PS steelhead may be listed


If this goes down, what are the impacts on CnR fisheries?

The state and the tribes (harvest) are to blame here. Some may mention "other factors," and I agree that habitat degradation, affected stream hydrodynamics, skyrocketing population, etc, etc, are at play here. But our "stewards" at WDFW have done little more than pull their thumbs out once in awhile to smell their own BS.




Active Member
First let me say that I do not disagree that the Puget Sound wild steelhead numbers have declined and that low abundance is cause for grave concern. Let's be clear that in 1996 the feds determined that Puget Sound steelhead did not warrent listing. The question then becomes have the condition of the wild steelhead in the Puget Sound ESU changed enough to review that status determination - the feds said yes. The next question should they be listed which is larger and more detailed question. Factors including the current population abundances will go into that determination. We can discuss those factors that Sam Wright did a very good job of identify later if folks wish.

Tom -
I guess I can understand where you are coming from but let's look at what the likely result of listing will be and what that may have on the take of the resource. If NOAA fisheries determines to list the wild steelhead of the Puget Sound I find it hard to believe they will be listed as anything other than "threatened". Under a ESA threatened status what we have seen in other areas upper limits on the take under incidental impacts at 10% (I believe that is the impact cap on the lower Columbia winter steelhead -Ray that is the answer to that question we were discussing on PP). With other species that limit of impacts have varied by species and river system. For the Skagit summer/fall chinook allowable ESA take impacts is limited to 50%.

In recent years with possible exception of the Skagit I don't think there is any steelhead population in the ESA have had a incidental and/or directed take that approaches 10%. Therefore I don't we'll much change in the fishing impacts on the stocks of concern from the listing. One thing that may change is that NOAA has long considered it's treaty trust responsbility to be on parr with its ESA responsbility. As a result like with the upper Columbia the majority of the allowable ESA limited impacts may well be reserved for the treaty tribes to access hatchery steelhead and other salmonids.

O mykiss -
With a listing I don't see any improvement in the badly needed habtiat arena that we currently have or may see. The major reason first and foremost is that virtually all the critcial habitat needed for steelhead is covered under the listings of Puget Sound Chinook and bull trout. This is doubly so with the recent backing off of critical habitat protection by the current federal adminstration.

In a more perfect world one would hope that a listing would result in both the protection that you both expect. However I'm learning that we live in a world that is far from perfect.

With hatchery programs continuing throughout the state in spite of ESA listings I would not expect to see many changes in various steelhead hatchery programs either.

A listing may address two past management errors -
1) Increased protection of the resident rainbow portion of the O mykiss complex would be helpful - especially in this period of low marine survival.

2) As part of the recovery planning progress I would also expect to see some evaluation and probable changes in escapement goals for Puget Sound wild steelhead.

In short a listing of Puget Sound steelhead will result in another layer of bureaucracy and an extremely intensive and drawn out recovery planning process. While ESA planning has become a growth industry in this State I'm not sure many would welcome that additional work load and budget drains. Especially given the likely small pay-off in benefits.

Hopefully I'm unduly pessimistic and things will work out for the better but my experience with chinook and bull trout don't leave me hopefull.

Tight lines
S malma
But! An ESA listing would also mean, at least for a short time, an opportunity to put a bullhorn on this issue.

An inroad for media access! Hope of putting a blip on the radar of public consciousness!

If only for that opportunity, I'm hopeful...


Active Member
Bob Triggs said:
I really do believe that the day has come that we have to make a choice for "fishing", or for the fish. But we cant have both anymore. We are at the point where we will have an outright moratorium on fishing. They waited too long.
Smalma, I am not at all happy to see another layer of government having to be brought to bear on our fisheries. However, the state has failed to do their job. I am pointing a finger at the politicians, not WDFW as their hands are tied by political decisions.

A new paradyme is needed. If California can get runs of salmon and steelhead back then so can Washington. I am not buying the old whipping boys, ocean conditions and habitat degredation as the primary problems. Concerns yes, but harvest management is the big issue. Gill nets in all their forms need to go away. This is the only state in the lower 48 that still allow them. Where this form of fishing has been eliminated fish have returned. True, other things were done to help the fishery, but gill nets are bad news. Perhaps the state needs to buy out some of the commercial licenses or renegotiate some treaties. Maybe the state needs to change its basic goals of sustaining a commercial harvest to that of maximizing run size.

The ball has been in the states hands and as far as I am concerned it has been dropped. To reiterate, I don't like the idea of the feds coming in to do what the state should be doing. But if something isn't changed quickly this entire issue is going to be mute. The steelhead will be gone.



Active Member
Dave -
Guess I don't share your optimism that the Feds will address the problems any better than they have been in the past.

With a listing if NOAA follows the template used with Puget Sound Chinook the feds will not be writting the recovery plan, rather it will be written by local folks; likley the co-managers (tribes and WDFW) and various entities in the various basins. In the chinook example the harvest portion was written by the co-managers and approved by the feds. Why not skip the middle man and work directly with the co-managers. As you probably know a new steelhead management plan is being developed in what will be a public process with chances for your input - believe that process will be less torturous and less time consuming that ESA recovery planning. The Puget Sound chinook recovery planning process is still not completed and it is in its 6th year. Maybe someone sitting inon the State's steelhead advisory group could update us on the progress of that effort.

You mentioned gill nets - I understand your concerns however I doubt that an ESA listing of Puget Sound steelhead will have any impact on the use of gill nets. Steelhead and chinook have been ESA listed in the Columbia River system for years now (and in some cases as endanagered rather than threatened) and those fish are still dying in gill nets. In fact in the last week both died in the Columbia River spring chinook commerical fishery. By the way I believe that a fair portion of that commerical gill fleet is based in Oregon; it maybe that other states allow gill net fishing.

In an earlier posting I mentioned that the NOAA fisheries considers their Treaty Trust responsibility on nearly equal parr with ESA. The third leg of their management hierachy is the Magnuson sustainable fisheries act (and it is not talking about recreational fisheries). That act was named after and sponsored by Washington's own senator. You may wish to do a little goggle searching, put make sure that your blood pressure is under control.

Tight lines
S malma


Active Member
Choose between a casino or fishing rights, but not both. They argued in Boldt they ( the Indians) needed the fishing rights for economic stability-- well not anymore.

Matt Burke

Active Member
There is so much passion about these issues in our community, but beyond the walls of this cyber hall people don’t give a crap. You may say there will be more media play on this, but look at how it came up on the local broadcast channels, a 10 second spot near the end of each 30 minute segment. 95% of the population would rather hear about rising gas prices, domestic violence that results in a six car pile up, children who die while under the watchful eye of CPS, the insertion or removal of feeding tubes in people who will die eventually, etc. It’s a world of people chanting, “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry” and the last thing on their minds are a few diminishing fish.

Even if we were to coordinate some kind of social upheaval that could rival the news about Iraq, new elections for governor or George W’s latest crazy notion, it still wouldn’t help our fish. Nobody cares.


Banned or Parked
I've got to agree with Matt. The general public doesn't give a crap about fish. Whales and dolphins are cute, so those get plenty of attention, but fish are seen as food, end of story. I've had to give a few lectures to friends and coworkers when they see photos of me with fish species they haven't seen before and the first thing out of their mouth is "Are those good to eat?".
Smalma is right that it is likely (IF PS steelhead do wind up listed) the feds will pass off most of the responsibility for writing the various management, conservation ,and recovery plans to the state and tribes. So why not just let the co-managers get on with their jobs without all the extra red tape and expense?

Well for one thing that extra red tape is actually authority; NOAA would set up, monitor, and direct the development of the plans, and ultimately approve or reject those plans. The state will have somebody checking their work, something apparently sorely needed; they have patently failed to meet their responsibility to conserve this resource. For another, the co-managers would not have the option of voluntary compliance with their own plans. In 1997, the state adopted a very good Wild Salmonid Policy. It is generally honored more in the breach than the observance. If it dept had ever bothered to enforce or follow all the provisions of the WSP, including the inconvenient ones, maybe we wouldn't be here. Complaince with provisions of the ESA is mandatory and enforcable.

Smalma has a point when he notes that so far the feds have not effected very much change in the management of populations that have been listed. But it seems to me that one way to look at that is that the federal agencies are no less feckless in the face of political and economic pressures than the state agencies. The difference under the ESA is that citizens have the right and the power to actually enforce the law themselves through the courts, if the federal agencies won't step up. Unfortunately, that may be what it will take; at least the ESA affords that option.

Will listing help? Who knows? I'll admit the chances are probably slim. But I do know for sure that I don't want the status quo to stand. The state has failed, shows no inclination toward change, and it seems to me their way leads to certain extinction.

Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
Fault, Blame, Responsibility...

We are all in the same boat here; we are all responsible for how this is and how it goes. If the Federal Government's involvement in management here means that the State of Washington will get the oversight and direction it needs to move toward really recovering these wild runs of fish, then I am all for it. But the attitude of holding onto Maximum Sustained Harvest, as a model of wild fish conservation, is probably a major factor in what got us here.

Smalma, You mentioned "Oregon"..."The Columbia River"...and something about "Oregon allowing gill-netting".

Didn't the Director of the Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife call for an increase in wild steelhead harvest on the Columbia River? And wasnt it Oregon, a partner in Columbia River fish management, who recently declined to agree with WDFW on an increase in wild steelhead harvest on the Columbia River system?

Is this some kind of cheap-shot at Oregon? Sour grapes?

WDFW: Stop Killing The Wild Fish!! :mad:

Matt Burke

Active Member
I would liken the WDFW's efforts to a thoroughbred running the Emerald Downs with it’s back legs hobbled by state bureaucratic BS. With an ESA listing they will cut off their legs, walk up and touch them and say, “Tag, your it!” Worst case scenario, they get listed and a plan of action will be taken in 5 to 10 years, but by then all the rivers will be closed down like the Thompson in B.C. Best case, the feds say to Gregoire, “Look, this works in Oregon and Cali now pull your head out and make it work here or we will mobilize the first infantry division and insert feeding tubes into everyone in Olympia.”


Active Member
Bob -
Not sour grapes at all; I applaud the Oregon folks!

Dave had stated: "Gill nets in all their forms need to go away. This is the only state in the lower 48 that still allow them." I was merely pointing out that it appears to me that there is a active gill net fishery going on in Oregon and the last I checked they have not been annexed to Washington yet.

So much of what hears and reads in these sort of discussion have to fall into the category of "urban legends".

While I agree that there has been little change in the status quo in the habitat arena (in fact the quality of the steelhead's habitat continues to decline) there have been changes (improvements?) in both harvest management and hatchery practices over the last couple decades.

Tight lines
S malma
Smalma I have read the act about the commercial harvest and it needs to go away! This is a devastating policy and out dated. The state should do something about changing its focus and shifting priorities. If it is a money issue for the state then the sport harvest and C&R should become the priority as the sport caught fish generates more than 10 times the revenue for the state than a commercial caught fish.

You seem to take a stand that the state is doing a wonderful job and all is well. You come back to the habitat issue but why aren't there enough fish coming up river to spawn to utilize the spawning grounds available?

Well something is big time wrong! Something better change!

So what are your ideas on recovery?

I will tell you mine. I have stated this before. Close down 20% of the rivers for 6 years. Open them back up and close down another 20% and so on and then continue to do this forever! Shift the emphasis from commercial to sport fishing with a heavy dose of C&R. Reduce the numbers of hatchery fish and supplement the wild runs.

Like I have said over and over, it is a crime that the state isn't doing its job and the Feds have to be called in to do what the state refuses to do!


Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
Oh, my mistake. So...are those "changes (improvements)" you are talking about the reason that we are now seeing so many healthy runs of wild steelhead and salmon around here?