Statement from Billy Frank Jr. on mark selective fisheries

Here is recent statement from Billy Frank Jr, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, on the expansion of sport mark selective fisheries:

There seems to be some confusion about where the tribes stand on some fisheries management issues and I just want to clear up a few things.

The treaty tribes in western Washington are not opposed to mark selective sport fisheries and never have been. We believe they are a viable management tool.

Like all fisheries, mark selective sport fisheries must contribute to our management goals for wild and hatchery salmon of providing protection for weak stocks and sharing the burden of conservation needed for their recovery.

If we are going to recover ESA-listed Puget Sound chinook, we must reach our goals for hatcheries, harvest and habitat for each salmon stock in every watershed. For harvest, this means holding our collective impacts on these fish at levels that will not harm recovery. We can only do that if we can account for all of the sources of those impacts.

Mark selective fisheries have been expanding for the past few years, and so has their impacts on weak wild stocks. Today more than half of Puget Sound sport fisheries are mark-selective by agreement of the tribal and state co-managers.

Last year provided a good look at some of the impacts of mark selective fisheries: They accounted for about 40 percent of the total impacts allowed Stillaguamish chinook, the main stock of concern around which all tribal and non-tribal fisheries were shaped.

We supported a recent switch in the chinook mark-selective fishery in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from a quota-based season – which could close abruptly – to a set season length. The local community liked the change because it provided greater economic certainty; anglers liked it because they could be assured of fishing opportunity. We also supported the move because we understand the needs of communities like ours that depend on salmon.

The treaty tribes supported the change because it was supported by science. The state co-managers had done their homework to accurately estimate the impact this fishery would have on wild fish.

Despite overblown criticism from the sportfishing industry and others, we will continue to push for proper monitoring of these fisheries. Fisheries monitoring isn’t optional. It’s a basic requirement of U.S. v. Washington (Boldt Decision), the federal Endangered Species Act and the U.S./Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty.

We know the state’s budget is tight. That’s why this year we are recommending a basic monitoring plan for mark selective fisheries that would cut costs through reduced sampling, but still provide accurate estimates of their impacts on wild salmon stocks.

Mark selective sport fisheries may have a short history here in western Washington, but we want to work together to make sure they have a long future.

Frank also recently sent a letter to Rep. Norm Dicks on this topic, which can be found here.