Ed Johnstone of the Quinault Indian Nation has been elected chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. He succeeds Lorraine Loomis, who passed away in August. Johnstone will serve the remainder of Loomis’ term through May 2022.
As the fisheries policy spokesperson for the Quinault Indian Nation, Johnstone has extensive experience in management of salmon, steelhead, crab, clams, black cod and halibut. He has served as Quinault’s commissioner to the NWIFC since 2000 and as treasurer from 2009 to 2021. He serves on the Southern Panel of the Pacific Salmon Commission and the Intergovernmental Policy Council, a forum of tribal and state co-managers of the ocean area that includes the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Johnstone previously served on the Quinault Tribal Council from 1996 to 2002.
“The treaty tribes of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission have a responsibility to make tough decisions as stewards for the resource and to work with our state natural resources co-managers to protect fish for our children and their children,” Johnstone said. “Fish and fishing have been an inseparable part of my life for as long as I can remember, providing food, income and spiritual connection to being Quinault.
“In the 21 years I’ve represented the Quinault Nation, I’ve learned that tribes have to be at the table to protect our treaty rights and the fisheries resource,” Johnstone said. “Fisheries management has become more challenging every year with the ongoing loss of habitat, declining salmon runs and impacts of climate change. Sometimes, it seems like we’re losing more than we’re gaining, and we need to run just to try to keep up, but we have to keep fighting for those who don’t have a voice – the generations of fish and people still unborn.”
Johnstone will carry on Loomis’ work, as well as that of Billy Frank Jr., who was NWIFC chair for 30 years until his passing in 2014.
“Being chosen to follow the footsteps left by Billy and Lorraine is a great honor and I take the responsibility seriously. I’ll give it all I’ve got,” Johnstone said. “I’ve learned a lot from those who have come before. My brother Guy McMinds taught me when to fight and when to shake hands. Quinault leader Jim Harp taught me the need to stand up for what’s right and to persevere. Tribal leaders like Joe DeLaCruz, Billy and Lorraine knew when to step in to provide vision and leadership to inspire others to join hands in times of need.
“The challenges we face today are huge, but not insurmountable. Tribes can’t go it alone. We have to tell others who we are and what we stand for, remind our federal trustees of their responsibilities, and forge enduring partnerships to succeed. Tribes need to be a strong and growing force for change.”
The NWIFC is a support service organization for the 20 treaty Indian tribes in western Washington that are co-managers of the region’s natural resources with the state of Washington. The commission provides services to tribes in areas such as fisheries management, habitat protection and fish health. The NWIFC also provides a forum for tribes to address shared natural resources management concerns and enables the tribes to speak with a unified voice.
The NWIFC is headquartered in Olympia, with satellite offices in Forks, Burlington and Poulsbo and employs a staff of 80.
Ed Johnstone, right, speaks about the importance of honoring treaty rights at a meeting of tribal leaders with the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Brenda Mallory. Seated beside him is Nisqually Tribal Council Member Hanford McCloud. Photo: D. Preston, Nisqually Tribe