Tony Floor gets in-season fisheries management wrong

This is what a tribal emergency regulation looks like.
This is what a tribal emergency regulation looks like.

Tony Floor, director of Fishing Affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association, was recently interviewed on the Outdoor Line (under March 28, 2015) on KIRO Radio 710 to talk about fisheries management issues.

The tribes do not use in-season management. So, they’re plumbed in with what they are expected to catch. I’m not going to go into that. It would take a lot of time to explain that. But, let’s just say they’ve never cheated their impacts and continued to fish.

Floor is 100 percent wrong.

In-season management is in fact at the heart of tribal fisheries management. Even to the point of closing down fisheries when necessary.

In-season management is the practice of verifying salmon returns while a fishery is in progress to prevent overfishing and ensure weak stocks are protected. It is important because fishing seasons are set based on pre-season forecasts. If fewer fish are found to be returning, fisheries can be modified or closed to protect weak stocks.

For example, in 2011, the Nisqually Tribe closed their coho fishery (here and here) to protect a weak run:

“It’s a hard decision to close fisheries, but for the long term health of the coho stock, it’s a decision we had to make,” said Georgiana Kautz, natural resources manager for the Nisqually Tribe. This year tribal fisherman caught 1,000 fewer fish than last year. “Salmon are the center of our natural resources centered economy and culture,” she said.

Also, a year earlier, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians closed their chinook fishery because there were not enough chinook in the river.

Joe Peters, the harvest management biologist with the Squaxin Island Tribe, explained in a blog post how his tribe conducts in-season management on chum salmon:

While Non-Tribal fleet, recreational and our neighboring Tribes to the north are fishing, the extreme terminal Tribes are relying on chum making it to the streams to spawn (escapement). Squaxin Chum fisheries are based on escapement of Fall Chum runs into the Deep South Sound inlets. To ensure our local Fall Chum stocks reach escapement goals, Squaxin Natural Resources and WDFW staff conducts stream surveys to count spawning chum. These stream counts along with the Squaxin Island Tribe’s attentively timed fisheries allows for regional escapement to be met. Squaxin bears the burden of escapement of chum in our streams.

 More on Squaxin in-season management:

Returns to the spawning grounds are closely monitored to aid in-season fisheries management. By keeping a close eye on the salmon in the streams, the tribe can decide whether to open fisheries in adjoining bays.

 “If the tribe wants to open a chum fishery in Totten Inlet, for example, we need to make sure enough chum salmon are making their way onto the spawning grounds on Kennedy Creek, which flows into Totten,” said Peters. “Spawning surveys are the only way to really get a good idea of how many salmon are going up the creeks to spawn.”

 In fact, this concept of in-season management is incorporated into many of the elements of the pre-season management agreement between the tribal and state co-managers. The List of Agreed to Fisheries points out at in at least three specific instances where in-season management will be used in tribal fisheries.