Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Wild Steelhead - It's What's for Dinner

It recently came to my attention that Key City Fish Company of Port Townsend, Washington is a distributor of wild steelhead to area restaurants.
I emailed them and here is the exchange I had with them

I wrote -

It has come to my attention that you distribute and sell ESA listed wild steelhead to various Seattle restaurants.I would please implore you to stop and do not purchase these endangered fish any longer.
Wild steelhead are a very precious resource in this region and we cannot afford to let their numbers slip any further.
Once they are gone they are gone forever...there is no replacement for them in our rivers and in our rivers is where they belong not on someone dinner plate.
Please consider not selling them anymore.

Key City's Response -

Thank you for your concern regarding the Olympic Peninsula Steelhead. We agree with your position that distributing unsustainable, endangered and threatened fish is not a good idea.
The Olympic Peninsula Steelhead that we purchase is always from the sustainably managed Quileute tribal fishery on the Quileute River or the Makah tribal fishery on the Tsooees River. The Steelhead is a combination of both hatchery and wild stock that has spawned naturally. The Quileute and Makah Tribes are closely partnered with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to effectively, and aggressively manage these fisheries so that they remain healthy and robust for generations to come. The state and tribes actively work with citizens to catalogue details about habitat and map fish stock distributions. I can assure you that everyone involved, from tribe to state to distributor and restaurant has a vested interest in the preservation of this fish.
It is true that many Wild Steelhead populations are indeed endangered or threatened and should absolutely be completely avoided, such as those on the California Coast, Oregon Coast, Snake River, and Puget Sound. However, the Olympic Peninsula Steelhead population is healthy, robust and absolutely not threatened. For confirmation of this please visit NOAA’s website at:
We are aware that there is considerable conflict between sport and commercial fishermen regarding the regulation of steelhead fishing and we understand the frustrations of both sides. We want to stress, though, that our interest in this fish is primarily as a fantastic food. The Olympic Peninsula Steelhead we deliver is sustainably and legally caught according to the regulations set forth by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife and is not endangered or threatened according to NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. If these official assessments were to change we would indeed adjust our use of this product.
Best Regards,
Johnpaul Davies
Key City Fish Company

So okay they don't care but we do! I urge anyone who thinks the conservation of wild steelhead is pretty important and that Key City Fish Company is wrong to write this company and express your unhappiness about their business practices and their commitment to wild steelhead.
You can also write to companies that get fish from Key City and make them aware of what is going on.
Here is the response from a restaurant that got fish from Key City  Ray's Boathouse Restaurant in Seattle

Thank you for your feedback. We are no longer serving Steelhead. We will continue to work hard to find truly sustainable sources for our products and appreciate your comments at any time. Thank you for your time and passion on this very important issue.

Peter Birk, Executive Chef
Ray’s Boathouse, Café & Catering
6049 Seaview Avenue NW
Seattle, WA 98107

Obviously Ray's think wild steelhead are pretty important and that putting them on the menu is wrong.....Thank You Ray!

Reaching out to businesses like Key City and Ray's does make a difference. Maybe Key City will change their minds about serving wild steelhead if they get enough emails and calls to quit serving them.


  1. Great work, Shane.

    I think the best chance for success in this is getting Monterey Bay Aquarium to list steelhead on their Seafood Watch list. They can be reached at

    Osprey also put together some data on Quillayute escapement.

    Pretty grim.

    Seems like an action alert/petition to Monterey Bay and Key City may be in order...


  2. He's right, these stocks are not ESA listed. They ARE however, poorly managed, and are dwindling in numbers year after year. The tribes are attempting to use our rivers as fish farms rather than wild fish habitat, replacing native fish with hatchery fish. This is their definition of "sustainable." Net all the fish coming back, then just pump more concrete tank zombies in to keep them coming back.

    There's also no accountability in tribal forecast numbers or harvest numbers. They can get away with overharvesting because there's no enforcement watching over them.