SVH: Tribes react to steelhead listing

Following Monday’s listing of Puget Sound steelhead as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, the Skagit Valley Herald (subscription required) reported the following:

Swinomish tribal officials said today that the tribe would likely cut back on its already limited take of steelhead.

“The listing of steelhead as threatened is one more indicator that now is the time to act to save our anadromous fish” said tribal Chairman Brian Cladoosby.

Steelhead sport fishing is already limited. On the Skagit and other nearby rivers, wild steelhead can’t be kept at all, and anglers are limited to two hatchery fish a day.

Scott Schuyler, the policy representative for the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, said fishing may be a single factor, but it’s not the dominant factor. The fact that chinook have not rebounded since tribes stopped fishing for them in the late 1980s shows that environmental factors are having a major impact, he said.

The winter-run steelhead were historically an important food for the Upper Skagit, getting the tribe through the winter months. The fish continues to provide subsistence to the tribe, although Schuyler acknowledges the fish is also caught for commercial sales.

The tribe also catches some wild steelhead, which sport anglers aren’t allowed to do. The tribe does it because hatchery steelhead only return between late November and late January, while wild steelhead sustain the fishery through the rest of the winter, Schuyler said.

Schuyler said his tribe plans to work with the federal and state governments to make sure there are still steelhead for Collen and others like him to catch.

“The Upper Skagit has always supported the recreational fishery on steelhead,” he said.