Monday, February 25, 2013

Seattle Magazine Article Incites Steelhead Advocates, Restaurant Pulls Fish from Menu

Seattle Magazine Article Incites Steelhead Advocates, Restaurant Pulls Fish from Menu
Submitted by Colin K. Breck
Article Link from our Friends at Hatch

An article published in Seattle "lifestyle magazine", SeattleMet, has caused one of the city's heralded eateries to pull wild steelhead from its menu. In fact, Hitchcock chef Brian McGill has decided to stop serving the fish altogether, much to the appreciation of many of the wild steelhead advocates that spoke out in defense of Washington's troubled steelhead population.
Near the mouth of the Hoh River on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. The SeattleMet author, Allicia Vermillion, took a provocative swipe at anglers and conservationists, writing that "... putting steelhead on the menu can incite letters, or even protests, from people who fish as a hobby. To sport anglers, the pursuit of the steelhead is the fly-fishing equivalent of pitching a perfect baseball game while simultaneously having a religious experience. In other words, subjecting this rare and beautiful creature to commonplace harvesting and cooking is like carving up a 20-point buck to make venison burgers."

The article goes on to paint a misleading picture of strict management, healthy populations and sustainable harvests. It illustrates this process by tracing one fish from its eventual place on someone's dinner plate at Bainbridge Island's Hitchcock on through the selective, inaccessible and colorful surfer turned fish buyer, Peter Onkst and back to the steely fisherman, Michael Sampson, who pulls the fish of interest from the icy waters of the Hoh River, as one of 6 steelhead hauled in that day.

Once word spread, it wasn't long before wild steelhead advocates voiced their mind both on SeattleMet's web site and others around the web. The message? Harvesting Washington wild steelhead is unacceptable and unsustainable. Well known Seattle fisherman and guide, Dave McCoy, noted "the numbers of wild/native steelhead returning to this state are somewhere between 2%-5% (being generous here on the high end) of historical returns. To write up a story in a fashion that makes 4,000 fish seem like a lot, that that number is sustainable and that it is OK to look for these fish on your favorite restaurants menu is socially irresponsible. Clearly some of the people you may have spoken with are not of the position that believe these fish are in as dire a situation as they really are."

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