STEELHEAD – WDFW’s big scam?

April 29, 2022

In 2021, WDFW formed the AD-Hoc Coastal Steelhead Advisory Group to inform the development of a Coastal Steelhead Proviso Implementation Plan to protect steelhead for each river system of Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay and the coastal Olympic Peninsula, as required by the Washington Legislature in the 2021-23 budget. WDFW will submit the ensuing plan to the Legislature by the end of this year. Taken at face value this might sound like a reasonable and sound approach. However, things aren’t always as they appear – especially when a government bureaucracy is involved.

The Ad-Hoc Committee of 12 is comprised of coastal steelhead guides, research scientists, sports anglers, business owners, conservationists, and others who are committed to coastal steelhead recovery. All hand-picked by WDFW. Surprisingly, my application to serve was rejected. I am sure all the members are sincere and well-intentioned – but have little chance of influencing or effecting any significant, positive outcome….

1. WDFW authored the agenda of items for consideration by the AD-Hoc Group. In summation, it is a document that seems intended to develop support for a plan that includes more biologists, more field officers, more habitat restoration, more money, more money, more money (Nothing new here)!

2. WDFW personnel lead and maintain control of the Ad-Hoc Group meetings, thus significantly minimizing Ad-Hoc Group contribution

3. The WDFW authored agenda excludes any AD-Hoc Group discussion of the infamous 1974 Court ruling that, unfortunately, is the single most dynamic cause of diminishing steelhead returns

Since 1974 Tribes have been entitled to harvest (Kill) more than 50% of projected returning steelhead. Over the years consistently Inflated / inaccurate forecast of returns by State and Tribal biologist may have resulted in numerous annual harvests (kill) of 70 to 80%. Example: The 2021/22 Winter Steelhead sports fishing season was terminated abruptly half-way by WDFW. Their Reason – Actual steelhead returns were 30% below their projections. Unfortunately, this early closure had no impact whatsoever on Tribal harvest (kill).

Failing to address the primary reason for continued diminishing steelhead returns, it certainly appears that the formation of the AD-Hoc Coastal Steelhead Advisory Group is a self-serving proposition by WDFW. I am confident that WDFW views their Legislative mandate as an opportunity to significantly increase their funding, grow the bureaucracy and expand existing, ineffective programs. In other words, “if we just have more money, we can do a better job”. Adding the confirmed support of a citizens advisory group will undoubtedly carry significant weight – and be highly persuasive – to Legislators.

The truth! Absolutely nothing can be done to restore the numbers of steelhead returning to coastal and southwest Washington rivers until the killing stops…! For many rivers, it may, unfortunately, already be too late.

WDFW has posted the names and email addresses of those who are serving on the AD Hoc Coastal Steelhead Advisory Group on their web page. If you have any interest and hope of saving this magnificent and extremely valuable resource, I strongly encourage you take the time to email each Ad Hoc Coastal Steelhead Advisory Group member with this simple message “STOP THE KILLING”!

Paid submission by: Jerry Effenberger, Concerned Citizen