This upcoming Friday, October 15th, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will consider their updated Rogue – South Coast Multi-Species Conservation and Management Plan (RSP). This plan will manage wild steelhead, coho salmon, and cutthroat trout throughout Oregon’s coast from Cape Blanco to the California border. You may remember a similar story earlier this summer, and the outrage and advocacy that followed. ODFW began considering the draft RSP, which included a controversial and irrational measure: to continue the harvest of wild steelhead in many of Oregon’s river systems. Even if you got involved in that public advocacy effort, it’s essential you get involved again to ensure the long term health of these wild steelhead runs.
This all comes amid a summer where much of the Pacific Northwest experienced some of the worst returns of wild steelhead in history. While the Rogue and Oregon’s Southern Coast enjoy relatively strong runs of wild fish and intact rivers, ODFW has minimal scientific understanding to permit harvest. They don’t have any estimates of wild steelhead, nor estimates of harvest rates or total mortality. Additionally, these rivers see large hatchery steelhead releases, which are available for harvest. There is no need or rational basis to allow the harvest of wild steelhead.
During this summer’s scoping period, the public was crystal clear with their preference. “Nearly 90 percent of the comments submitted called for catch-and-release of all wild steelhead in Southern Oregon rivers.” Well, in response to that overwhelming public support for catch-and-release and opposition to wild harvest, ODFW removed the catch-and-release alternative from the plan. So, the option that carried 90 percent support was removed from consideration.
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Nick Chambers of Wild Steelheaders United has kept close tabs on this issue and the complexities of the RSP. He wrote on a recent Instagram post, “ODFW has done little to nothing to improve data collection on these populations during this time [since 1986]. Why should we trust them to follow through on (currently unfunded) commitments to collect better biological data?”
If you want to learn more about this issue or how to get involved at the upcoming meeting this Friday, check out Native Fish Society’s action page: Stand up for Wild Fish in Southern Oregon. You can submit public comment up until tomorrow morning. You can register to speak at the Friday meeting. You can also, sign on to this petition. Every voice and new advocate can help protect Oregon’s wild steelhead.