DECEMBER 6 AD HOC MEETING THOUGHTS

DECEMBER 6 AD HOC MEETING THOUGHTS

So how did the AD HOC meeting go? Well for sure not much information on Coho & the AHA model was available, so that is the bad. Now the good, staff has been working on Coho and continues to find errors in the model & this is good! It sounds a bit counter intuitive but it means staff is doing everything to insure that any and all errors are removed. For District 17 this is major progress as in the past any model harvest or otherwise just went as is. So a atta boy on effort maybe not so much on progress but then I think getting it right is staffs goal and it is slow going.

 

So some bullet points that jumped at me. The AD HOC Advisers? Considering past meetings the shift in attitude was rather startling. Regardless of labels Commercial, Rec, or Conservationist all came in ready to work. Particularly for the Commercial folks this was a real change but they made a real effort to understand the process underway. I realize this is about six weeks late but give them credit for coming in ready to do business.

 

Some issues continue to be a bit of a bear to get at. On Chinook it revolves around which stream is primary requiring a max of 20% pHOS ( hatchery reared fish spawning in the gravel ) Currently that is the Naselle but the option of Willapa being primary is out and about. The Willapa River hatchery is on Forks Creek but is many miles upstream and hatchery Chinook stop short and run past Forks Creek in substantial numbers. About 20% of the hatchery production that survives harvest stray which gives you about a ratio 3.5 hatchery to 1 wild in the gravel so this is not a good thing. So one thing up for consideration is reducing the Forks Creek Chinook production from 3.2 million to 370,000 or so which mathematically would take care of the problem. That is the good so now the bad. This could reduce 2T Rec Chinook fishery in fact the H+W mix could get low enough to restrict the fishery. It certainly would reduce the success rate to be sure. I still say the option of splitting the North and South bay and managing harvest for each separately is critical if one is maximize harvest while meeting conservation objectives.

 

On Chum I see the potential for a real brawl developing between those on the Conservation team and the agency. Steve Thiesfeld is going to send some information out but the thought of reducing the escapement is rather appalling. In its natural state 65% of the Willapa Bay salmon production was Chum followed by Coho and then some Chinook.  That the so called pristine estuary has issues is so very true. The reality is the estuary is home to large scale aquaculture ( oysters ) and from spraying chemicals to many other human impacts pristine is not what the Willapa is. So the agency screwed up by not addressing these issues and now the fish pay the price? Nah one should not go there.

 

Short term / long term problems. Short term is that for the next four years the hatchery returns will continue off of the releases that are in the salt. How do you harvest without wiping out the natural spawners. Ok so we cut harvest but the Forks Creek production would overrun the gravel.  Long term is whatever hatchery production is moving forward things are going to change. It matters little if it is Commercial or Rec things are going to be different. Many if not most will go into the fray trying to protect their fisheries and how that works out is yet to be seen.

 

The last issue that jumped at me was the management plan draft. The draft that the Commission is to review Saturday has not been released. Now just how on earth can anyone comment on a plan they have not seen? Simply put this is a major failure by agency staff and inappropriate is the kindest word I can find to describe this failure by the agency in the process. It is my thought that this failure resides in Olympia with Mr. Scott and his immediate staff not Region 6. Somebody needs to get their rear in gear and get that draft out by Thursday the 9th so the public can review it. Time to come out of the closet guys and face the music!