Pacific Northwest
via Puyallup Tribe of Indians

WA - Puyallup Tribe Eyes Lawsuit Over River Pollution and Declining Fish

Critics say a 116-year-old dam on the Puyallup River is a threat to already vulnerable fish populations.

Fishing for steelhead trout along the Puyallup River has been a time-honored tradition. Russ Ladley, who works in the Puyallup Tribe of Indians’ fisheries department as a resource protection manager, says it‘s been a significant sport for the tribal fishery, too.  

But nobody has harvested steelhead trout on the river for 20 years.

"Typically, your first response from management is to stop fishing to allow their recovery,” Ladley says. “Well, we stopped fishing for 20 years, yet they have not recovered.”

While Native and non-Native people alike once fished for steelhead in the river, this decline has been of particular concern to the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. The tribe has long relied on the river’s fish for more than recreation; for its members, fishing is also a cornerstone of culture and subsistence.

“That’s aside from economic interests as well, for the sale of fish,” says Ladley. “The tribe has sacrificed a lot of fishing opportunities in the name of recovery and restoration. It’s a big impact.”

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