THE GHMP UPDATE & THE FISH & RECS WIN ONE!!!!!
In recent days the rumor mill regarding the Non Treaty Gillnetters screaming their lungs out that fish making it to the hatchery or gravel and being wasted ( not killed and sold by them ) has been out and about. A number of folks have been tracking this issue and for my part I was waiting for the end of October hatchery escapements to be posted. Well they are out and this total load of BS is outlined below in my letter to the Commission. I imagine at some point in time the NT Commercials fishers will emerge from the dark ages but I am not going to hold my breath.
November 1, 2014
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1099
1111 Washington Street S.E., Olympia, WA 98504
I am writing to update the Commission regarding another success of the recently implemented Grays Harbor Management Plan. ( GHMP ) It resides in the Wishkah River sub basin and some history is required to fully explain the success.
The Wishkah River is a Southern Olympic stream that flows into the Chehalis at Aberdeen near the 101 Bridge or downtown Aberdeen. With a long history usage dating back to the time of pioneers it had declined to such a state of affairs that by the 1990's the local community and then Senator Brad Owen ( our current Lt. Governor ) was able convince the former Northwest Renewable Resource Center to use it for a pilot program to restore Chinook & Coho. The pilot project became Long Live the Kings ( LLTK ) located at what is the Mayr Hatchery. While the LLTK project did have some success it struggled do to a very high exploitation rate by both Tribal and non tribal nets. It was a victim of its location as tribal and non treaty commercial fishers pretty much corked off the river for years.
With the GHMP requiring 3 net free days ( 4/3 ) myself and others wondered just how the Wishkah would perform. Would the window of non net time be enough to overcome the ravages of the past and neglect by WDF&W? My bet was on yes / maybe but the answer appears to be resounding yes, which came as a somewhat of a surprise. Just as its location worked against the river for years it reversed with 4/3. How one can ask and the answer again is location. In the Chehalis tidewater reach all three species of salmon stage going into a holding pattern after transitioning from salt to fresh water waiting for the fall rains. The river staging reach primarily runs from the 101 bridge to what is known as Pump House ( former water intake for the unfinished Satsop Nuclear Plant ) about 15 miles upstream. In this reach the Quinault Nation has its commercial fishers as well as the NT Commercial at the lower end of tidewater. The combination of the two commercial fisheries and WDF&W's steadfast refusal to modify the Non Treaty harvest to allow protection of the Wishkah needed due to its unique location was most devastating to the fish and Recreational fishers.
So what does this have to do with 4/3 and the Wishkah? Well frankly everything. Wishkah fish do not stage in the Chehalis as the fish from most the Chehalis tributary streams do but rather in the tidewater reach of the Wishkah itself. Simply put they are able avoid the harvest levels applied on the other Chehalis tributaries because of the location of the mouth of the Wishkah River on the Chehalis main stem as 4/3 allows fish into the Wishkah tidal staging reaches. The difference this makes can be seen in the 2014 hatchery returns as of October 30, 2014. Bingham and Satsop Springs on the East Fork Satsop have had a combined return of approximately 11,893 Coho as of October 30th while Mayr Hatchery on the Wishkah has had returns of 9,729 Coho. Commissioners the production of Mayr Coho is fraction of that of the two facilities on the Satsop and the difference in returns is simply the exploitation rate applied by the QIN and WDF&W managed NT commercial fisheries on the mainstream Chehalis River. The benefit of restricting NT Commercial harvest to the Wishkah River has been dramatic and undeniable with the hatchery returns. Additionally the number of Wild Coho reaching the spawning reaches will benefit just as much or more. I am sure the NT commercial gillnetters will complain and call this a waste but frankly Commissioners the NT Commercial concept of the only good fish is a dead fish, in a gillnet, in a tote, being sold ended with the new GHMP.
In closing Commissioners the tide water reach of the Wishkah was once the best " Mom & Pop " recreational fishery in the Chehalis Basin. If a boat floated folks put it in the river and trolled the tidewater. Not much skill needed just a rod, spinner and something that floated with a motor! I believe the Wishkah will continue to rebuild with 4/3 and return substantial benefits to the local recreational community. Just as importantly Commissioners 4/3 has emerged as the safety net for the Wishkah Wild Salmon stocks that have been brutalized by the Chehalis Basin combined Maximum Sustained Yield ( MSY ) harvest modeling that resulted in overharvest of the Wishkah and several Chehalis tributary streams for so many years.
I am not sure what one can or should say to the Commission at this point except thank you. Your courage and vision of implementing the GHMP and 4/3 is paying dividends far beyond expectations.
Posted on Fri, October 31, 2014
by Dave Hamilton