2008 salmon fisheries will protect weak wild salmon runs

2008 salmon fisheries will protect weak wild salmon runs

SEATAC (April 10, 2008) – The tribal and state salmon co-managers have crafted a package of fisheries that will protect weak wild runs of coho and chinook salmon throughout Puget Sound and coastal Washington. The co-managers agreed on a conservation-based fishing package that protects weak wild runs by focusing efforts on abundant hatchery runs.

“While the picture for chinook is overall pretty good this year, some fisheries needed to be trimmed from last year’s levels to protect weak chinook runs to some rivers,” said Lorraine Loomis, fisheries manager with the Swinomish Tribe and lead negotiator for the treaty tribes.

A low run of Stillaguamish chinook in particular forced the salmon co-managers to constrain some fisheries this year. “In Puget Sound salmon fisheries are constrained by how many wild fish are returning in any given year,” Loomis said.

Ocean fisheries are also constrained based on weak stocks. “We understand what California and Oregon are going through with the health of their freshwater systems,” said Russ Svec, fisheries program manager for the Makah Tribe. “We could be facing the same situation in the future up here and we’re working with our co-managers to restore and protect salmon habitat. But, we’re not there yet, so in the future we’d like to work towards resolving habitat problems that limit our access to ocean fisheries.”

“We worked through tough issues by listening to everyone’s needs and coming up with a good overall package,” Loomis said. “Not all fishermen are getting what they want, but the most important thing is the salmon get what they need.”

“We started this year with a dialogue between tribal and non-tribal fishermen on the condition of our fisheries and salmon habitat,” said Terry Williams, Fish and Natural Resource Commissioner for the Tulalip Tribes. “As the process evolved, we had to get past the ‘me first’ argument for particular fisheries and craft a plan that was best for the salmon.”

“We will have low returns of wild fish for the foreseeable future because natural salmon production has been lost to damaged and vanishing habitat,” said Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

“You can’t make mistakes when planning fisheries that might impact weak wild runs, so we approach this very cautiously,” said Frank. “The salmon are too important. If we err, it must be on the side of conservation and letting salmon reach the spawning grounds.”