(CN) — The U.S. Department of Commerce has accepted a petition to consider listing the Olympic Peninsula steelhead as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
The petition was filed by two groups, the Conservation Angler and Wild Fish Conservancy, in August 2022.
“The fate of the species now rests on a depressed and contracted mid-to-late-spring component of wild fish whose productivity is limited or declining depending on the population," the groups wrote in their petition. "The remnants of these runs that historically numbered in the tens of thousands face declining freshwater and marine habitat conditions, increasing recreational fishing pressure, and ongoing commercial harvest. Because of these and other demographic and ecological threats, Olympic Peninsula steelhead are likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.”
After a preliminary 90-day review, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA found there to be "substantial scientific or commercial information indicating the subject species may be either threatened or endangered." NOAA will now conduct a 12-month "deep dive" review of the evidence.
The 3,600-square-mile Olympic peninsula sits at the very northwest tip of the U.S., just west of Seattle, across Puget Sound. In 1996, the National Marine Fisheries Service concluded that the Olympic peninsula steelhead "was not in danger of extinction or likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future," though it was "concerned about the overall health" of the species.
But according to a 2022 review by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the number of Olympic peninsula steelhead dropped from more than 60,000 in 2004 to a record low of 25,723 during its 2020-21 run, though its numbers have rebounded a bit since then. The department is forecasting just over 30,000 steelhead for this year.
In their petition, the two groups stated that logging in the area has reduced habitat cover and increased sedimentation and landslides. They also worked that the steelhead would not be able to “keep pace” with environmental factors associated with climate change.
Angler's Guide Service calls the steelhead "the crown jewel of the Olympic Peninsula with [their] awesome size and power."
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.