[Editors notes: We received a letter on Jan 12th from WDFW/Ron Warren, asserting that state is in possession of 2016 fish tickets from the Tribes, but that those tickets have not yet been entered into the state database. The following day (Jan 13th) we asked a number of detailed follow-up questions, including a request for access to those fish tickets. On January 30th we received a response from Ron Warren which did answer many technical questions we had about the databases and information flow. However, the replies did not include the requested fish ticket data–we were told that our use of a different email address for the original request and our follow-up questions precluded that. This all effectively re-sets the timer once again on our request — originally filed October 21st last year. Our search for answers continues…]
Our story published last week — regarding the lack of Coho catch reporting by the Tribes — generated intense interest and controversy. We’ve spent some time responding to comments and having internal discussion and it seems worth sharing more detail on this story… What did we ask for? Why do we think it’s reasonable to have expected data? What additional issues does this raise? Read on…
Our Public Records Request
Our specific request was comprehensive. We asked for “all available Chinook and Coho Harvest data from Puget Sound Tribes for 2016 thus far.” with clarifications that we preferred for the data to be “broken out by tribe, fishing location, date, and species, in preferably a daily catch breakout (or as reported each time to WDFW via fish tickets)”
We got back this specific spreadsheet (linked here for interested readers) containing all data available up to December 5th. That data is the foundation upon which we based our December 23rd article.
Some have argued that it’s unreasonable to have expected tribal catch reports to have been available at this point in time. We disagree with that assessment and here’s why:
First, we reasonably expect that the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC) possesses the data. State governing rules require that Tribal Fish Receiving Tickets make their way to the NWIFC within six working days. These fisheries wrapped up in October, so we reasonably believe the tickets should be on hand at this point.
Second, the NWIFC, in a post made this October titled “Data Drives Fisheries Management” was clear that tribal catch data was shared in near-real-time with the state. Specifically we quote “Treaty tribal fishermen are required to sell their catch to licensed buyers who must report catches to the tribes within 24 hours. That information is often shared with the state co-managers on the same day it is collected.” At Tidal Exchange we believe in scientific, data driven fisheries management as well, which is precisely why we requested the data, and reasonably expected it (especially given the foregoing quote) to be present.
Finally, in discussion with the state, when we questioned the pipeline for data movement between the NWIFC internal “Tribal Online Catch Accounting Systems” and the state databases, we were informed “the two systems synchronize electronically at regular intervals to ensure that each database has the same information as the other” We wanted to be certain that there was not some impediment to Coho reporting — but if the databases synchronize regularly, we can’t see how that happened.
Given all the above, we stand by our reasonable expectations that Tribal Coho reports from 2016 should be available at this point.
But, Sport-Fishing Catch Records…
While we’ve shown above that it is reasonable to expect Tribal catch records to be available by now, some have pointed out that Sportsfishing Catch Record Cards are not even collected until April 2017. After submission the cards are compiled and a report shared with the co-managers but this would be well after season setting/North of Falcon. Is this a “gotcha!” moment? Nope, it’s how this part of the process is designed — and is why there’s more to the story..
It’s precisely because of late deadline for Catch Record Cards that the state conducts intensive in-season monitoring of recreational fisheries. This includes both creel counting at boat ramps/marinas as well as on-the-water test boat fisheries. These two data streams are developed into statistically accurate models of recreational fish catch, and are used for in-season management — with catch figures shown publicly.
In particular, during marked/selective Chinook fisheries with specific catch/encounter thresholds we see intense monitoring and clear examples of analysis, transparency and action. Specific examples of this can be found in 2016 area closure announcements made by the state here and here — as well as coverage of the dates and harvest numbers in the mainstream media (example from Seattle Times here). All of this is near-real time and transparent.
There are some recreational fisheries, for example typical Coho seasons (2016 very atypical) where co-management decisions to continue/suspend recreational fishing depend on a blend of data from creel counts, test boat results as well as terminal area tribal fisheries data. This further underscores the need for timely tribal catch reporting to ensure appropriate management responses are made.
This all said, we are investigating claims that the state’s delivery of the compiled data to Tribal co-managers has not been made according to schedule, and will do a story on that when we have additional facts to report.
Our mission is to advocate for sound, transparent, scientific, data driven fisheries management, and to hold State and Tribal managers to their commitments and public statements. In the last month we’ve called out ODFW and WDFW over walk-backs on their Columbia River gillnet promises, state legislators over their lack of support for recreationals, and now Tribes for not sharing catch data like they said they would.
We don’t play favorites.
This is the second in a series of articles featuring post-game analysis of the 2016 Coho and Chinook season. If you like and support this sort of reporting, and you use Facebook, give us a Like or Share below!