PUYALLUP (August 1, 2005) – The Puyallup Tribe of Indians has cut its chinook fishing season to a single 12-hour fishery to protect a run of weak, wild chinook salmon. That is a drastic drop from three 24-hour openings only last year.
The tribe agreed to shorten their season despite Puyallup tribal fisherman already having a small impact on federally protected wild chinook. “Non-treaty commercial and sport fishermen catch far more wild Puyallup River chinook because their fisheries are spread from Alaska to California and across the region,” said Chris Phinney, the tribe’s harvest management biologist. Non-tribal fisheries intercept Puyallup River chinook in so-called mixed stock areas, where salmon from more than one river are present. As a result Puyallup River chinook are caught along with other, healthier salmon stocks.
“Puyallup tribal fisherman are bound by treaty and can only fish for Puyallup River chinook in Area 11, Area 11-A and the Puyallup River,” said Phinney. No directed chinook fishing outside the Puyallup River has been exercised by the Puyallup Tribe since the early 90s. “That means the tribes has to bear the brunt of conservation efforts to protect Puyallup River chinook,” said Phinney. Puyallup River chinook are part of the Puget Sound population listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Fishing restrictions will not, in the long term, recover salmon. Closing more fisheries will have little effect as long as these salmon have no spawning habitat to return to. Overall, salmon fisheries across Puget Sound have declined 80 to 90 percent over the past couple decades.
Tribal and state fisheries managers have been changing the focus of salmon fishing away from wild stocks. “The tribe now fishes primarily on hatchery runs and healthy wild stocks, such as Puyallup River chum salmon,” said Phinney. “By moving our fishing effort away from stocks that need protection, the tribe can continue to fish while helping those weak stocks recover.”
Tribal enforcement and monitors will be present for the chinook opening on Sunday, August 21. Fisheries management staff, collecting important run size and harvest data, also monitor fisheries. “We keep a close eye on our salmon fisheries,” said Phinney.
For more information, contact: Chris Phinney, harvest management biologist, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, (253) 845-9225. Emmett O’Connell, information officer, NWIFC, (360) 528-4304, [email protected]