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Steelhead NOT coming soon!

December 3rd, 2008 · 55 Comments · Uncategorized

From my buddy Jim Chambers of PrimeSeafood…upcoming seasonal selection Steelhead.  I’ve served this for many years in different recipes.  Taste wise, think of a Salmon and a Trout coming together, texture wise pretty similar as well.  Buttery mild flavor

with light flakes, and a BEAUTIFUL skin.

Here is an upcoming article going into the Washington Post food section…before it hits the streets.

Here’s the Wikipedia Link too!


Wild Steelhead

Beginning in mid-December, we should be getting our first wild steelhead of the season. It’s actually a rainbow trout that matures at sea feeding on the same things that king and silver salmon eat (squid, herring, anchovies, etc.). Because of its rich diet, it also gets very large – as much as 50 lbs. Due to its unmatched fighting prowess, it is considered the premiere gamefish on the U.S. West Coast. Because of this status, it is a “sport fish only” meaning there is no commercial fishing allowed, with one exception.

Native American Indians of Washington State have treaty rights to fish for and sell their catch in rivers flowing through their reservations. Wild steelhead are caught all winter long (December through April) by members of the Quinault Tribe on the Quinault River. Like the Hoh and Quileute Rivers to its north, it flows from Mt. Olympus through an essentially pristine, ancient rainforest and empties directly into the Pacific Ocean. All three rivers are fished near the mouths by Native Americans from whom we are getting our regular, twice weekly supplies of wild steelhead. They are flown overnight arriving within 24 hours of being removed from the water, so they are very fresh.

Wild steelhead have a sweet trout taste but a firmer texture. Their meat is red and like all wild salmon, their flesh is loaded with heart-healthy Omega-3s. These are the only wild steelhead available anywhere in the U.S. and since we buy most of the fish the Indians catch, we are providing local restaurants with a very exclusive item. (Farm-raised steelhead are commonly available, but like farmed salmon, they do not have the taste or texture of wild fish – more like eating cardboard. Farming salmon or steelhead also creates severe environmental problems for wild populations – disease, parasites, waste and passing on poor genes through escapees.)

Wild steelhead will soon be available routinely at a number of popular restaurants in the Washington D.C. area, including:

Marcel’s, Blue Duck, Cashion’s, Nora’s, Firefly, Poste, Proof, Zaytinya, D’Acqua, indebleu, Johnny’s Half Shell, Agraria, Hook, Mendocino, Pesce, Mark & Orlando’s, Urbana, Kaz Sushi Bistro, Ritz (Pentagon City), Corduroy, Saint-Ex, Circle Bistro, 2941, Dino’s, Ardeo, Chevy Chase Club, Jackie’s, Rock Creek at Mazza Gallerie, Monte Carlo, Cesco, Visions, Black’s and Assaggi.

Jim Chambers



Jim Chambers, owner of Prime Seafood of Washington, D.C, Atlanta and Savannah, is an ecologist with 35 years of experience in the conservation and management of marine fisheries, nationally and internationally.


I have begun to hear from several concerned people about the SUSTAINABILITY to this species,  which concerns me.  I am investigating both through our supplier and through online resources as to the situation.  As much as I can, I want to support sustainability and the overall fish populations health.

I have tried to be very aware of what we can do as individuals to help with these types of issues, creating foods that are not only tasty, well presented, at a good price point, and in line with the environment to the best of my knowledge.

I will say that this one blog post has brought my awareness up to a new level, and I will reply personally to all the emails and posts… that you’ll find at the end of the post here.

In our business of trying our best to appeal to customers, be responsible to environment, and create food that inspires people to return, we have many factors to consider.  Anyone reading have any comments to forward the conversation in a direction?  Please use the form below and tell us what you think!

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55 responses so far ↓

  • 1 sothereiwas // Dec 16, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Wild steelhead are endangered in almost every river in the US. The willingness to exploit one of the last good runs of wild steelhead is sad.

  • 2 billE // Dec 16, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Nice to see you’re making a profit off of the sad remnants of our steelhead runs. The run sizes keep getting smaller and smaller. At this rate they’ll be gone soon.
    As for being “very fresh” I guess that’s relative. The freshness depends on how long the tribal netter left it dead in his net and how long it sits in the trunk of his car.

  • 3 herl // Dec 17, 2008 at 12:19 am

    I am dismayed to see that you are planning to serve wild steelhead at your resturaunt. These fish are in dire straits up and down the pacific coast- many runs are extinct and most are protected under the endagered species act.

    Your own blog admits that comercial harvest is not legal. Yes, there are tribes taking advantage of thier law-extempt status to decimate remaining runs of steelhead. God have mercy on anyone who supports their gill netting of this priceless natural resource. They will drive those fish to extinction – do you want that on your hands?

    Please cancel your order with the Quinault tribe, and for any other wild steelhead. Do some research, and educate yourself on the plight of these magnificent fish.

    Here are some online resources for you: http://www.wildsteelheadcoalition.org/ ; http://www.wildsalmon.org/ ; http://www.nativefishsociety.org ; http://www.wildfishconservancy.org ; http://www.hohrivertrust.org/index.html

  • 4 skippy // Dec 17, 2008 at 10:10 am

    too bad that the wild steehead runs in the rivers you mention are in decline. in fact the hoh river has not been meeting it’s escapement goals for years.

    washington state has been managing it’s wild steelhead stocks towards extinction. you have a choice whether to support this mismanagement but you cannot ignore it.

    if you want to know more about the mismanagement of washington state’s steelhead stocks read:

  • 5 Eastfork // Dec 17, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Just because it’s legal to kill these fish doesn’t mean it’s ethical. Distributers and restaurants that deal in wild steelhead should be boycotted for the good of the species.

  • 6 Aaron Peterson // Dec 17, 2008 at 10:56 am

    I am sorely disappointed by your article on wild steelhead from Washington State. As a resident of the state, and avid sport fisherman, I’m saddened by the lack of knowledge displayed in the article, especially considering it is written by an “ecologist with 35 years of experience in conservation”. I’m not going to address the specific points of contention, other than saying that these fish populations are at historic lows and, potentially, on the brink of extinction.

    I urge you and your readers to spend just 15 minutes researching the plight of these fish.

    Aaron Peterson
    Bellingham, WA

  • 7 EdM // Dec 17, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Thank you for your response and investigation relating to your article “Wild Steelhead Coming Soon”. No doubt you have seen some posts from individuals with whom you have hit a very raw nerve.

    The truly sad part of this is that we have so few of these fish left in our rivers that it is incorrigible that non-selective netting practices continue to be utilized where there are wild steelhead. Many of these runs are now listed under the Endangered Species Act; however, the Tribes continue to net these fish seemingly without care. We no longer see the pride of Native traditions, only greed and irreprehensible behavior.

    This is not a sustainable fishery. While some river systems are “healthier” than others, a great many runs have been reduced to mere hundreds of fish where there used to be 10′s of thousands.

    Again, thank you very much for your concern regarding our Wild Steelhead. We hope, through conservation measures, that these fish will not be completely lost to extinction.



  • 8 cheftony // Dec 17, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    I have to claim ignorance, as in my history, I was never made aware, nor I suppose did I investigate very much regarding Steelhead.. You and your group (?) have certainly brought quite a bit to mind for me…

  • 9 cheftony // Dec 17, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    As I hope you see my responses, you and others have certainly alerted me to some danger here, I’ll be investigating BEFORE I put anything on menu. I have not yet committed to the idea, but have served this fish in the past in my employment with a large seafood restaurant company.
    I thank you for your feedback!
    Chef Tony

  • 10 cheftony // Dec 17, 2008 at 2:27 pm


    I’ll be checking out the link right away, thanks for the information…
    Chef Tony

  • 11 cheftony // Dec 17, 2008 at 2:34 pm


    Again, if you read through the thread, I stand EDUCATED and will not serve Steelhead here! Certainly I move to understand the situation more completely, and hopefully my guests will appreciate our quest for knowledge.

    Chef Tony

  • 12 Aaron Peterson // Dec 17, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Chef Tony,

    Thank you for your response. It wouldn’t surprise me if you received some “gruff” responses to the article. You have to realize that, for some of us, this is a very passionate issue. To hear of people delightfully anticipating the arrival of these fish on a menu is tough to swallow (pun intended). I, and others like me, really do appreciate the fact you are even willing to consider what we have to say.

    To provide a little more education, there are generally two distinct runs of winter steelhead out here. There is the “hatchery run” (these fish have their adipose fin clipped when they are young to identify them as hatchery fish) and the “wild run”. The hatchery fish generally run from mid-November through mid-January and, while smaller than wild fish, provide the same tablefare. The wild fish usually begin showing in late December and run through April. Perhaps you could consider altering your buying to target the earlier hatchery fish so that your customers could still enjoy eating steelhead.

    I’d be happy to try to answer any questions you have regarding these fish, or direct you to someone that can better answer them. Again, thank you for your consideration.

    -Aaron Peterson
    Bellingham, WA

  • 13 cheftony // Dec 17, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    As I have to edit my site in the middle of operations, I’ll keep this short, but with the deluge of emails and comments I’ve gotten, I’ve certainly raised MY level of awareness…I just hope that my new found Steelhead “community” will appreciate my decision.

  • 14 cheftony // Dec 17, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Summarizing my thoughts today, I would like to think fairly aware of the state of the industry, but perhaps in my eagerness to please my guests, and in never hearing any issue with Steelhead in my 8 years with a large Seafood Restaurant chain, I actually only planned on adding to my menu to expand my offerings.

    Due to the overwhelming response I’ve gotten, I will not, and may consider alerting others to the issues at hand.

    Fighting daily to keep my business moving ahead, my time is pretty short, but through the efforts and exposure of my websites, I can help with the cause.

    Thanks to all who have written, and again, I hope the comments coming back here moving forward will be complimentary in my decisions.
    Visions Restaurant
    Bethesda, Md

  • 15 Todd Ripley // Dec 17, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Chef Tony, I applaud you for allowing those of us who live out here in the Pacific Northwest to not only tell you about the state of steelhead populations out here in Washington State, but for your willingness to be educated about the State Fish of Washington.

    I’ll be in Maryland next week, though Christmas, and if I have a chance to come into your restaurant, I certainly will!

    Please do check out the links that others have posted here, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

    Thanks, again, for your commitment to selling only sustainably harvested seafood in your restaurant…it shows that you take seriously your opportunity to educate your customer base on not only what is tasty and healthy to eat, but also what is environmentally conscious to eat.


    Todd Ripley
    VP Political and Legal Affairs
    The Wild Steelhead Coalition

  • 16 bham // Dec 17, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Chef Tony,

    Year’s ago, I use to eat wild Steelhead when they were plentiful and it was legal to kill them. Now all the rivers in North Washington State that I fish have limited catch and release fishing opportunities and no kill seasons for wild Steelhead. Although I still love to catch these incredible fish, I can’t imagine killing one anymore. These fish deserve to make a come back and fill our rivers once again to reasonable levels. I applaud you and appreciate your willingness to question serving these fish to your clients.

  • 17 Jim Chambers // Dec 17, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Steelhead, like the other members of the salmon family, return to spawn in the river/stream where they began life. From a population perspective, each river system is considered (under regulations implementiung the Endangered Species Act) to be a separate evolutionary unit or the management equivalent of a separate species. Thus, if one river system’s steelhead are being maintained in a healthy condition, as is the case of the Quinault River steelhead, it has no bearing on what is happening to steelhead from other river systems since they don’t interbreed. Information on http://www.FishBase.org indicates that steelhead (actually a sea-run rainbow trout) have been introduced worldwide.

    Washington state biologists responsible for steelhead population assessment and management (Washington state fishery management branch) consider the Quinault population to be healthy and the fishery to be sustainable and well managed. The federal agencies (NMFS and FWS) responible for decisions on Endangered Species Act listings, classify the Olympic Peninsula’s populations of wild steelhead as “not warrented” (for ESA listing). The link to the federal status listing of West Coast salmonids is: http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/ESA-Salmon-Listings/upload/snapshot0208.pdf

    Prime Seafood supplies restaurants with seafood only from sustainably managed fisheries, such as the Quinault fishery, and we advocate for seafood consumers and chefs to do likewise.

    We also provide our chefs with king and coho salmon from the Quinault River as well as from Alaska, all of whose populations have been certified as “sustainable” by the international Marine Stewardship Council (www.msc.org).

    Jim Chambers
    Prime Seafood

  • 18 Eastfork // Dec 17, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I both appreciate and applaud your decision. Thank you.

  • 19 erik@tisbest.org // Dec 17, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    I want to applaud your decision. Native American traditions require great respect for the creatures being harvested and that is not present in this fishery.

    Thank you.

  • 20 ChuckS // Dec 17, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Chef Tony,

    I appreciate your response to an important issue for many of us and you are a stand up guy for your conservation effort in the fight against marketing wild Steelhead especially those from the Pacific NW where runs are at dismal levels.

    Thanks again,

    Chuck S.

  • 21 Mark Hanson // Dec 17, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Its good to see one side of this issue is really active in exercising its First Amendment right by expressing its concerns. But as a neutral observer of the previous posts, I can’t help but think about the Indians that supply this harvest and the establishments that serve this product.

    A few questions come to mind:

    Are the Indians not in it for the long run?

    Have they not traditionally been good stewards of their resources?

    Do they not have the healthiest populations?

    Are they to blame for the rest of the fisheries?

    Are sport fishermen not at fault as well?

    Are the establishments that serve the fish be boycotted altogether?

    Shouldn’t consumers boycott by not buying the product?

    Should chefs and restaurant suffer because a handful of passionate conservationists are concerned?

    Don’t be mistaken, I am very sensitive to the fact that fish populations are declining. But I find it VERY disturbing to hear people threatening to call up a picket line in a recession. Aside from the fact people’s fishing holes may not be as full….family establishments that employ neighbors of you and I are experiencing hard times….closing down, laying off employees.

    If you don’t like the fact there is an “endangered” species on a menu, don’t buy it…enjoy the Filet instead. I applaud the enthusiasm, not the soapbox strategy.

  • 22 herl // Dec 17, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Bravo Chef! Anyone can be misinformed or misled, but it takes a brave man to admit it and change course (or courses, as the case may be).

    If only the folks charged with protecting these fish were as responsive..

    Thank you Chef, you’re a good man, and I’d recommend your establishment to anyone.

    P.S. US farmed catfish, tilapia and trout are always good and relatively sustainable choices – Though they may require all of your skill to dress them up a bit.

  • 23 cheftony // Dec 17, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    I have to say that in defense of restaurants who are struggling, especially independants…putting any items on your menu that sell is very attractive and necessary… I hope that we can remain true to proper fish population, while supporting our needs as business owners.

    Don’t be mistaken, I am very sensitive to the fact that fish populations are declining. But I find it VERY disturbing to hear people threatening to call up a picket line in a recession. Aside from the fact people’s fishing holes may not be as full….family establishments that employ neighbors of you and I are experiencing hard times….closing down, laying off employees.

    I am doing my best in this highly competitive Bethesda market (over 200 restaurants) to move forward, offering fresh seafood, a wide variety of menu choices, while trying to maintain a reasonable bottom line in my second year of business. Thank you to this commenter for realizing the realities in our industry now. It is not an easy time, my neighbor just closed after 3 years in business and being highly praised by the local media. As restaurateurs, we are making daily decisions to benefit a wide array of people, including ourselves. I hope our guests and critics both realize the passion we put into our restaurants and try to stay conscious of what is going on in our industry.

  • 24 Ethan G. // Dec 17, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Chef- You are a good man. The Washington sportfishing community thanks you for your decision not to serve our wild fish. All the best to you, sir!

    As to Mr. Hanson who posted above, you don’t live and deal with the fisheries in Washington, do you? That’s all I have to say about that.

  • 25 Aaron Peterson // Dec 17, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    I realize this is not the ideal forum for an extende discussion of the topic but the questions posted above are honest and deserve answering.

    Are the Indians not in it for the long run?

    While it would seem logical for the tribes to be “in it for the long run”, their practices don’t seem to indicate that. While some tribes are making efforts to improve fisheries, many others have a single-track “take” mentality. The best way to understand this is to see it personally.

    Have they not traditionally been good stewards of their resources?

    I think this really depends on how you look at it. As far as subsistence fishing/hunting, yes. But that might be because the demand on the resource for subsistence purposes is not truly that great. Feeding a small tribe via traditional methods is VERY different from deploying gill nets from jetpump powered motor boats.

    Do they not have the healthiest populations?

    This is a trickier question. The Quinault Tribe (and Quinault River) probably do have the “healthiest” populations. It is partly because they have a large hatchery program that does not regularly mark its fish as hatchery fish. The Hoh Tribe (and Hoh River) does most definitely NOT have a “healthy” steelhead population.

    Are they to blame for the rest of the fisheries?

    No, at least not solely. While many other rivers have been overharvested by tribes, there is plenty of blame to go around: dams, urbanization, commercial fishing by non-tribal members, ocean netting, logging, and sport fishing all have contributed to the drastic decline.

    Are sport fishermen not at fault as well?

    Yes, sport fishermen are also at fault. However, in the last decade wild steelhead release has become standard (if not the law) and, obviously, there is a strong movement to educate fellow sport fishermen and the public at large.

    Are the establishments that serve the fish be boycotted altogether?

    That is a question for each individual to answer but for me, and many others, “yes”. We will boycott restaurants and stores that support the destruction of these populations.

    Shouldn’t consumers boycott by not buying the product?

    Yes. But the initial consumer in this case is the one purchasing from the tribes or a tribal representative. In this case, it is easier to convince one chef, rather than all of his customers.

    Should chefs and restaurant suffer because a handful of passionate conservationists are concerned?

    I don’t believe they NEED to suffer. I don’t understand why this can’t be a win/win situation? There are other alternatives to wild steelhead that consumers find desirable. Hopefully, consumers respect the decisions of those that create the menu and are still able to eat exquisite food. I can guarantee you that if Chef Tony’s restaurant was in Washington he would have an influx of business based on his decision rather than an exodus of customers.

    Aaron Peterson

  • 26 skippy // Dec 17, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    jim chambers,

    while upper quinault steelhead are indeed considered “healthy” by the washington department of fish and wildlife, the lower quinault wild steelhead are considered “depressed” by that same agency. please read the below link for verification of the status of lower quinault/ lake quinault wild steelhead.


    we should leave out who is harvesting and providing these fish to the market and focus on the fish. wild fish in the northwest are at dangerously low levels, even the ones considered healthy are typically at 3-5% of their historic numbers, so to honestly state they are sustainably managed or “healthy” is a stretch.

    i applaud chef tony for seeing the truth and making a bold decision to decrease demand for a “depressed” run of fish. kudos, and if i am ever in the area you have a customer.

  • 27 Mark Hanson // Dec 17, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Jim Chambers stated above:

    “Steelhead, like the other members of the salmon family, return to spawn in the river/stream where they began life…and….if one river system’s steelhead are being maintained in a healthy condition, as is the case of the Quinault River steelhead, it has no bearing on what is happening to steelhead from other river systems since they don’t interbreed”

    and that:

    “Washington state biologists responsible for steelhead population assessment and management (Washington state fishery management branch) consider the Quinault population to be healthy and the fishery to be sustainable and well managed.”

    I am more inclined to believe his claims as a subject matter expert more so than Aaron Peterson, whose title and credentials are unknown at this point.

    I Googled “Jim Chambers, Fisheries Management” and found a history.

    I Googled “Aaron Peterson” and found little…maybe one blog post about fly fishing.

    Please support your claim that the Quinault tribe frequently fail to mark the hatchery fish. If it is true, is this accidental…deliberate?

    The fact remains…the tribe’s people are left out of your win-win scenario…Even if the fish populations are healthy.

  • 28 Ringlee // Dec 17, 2008 at 9:56 pm


    Thank you! This decision will pay off for You, Your Customers and the Fish. I encourage you to advertise and educate your customers about this issue. I am sure that this will pay off for your business.

    Thank you again,

    Chris Ringlee

  • 29 skippy // Dec 17, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    mark hanson,
    jim chambers can say the stocks are healthy and managed responsibly, but i’ve posted links directly contradicting his claim. jim also claims the steelhead stocks are “msc” certified, which is false according to the msc website. please look at the below link and show me where any washington state salmon or steelhead fishery is listed as “certified”.


    as for the mark rates on quinault winter steelhead… you could research it yourself, but i’ll help


    this shows out of a release of a total of 290,000 smolt and fingerling releases only 72,876 were adipose fin clipped.

    i would suggest reading the links posted on the health of olympic peninsula steelhead runs. i’ve checked out jim chambers links and found them to be false. care to challenge the ones i’ve posted?

  • 30 JoeW // Dec 17, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Chef Tony,

    I greatly appreciate your concern with our issue of wild steelhead and tribal fisheries. It says alot about you and your business, especially when you are located across the country. Thank You!

    Mr. Hanson,

    The quinault tribe has a large resort and casino which they run and manage, http://www.quinaultbeachresort.com/ so are more than winners. Fish harvesting/sales provides very little economic gain to the tribe while greatly costing the health of the fishery.

  • 31 Ringlee // Dec 17, 2008 at 10:51 pm


    You mention that MSC has declared that the Quinault Fisheries are Sustainable.

    The MSC website fails to mention ANYTHING on these Fisheries and there Sustainability. They list out 38 Sustainable Fisheries throughout the world on their Website. I have linked the Pacific region that would include the Quinault fishery if it were listed.


    I have contacted the MSC to inquire further on the listing of this fishery.

    The Quinault Tribe has rights to fish the Quinault, Queets, Humptulips, and Chehalis rivers. Can you guarantee all the fish you sell come from the Quinault River? You have failed to mention if any of these rivers have sustainable fisheries.

    According to Ann Blakley from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, The Lower Quinault River Steelhead run was considered Depressed in 2006.

    I have an intimate knowledge of these beautiful rivers. I caught my first Steelhead on the Quinault river when I was 9 years old. I have fished extensively throughout the Quinault Reservation and understand this fishery.

    Chris Ringlee

  • 32 herl // Dec 17, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    Mr. Hanson, I can appreciate your thoughtful remarks. Please do take the time to research the topic at one or more of the following websites: http://www.wildsteelheadcoalition.org/ ; http://www.wildsalmon.org/ ; http://www.nativefishsociety.org ; http://www.wildfishconservancy.org ; http://www.hohrivertrust.org/index.html

    These are not hippie, environmentalists groups, they are groups of concerned citizens.

    The plight of wild steelhead is a familiar one in this country. We have witnessed the collapse of many wild food species under the supposed watchful eye of government agencies: East coast Atlantic Salmon (yes, there used to be wild atlantic salmon on the east coast), Bison, Passenger pigeons, Redfish in the south, Striped Bass. In some cases people saw what was going on, were able to organize themselves and educate others, turning things around before it was too late, in other cases, that didn’t happen.

    Just b/c the government declares that a wild stock is able to sustain harvest, does not make it is so. Case in point; For the past several decades commercial harvest of salmon in California and Oregon was regulated at a ‘sustainable’ level by the government. Last year it became evident that the stocks had completely crashed and ALL harvest of salmon was shut down. No one knows when it will open again.

    The simple fact is that wild steelhead stocks have been declining for decades, under the careful regulation of the government. Now truly, only a fractured remnant remains.

    While Jim Chambers may not be breaking the law, he is most certainly contributing to the decline of this species. Wild winter steelhead from the run he is targeting were listed as ‘depressed’ as early as 2002 by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. I searched for his claim of approved sustainability from the International Marine Stewardship Council and they have no mention of steelhead at all on their site.

    Mr. Chambers may have past credentials that are impressive, but currently he is looking to profit off of these fish (see the long list of restaurants he is supplying above).

    Again, it’s not illegal, but it up to everyone, supplier, chef and consumer to decide what is responsible and ethical.

  • 33 Bob Triggs // Dec 18, 2008 at 1:00 am

    Dear Chef Tony, Firstly let me say that I really respect you for being so sincere in your concern for this issue, which is obviously a complicated one.

    On the simplest note; locally we do know that the runs of Wild Steelhead here in the Pacific Northwest, and especially on some Olympic Peninsula coastal rivers in Washington, are at a low point now compared to their historic numbers. While it may be legal to harvest Wild Steelhead, they are by no means in a status of plenty or over abundance, and all serious scholars of these fish aknowledge that they are in decline.

    So it does put you a step above ethically to remove Wild Steelhead from your menu plans. In the recent past there has been a movement amongst more responsible chefs worldwide to exclude some species of fish from their menus when it became clear that these fish were being over harvested or were in serious decline. I believe that people do feel better about a place when they know that their chef is taking the menu seriously and is making socially and ecologically responsible choices. This brings an elevated level of respect, confidence and trust- all good things in a customer / restaurant relationship.

    Thank you so much for caring enough to take a second look at the plight of the last of our Wild Steelhead here in Washington. Most sport anglers today here are not harvesting these fish. We see the value in allowing them to spawn and to restore their numbers by pro active conservation means. Many of us who live here fear that we are seeing the last of these wild fish.

  • 34 Mark Hanson // Dec 18, 2008 at 7:01 am

    I didn’t read Mr Chamber’s post the same as you….I believe he was referring to the Alaskan fisheries….all of which are certified by the MSC…as I understand things.

    Also, I would usually follow the second link but noticed the report was old. Last time I checked, we were nearing 2009. Is there any scientific data that is more recent?

  • 35 Mark Hanson // Dec 18, 2008 at 7:14 am

    “Over 90% of the populations in the Olympic Peninsula region and over 60%
    in the Southwest Washington region were rated as “Healthy”.


  • 36 Mark Hanson // Dec 18, 2008 at 7:16 am

    I found this data…

    “Over 90% of the populations in the Olympic Peninsula region and over 60%
    in the Southwest Washington region were rated as “Healthy”.


  • 37 Aaron Peterson // Dec 18, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Mark Hanson,

    I appreciate your efforts in Googling me but I’m not really sure what your goal is? For some reason, you seem entirely skeptical of local people that are fairly in tune with the situation.

    If you are ever out in this corner of the world, contact me or others that have posted and we’d be glad to give you a local tour and show you what is really happening.

    Oh, and bring Jim with you so he can show me these “50 pound” wild steelhead he writes about.

    -Aaron Peterson

  • 38 Mark Hanson // Dec 18, 2008 at 11:43 am

    It was certainly not my intention, but an attempt to learn more and build awareness. I believe my next goal is to get the waypoint for those 50 pounders! Cranking in one of those bad boys would make for one heck of a day!

  • 39 Todd Ripley // Dec 18, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    For the third time, I’ll put this link up:


    You’re almost being spood fed the answers to a lot of the questions here…but not quite. You’ll still have to navigate around and read the stuff there, most of which is either Department or Agency documentation, or compilations of it…all the information is public record and comes straight from the sources.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but the guy who makes his money selling the fish is not exactly the best source for telling you how sustainable it is, Tony.

    Todd Ripley
    VP Political and Legal Affairs
    The Wild Steelhead Coalition

  • 40 Jim Chambers // Dec 18, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Well, after reading all the comments on this subject received here and elsewhere, I agree and we will not buy or distribute steelhead to any of our customers. We knew the Quinault population was sustainable but I am convinced that from an overall perspective it is more important to maintain the last remaining subpopulations on the Olympic Peninsula in as healthy a state as possible and in the event they are needed for restoration elsewhere. We will not provide additional demand for steelhead by bringing them to and distributing them in our market areas. Moreover, we will promote awareness of the situation by informing our chefs of the steelhead’s overall plight and the need for them to also refrain from seeking to obtain steelhead.

    Jim Chambers
    Prime Seafood

  • 41 Todd Ripley // Dec 18, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Jim, excellent decision…you are doing a good thing.


  • 42 cheftony // Dec 18, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Mr. Ripley,

    Understood, and after 23 years of doing this, I don’t need any lectures. What I needed, and has been provided by you and your associates was information. Until 48 hours ago, I wasn’t aware of any ISSUE at all regarding Steelhead. After working for McCormick & Schmick’s and selling tons of it, I never heard mention one of any issue of sustainability. M&S DID discontinue use and sales of Chilean Seabass (Patagonian Toothfish) after learning of it’s plight, but as far as I knew, Steelhead was just another option to order and prepare for our guests.
    I think everyone on this thread can understand, that my post has brought a lot of awareness to many folks, and THANK YOU for that info!

  • 43 cheftony // Dec 18, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Thank you so much for caring enough to take a second look at the plight of the last of our Wild Steelhead here in Washington. Most sport anglers today here are not harvesting these fish. We see the value in allowing them to spawn and to restore their numbers by pro active conservation means. Many of us who live here fear that we are seeing the last of these wild fish.

    Thank you so much for your kind words, I’m a straight shooter, and as my Father and Mother taught me, if you don’t know, just say you don’t know, and move on!

    The remarks and passion shown here on my little blog intrigue me as to the power of the internet and I’m so glad I posted this up, and seems we’ve all learned a good bit.

  • 44 cheftony // Dec 18, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    I’ll have to say also, that as exampled by my ignorance (not chosen, just so) not all of us are angling to profit by trying to slide under any radar. Your job(s) to show your passion and care about the topic should first be approached from a position of kindness and suggestive information. To assume that anyone has the intent to do wrong in incorrect. If after information is shared, and consumed, and not heeded, or at least discussed, as it is here, then the accusatory comments might be warranted. Also realizing that the topic at hand is a West Coast fish, and at least for myself, as I’ve stated many times, I had no ideathat there was any issue??!

  • 45 Jeremy Floyd // Dec 18, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Tony and Jim,

    Thank you for being willing to work with us to protect our states fragile resources. An open mind towards improvement is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again,

    Jeremy Floyd

  • 46 Mark Hanson // Dec 18, 2008 at 3:55 pm


    Good to see Mr. Chambers is more dedicated to conservation than the all mighty dollar! His decision to discontinue Steelhead distribution seems more in tune with the “double bottom line” business outlined on Prime Seafood’s website.

  • 47 herl // Dec 18, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Mr. Chambers,

    Thank you for your responsiveness to this issue. You are indeed a merit to your profession. I wish you and your company continued success!

    Chef Tony,

    I am also very thankful that you originally posted this article, and for giving us a place to discuss the issue openly. May you have a happy and profitable holiday season!


  • 48 Todd Ripley // Dec 18, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Tony, I think you did exactly what could reasonably be expected of you…and we and the steelhead we live with out here applaud you for it!

    You, too, Mr. Chambers!


  • 49 Aaron Peterson // Dec 18, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Thank you for your consideration, Mr. Chambers. It really does mean a lot to some of us.

    I wish you a happy and successful holiday season.


  • 50 cheftony // Dec 18, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    I’m glad that this “discussion” was so productive, perhadps I’ll forward this to other Chefs and bigger players in the industry, to see what can be done?

  • 51 EdM // Dec 19, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Chef Tony and Mr. Chambers,

    I have no words to express my sentiments regarding your concern, professionalism and dedication. Thank you very much.

    You can find me at the Washington Fly Fishing Forum as Hookedonthefly. PM me if you are ever in Washington State. It would be my honor to have you on the raft. Lunch riverside would be my treat as well.

    I have friends in that neck of the woods. I will most certainly pass the word on as to my feelings about you and your establishment.


  • 52 billE // Dec 20, 2008 at 2:21 am

    Wow. Chef Tony and Mr. Chambers, thank you. This entire deal is refreshing and inspiring. We need more people in business who are open minded and willing to do what they think is right.

  • 53 cheftony // Dec 20, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks to everyone who has posted, engaged opinions, and seen the results. This has shown me just a touch of the power of the internet and how far “community” can truly reach.

    Please stop in and say hello if you’re in my neck of the woods.

  • 54 Todd Ripley // Dec 22, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    CT, weather permitting, I’ll do just that…I’m on the redeye from Seattle to JFK, then on to Dulles, tonight…

    Thanks, again!

    Todd Ripley

  • 55 cheftony // Dec 27, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    I hope everyone had a great holiday season, keep your eyes on the blog for the latest in the “Steelhead Saga”…what I believe can be viewed as a great example of what CAN happen…with all parties having the right frame of mind!

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