Wild Steelhead Protection Initiative

TCA’s Wild Steelhead Protection Initiative is comprised of region-specific projects on wild steelhead rivers on the Olympic Peninsula, in Puget Sound, and throughout the Columbia and Snake Basin will increase our knowledge about current status and spur action to protect future health and productivity.


Wild Steelhead Protection Initiative Projects


Hoh River Population and Life History Research Project


TCA co-founded and help fund a long-term cooperative agreement with WDFW to monitor wild steelhead population abundance and life history trends.  Volunteer anglers collect biological data from steelhead they catch. Sampling provides a few additional minutes to enjoy the fish before it is released to the river. These data tell us about the size and age of steelhead caught in different parts of the river.  In cooperation with WDFW, sonar installations have been installed to count fish returning to the watershed.


Puget Sound Wild Steelhead Genetic Management Plan Designation


TCA works with a coalition of conservation and fishing organizations to ensure that WDFW follows sound scientific principles as it designates watersheds in Puget Sound as genetic management zones throughout Puget Sound. Current wild steelhead populations are at less than 3% of historic abundance, and while habitat is far from pristine, poor harvest and hatchery management have prevented wild stocks from rebounding.


Columbia River Fishery Reform Project


The TCA is tackling the twin towers of harvest and hatchery management in the Columbia River - formerly the largest producer of wild salmon on the planet. Harvest regimes are driving down wild populations of steelhead and spring chinook.  Illegal and unaccounted-for harvest in commercial, recreational and tribal harvest is reported but not addressed.  These losses prevent recovery.  Hatchery practices, driven by production requirements and not conservation objectives, are depressing the wild runs further, while sucking up huge amounts of public funding that was meant to mitigate for the loss of natural production but is instead spent on production hatcheries - a failing promise from decision-makers that they would make up for the loss of wild fish in wild rivers throughout Oregon, Idaho and Washington.


Steelhead-Safe Select and Sustainable Harvest Project


Wild steelhead have been treated as a “game” species in most Pacific Northwest States and in Canadian Provinces.  This has protected them somewhat from intense direct, non select harvest.  However wild steelhead are harvested in tribal select and nonselective fisheries, Also, there is mortality in the sport fishery despite requirements for safe release, and wild steelhead are caught in salmon fisheries throughout the Pacific Northwest and are typically discarded as bycatch.  TCA is working to protect wild steelhead from poorly managed fisheries and marketing that confuses consumers and puts at-risk wild steelhead on the ice.



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