Washington, D.C. – Idaho’s congressional delegation announced today that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued Idaho an incidental take permit for steelhead fishing, providing reliability to Idaho’s outfitters and guides for the upcoming season and to the local communities that rely on the commerce steelhead fishing generates. After working to resolve the issue for months, U.S. Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and U.S. Representatives Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher applauded the news.
“Steelhead fishing is a cherished pastime among Idahoans and a critical economic driver in small communities,” said Senator Risch. “We have been working closely with NOAA to ensure that steelhead fishing is protected, and I am pleased that sportsmen, outfitters and guides and the communities that rely on them will have predictability going into the future.”
“I welcome the announcement that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has completed its review and approved Idaho’s Fishery Evaluation and Management Plan (FEMP) and associated incidental take permit,” said Senator Crapo. “Sport fishing is culturally and economically important to families and communities all across Idaho and today’s announcement is welcome news to thousands of Idahoans. We must acknowledge the hard work on the part of fishermen and women, outfitters and guides, the conservation community, and local, state and federal governments that achieved sensible compromises that resulted in today’s decision.”
“This is great news for anglers and many rural communities in Idaho,” said Congressman Mike Simpson. “I am extremely pleased that NOAA was able to put the long hours in to complete their work. This allows Idaho Fish and Game the certainty they need to open steelhead fishing and Idahoans should look forward to a successful season that supports our local economy.”
“Many rural communities in Idaho’s First District rely heavily on the economy created by steelhead fishing,” said Congressman Fulcher. “I am extremely pleased to hear that the steelhead fishing season has been reopened and appreciate the swift actions of NOAA and Idaho Fish and Game to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.”
Idaho submitted the application and plan for a new incidental take permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in 2010, prior to the previous permit’s expiration date. Due to a backlog at NOAA, the State was not issued a new permit in time and was instead operating under the submitted Fishery Management and Evaluation Plan (FMEP) while communicating with NOAA. In November 2018, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission voted to suspend the steelhead season due to threat of lawsuit for operating without a permit. The suspension went into effect following fishing hours on December 7th, but an agreement was reached to reopen the season with limitations while an updated permit could be processed. The Idaho congressional delegation sent a letter to West Coast Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, Barry Thom, on December 7, 2018 requesting the permit be prioritized immediately. In the wake of the shutdown, Idaho’s leaders engaged in multiple conversations urging NOAA to complete the permit quickly despite delays, especially before the temporary settlement agreement expires. Today, thanks to NOAA and Idaho Fish and Game’s hard work and prioritization of this important issue, the permit was reissued.