12/11/2015 – J. W. Snyder – Northwest Fishing News
Today the Wild Steelhead Coalition announced victory due to recent rule changes that affect the Olympic Peninsula’s wild steelhead sport fishery. This victory comes as a results of a three year assault directed at forcing the Washington Department of Fishing and Wildlife to change sport fishing rules in regards to the fishing for wild steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula.
After a slew of legal actions set forth by conservation groups in 2014 the Wild Steelhead Conservancy organization won a law suit against the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The suit alleged that the state had violated the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a result of the chambers creek hatchery programs detrimental effect on wild steelhead populations.
After the Wild Steehead Conservancy organization had won it’s case, several other conservation groups such as the Wild Steelhead Coalition followed suit.
On December 8th 2015 five conservation activist groups, led by Wild Fish Conservancy, and four others such as The Conservation Angler, International Federation of Fly Fishers, Steelhead Committee, Washington Fly Fishing Club, and Wild Steelhead Coalition issued a 60-day Notice of Intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for violation of section 4(f) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for failing to complete and implement a recovery plan for Puget Sound steelhead.
With activist groups spearheading movements such as this the state is looking to capitulate and have succumbed to their demands in hopes of stifling further litigation.
Prior to this rule change, the Olympic Peninsula was one of the only regions in the state of Washington where wild steelhead retention was allowed. Although very few elected to do so, anglers could legally retain one wild steelhead per year on select rivers. In most cases those anglers who did catch wild steelhead on the OP, would release them as not to threatened wild steelhead populations.
The reality is that these fish were not being harvested by the sport fishing community and there is no hard data that proves sport anglers had a detrimental effect on Wild steelhead populations.
While the Wild Salmon Coalition so proudly claims victory for wild steelhead, the real threat to the species continues. With tribal gill netting taking place on these rivers, these new rules are in effect meaningless.
This brings into question as to why the Wild Steelhead Coalition would claim victory over something so insignificant when Wild Steelhead populations are still at grave risk. The real victory is that the Wild Steelhead Coalition as well as other activist groups, now have greater control over lawmakers and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.