As the fall salmon season grows near many have questions around the issue if they will see positive change and equity for inriver sports fishers. Yes but just how is dependent upon the fish, weather, and the rivers natural processes. ( flows / temperature, ect. ) So we wait and in the not to distant future it will play out. So rather than babble on and confuse many ( most including myself ) as the various directives in the new Grays Harbor Management Plan ( GHMP ) play out we will explain how the guidelines effect Recreational Fishers as the 2014 Fall Salmon season unfolds.
So has the implementation of the Grays Harbor Management Plan ( GHMP ) been a success? From a Non Treaty Commercial Gillnetter perspective I imagine the word terrible comes to mind. From my perspective it has been a tough go but I think yes is the answer. Do issues still exist that need to be addressed? Oh yeah but a good management plan should not only set direction but bring issues forth that need further review.
This exactly what has happened. In my letter to the Commission below I have outlined several issues that for so many years WDF&W simply refused to address and simply ignored them. So now folks we will watch the process unfold as for the first time in decade WDF&W will have to address these issues in public at the Commission level.
It is going to be interesting watch play out to say the least! My thoughts on issues at the moment are outlined in the letter below.
The months since the Commission adopted the new Grays Harbor Management Plan ( GHMP ) have been interesting, to say the least. While citizen views are diverse as to the success of the GHMP mine are simple, " it has been 100% successful". Why one may ask? The answer is simple enough. A management plan should not just provide a framework for harvest and set standards to be reached but through utilization of management framework identify issues that require further review. This is exactly what has happened in the implementation of the GHMP again this is not a failure Commissioners but rather a success!
In the adoption of the plan it was made clear by the Commissioners to all the citizens and organizations participating that this was going to be difficult journey as the conservation driven GHMP was implemented. I can say with certainty that has been the case.
In addition the Commission committed to review of the plan to address issues arising from the implementation of the new GHMP. With that in mind Commissioners I wish to bring forth three issues that I feel need to be addressed in the review.
ITEM 1: Humptulips Natural Origin Coho ( NOR )
The Humptulips NOR Coho have not made escapement for 23 consecutive years that I have documentation of and several agency staff believe this is the case since the Humptulips Hatchery began operation. To compound the problem the Hatchery Origin Recruits ( HOR ) Coho numbers spawning went as high as four HOR Coho for every one Natural Origin Recruits ( NOR ) Coho spawning. This year before any harvest the Humptulips NOR Coho would not make escapement even without harvest.
We have been told that the Quinault Indian Nation ( QIN ) sees no issue with this as the combination of NOR and HOR spawning in the gravel combined to make escapement is acceptable. One could reject this position rather easily except there is justification for their position and it exist in the East Fork Satsop River. In the 1990's local volunteers assumed operation of a closed WDF&W facility Satsop Springs and developed programs broodstocking to rebuild Chinook & Chum stocks. Brood is taken, spawned & reared an released on site into river. The returning HOR adults spawn with the NOR adults and broodstocking is utilized to minimize any reuse HOR adults in the egg take.
So how is the issue of Humptulips NOR Coho different from EF Satsop NOR Chinook and Chum? Both are integrated stocks, in fact with the Humptulips HOR staying rates so high for so many years I would venture a guess that the Humptulips Coho hatchery Coho are exactly the same genetically as the NOR spawning Coho. If not for the Chum supplementation by HOR adults it is doubtful EF Satsop Chum would make escapement minus supplementation one generation out and most definitely not two life cycles. I believe that Humptulips NOR Coho need to be high on the review list if not the primary issue.
ITEM 2: Dual Management
We have been told that the QIN has the position that US v Washington ( and other court decisions ) gives them the right to 50% of the harvestable salmonids entering Grays Harbor. That the 50% is applicable to total of streams that enter Grays Harbor. WDF&W on the other hand separate the Humptulips and manage it independent of the bay tributaries and Chehalis River. This results in the model many times ( most ) showing over harvest of either a Chehalis or Humptulips stock. Prior to separating the Humptulips from the Chehalis Basins both WDF&W had the same management plan. It can be said that when both had the same plan it seemed that there was less turmoil.
Additionally we have been told that the QIN asked the question "do the proposed 2014 QIN Commercial seasons violate any court agreed to escapement goals?" To which WDF&W staff responded "no". If the QIN position is correct we have a issue that needs resolution. In my mind the harvest rights of the QIN are court mandated and unchallengeable. So what to do? Model Non Treaty fisheries around the QIN seasons? Continue to move forward and hope the QIN recognizes the validity of the GHMP? Simply put Commissioners this is a co mangers issue and one that citizens can not have much influence on. This is dual management not co management, goes hand and hand with item 1, and needs to be reviewed.
ITEM 3: Wynoochee Mitigation
Myself, Joe Durham, and Bill Osborn have been working with Jim Scott, Steve Theisfeld and Region 6 staff to develop a plan to fulfill WDF&W's Wynoochee Mitigation obligations by the end of September as the Commission directed. It was our view that after over two decades of failing to move the Wynoochee Mitigation issue forward it would be difficult but doable. Simply put Commissioners yes we still feel it is doable. As to difficult? That is a understatement of the first order. We believe the task can be completed but I would venture a guess that the issues may push our efforts up against the deadline. Hopefully not but both agency staff and ourselves are attempting to meet the Commission's expectations.
Additional Thoughts 4/3: One item that will unfold in the next few months is the benefit of the GHMP directive of three consecutive days net free ( 4/3 ). In a recent weeks some have lamented that much of the gains from 4/3 will go to the QIN fishers so 4/3 is a failure. This commissioners is just plain wrong. ANYONE who fishes in river above Aberdeen will benefit greatly. Does this means the QIN set net fishers who fish the tide water reach benefit? In a word yes as the returning salmon will not always clear this reach of the river in three days. While the QIN may gain some benefit the Recreational fishers and the fish itself will reap the greatest benefit.
When one considers that for a decade or more Region 6 utilized the preseason run forecast for inriver recreational fisheries rather than what remained after bay recreational, QIN harvest, and Non Treaty Commercial resulting in inriver recreational fishers only getting approximately half of the season they were entitled to. Frankly Commissioners this whining by those who now must face the issue of equitable distribution of harvest and have been the benefactors of the past practices by Region 6 staff.
In closing let me say again I regard the New GHMP introduction as a huge success. That many in Conservation, Sport, or Commercial camps may disagree depending on their perspective is a given. From my perspective the issues outlined in this correspondence have been present and known for many years by few. The GHMP ended that and required that WDF&W Region 6, QIN, citizens, and user groups address these issues. I, for one, sincerely appreciate the Commissions courage and effort to chart direction for managing Grays Harbor fisheries in a manner that guarantees protection of not just the fish but future generations of harvesters.
Posted on Thu, August 7, 2014
by Dave Hamilton