Olympic Peninsula Steelhead being considered for endangered species protections

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has proposed a 90-day finding on a petition to list Olympic Peninsula Steelhead as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act.

In a filing on the Federal Register, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced a 90-day finding on a petition to list Olympic Peninsula (OP) steelhead ( Oncorhynchus mykiss) as a threatened or endangered distinct population segment (DPS) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to designate critical habitat. 

According to the filing, on August 1, 2022, the Secretary of Commerce received a petition from The Conservation Angler and Wild Fish Conservancy (hereafter, the Petitioners) to list the OP Steelhead DPS as threatened or endangered under the ESA. 

Both parties on the petition are based in Washington.

The Petitioners also request the designation of critical habitat concurrent with ESA listing. 

An endangered species is defined under the ESA as “any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”

A threatened species is defined under the ESA as “any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”

Species designated as threatened or endangered are called “listed species.”

Steelhead are listed as threatened or endangered in numerous waterways, but not within the Olympic Peninsula Distinct Population Segment (DPS).

The Olympic Peninsula steelhead are distinct to the region, running from just north of the Grays Harbor waterway to the top of the peninsula. 

In 1996, NMFS completed a comprehensive status review of coastal and inland steelhead populations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California (Busby et al., 1996). As part of this review, NMFS identified an OP steelhead ESU which “occupies river basins of the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, west of the Elwha River and south to, but not including, the rivers that flow into Grays Harbor on the Washington coast.”

The petition states that “WDFW does not sufficiently monitor Olympic Peninsula winter steelhead, and it does not monitor Olympic Peninsula summer steelhead at all” and that data to know how many steelhead are harvested each year is not available, due in part to tribal treaty fishing not maintaining the same documentation as other fisheries.

The petitions also states that “Olympic Peninsula steelhead are at risk of becoming an endangered species within the foreseeable future” and that the “ summer-run component is nearly extinct, and the winter-run component is declining and losing its life history diversity”. 

They claim that due to their decline, Olympic Peninsula steelhead are likely to become endangered and warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. 

According to the agency, they found that the petition presented “substantial scientific and commercial information indicating the listing may be warranted”. 

As part of the process, officials will conduct a status review of OP steelhead to determine whether the listing is warranted, and they are soliciting scientific and commercial information pertaining to the species during a 60-day public comment period to solicit comments and information on OP steelhead.. 

Scientific and commercial information pertinent to the petitioned action must be received by April 11, 2023.

You may submit data and information relevant to our review of the status of Olympic Peninsula Steelhead, identified by “Olympic Peninsula Steelhead Petition (NOAA-NMFS-2022-0137),” by either of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to https://www.regulations.gov and enter NOAA-NMFS-2022-0137 in the Search box. Click the “Comment Now” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
  • Mail or Hand-Delivery: Protected Resources Division, West Coast Region, NMFS, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115. Attn: Laura Koehn.

Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information ( e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter “N/A” in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).

Electronic copies of the petition and other materials are available from the NMFS website at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/​endangered-species-conservation/​candidate-species-under-endangered-species-act.