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Washington Trout: Preserve, Protect, Restore
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PRESS RELEASE

WASHINGTON TROUT; NATIVE FISH SOCIETY

PO Box 402 Duvall, WA 98019 · Tel 425/788-1167 · Fax 425/788-9634 · wildfish@washingtontrout.org

 

Contact: Ramon Vanden Brulle, Washington Trout, 425/788-1167; ramon@washingtontrout.org;

Bill Bakke, NFS, 503/977-0287; bmbakke@teleport.com

 

For Immediate Release: May 13, 2003

Agreement Expands Public Opportunity to Comment on State Hatchery Plans

Seattle – Washington Trout, the Native Fish Society, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have reached an agreement to settle lawsuits brought by the two environmental groups over WDFW’s Puget Sound salmon hatchery operations. The agreement creates a new, expanded public-involvement process that will enhancecitizen opportunity to help shape hatchery management practices in Washington.

 

Under the terms of the agreement, WDFW will make hatchery management plans available for public comment before the department submits those plans to federal fisheries managers for approval under the Endangered Species Act. The documents, known as Hatchery Genetic Management Plans, must beprepared by WDFW to meet federal ESA obligations. The HGMPs have been due since January 2001.

 

The department submitted HGMPs for its Puget Sound hatcheries in late 2002 and earlier this year, and is in the process of preparing others for submission to NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency charged with enforcing ESA rules for listed salmon and steelhead populations.

 

Typically, NOAA Fisheries would seek public review and comment on HGMPs during its own review and approval process. Under the terms of the settlement, WDFW will solicit public input on the hatchery plans prior to NOAA Fisheries’ review. This agreement will expand the public’s opportunity to become meaningfully involved in the state and federal managers’ decision-making processes.

 

In exchange, the Native Fish Society and Washington Trout have agreed to drop lawsuits against WDFW, which alleged that releases of hatchery-bred chinook, coho and steelhead were hampering wild chinook recovery efforts in Puget Sound.  The agreement terms also included reimbursement of the plaintiffs’ legal expenses.

 

Washington Trout and Native Fish Society charged that WDFW’s Puget Sound hatchery operations were harming and killing wild chinook in a number of ways, through competition for food and habitat, displacement, predation, and harmful genetic interactions. During negotiations with WDFW, WT proposed the comment and response process as a way to make hatchery management more transparent, engage the public, and influence improvements in current hatchery practices.

 

“We still believe hatchery practices in Puget Sound are causing significant harm to listed species,” said Kurt Beardslee, WT Executive Director. “But we do now hope that the department will be open to improving their management practices, and we believe this agreement and new public process can move that effort forward.”

 

NOAA Fisheries requires HGMPs for any hatchery operation with the potential to impact a listed salmon or steelhead population. Washington state has 13 salmon and steelhead populations with federal ESA protection. Many HGMPs are still overdue the January 2001 deadline.

 

Under the agreement, WDFW will publish the text of the Puget Sound HGMPs in the State Register and on its website, solicit public comment for the following 30 days, issue substantive responses to the public comments, and submit the comments and responses to NOAA Fisheries. The responses and comments will be posted on WDFW’s website for public review.

 

The settlement also sets a schedule for the completion and submission of most of the HGMPs that are still outstanding. Of the roughly 85 outstanding salmon and steelhead HGMPs, half will be submitted within 18 months, and the remainder will be submitted to NOAA Fisheries within 30 months.

 

WDFW will also solicit public comment on these additional HGMPs as they are completed, and forward any comments to NOAA Fisheries with the department’s response.

 

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