FINAL THOUGHTS ON WILLAPA TO THE COMMISSION

FINAL THOUGHTS ON WILLAPA TO THE COMMISSION

Well as I am am digging through my desk it came to me to post this letter I authored to the WDF&W Commission.  I think it captures my views but I did not address the attempt by Region 6 District 17 to destroy all the work that was done to get the proper mortality rates in the model for Commercial fisheries. Basically the verbiage if allowed to go forward would result in huge mortalities in released fish that the model WOULD NOT show. Moore on this later as many are working on that issue.

June 4, 2014                                                         via email: hard copy by mail

I am writing  to express my concerns regarding the Willapa Commercial CR 102.  As a citizen I, and all citizens, are offered the opportunity to review and comment on the proposed seasons outlined in the CR 102 as published in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act ( APA ).  Simply put we question that the average citizen will have the ability to do so as Region 6 District 17 staff have misrepresented the CR 102 to such a degree few citizens will have a clear understanding of what they are being asked to comment on.

On 5/21/14  Kirt Hughes provided via e mail a briefing paper to citizens. ( attachment 1 ) Items in blue are from dissertation and Mr. Hughes stated:

1. Results in an ex-vessel value of $594K versus an ex-vessel value of $705K if we used the 2013 seasons.  These are relative values because there is very small number of unmarked hatchery fish included in the calculations that the commercial sector would be required to release.

This is completely misleading as after review it is clear Mr. Hughes declined to correct a error in the model that he had knowledge of . In attachment 2 you can obtain a clearer understanding but the purpose appears to be an attempt to portray the commercial catch value in such a way to understate the value or equity with the Recreational fishers.

 2. Provides the recreational sector with 38% of the Chinook harvest and 22% of the Coho harvest.  This compares to the average from 2003-2012 of 34% of the Chinook and 10% of the Coho.

Again this is not correct and in fact is a gross misrepresentation of the actual outcome should the Willapa commercial seasons be implemented as put forth in the Willapa CR 102.  Again in attachment 2 you can clearly see that the Willapa planning model predicts the 2014 season proposal will result in commercial and sport interests increasing harvest by 16,136 total fish (Chinook & Coho combined).  Of that number, 87% of the increase in combined catch numbers will incur on the commercial side and only 13% on the sport side.  Using a comparison of the fish counts expected to be caught this year versus last leaves an opposite perception than the one created by WDFW using a 10 year average in percentages and ex vessel sales that were miscalculated by a formula error in the model.

3. Provides a larger closure around North River and Smith Creek to protect natural-origin Chinook in those streams to meet our management objective and some of the extra protection identified by the recreational sector.

This is correct in the context that this brief statement provides but again is misleading.  North River Native Chinook are the last remaining stock  unimpaired by hatchery practices in Willapa Harbor. In addition SaSSI  identifies that the North River Chinook  return earlier than the rest of the Willapa Chinook.  Region 6 Fish Program Manager Steve Theisfeld  proposed a limited closure area to protect the returning fish that was woefully inadequate and so additional proposals expanding the area were proposed by myself and others.

While the closure area was adopted with the intent to protect the early returning North River  Chinook the effort was negated by allowing a mislabeled dip in fishery targeting Columbia bound Chinook in Willapa 2T at the very same time the highest concentration of the North River Chinook are present.  In the early commercial  fishery scheduled to take place between August 3 to14th a 2T exclusion of commercial fishers needs to be imposed and maintained until September 15th to provide truly meaningful protection to North River Native Chinook .

4. Except during the weeks beginning October 5 and November 9, provides 2-3 days without commercial fishing during each week to allow additional natural-origin spawners upstream, as well as additional hatchery and natural origin fish for the freshwater recreational sector.  Note that these windows are not consecutive days as provided for in the Grays Harbor Policy.

The 4/3 policy implemented in the new Grays Harbor  with three consecutive days was a major step by the Commission to address the inequities of harvest  allocation as the commercial fisheries, be it tribal or non treaty, harvested  the vast majority of the fish.  In attachment 1 Mr. Hughes identifies the fact that the 4/3 Willapa is different than Grays Harbor's 4/3. This is correct and duplistic at the same time. The one day or two days a week of no commercial harvest starting  September 14 in week 38 to the end of week 41 is a attempt at deception again.  During this time frame in Willapa Bay returning salmon are primarily Coho and the size and topography of Willapa precludes major distances being covered by returning fish in such a short period of time. The 4/3 concept is dependent on the three net free days being consecutive.    

The average citizen would be led to believe that they have a greater opportunity but as outlined previously this is nothing but a shell game intended to misinform the average citizen.  What Region 6 District 17 has proposed is a nearly complete wipeout fishery by commercial fishers which precludes any reasonable sharing of harvest. Instead the harvest is misrepresented by  Kirt Hughes 5/21/14  " Provides the recreational sector with 38% of the Chinook harvest and 22% of the Coho harvest.   This compares to the average from 2003-2012 of 34% of the Chinook and 10% of the Coho" when in reality if represented truthfully it is the Willapa planning model predicts that the 2014 season proposal will result in commercial and sport interests increasing harvest by 16,136 total fish (Chinook & Coho combined).  Of that number, 87% of the increase in combined catch numbers will incur on the commercial side and only 13% on the sport side.  Using a comparison of the fish counts expected to be caught this year versus last leaves an opposite perception than the one created by WDFW using a 10 year average in percentages and ex vessel sales that were miscalculated by a formula error in the model. ( attachment 2 )

5. Willapa estuary fisheries, both commercial and recreational, are   mixed stock fisheries that are not managed to the weakest stocks with equal harvest pressure throughout the entire run timing , a practice disavowed by most present  day managers. It appears District 17 staff  agree with the Willapa Gillnetters President that there is no need to manage harvest and escapement for natural origin fish only hatchery, which we feel is a rather barbaric view in this day and age. In the model none of the streams flowing into Willapa Bay will make Natural Origin Chinook escapement before either recreational or commercial harvest and fall wildly short after harvest. ( Willapa Model attachment 3 )  This is despite a exploitation rate reduction in the 2014 recreational and commercial seasons from 30% to 20% in an attempt to overcome District 17 Willapa model failures to predict accurately the true impacts of harvest in the Willapa Estuary.  This we feel is not a acceptable management policy for Willapa Harbor. In our review several knowledgeable citizens reviewing past model performance believe the model performance is such that the exploitation rate would need to be reduced to 10 to 15% to have any possibility for escapement goals being met for Natural Origin Chinook in the Willapa Harbor estuary.

6.  The Willapa model identifies a substantial number of Chum, both hatchery and wild, are killed in the targeted commercial Coho fishery. While it is normal for there to be collateral impacts to non targeted stocks in both commercial and recreational fisheries, some of the proposed weeks in the Willapa commercial seasons are extreme.

In the period October 8th through the 14th the model projects a Coho harvest of 3,380 with a by catch mortality of 2,922 Chum which is nearly 1 to 1.  The commercial fleet is kept off the water for the days of October 15th through the 31st but return November 1st through the 10th. The model projects a Coho catch of  4,593 with a Chum by catch of  1,163 which results in approximately a 4 to 1 by catch ratio. The proposed by catch of Chum in both weeks is unacceptable and both of these weeks in the commercial  should be cancelled and the possibility of alternate days without such extreme by catch explored.

7. It is my understanding that the Chum release mortality rate is calculated at 56%  based upon the assumption of  90% compliance by the entire commercial fleet. Having broodstocked with tangle nets, participated in the filming the Grays Harbor  Non Treaty Commercial fishers, and understanding that time is money to a commercial gillnet fisher one has to conclude that this is not a valid compliance percentage.  It appears rather than identify the proper number of observers to achieve a 90% compliance rate that Region 6 District 17 staff simply picked the 90% rate to extend the commercial seasons to the maximum number of days possible.  It is our belief that a minimum of 10% of the commercial fleet must have observers onboard in a 24 hour period to remotely come close to the 90% compliance staff is using in the model.  Failure for WDF&W to achieve 10% observers fleet wide should result in a much higher mortality rate being utilized for released fish.        

It is my belief staff should withdraw the Willapa Commercial CR 102 and start again regardless if the action results in delays in the Willapa Commercial seasons. Deception and misleading citizens is not acceptable and possibly violates Washington State Law in our view. The APA process and WDF&W's responsibility to comply with it are paramount!