Tribes close coho fishery to ensure future runs

Tribal fishing for coho salmon in Chambers Bay will not open this year to make sure that enough adult salmon make it back to produce the next generation of fish throughout the South Puget Sound.

Three Medicine Creek treaty tribes – Squaxin Island, Nisqually and Puyallup – have treaty-reserved rights to fish in Chambers Bay. The tribal fishery at Chambers Bay focuses on a strong run of hatchery coho returning to South Puget Sound milling in the area.

“Future Medicine Creek treaty area fisheries depend on there being enough fish making it back to the South Puget Sound each year,” said Chris Phinney, fisheries management biologist for the Puyallup Tribe. The tribes are closing their fishery because of a lower than expected return of South Sound Coho stocks.

The tribal fisheries in Chambers Bay are at the end of the line of a long series of fisheries impacting coho.

“A lot of people have had their crack at these fish already, largely sport across the region and commercial fisheries in Canada and Alaska,” said Craig Smith, Harvest Program Manager for the Nisqually Tribe. “The coho outlook to the South Puget Sound does not support a meaningful fishery in Chamber’s Bay, consistent with recent years.”

The tribes practice careful in-season management to make sure salmon fishing remains sustainable. “Even though we’ve been planning a coho fishery here for months, tribal fisheries management is nimble enough to close a fishery in case runs aren’t coming back as we expected,” said Joe Peters, natural resources policy representative for the Squaxin Island Tribe.