Thursday April 30th, WB Public Meeting, Raymond Elks, 6-9pm
Next up the question how did the Adviser meeting go last night? Well I took notes but in the end I think some good things came to light as well as some serous failures on the agency side of things. So the highs & lows.
HARVEST MODEL: A substantial amount of work has been put into getting it to reflect reality. The impacts can be broken out by weeks, user, and location. The down side? They did not have the bloody thing ready to go as the Rec season inputted was simply last years. It may not sound like much but without the Rec season in the model the Commercial side is playing blind man's bluff trying to get there seasons modeled correctly and accurately. Process is process be it Rec or Commercial but it is totally inappropriate to ask those participating to do so without the tools to get the job done. Steve Theisfeld and staff are working hard ( one of the staff is also ill ) but this is a colossal failure. Had they not senior staff ( Olympia ) spent what time was available at PFMC trying to reverse the Commission's decision to put in a 14% harvest rate and directed staff to immediately reboot off their preferred 20% things could / should / would have looked much different.
INTERIM POLICY: A bunch of questions from both the Commercial and Rec Advisers but it resulted in not much happening here. Again the questions on North River Chinook and the question is it a distinctive stock? Agency response was they had little luck getting out migrants ( 2 or 3 out migrants ) so no change here also.
COMMERCIALS: This was a bit strange. Several of the Commercial Advisers present refused to set at the table. It their right but frankly it does not help getting the best season possible for them. On the other hand a Commercial Adviser who did participate immediately proposed going to October 15 go backwards into September as far as possible with what Chinook impacts were available. Straight ahead no BS and the gentleman deserves a hand for going to the rules ( Interim Willapa Policy ) rather than pout in the cheap seats with the public.
This is where my blood pressure went up also. Minus a working model with options for this year's Rec seasons inputted it is impossible to map a accurate season scenario for either the Commercial or Rec fishers. Again this was and is colossal failure for staff that over shadows all the effort put into getting the model ready.
Additionally two of the Commercial Advisers ( not at the table ) questioned the exvessel value ( dollar value of the harvest ) presented by staff. More to come here I am sure.
RECREATION FISHERS: From a Adviser came a in-depth proposal for the inriver season. It was clearly defined and well thought out. ( if I can get a copy I will put it out ) Big hand to the lady who just happens to be the only women representative on the Advisers. She did her homework, came prepared, and went at it. Not bad. Most do not realize that the inriver seasons have been horribly restrictive in past years right to the point of being punitive by design.
For the T & U fishers the limiter of Willapa and North River NOR ( wild ) Chinook came home. Not that bad here guys but a issue that has to be addressed. It will revolve around bag limits in the end and how you split impacts Rec freshwater / bay / Commercial nets. So again the failure to have a fully functioning harvest model did not allow much to be accomplished.
ODDS & ENDS: The Interim Policy directs staff to a enhanced recreational season. It was put forward that if the Commercials are not in T & U that this could be considered a " enhanced " Rec season. If you fish T & U one might draw that conclusion but if your inriver not so much. Which brought about one of the Advisers calling BS on that one. Again more to come I am sure.
Some concerns on if a expanded bag limit was in place it would draw crowds. Also the issue of the situation in Puget Sound Chinook fisheries again bringing more Rec fishers and crowds. This one I find to be very interesting to say the least. If one is going to have expanded Rec opportunity that is what will happen. The alternative? Utilize the Commercial fishery to the maximum for harvest as done in the past in Willapa and many other places. Expanded opportunity does not mean more fish for those who have fished a place but rather more fishers pursuing more fish due to reduced Commercial harvest. A better way to say it is a redesigned equitable sharing of harvest between Rec & Commercials. That is how you get economic justification for a expanded tourism driven harvest management of available impacts.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Kudos to all the Willapa Advisers who chose to participate and in particular the two previously mentioned. They came prepared, ready to do business, and expected to do business. It is unfortunate that senior WDF&W staff in Olympia wasted valuable time trying to undo the Commission's decision to use a conservation driven 14% harvest rate rather than direct Region 6 staff to immediately move to prepare for Willapa NOF. Again this was and is a colossal failure by staff driven by Olympia but Region 6 staff will take the criticism be it deserved or not.