Wild Fish Conservancy delivered a 60-day notice of intent to sue over violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) resulting from ongoing operation of the State’s hatchery summer-run steelhead program in Puget Sound. The letter explains the hatchery program uses the non-native Skamania hatchery steelhead stock, which the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has recognized as a threat to the survival and recovery of ESA-listed Puget Sound steelhead Distinct Population Segment (DPS). Moreover, this program is being conducted without the necessary ESA approval of operational plans for each hatchery facility (known as Hatchery Genetic Management Plans) from NMFS.


This letter provides notice of Wild Fish Conservancy’s (“Conservancy”) intent to sue the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Director Kelly Susewind, in his official capacity as the Director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Commissioners Larry Carpenter, Barbara Baker, Bradley Smith, David Graybill, Jay Holzmiller, Kim Thorburn, Robert Kehoe, and Donald McIsaac, in their official capacities as Commissioners of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission (collectively, “WDFW”) for violations of section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), 16 U.S.C. § 1538, associated with WDFW’s implementation of hatchery programs in the Puget Sound region that use the stock commonly referred to as Skamania Hatchery steelhead. This letter is
provided pursuant to section 11(g) of the ESA, 16 U.S.C. § 1540(g).

In 1969, wild steelhead were declared Washington’s official “state fish.” Despite that recognition, wild steelhead populations have been depressed for some time and remain diminished. Wild Puget Sound steelhead have declined precipitously over the past thirty years: the average region-wide abundance between 1980 and 2004 was less than 4% of what it was in 1900. Since being listed as threatened under the ESA in 2007, Puget Sound wild steelhead abundance has continued to decline. The recent five-year average is less than 3% of what it was in 1900.
In the most recent 5-Year Review of the status of Puget Sound Steelhead, the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) concluded that “[g]enetically diverged and/or exogenous Skamania and Chambers creek stocks pose threats to natural origin steelhead population viability.” The WDFW summer steelhead hatchery programs that use fish derived from Skamania Hatchery stock are the sole subject of this notice letter and, contrary to aiding recovery, these programs harm wild steelhead and suppress their recovery.”

Download and read the full letter below.

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