steelhead are doomed

I just spent two days at a conference of steelhead managers held at Fort Worden in Pt Townsend. I was disappointed and a little shocked to see almost no activists there, a couple of people from Washington Trout, the Wild Salmon Center, and the Wild Steelhead Coalition (and people from WT and WSC gave presentations), no one from TU, PSA, FFF, or any of the sportfishing-industry groups, and not a single representative of any "mainstream" environmental group. What's up with that?

The whole thing was bad bad news. Our steelhead are in the hands of such a lot of fools, some of them well meaning, most charlatans; I don't know which I think are more dangerous. Everything was about how "we" have to figure out ways to get the ESA to accomodate the "needs" of commercial, tribal, and recreational fishers. Of course lip service was paid to the needs of the wild fish, but when it got down to brass tacks, it was clear that lip service was all it was.

Here's some of the upshot. Resident rainbows and steelhead are the same animal, and they breed with each other regularly where they exist together; so resident rainbows should be counted with steelhead when making listing decisions (expect mid-Columbia, Willamette, Snake River, and possibly other steelehad populations to lose ESA protection). Old-style hatchery programs that use non-local stocks are risky and likely harmful, but they can still be accomodated where they support tibal or "very popular" recreational fisheries. New-style programs that use locally adapted stocks, though unproven, may have fewer risks so they should be just fine. In old-style programs, the percentage of hatchery fish spawning naturally in the wild should not exceed 5%, in new style programs it could be up to 1/3, but it does not appear that anybody will absolutely have to monitor for that (it is expensive you know), or more importantly, do anything about it if they exceed those guidelines. Cyclical ocean conditions can have profound impacts on steelhead productivity, but since they are essentiallly impossible to predict with any accuracy, there is no point in trying to manage escapements or hatchery production to make allowance for those conditions, because that would apply undue risk to stakeholders who want to harvest or play with steelhead. (What if you curtailed fishing, or hatchery production, and then the ocean conditions were better than you thought? Fishers' opportunity would have been restricted unecessarily!) When specifically asked why you shouldn't manage for the worst ocean conditions to minimize the risk and apply the benefit of the doubt to the resource itself, managers didn't seem to understand the question.

I imagine some people will be glad to hear that all the agencies still apparently believe that job one is making sure you get to go fishing wherever and whenever you want. Me, I'm a little worried about that.

On days like this, it's very hard not to want to give up. Maybe I'll take up bass fishing.:beathead


Active Member

I wish you would have put a post up concerning this, but that doesn't even work all the time. Example: We did a clean-up on the yak last weekend, of the hundreds of flyfisherman in the canyon, I believe 12 signed up. Nice report, but apperantly we need to get the word out better. I'm in TU, FFF, And the WSC, and I heard nothing of this. I'm pissed, its no wonder were losing the battle. Seriously. it's like about 10% of flyfishers give a shit, the rest just see it as something to do.

edit: I deleted my first response to Ray because it was negative. This post is pretty negative too, but it's my opinion.


Rob Blomquist

Formerly Tight Loops
Yep, maybe winnowing the exotics is the way for a little sport, and letting the fish recover naturally. If they can. I never thought this state was all that smart in fisheries management, anyway.


Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
Let's not be giving up so soon. I was there for some of that, I met you there; and a few of those participants are pretty enlightened about all you have shared here now. Maybe all this means is that the next time they hold a summit or conference, we need to get involved. I do agree with you that it is a mistake to measure fisheries management succcess by how many fish you can catch or kill.

How would you see the types of groups, and intersted parties you noted above, as participants in these meetings?

Maybe we can find a way to get more involved. Let it begin here, with us. After all; the steelhead belong to the people, all of the people.

Well, I'll admit the post is pretty negative. I'm feeling pretty frustrated. It is a good question and a good point about letting people know. I was was mostly referring to the lack of "professional" advocates present, not so much the general fishing public, although it certainly wouldn't hurt if a few did show up. Of course you're right that they can't show up if they don't know about it, plus it's all very technical and can get kind of tedious, even if you're like me and can kind of half way follow along.

Plus please, never hesitate to respond to any of my posts negatively. It's not like I never have it coming.


I think that activists could be at these conferences to interact with the panelists and presenters along with everyone else. These guys all essentially agree with each other for the most part, so all they get is affirmation that they're on the right track. They need more than a couple crackpots like me challenging their assumptions and raising the uncomfortable points.

And I'm not giving up; I've let myself get too far sucked in for that now. It's just hard not to want to sometimes.

Check your PM box, please.

Bert Kinghorn

Formerly "nextcast"
Next time you need an activist for anything that relates to protecting wild steelhead in particular or anadromous fish in general, PLEASE let me know. I'll be there!


youngish old guy
Hi Ray, I was just curious what your role is in these meetings? Do you go as a concerned citizen, or professionally? Are these scientists or politicians? You don't have to answer if I'm getting too personal.
I'm there as both I guess, but if nobody minds, I think that's as far as I'd like to go with that. The bulk of the attendees are scientists and management/policy personnel, no real politicians or political appointees (which is not to say that politics don't influence the proceedings). The conference, called the West Coast Steelhead Management Conference (I think) is a more or less annual event, designed mostly for management personnel, a "professional development" sort of thing I guess where folks from all over the coast can get together and compare notes. The public is theoretically welcome, and if you want to come for just the daytime sessions, it's free.

Policy isn't exactly made here, but the underlying technical premises of policy are washed out, and it could be an important opportunity for activists (particularly technically competent ones) to make their voices heard BEFORE the policies get codified. And as Bob pointed out (and my nattering negativism notwithstanding), some of these folks are reasonably enlightened, and having some people from the public at their backs could help to give them some spine when they get back to the office.