states that a plan was submitted in 2005 and "However, NMFS’ review of those plans was not completed"
    Not completed!!!
    What happened?
    Did some one call in sick?
    Was it too complicated for them?

    Kind of like the 2010 Puget Sound draft that was submitted, rejected, and no one is sure exactly why it was rejected so that it could be fixed.
    Maybe it's time to "Get Jesse" on it.
    Greg Armstrong likes this.
  14. priorities. wdfw doesn't prioritize dealing with a lawsuit enough to pick up the phone and put some f'ing pressure on nmfs to get the review completed. they seem to be able to prioritize these types of things when saltwater fisheries (especially commercial) are involved.

    actions speak and their actions show they don't care about puget sound steelhead fishing.

    probably oversimplified but i cannot wrap my head around 10 years of not getting shit done. you cannot even blame the budget crisis for this as this pre-dates the major budget problems.

  15. Where are you getting the 10 years thing from - the final listing from NMFS was on May 11, 2007 thanks
  16. this is the listing - I have for Puget Sound

    Attached Files:

  17. Seems to me, the decision makers were a bit preoccupied (no pun intended) with targeting public lands previously managed for waterfowl for bogus fisheries restoration projects to create side channel habitat for Chinook. Projects that were poorly planned, poorly designed, and didn't create the desired side channel habitat.

    But I digress. I seem to caught on both sides of these issues. Thus the reason I stayed away from fisheries management when making career path decisions.
  18. Um I think I know the project you are thinking of. I have worked extensively on it and you couldn't be more wrong. That habitat is for juvenile chinook and we find many of them in it during electro fishing surveys as well as coho and chum. Lots of SRCs and char too. It is rearing habitat, not spawning. Good rearing habitat in lower rivers is some of the rarest and most impacted in PS. It is also important during high flow events as refuge and acclimating slowly to salt habitats. Many chinook, coho, and steelhead live in these places for years.

    Also, WDFW merely was a partner in that project, it wasn't "their" project. It also didn't cost much to blow up a bunch of dikes. Ironically, much of the money goes towards making sure land owners don't get impacted rather than the actual project improvements.

    Many need to think long term. That habitat will have more fish in it every year for decades. It is also part of a long term monitoring project to evaluate how effective such projects are and to improve methods.

    In the end I doubt you lost much bird hunting opportunity.

    We in the restoration community are long term thinkers, and every little bit of protected or restored habitat counts. The general public typically just wants more limits now. Who is the one with the problem? I know what I think....
    Lugan and Derek Day like this.
  19. I agree. I have been gone from up in that state for 9 years. They were gonna improve things then. Things seem worse now than then. Jeeeeez

    Of course, things are not a picnic down here either. And yet they wonder why people are leaving the fishing and hunting sports in droves.

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