The public’s input is being sought on the selection of at least three Puget Sound rivers where hatchery steelhead would not be released. The wild steelhead management zones would be an additional effort by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to conserve wild fish.
The department plans to designate at least one wild steelhead management zone or “gene bank” in each of three Puget Sound regions: Hood Canal and Strait of Juan de Fuca; Central and South Puget Sound; and North Puget Sound (North Cascades rivers).
Studies have shown that hatchery-raised steelhead can compete with wild steelhead, and that interbreeding can reduce survival rates for wild steelhead, Jim Scott, director of the fish program, said in a news release.
“We’re seeking public input on which rivers within each region should be selected for establishing a wild steelhead gene bank,” Scott said in the release.
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Gene banks are just one of multiple management strategies identified by the department's Statewide Steelhead Management Plan, adopted in 2008. Last year, the department designated three tributaries of the lower Columbia River as wild steelhead gene banks.
The department also is hosting three public meetings to discuss the proposal and take public comments. Each meeting will be held from 6-9 p.m. on:
July 21: Phinney Center, Room 7, 6532 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle.
July 27: Skagit PUD, 1415 Freeway Dr., Mount Vernon.
July 28: Trinity Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., Sequim.
Department managers expect to make a decision later this year after reviewing public comments and discussing the proposals with tribal co-managers.
More information is available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/steelhead/gene_bank, where a comment form can be found. Comments provided at public meetings or through the online form by Aug. 13 will be used by department staffers to identify the wild steelhead management zones.