WDFW Gives Up Puget Sound Fishing… For Nothing

Puget Sound Plan Debacle

Many recreational fishing groups have raised concerns about the alarming 10-year Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan (PSCHMP) recently submitted to NOAA for approval. This plan was negotiated between WDFW and the Tribes absent any public comment, input, or explanation of how it is expected to impact Puget Sound fishing seasons. In fact the plan was negotiated & submitted for approval without the knowledge of the Fish and Wildlife commissioners — truly a remarkable situation.

Make no mistake, the plan as written appears to significantly disrupt and seems likely to eliminate a great number of the recreational Puget Sound salmon fisheries for the next decade. Puget Sound mark/selective Chinook fisheries in Areas 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 will likely all close throughout this 10 year period, eliminating hundreds of thousands of angler trips per year and sinking countless local businesses.

Now, if this management action was both necessary and grounded in strong fisheries biological science, such a drastic action could be understood, if not supported. Unfortunately, key parts of this plan ignore fundamental salmon/river ecosystem realities. Rather than foster recovery, the proposed plan will further delay the actual hard decision making and work the fish need.

For this article, we’ll examine this Harvest Plan and how it proposes managing Stillaguamish Chinook — likely the most constraining run of fish in Puget Sound. For the foreseeable future the PSCHMP threatens all in-state fishing which impacts this run of fish — and we’ll show that even those drastic changes won’t make one bit of difference to the recovery of this run.

We know what you’re saying: Of course recreational fishermen don’t think cuts to fishing will help the fish recover!!”. We live in a world full of fake news, and where nobody wants to believe they are the cause of the problems we face collectively. But we encourage skeptics to read on and study the science here–we think after reading this you’ll agree that changes are required, and they’re absolutely not the ones being proposed.

Background | Stillaguamish Chinook

The Stillaguamish River Chinook population (combining North and South Fork for simplicity) is a blend of naturally spawning fish sharing the river with a population of Chinook reared at the Tribal broodstock hatchery. Each year the hatchery mixes 50% of its spawning stock from returning hatchery marked fish and 50% native spawners. The resulting mix of hatchery and wild fish are considered biologically identical stocks — with the hatchery affording some measure of protection against extinction of the run should some catastrophic event occur.

Historically the Stillaguamish River saw returns of up to 50,000 Chinook. Unfortunately, development has severely degraded the river system, and the last ~30 years the Stillaguamish River has typically seen about 1,500 returning fish. Strong years (‘91, ‘02, ‘08) saw this number top 2,000 while low years the numbers flirt with 1,000. In the two most recent years we’ve reviewed data for (‘14, ‘15) these numbers have dipped to the mid-800’s.

By way of analogy–think of the Stillaguamish historical abundance as a full 5-gallon bucket of water. The full bucket is the 50,000 returning fish days. What we have now is a 5-gallon bucket, with just a pint of water inside. This is a serious situation and fisheries managers are absolutely right to be focusing here. We all want to see that bucket full again and would support management actions which would take us in this direction. But before we get there, some background..

Background | Fisheries Biology

Every pair of spawning salmon delivers thousands of fertilized eggs to the gravel. Each of those eggs hopes to survive the first year in the river, followed by 2-3 at sea, and to then return to restart the process. In a typical system perhaps only 10% of these Chinook eggs will survive their first year and produce a smolt that migrates to the salt-water. Those survivors must then navigate the open ocean for 3 years — and in the end only a handful of those thousand eggs will return to spawn again. This is the cycle.

This biological lottery game — where 90% of the eggs fail to survive the first year in the river — is incredibly important because it makes salmon populations redundant and resilient. It’s this 90% excess that provides a path to recover populations where some event disrupts the cycle (flood year, low water year, migration blockage). This ability for salmon to rebuild populations is widely documented: When a disruption significantly reduces the numbers of spawning salmon in a river, we in turn observe dramatically higher percentages of their eggs will mature and migrate out to the ocean. Instead of 10% surviving the first year, we might see 20%. And instead of a handful of those eggs returning to spawn, we might see 10, or even 20 ‘recruits’ return from that spawning pair.

This isn’t a magic trick, the survival rates go up in down years because the fry have plenty of good habitat to take shelter in, and plenty of nutrients to consume. (In more “normal” years, there’s much more competition for these resources so survival rates are lower.) This ability for 2 salmon to produce 20 is the underlying mechanism that makes it possible for salmon to repopulate and recolonize runs. It’s what gives salmon their ability to adapt to change–they do it well and have done so for thousands of years.

Is Fishing the Problem?

Going back to our 5-gallon bucket analogy again, think about the scarce “pint” of salmon we have returning to the Stillaguamish. Even that small number of fish should be able to rebuild the population by themselves if we just leave them alone. Give them a few generations without any fishing, and voila, full buckets of fish will return. In fact, fisheries co-managers have diligently taken dramatic steps to curtail Stillaguamish fishery impacts for years, and the recovery results have been surprisingly dismal. Let’s look at the numbers and try to figure out what’s going on…

In 1982 the Stillaguamish Tribe ended their Chinook fisheries in the River. Two years later the Tulalip Tribe ended their directed Chinook fisheries in the saltwater adjacent to the River. Non-tribal fisheries including recreational Chinook fishing in the river was also ended in the mid-80’s. Then, in 2003 all saltwater recreational fisheries in Puget Sound converted to mark-selective fisheries requiring anglers to release any fish without the distinct hatchery fin-clip. The combination of all these changes has reduced the impact of fisheries to small fractions of what they once were, yet the populations aren’t rebounding. Here’s a look at the chart (lifted from the actual harvest management plan submitted to NOAA by WDFW & the Tribes). Orange data points show the total escapement, and the flat-orange dotted line the “trend” — which you can see is virtually flat across three decades:

Here’s another way to think about this — consider the last 30 years as an experiment in recovering the Stillaguamish Chinook run. That experiment has shown that cuts to the fisheries have not produced any recovery of the run. Given the remarkable ability of salmon to recover their populations given the chance — these decades of cuts in fisheries should have yielded significant effects on the population, but there’s not a single sign that this is happening. Clearly something is indeed limiting this population — it’s just not fishing.

Yet the proposed plan advances the same agenda — further fishing cuts — a strategy that has been tried and has failed since the 80’s. And consider this: the thoughtful design of recent seasons has carefully avoided impacting these Stillaguamish Chinook. So even though the PSCHMP will likely close huge swaths of Puget Sound to fishing, it will save surprisingly few Stillaguamish salmon, perhaps a dozen fish. If managing harvests down by thousands of fish hasn’t lead to corresponding recovery — we see not a single bit of supporting evidence that the proposed changes to save an additional dozen are in any way warranted.

Conclusion #1: Shutting down the remaining/carefully managed fisheries will not help salmon recovery on the Stillaguamish. Anyone who believes this is ignoring the considerable evidence of the last 30 years where far more significant cuts were made without any corresponding recovery.

We know, we know. Lots of you still don’t believe us.. Well, read on…

Where’s The Cycle Broken?

We’ve just observed that changes in fishing over a considerable period of time hasn’t recovered the Stillaguamish River Chinook. Clearly something is impeding this recovery, so let’s take a look at the headwaters of the river and the beginning of the lifecycle.

As mentioned earlier in the background, a healthy ecosystem might see 10% of the eggs laid by spawners survive produce smolts that migrate to the saltwater (biologists call this the Egg-to-Migrant survival rate). We’re fortunate to have the data on how the Stillaguamish is doing in this regard, again courtesy the very Harvest Management Plan that WDFW and the Tribes submitted to NOAA. Below you’ll see the first glimpse at the real problem — eggs laid in the gravel in the Stillaguamish have a terribly difficult time developing into a fish that successfully migrates to the ocean. Averaging about 5%, and in some years as low 2% or even 1%–and strongly correlating with the highest river flow during the critical fall/winter period. (e.g. floods are bad for eggs/juveniles).

Even for good years (‘02 and ‘09), this poor survival record of juvenile salmon within the Stillaguamish has totally eliminated the ability of this population to rebuild itself. Remember that when runs are rebuilding themselves, we expect to see egg-to-migrant rates above 10%, and there’s not one single example in the last 15 years of that happening. For these runs to recover, the egg-to-migrant survival rates will need to increase. If this doesn’t change there simply is nothing we can do to recover the run to anywhere near its former numbers.1

Conclusion #2 — If Stillaguamish juvenile Chinook cannot survive and successfully migrate to the ocean, the run cannot recover and rebuild itself. Previous fisheries management cuts haven’t solved this, and the further proposed cuts in the PSCHMP won’t solve it either–because they’re not fixing the actual problem.

What’s limiting these numbers? Why can’t the run rebuild itself? Glad you asked…

Drops (and Cracks) in the Bucket

There are a myriad of differences between the Stillaguamish today and the Stillaguamish watershed historically. A detailed discussion of the individual habitat issues is outside the scope of this article, but includes increasingly impervious surfaces, exempt wells, impassible culverts, lost riparian areas, and a myriad of repercussions from logging activities.

It is the combination of these habitat issues that — from the point of view of returning salmon — prevent them from rebuilding this run. The salmon haven’t forgotten or somehow lost the ability to do this–it’s that there are not enough suitable places for them to lay eggs and for juveniles to rear. It may be hard to grasp this because the river mostly “looks” the same to us — but to salmon it’s really not at all like what it was when there were 50,000 fish coming back. In fact our back-of-the envelope math suggest that the current habitat can carry about 940 spawners, or 98% degraded from historical highs.

How can we get our head around 98% degraded? Well, remember back to that 5-gallon bucket again–and how our current returns are like a single pint of water in that 5-gallon bucket? Well the reality is that the bucket isn’t a shiny new bucket holding a pint of water, it’s a beat up nasty bucket with a big crack down the side that goes almost all the way to the bottom. You can pour all the water you want in it–but you’ll only end up with a pint of water in the end. Unless and until we repair the bucket, the habitat, we’re never going to see those numbers again.

The terrible habitat, the cracked bucket, that’s why the juvenile salmon aren’t able to survive their year in the river, and to migrate to the open ocean. This is exactly why we’re seeing such low percentages of eggs actually migrate out to the ocean. Unless and until we fix the habitat (bucket) the run can’t rebuild itself.

30 years of cuts to fishing that hasn’t lead to recovery?? Those management decisions are exactly like dumping some extra water in that cracked bucket. Unless you’re already below the “carrying capacity” of the river (or the bucket) then fisheries management cannot and will never recover the salmon–not even a little. Yet the new PSCHMP proposes dramatically impactful cuts — all in the errant belief that somehow, this time, it’ll make a difference.

We have to fix the cracked bucket. We have to repair the river habitat if you want more fish to return. After 30 years of claims we will get more out if we ignore the crack and just keep dumping more water into the cracked bucket need to wake up. The Stillaguamish is presently a habitat problem, it is not (remotely) a fishing problem.2

Conclusion #3: The Stillaguamish system will never exceed its current levels of escapement until the habitat is repaired. Salmon themselves are the only ones who can rebuild this run and unless/until they have sufficient good habitat to do this things won’t change.

Closing Thoughts

We’ve made it through this whole article without getting too far into any sideshow or secondary issues. But the wide-ranging impacts of this mistaken management decision should not be underestimated. First reiterating the three conclusions:

  1. Shutting down the remaining/carefully managed fisheries will not help salmon recovery on the Stillaguamish.
  2. If Stillaguamish juvenile Chinook cannot survive and successfully migrate to the ocean, the run cannot recover and rebuild itself.
  3. The Stillaguamish system will never exceed its current levels of escapement until the habitat is repaired.

Our take is that the co-managers should rescind their planned Stillaguamish changes, and instead insist–correctly–that as co-managers they have done a remarkable job designing their fisheries to not impact Stillaguamish salmon recovery. Stillaguamish Chinook recovery is not presently a fisheries problem. We need to stop pretending otherwise. If we continue on the current path we risk three important secondary problems…

First, we believe the PSCHMP is actually worse for fish than the status quo. It’s worse because it allows — for another 10 years — the continued narrative that further curtailing fishing will lead to recovery on this river. This is the moment to stop that nonsense. The Stillaguamish fisheries are very conservatively/sensibly managed and it’s essential the State, Tribes, and Recreationals all speak this truth with the same voice. We must educate politicians and conservation groups. We must change the narrative and we must change it right away.

Second, the closure of a wide swath of Puget Sound to salmon angling seems likely to deliver to a negative spiral for recovery and WDFW itself. If we emerge year-after-year from North of Falcon with no Area 5/6//7/8/9 Chinook fisheries — we anticipate a direct/dramatic economic impact (~400,000 angler trips trips/year at ~80/day is $32M out of the local economy). We’ll also certainly see a significant license revenue drop for the department — which will in turn lead to less research and management available for fisheries and recovery issues. And the combination of all this is a feedback loop that sprials downwards — with the fish the most likely victims again.

Finally we believe the current plan advances the false equivalence of “let’s do both” — let’s cut fishing and do habitat work. This kind of “why not do both??” sure sounds compelling. The answer is we have already cut fishing, and lots of it — without creating recovery. Filling the cracked bucket with more water isn’t helping here. Our view is the correct strategy is instead to marshall those user groups — they are the advocates we need at town halls, in Olympia, at conservation meetings, and donating time to habitat restoration on this very river. If we eliminate recreational fishing — we actually end up losing the most engaged and enthusiastic resource we have — which is the tens of thousands of license buyers.

In closing, we would remind our readers that had a normal, transparent process been followed in developing this plan — these sorts of issues would have inevitably have been surfaced and discussed prior to submission to NOAA. There would have been learned testimony and perhaps this could all have been avoided. Beyond a management failure, this PSCHMP is a process failure–and the separate process problems need to be discussed as well — but that’s for another day.

We Need You, and You Again

If you’ve read this far, you realize both how serious this situation is — and that doing nothing is likely going to lead to a seismic shift in Puget Sound fisheries. And as we’ve seen, none of the management changes will make a bit of difference to recovery of the Stillaguamish Chinook population. This isn’t just a call to action — it’s a call to multiple actions… This is too dire not to take two steps…

First, take a moment and give a donation today to a team of folks making a difference on the Stillaguamish river. They are some of the hardworking people working to fix the real, underlying issues on this (and other) rivers. They’ll use this money to write grants to in turn help restore the river habitat — which is the only path to recovery… While even $5 is great — we’d love to hear about people stepping up and really helping this team out!

Second, take 5 minutes and write the WDFW Commission. We’ve provided a form you can use but we strongly encourage you to revise or rewrite this to suit your own feelings. Make your own argument and tell your story!!

Puget Sound Stillaguamish Plan

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Footnotes

  1. With these low river survival rates it’s additionally clear how vulnerable this population is to any systemic disruptions or weather events. This showcases the important insurance that the Tribal hatchery provides should some catastrophic river event occur. That catastrophe is not at all hard to imagine a river system which absorbed the devastating Oso landslide in March 2014.
  2. FWIW, this cracked-bucket isn’t just a clever or convenient analogy–it’s a good approximation of the relationships here. Curious readers can study the spawner/recruit model, and the carrying capacity of an ecosystem–and you’ll find the analogy we’re using here is appropriate.


50 Comments on "WDFW Gives Up Puget Sound Fishing… For Nothing"

  1. Richard Littell | January 4, 2018 at 8:08 pm | Reply

    What a FN joke!

  2. Thank you for very clearly laying out how utterly flawed this plan was crafted, and how much it will damage our sport opportunities.

    We at WCS fully agree with your assessment of the “wrong science” thinking and flawed decisions made in this plan. Had the proper steps been taken to allow subject matter experts and experienced public groups to be involved in the crafting of this plan, the outcome would of looked much different and would of been submitted with cooperation and cohesion.

    Let us not forget the reason we are having to be “reactive” rather than “proactive” and that is the continued assault by the Senior leadership of WDFW in immunity to public oversight when meeting with the tribal co-mamangers. WDFW is using the Tribal position that they are not subject to our laws of Open government to craft deals in secret meetings.

    As we are fast moving to the Start of the North of Falcon, it is imperative there be some public oversight written into the Commission’s North of Falcon policy prior to any delegation of authority to the Department, lest we allow the very same secret deals to further erode our fish, our cooperation and our trust!

  3. This is damn fine journalism by the Tidal Exchange Staff–and once again makes me wonder how and why The Director and upper level Fisheries Managers have managed to remain employed. There are, presently, a fine group of nine WA citizens serving as DFW Commissioners that deserved to hear, ponder and respond to the likes of your body of work–but never got that chance. They will now have to perform their duties with the burden of unraveling this mess before proactively moving forward. Had they only been permitted the Transparency we all deserve…

  4. When I look at the Stilly River Chinook escapement graph, I see the blue line, which is the Natural Origin (wild) portion of the run on a 30-yr decline to extinction. I’m not a harvest manager, but I assume the Co-Managers are trying a last-ditched effort to save the wild portion of the run, which supplies the genetic material to the hatchery portion. I do work habitat restoration as the Salmon Recovery Coordinator in the San Juan Islands, and I know my
    colleagues in the Stilly are hard at it with habitat restoration. We are under-funded and it’s a nail-biter every two years with support from the Legislature. In fact salmon recovery funding is part of the Capital Budget that is held up in the Legislature. Thank you.

    • Byron,

      First thank you for the excellent work you and your colleagues do. As you are no doubt aware the future of the region’s Chinook (and other species) is addressing all the limiting factors (the various “Hs”). Significant progress has been made in the hatchery and harvest arenas but without additional habitat work (repairing the “bucket” ) the ecosystem is unable to take advantage of the additional fish placed on the spawning grounds. Healthy rivers are dependent on having healthy habitats. This is a complex problem made even more difficult without the broad social support and adequate funding that recreational fishing provides. The lack of funding increases the need for rigorous assessment of habitat repair needs and prioritization of potential project to address the most immediate limiting factors.

      We strongly believe habitat restoration/protection is both key and a long term need. That is why the link to Salmon Solutions has been provided for those interested in contributing. Do you have additional recommendations how concerned citizens can help?

      Responsive to your specific question, the NOR decline trend is concerning and illustrates that harvest reduction can only buy so much time and without reversing the habitat decline the end point will be extinction. As the line trajectory shows we are running out of decades in which to act. But we don’t agree this plan reflects a last-ditch effort to save the wild portion of the run. In fact, a close read of the Stillaguamish portion of the proposed Harvest Management Plan finds the escapements, population thresholds (LAT, UMT etc.) and in-season bench marks such as terminal run size (TRS) all now be measured as a composite of HOR and NOR fish. We believe that’s an intentional change from previous plans — and reflects a very different calculus than yours.

  5. Larry Hulbert | January 5, 2018 at 6:45 pm | Reply

    THis is a fine piece of research and articulation that should be required reading for the Commissioners and the Governor as well. There is such widespread misinformation and misunderstanding that threatens the future of our salmon and this report states what the real remedies must involve.
    Thank you to the team that prepared this highly informative report

  6. habitat is everything. nothing survives without a place to call home.mans damage to the environment is overwhelming. especially in snohomish county where the stilly mostly runs. creeks i used to fish as a kid are now housing developements. we always take but dont replace. nothing to blame but ourselves. to the point i wonder if we can ever repair the damage done. just to much pollution, to many parking lots, to many clear cuts and way to many houses and vehicles. man is slowly destroying this planet. only so much can be done. and its obviously not enough. if its in our way we alter it. were all paying the price. and it involves a lot more than just money.

    its not just the stilly. every river in the state is at risk of failing salmon returns. habitat, habitat, habitat. if it cant be restored or conserved nothing will save the salmon.

  7. Habitat is crucial. My father in law lives on th so fork, just outside of Granite Falls for the last 20 years. We have watched as the ammount of trash and debri has continued to grow. More roadways and traffic has increased runoff and silting significantly. Now with the construction of nearly 700 new homes adjacent to the river this will exasperate the rivers degredation expodentially. How did this project pushed through? Granite Falls in 5 years will be unrecognizable as will our river and fishery.

  8. I’ve read the entire article and am a bit confused. Is it talking about fishing as in just us as sports-fishermen or is it talking about fishing as a whole, including the tribes with their nets? If the sooner, I would definitely agree with it as it didn’t make much of a difference two years ago when we as sports-fishermen had no season at all. The run the next season really wasn’t any different from the year before. If the latter though, I simply do not see how that is possible. I understand the fish need a place that is suitable for them to lay their eggs and for them to spawn and whatnot, that being said… the impact that the tribes have with their nets has to have a hugely negative impact on the return number of fish coming back to the rivers to spawn, considering that they over-fish with their nets and basically take as much as they want without any quota, limits or catch records to turn in at the end of the season. If we don’t know how much the tribes are actually catching with their nets because they produce inaccurate or falsified catch numbers, how can we even know what the real impact is on the fishing returns? I would say opening up that door would be a great place to start. I feel like the 5 gallon bucket metaphor is similar with how the tribes fish compared to how the sports-fishermen go about it. The tribes are fishing the whole 5 gallon bucket and getting their entire share while us sports-fishermen are getting the one quart at the bottom, and that’s on a good year or if we even get a fishing season at all. There’s no possible way that we as sports-fishermen, using hook and line, can out fish the tribes using their mile long nets. There’s just no way.

    • Blair, thanks for asking…. Unlike many systems in the state, gillnets are not a significant factor on the Stillaguamish river. Typically there is a 35-fish ceremonial fishery in May that does use gillnets–but it appears to us to be strictly managed to the 35 fish quota.

      • I guess I’m talking about in general. I live up near the Edmonds area and throughout the entire summer I’ll see trawlers and purse seiners out there netting with their mile long nets. I can’t imagine that the natives being able to fish using those methods wouldn’t have a tremendous impact on the salmon return and longevity factor in trying to preserve the species for ALL.

      • Yes, we understand the larger issue. In fairness, many/most of the purse seiners out off Edmonds are not Tribal fishermen—they’re regular WA state commercials.

      • I’m sorry but I just don’t believe that most of these boats netting in the Edmonds area are regular WA state commercial fishers. And if that were actually the case, why are they not adhering to quotas and limits? All of these boats that are out there netting are the reason for the fish not returning pure and simple. I also see that my comment about cutting down the trees was never posted. I highly doubt it has anything to do with the fish not being able to successfully spawn and lay their eggs. I’d be willing to bet some serious money on it’s the fact that there are hardly any fish left because of the natives netting all the fish and not allowing them to reproduce. I’d love to see the data on population numbers of fish from before and after the Judge Boldt decision.

      • We’ve reviewed the List of Agreed Fisheries and that specific area is indeed Treaty, we stand corrected. Of course just south of Edmonds there is a mix of treaty and non-treaty (Area 10). The Edmonds fishery you mention began Oct 22, which is well after the principal Chinook run timings in Puget Sound. Your continued assertion that the Stillaguamish is a problem due to harvest — we’d happily accept your wager, so long as the judgement is made by a respected fisheries biologist. Before you take the bet — note that we’ve had tens of thousands of reads (25,000 currently) of this article and not one experienced biologist opinion disagreeing with our findings.

      • First off, I’m not just talking about boats netting in Edmonds. I’m talking about multiple areas all over the Puget Sound and a lot of it has to do with area 9. I have a summer cabin on the south end of Whidbey Island and see them there and have even seen them all the way up past a buddy’s place in Sequim/Port Angeles. And they also do it during halibut season. What was it… this last year or the year before when they got a “clean up day”? Supposedly the winds/weather was too rough and the tribes didn’t get their quotas so they were allowed an extra day to go out and fish, thus basically limiting almost any chances of catching fish. Also, I’m not just talking about the Stilly… I’m talking about multiple rivers. If the natives weren’t allowed to net there would literally thousands of more fish being able to swim up the rivers each year and have a much better chance to spawn and lay their eggs. When thousands of fish per day are getting caught in nets it severely limits the population and the chances of successful hatching. Lastly, just because you’ve had “25,000 views” of this article that doesn’t mean that it’s all biologists or even close to that. I’m thinking most are likely infuriated sports-fishermen. But hey, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. some biological findings on the matter would be rather nice. I’d find it very difficult to believe that if netting were deemed illegal that the population of the species would stay the same as it is or decrease. But I’d still be willing to make a wager.

  9. If the primary degradation is from logging in the watershed why are logging companies not charged with Restoration? Why is ANY watershed deprived of NUTRIENTS from fish carcasses a WDFW state wide practice? WHY.. because money from them overrides watershed and fish benefits!!! Basic Biology…they need food and the watershed needs Nutrients.

  10. Statistics show that up to 70% of Washington fish are Commercially caught between Alaska, Canada, and Washington. Chinook stay in the ocean longer! Let’s not forget #1 problem is Over Harvest!

    • Gary, all these impacts are accounted for in the pre-season modeling. You want to be super precise in your language though — 70% of the Stillaguamish Chinook run are NOT caught in AK and BC, though a significant amount of the total mortailities take place there. But to re-iterate the core point. If for a 4 year period you stopped all fishing from AK, BC and Puget Sound (including recreational and Tribal) the data we’ve presented indicate it won’t make a difference because there’s not sufficient habitat for them to reproduce successfully.

  11. The WDFW Commission needs to stick with science (factual knowledge) and put away emotional reaction. That’s the smart approach that will correct a longstanding problem that gets worse the longer they react emotionally.

  12. well….. interesting, informative and well written! However what I find unfortunate here is that the article focuses almost exclusively on the fact that to reduce fishing isn’t going to do anything and why that’s the case. How about discussing just as extensively what will and how. If the main culprit for all this is habitat loss why only ever so briefly touch on that. I find that part too vague and frankly not enough. No plan, no solution, not much to get fired up about. I would like to see what you propose to do, how are you going to work on habitat recovery. How will you restore shoreline habitat and how will you convince private waterfront owners to take down their concrete reinforcements to encourage recovery of swampy plants and small organisms so that the fry have food and places to hide??? I’m sorry, I absolutely agree with all your reasoning but I would have loved to see some more concrete steps than just an explanation about why we should opposed this plan.

    • In speaking with the teams on the river, we asked specifically what they needed — was it volunteers? was it $$$? For now they’ve told us their key need is financial support for their staff to write grant proposals. Those grants (government and NGO) are where they get the funding to do the real heavy lifting. We are developing other, concrete plans closer to what you’re suggesting–but not anything close just yet!

  13. I live on the South Fork of the Stillaguamish and would love to be involved in any way that I can to help bring back a strong Salmon Run….. Any information and or groups that I could join would be greatly appreciated.

  14. First, I should preface this by disclosing I am one of the Tribal co-managers. I found this article interesting that in many ways hits the target and in other ways misses badly. I think that a better job of placing the Stilly population in the context of the entire Puget Sound Evolutionary Significant Unit (ESU) would be helpful to the readers to better understand why the Stilly is important. Also, it might be helpful to describe to your readers how harvest is determined by the co-managers with the intent, and federal court order through US vs Washington, to manage the resource in perpetuity. Each population has its own biological status and response to its local and distant environmental conditions. Managers then determine the harvestable surplus remaining above conservation needs. In the case of the Stilly, there is simply no harvestable surplus – plain and simple. Every fish is critical to escapement. You are correct that there have been dramatic reductions in treaty and non-treaty harvest and they have not resulted in commensurate responses in escapement, but that does not mean that we can continue to harvest a population, albeit slowly, to extinction because it is inconvenient to do otherwise.

    In full disclosure, I am the current Chair of the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council and Chair of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. I say that now because although you do mention that habitat is the issue, you do not really explain why and what real solutions might look like. It is not simply a matter of some individual donations and some volunteer time, although those are helpful and desperately needed. The real solution to habitat is far more complex and costly and serious and urgent. It is more complex because simply fixing the Stilly freshwater and estuary habitat is not enough for that imperiled population. These fish have to swim and survive Puget Sound twice in their lives. They need all of Puget Sound to be clean and healthy and functioning. They need cool and clean fresh and marine water. They need food to eat in the River and in the Ocean. The habitat fix for the Stilly is a landscape fix for the entire region. Complex, but doable. Hell, we landed on the moon and can send a text message by our phones to India in a matter of seconds. Complex means a challenge and we should all come together to rise to this challenge.

    Rising to this challenge means getting serious about habitat issues before it is too late. We have been spending less than 20% of the identified need statewide on salmon recovery (state, federal, local, tribal, and private dollars combined). Our level of public and private investment has been insufficient to match the problem we are trying to solve. Using your analogy, we know the bucket is cracked but have not been willing to buy a new bucket, rather we try to duct tape the crack and watch the floor get wet. Let’s invest in some new buckets.

    It is urgent because as we look into the future of this region we are anticipating that nearly 2.0 million more people will be living in the Puget Sound region in the coming 20 years. Where will they live? Where will their water come from? Where will their sewage and stormwater and carbon and all other impacts of living here go? We are still losing habitat faster than we are restoring and protecting it.
    The graph that should be most alarming to your readers and illustrative of the crisis is the relationship of population growth since 1900 and salmon populations. Want to guess what that looks like?

    We need to manage our current and future growth in this region very differently or there will be no fishing because there will be no salmon. Bryon pointed out the assinine fight in Olympia with water rights that has the Captial Budget tied up. This needs to stop now. We all need to insist that growth be managed, that we are certain that our decisions around water use protect salmon, and we need to fully fund salmon recovery right now!

    I am also recreational fisher and I too share the frustration exhibited in this article and by your readers. But, I think we have far more in common than what divides us. If the Tribal and recreational communities could come together now and insist that spending less than 1% of the State’s budget on natural resources is an embarrassment, that spending less than 20% of the need for salmon is criminal, and that watching our salmon and Orca populations go extinct is not acceptable, we could make a difference. We need to rally now, stand together in Olympia and in DC or we will have no one to blame but ourselves when the last salmon has been caught. I am ready to make this happen, are you?

    • David, Great to have your comments and perspective/expertise here. A number of the issues you raise are certainly important + related–yet we scoped the article as we did and still it’s 3000 words of fairly complex material. Clearly there’s plenty more for future stories! You’re 100% correct that habitat issues are a key opportunity for all groups to stand and work together. We also should acknowledge the good work that you/the Nisqually Tribe do on your habitat and also exploring selective in-river fishing methods.. While we have you, we would appreciate (either in comments or email) your insights on why this plan has shifted to measuring populations and management thresholds as NOR + HOR combined, vs NOR alone previously? Any explanations and clarifications about how and why this was changed will in turn help us keep our readers and community well informed! Thanks.

  15. Ocean warming and acidification as well as ocean harvest off Alaska and British Columbia are major determinants of salmon survival. Habitat focus in rivers is key as you document. Perhaps not expected to conserve every wild spawning run as pure without hatchery assistance is not realistic.

    • Rubbish. Per NASA.com the upper 2300′ of the ocean has only risen .3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969. It’s not the ocean temperatures. IMO it’s the fact that a few of us with nets are overfishing and not helping preserve the species and ruining it for the rest of us.

  16. Rory O'Connor | January 6, 2018 at 6:32 pm | Reply

    This has been an enormously enlightening article and discussion. I love the bucket analogy. Thanks to all the contributors – incl commenter David Troutt. We don’t often hear the tribal perspective and often make very sweeping and incorrect assumptions about it.

    My somewhat ignorant question is…when is a salmon species considered extinct? And, when does trying to fend off extinction stop being worthwhile? Habitat issues are not unique to the Stilly. If it wasn’t the Stilly, it’d be the Noocksack or the Dungeness or the Cedar or…you name it.

    As David noted, real change probably isn’t going to happen on the grassroots level, it has to be a priority of those who set the policy and spend the dollars. And it’s just not. If indeed we live in a democracy and lawmaking and budget allocation (state and federal) is an extension of the will of the people – the people don’t care about salmon. We’ve already voted and we prefer our roads, homes, cheap food, electricity (read: stormwater runoff, culverts, logging, agriculture, dams). And in a state with an exploding population, that’s not something that’s likely to change.

    As David also points out, we’re smart, we should be able to innovate our way out of this. But that also requires money, and attention. And probably most importantly – TIME. Fixing these issues with new solutions requires iteration, and the lifecycle is in years. If we did have the attention and the dollars, would we even have enough time to iterate before it’s too late? And we’re *already* been iterating, and nothing we’ve tried works. Except maybe…

    THE ONE THING SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED TO MITIGATE HABITAT LOSS…hatcheries. Hatchery production is a fraction of what it once was. Probably alot due to funding but also due to wild fish zealotry – both from inside the regulatory agencies and pressure from litigious organizations (who represent a tiny minority).

    With historical hatchery straying and also broodstocking the lines between what is hatchery and what is wild seem very blurry. Holding on to some zealous notion of what is a “pure” strain of natural origin fish, and hamstringing the system to try to recover said mystical fish seems seriously misguided to me. But I am just some guy.

    Seems to me, just some ignorant guy who fishes, that if we want fishing (tribal, recreational and commercial) AND Orca recovery…but we ALSO want rapid development and our modern conveniences — we’ll have to back off our ideals about wild fish and start cranking out the hatchery fish. Maybe?

    • Rory, A couple thoughts… First, the idea of cranking out hatchery fish has long been the mitigation strategy of choice as you suggest. We’re supportive of hatcheries and of continued improvements in how they’re operated — so in that sense we understand and agree. But there are two important and related concerns–first, in the presence of a federally protected Endangered Species run, hatcheries do not help recover that run. In fact they typically degrade the natural spawning run as the hatchery fish compete for resources and stray/affect the genetics of the run. Second, any fishery targetting the hatchery fish you’ve just produced is still going to be limited by any ESA protected fish mixed in. Obviously selective fisheries help here. So long as there are ESA protected runs in Puget Sound — which seems likely to be true for many many decades — we are faced with the current balancing act. There are some excellent books on this topic, we’d suggest “Salmon Without Rivers” as a good starting point.

      • Rory O'Connor | January 6, 2018 at 8:23 pm |

        Viewing things through the current paradigm of what NOAA dictates (or we think they will dictate) is also not working. Perhaps a re-evaluation of “Endangered” and “Species” (at least in regards to WA’s “wild” chinook) is required *by NOAA*. Not likely of course.

        We don’t need to look very far to know that salmon can and do become extinct, and the only reason salmon exist at all in certain rivers is because of hatchery production. Anywhere on the east coast, or even Chinook right over in the Sooke river. A looking glass into the future.

  17. You poor Washingtonians must have an endless supply of vaseline the way your governing bodies have bent you over the last , Oh lets say 45 years? From Boldt to throwing firecrackers at seals chewing heads off salmon for kicks, the ridiculous solutions I have seen got me to move to AZ 20 years ago without a thought of moving back. Ever. In Az they don’t talk about doing things, they go out and do them. A bit too logical for the limpies you seem to procreate.

  18. You are so close to the source of the problem. You actually are correct in part of what is the problem. You even name it, sort of. The problem is

    WATER.

    The rivers throughout western Washington are being destroyed by chemicals. Chemicals dumped by timber companies. Chemicals dumped over the very hills that create the headwaters and feed the myriad creeks and streams that then feed the rivers and ultimately the Sound and ocean.

    These chemicals are all LETHAL to aquatic environments. The MDSD sheets say don’t use on or near aquatic environments. Yet they are dumped anyway. Sprayed and spread over clearcut hills, so replanted trees will grow faster. These chemicals sit on and in the soil for YEARS, killing off competing vegetation and leeching into the very headwaters of EVERY SINGLE BODY OF WATER IN WESTERN WASHINGTON.

    These chemicals then flow downstream to the spawning beds of EVERY FISH IN THE WATERWAYS. No fish that is listed as endangered or threatened has made any recovery. How did a Mud Minnow become endangered? When was the last time you saw Mud Minnows for sale at Pike Place Market? Never? Gee, if there is no fishery for it, what killed it to the point of extinction?

    The chemicals must be stopped from being used in the forests. Mother Nature grew trees for millenia with no problems, and will still grows trees if we let her.

    If we want our fisheries to recover, we must look higher, not deeper. Look to the hills.

    • Jim I have heard this before from a couple of hunters that have a place down near Mt.St.Helens. I am wondering why no one has gone after the timber companies. Multinational corporations I guess. They were pretty confident that the hoof rot was related to the spraying by Weyerhaeuser.

  19. Chris Johnson | January 8, 2018 at 3:57 am | Reply

    We’ve all heard of the 4 H’s (Habitat, Hydro,Hatcheries and Harvest),there is another H and it is Hubris. Hubris in that we think we can do what ever we want in the watershed and just dump more hatchery fish in the river and “manage” the run and all will be fine. We need restoration of habitat in the estuary, the head waters and all points in between.

  20. David Pfingston | January 8, 2018 at 9:29 am | Reply

    What about fishing in kind ? The Boldt decision giving 50/50 rights to salmon ?This sounds like a payoff or some type of corruption.

    • David, it’s important to remember the closures we’re discussing are mixed-stock fisheries being shut down as ESA management decisions–not allocation ones. The state is indeed going to be hard pressed to find a way for non-tribal anglers to catch their share of these fish absent these fisheries–very much to your point. A court might agree with you that the state is entitled to its 50% share, but not to harvest them in a way that violates ESA constraints. The court in turn might direct the state to harvest its share in more terminal areas — effectively reducing the mixed-stock concerns. If we want to fish in mixed-stock areas, the management plans for the weakest stocks take on huge importance — which is why the Stillaguamish is what we’re writing about here. Make sense?

  21. Maybe we should just outlaw the practice of selling salmon eggs to the Japanese for their sushi? Seems extremely idiotic to sell salmon eggs!
    Seems like one egg may easily become one fish.

  22. A clear indication that the habitat in most Puget Sound streams is poor was reflected by the (approximate) 40% mortality of adult coho salmon in some of these streams. This is a water quality problem that likely will get worse as development spreads throughout this region. Once the habitat around Puget Sound is paved over, roofed over, or totally gone, the “wild” salmon will be extinct. There is likely a high correlation between population growth in this area and the decrease in historic levels of wild chinook and coho salmon.

  23. As Sportsmen we collectively must shoulder a Huge amount of responsibility for this and much more to come. Before you begin lambasting me for saying that hear me out… WDFW has not been our friend for years. They tell us one thing while quietly planning something totally different and not favorable to our community and have been doing so for years. They continue meeting with and making agreements with the Tribes behind closed doors and more recently in complete secrecy. The management of the resource is focused towards Tribal and Commercial interests with the Sport Community almost an After thought. I could continue but I assume you get and already know this. This isnt something new, this is and has been SOP for sometime. Having said that my point is We as a Community have done nothing or to be more accurate have done not even a fraction of what we could have or are capable of doing to Stop or Change any of the issues we’re now facing. In terms of shear numbers, Sportsmen and the businesses we impact far outnumber all other interests combined. Yet our Voices are never heard at a volume that Demands Attention. In Terms of Shear Dollars, Sportsmen Fund through Licenses the very Agency that cuts us out year after year yet we continue to fund them without regard for our interests. Yes we complain and bitch, yes some groups have people representing us at meetings in Olympia and this has never and will never work. Have you ever attended these meetings? I know some of you have because I’ve seen you there. I’ve seen dozens of angry, passionate sportsmen get up and testify but that is the problem… 30-40 or maybe 50 or even a hundred Sportsmen is just a whisper to those who hold our fate. We could have stopped this BS long ago and still can alter the future but the only way that will ever happen is 2 fold: 1) We have to come together en-mass and make our voices heard as one, and make so much noise they have to take notice. 2) We have to mass in numbers so large that politicians get nervous.
    Its not that difficult but so far not important enough for sportmen and business to devote 1 day to, even though it means we keep having to pay more to fish less. If 1 out of every 50 or even 100 sportsmen cared enough about our future to pick a date, come Hell or High Water, arrange for that day off and all show up on the Capitol Steps Demanding Change…

    Who am I fooling, that will never happen.

  24. I think your analysis is interesting, but incomplete. In the process you reach a conclusion that isn’t fully supported – that “nothing” was gained in terms of conservation by this plan. Here’s where I think you miss the mark… First, we have to remember what the plan accomplishes and how it will be evaluated by NOAA. This is not a recovery plan. It is a plan to fish, and incidentally “take” listed Chinook in the process. To get NOAA’s blessing, the co-managers must advance a fishing proposal that will not jeopardize listed Chinook (or listed Orcas). That means proving that fishing, and taking Chinook, will not appreciably impair the continued existence Of Chinook (and Orcas) or the ability to move towards recovery. A ten-year plan, in the face of continued declines of Chinook (and the critical status of Orcas), is going to have a high bar to get over. Second, you are absolutely right that reduced harvest hasn’t produced an uptick in Chinook. And habitat limitations are a huge piece of that. But that doesn’t mean harvest is no longer an issue, as you suggest. Failing to reverse declines doesn’t mean harvest has done all it can. To get ESA approval, the co-mangers must advance a fishing plan that, going forward, will not contribute to a continued decline in Chinook. And don’t forget, the continued loss of Chinook, for whatever reason, makes this analysis even harder of you add Orca problems to the ESA analysis. So the real question then becomes, how does fishing affect Chinook abundance? Let’s focus now on Stilly, as you do. You focus on habitat as the problem for this system. True enough. And to be clear, it is peak flows that scour eggs from other wise decent spawning habitat. It is episodic – better in some years, worse in others. And that habitat issue appears to be getting worse over time. So why focus on harvest at all? Because you can’t, from the graph you rely upon, conclude there is no productivity in this system. Given the continued decline in Chinook over the years, the new co-manger plan includes new conservation criteria for what to do in low abundance years. And that is precisely the part of the Stilly plan which may further constraining harvest – terminal run returns between 900 and 1200 Chinook. These new low abundance constraints make perfect sense if low abundance leaves room for spawning productivity by ensuring added Chinook escape fisheries. Again, you can’t answer that question from your graph on Stilly productivity. So where’s the answer? Well, NOAA completed a revised stock abundance (Derivation of Rebuilding Exploitation Rate (RER) for Stillaguamish Chinook) in May of 2017. If you examine the Ricker Curve (Figure 5 – a tool for estimating a system’s productivity) you will observe that NOAA believes there is spawning productivity in the system at lower abundances. And guess what, that is below the 1200 spawner count – the very point that the Stilly plan identifies the need to get more fish back to spawning grounds! In other words, if you care about preserving the Stilly population of Chinook, you better make sure you are using the system’s productivity in low abundance years! If nothing else, it works as an insurance policy 3, 4, and 5 years down the road from any low abundance year – when the broodstock comes back as returning adults.

    So, to sum up… Interesting piece (especially the analogy to a broken bucket). And yes, if we want to fish, we need to have our legislature appropriate real money for real habitat solutions. Not just talk. But I think you have also missed the boat on conservation here, with an incomplete analysis. Are there debates about how to balance conservation and harvest here? Sure. But you can’t say, with confidence, that DFW negotiated a plan with “nothing” to show for conservation. NOAA’s stock recruitment analysis shows otherwise. Finally, don’t forget that a ten-year fishing plan, in the face of continued declines of Chinook (and Orcas), is going to need to work very hard for a valid ESA justification to continue. it will be even harder without new conservation measures in place, particularly where Chinook productivity can be aided by new harvest measures in low abundance years.

    PS – The new hatchery constraints work to enure some marked Chinook from Stilly hatchery stock make it past fisheries in low abundance years. The Stilly hatchery stock is an ESA listed stock, unlike some other hatchery stocks. It is a conservation, not harvest program. That is also important as the hatchery program is one of the things propping up Stilly Chinook. In contrast, the Stilly natural origin segment is in the decline, as the graph you reference shows.

    • Sven, we always welcome informed, intelligent comments, so first off, thanks for taking the time. Without a point-by-point debate we clearly acknowledge any 3000 word analysis of a complex problem like this can’t be complete in all ways. We’ll simply balance your comments with three thoughts: 1) 1200 spawners threshold–our math has that well over the carrying capacity of the Stilly presently 2) While nobody would deny there’s always more everyone could do, we believe that harvest has done near miraculous work making improvements — it’s a horrible precedent to marginalize/eliminate the one user group that has actually been aggressive and met goals. 3) As for hatchery fish constraints, we’d argue that if you want to preserve more hatchery fish, then consider a mark that is not an adipose clip.

  25. I find it interesting that they are concerned that an angler might catch one of the Stilly fish, yet tribes still take 35 fish annually for ceremony. if they are truly concerned that this a death of a thousand cuts shouldn’t they give up the 35 fish for the greater good?

  26. Great article, great comments from everyone.

    So what I have gathered is we need a habitat fix plain and simple. Fish and game needs to show they did everything possible to get the fish back. So a 10 year closure and then maybe the feds will puke up some more money for habitat?

    I live in West Seattle and every fall I watch the muckelshoot fleet deploy their nets all over the duwamish, across the mouth of the locks, in the lake so they can either fuel the casinos with fish or sell them to kroger. We have experienced reductions every year yet the netting increases. The trust is broken.

    The hard thing for most of us to swallow is the continued impacts from the commercial fleet up north and the netting by the tribes. If we are to work together then they too need to abstain and be held accountable. Clarity and collaboration should be the goal instead the tribes want secret meetings. Why? I can only imagine there is a ton of tribal infighting they don’t want the public to see because lets face it, the tribes on the coast stand to lose all their summer revenue without fishing while the puget sound casinos lose very little.

    I would be willing to gut the loss of fun and recreation for a number of years knowing no one was catching fish and all the fish that could, would return to spawn. However I have only seen lost opportunity and tribes taking advantage. How do you want to fix that part of the problem? Solutions.

  27. It’s interesting that decades and decades ago, birds and mammals were commercially hunted, One to extinction and some very near it. Now, we have fish species that are state and federally listed as threatened or endangered, but we continue to allow commercial harvest. We terminated the commercial hunting of birds and mammals, and we have strong recovery of those species. Perhaps we should rely on history to repeat itself. Terminate the commercial fishing of listed fish. We know it worked for birds and mammals… what’s good for the goose and bull, should be good for the fish.

  28. No mention here about the over 400,000 sea lions and seals that populate the west coast and pudget Sound. This information came from an article by Northwest Treaty Tribes chairman Lorraine Loomis. So all you have to do is go cruising around the islands in the sound and watch them as they feast on our salmon. How about some population controls on these guys.

  29. It is really sad that NOAA/WDFW/WFC/etc. are basically anti-hatchery. They apparently don’t recognize that hatchery fish very closely parallel “wild” fish. Both are reared in fresh water, migrate to the Pacific Ocean for added growth, and (without a GPS) can make it back to their stream of origin after multiple years in the Pacific Ocean. Why these groups condemn hatchery fish is questionable. Because both “wild” and hatchery fish share so much in common, it seems like science would be able to uncover the minor differences and use those to rebuild the “wild” runs. If you don’t believe that salmon are highly adaptable and quite fluid in their life histories, look at the situation in the Cowlitz River where the bulk of the steelhead run used to peak between Thanksgiving and New Years. Now, through hatchery adjustments, the peak is around March.

    Hatcheries should be used as a tool to rebuild the Chinook runs in Puget Sound. As an example, a parallel situation existed for the Redfish Lake sockeye (in Idaho) where the run was down to one male fish. Through a scientifically based approach using hatcheries, the run has been expanding (in most years). With the crummy habitat coupled with massive population expansion in the Puget Sound region, pristine conditions for Chinook salmon recovery are probably not obtainable, both because the physical habitat has been degraded and because the water quality is poor – example – the adult coho in some Puget Sound streams reportedly had about a 40% pre-spawning mortality due to water quality (supposed). This was a very sad situation. Habitat restoration cannot keep pace with these massive habitat disturbances.

    (On the “wild” fish issue, NOAA/WDFW/etc. should look at historic release records which will show that most streams in Puget Sound had some introduction of hatchery chinook – many from the Green River – thereby few “pure” “wild” fish exist).

    • On the water quality issue, read “Agency finds salmon, orcas harmed by pesticides” in the Jan. 13, 2018 Seattle Times. It describes three commonly used pesticides that harm salmon.
      On the physical habitat issues, read “U.S. Supreme Court to hear case on tribal fishing rights”. This one involves Washington State’s challenge to the ruling that it must repair culverts that harm fish habitat. This is also in the Jan. 13 Seattle Times.

  30. I am glad to see all the responses especially the Tribal response, I doubt we would ever see a WDFW or NOAA response.
    I like many others have lost trust in the co-managers. You can point to many issues habitat loss, over harvest, ocean conditions but secret meetings without input from all stakeholders is flawed & corrupt, this latest plan is a fine example, they don’t have all the facts but are crafting a plan in secret?? The fist issue I have is sale for profit of ESA listed fish, this should be the first manageable issue. STOP THE SALE OF ESA listed PUGET
    SOUND CHINOOK! Second issue the only group that fishes selectively also pumps the Most money back into the economy, funds hatcheries gets SCREWED! Why allow commercial harvest in the Puget Sound selling ESA listed Chinook for profit? The co-managers make no distinction between a commercial harvester and a selective fishing sportsmen. One catches,sells ESA listed fish, the other pays $1000.00 per hatchery fish for the opportunity.
    A note to our Tribal Co-Manager’s you could help us understand your position by being more transparent, you can read what we are thinking and you can comment, where can we read what your thinking and respond? You can read creel reports open to all, easy to find. Your catch not so easy to find…….
    The commercial harvesters fish in Alaska and then come down here and fish…Why??
    Why allow commercial harvest in Washington we get very little return and lose a lot in way of ESA listed fish. Why not give the their quota to the only group using selective methods?
    Where is Jay Inslee in all of this? he would probably make things worse but he is asleep at the wheel again!!!!!!!

    • Bill, I applaud you for your comment. Your precise and clear outline of some of the very real issues that plague or fisheries helps highlight some areas that can make a real and immediate impact in ESA recovery. The time for mandated select fisheries is long over due. The indiscriminate killing gill nets should be outlawed immediately. They not only insure ESA listed fish are killed, they mask the taking of ESA fish in by-catch! Further, we cannot continue to let these “closed door” negotiations go on. The justification that confidentiality is needed so all parties are comfortable to express themselves is ridicules. That is just another way of saying “we want to make demands and we don’t want the public to know about it”. We must have all aspects of our fishery management out in the open! How else can we all agree and then work cohesively to make things better? I welcome our tribal co-managers to come out from behind the curtain and join the conversation. I understand the hesitancy, since there are some bad apples who have said raciest and hate laden language. But by remaining silent, the perception is you feel elitist and privileged. We understand your treaty rights, and know the tribes collectively have and are continuing to do a lot of good in the fisheries and habitat. So, think how much more we can accomplish if we could work together. It’s time to stop playing the victim. Our fish do not have the luxury of time for us to re-hash the past and spend precious time with this damaging Us vs Them attitude. There are a lot more sportsmen who are willing to cooperate with a partner then some who have other agendas. Let’s start talking to each other as equals!

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