WDFW releases plan for protecting Grays Harbor/Willapa Bay/coastal Olympic Peninsula steelhead
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) released its finalized Coastal Steelhead Proviso Implementation Plan.
The plan intends to advance steelhead fishery management in the river systems of Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay, and the coastal Olympic Peninsula.
The plan was developed in response to the Legislature’s 2021-23 budget proviso following declines in coastal steelhead population viability and associated reductions in angling opportunities.
“The plan provides a path for implementing key strategies and policies to manage these populations, including an adaptive management approach that will, if funded, provide sustainable angling opportunities and protect coastal steelhead in the long-term,” said Kelly Cunningham, WDFW fish program director.
The plan includes guidelines and information about recreational fishery regulations, monitoring and evaluation, hatchery operations, habitat restoration, and economic vitality at coastwide and river-specific scales.
It also provides budget projections needed for successful implementation, identifies critical research to advancing management, and details communications tactics to enhance public awareness about coastal steelhead management.
WDFW’s Ad-Hoc Coastal Steelhead Advisory Group was actively involved in all stages of the plan development process. WDFW also fine-tuned elements of the plan in response to public input received through an online public comment portal throughout 2022 and a public comment period the Department held this fall following the release of the draft plan.
To reference the Coastal Steelhead Proviso Implementation Plan, visit WDFW’s website.
Pending funding from the Legislature, WDFW anticipates plan implementation will begin with the 2023-2024 coastal steelhead season.
Future steps include the development of Regional Management Plans, which would include long-term coastal steelhead conservation objectives, an approach for evaluating fishery management strategies, and mechanisms for monitoring, among other elements, in collaboration with tribal co-managers.
WDFW continues to operate under its Statewide Steelhead Management Plan, which requires the Department to prioritize the sustainability of wild coastal steelhead runs by focusing on healthy levels of abundance, productivity, diversity, and distribution.
The Coastal Steelhead Proviso Implementation Plan also aligns with the Department’s Anadromous Salmon and Steelhead Hatchery Policy and Joint Co-manager Hatchery Policy, should it be approved by the Commission.