A western Washington fish hatchery said it will stop importing steelhead trout from the Columbia River and instead rely on native fish. The State Department of Fish and Wildlife said last week using fish from the region helps maintain genetic diversity of steelhead trout in the Skykomish River near the community of Index about 60 miles northeast of Seattle.

The hatchery, which is co-managed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Tulalip Tribes, was designed to increase the number of steelhead trout in the river. Native stocks of fish have dwindled to about 90 fish in the North Fork Skykomish and between 100 and 200 fish in the South Fork Skykomish, department officials said. Last year also brought record low counts of fish in the Sultan River.

The new program, aimed at boosting steelhead trout numbers, will collect fish near the Sunset Falls waterfall to use in the hatchery, officials said. The hatchery is expected to open in April.

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