MORE ON SOUTHBEND

MORE ON SOUTHBEND

 

Well here is a gentleman from Willapa comments to the Director who could not make the South Bend meeting. Agree or disagree on his views he gets a A+ for effort and participation. This is what is needed, greater participation and a willingness to learn issues and put forth a view and argue it forward. 

 

I appreciate your coming to South Bend to educate and hear from the local public, Director Unsworth. Unfortunately, the last meeting of Pacific County Planning Commission where they will hear comments on our new/draft Shoreline Master Plan is also that night. It is the last chancefor public input, so we and some others will be there. Comments we would rather have given to you in person include;

1. Columbia River--We need to start achieving and communicating successes in complying with HSRG at Columbia Hatcheries. The recent staff presentation in Vancouver concentrated on how well harvest allotments were met, not on escapement or HSRG percentages. If improvements are needed we need to make them on a business-like schedule. 70% NOR in gravel and at least 30% NOR in hatcheries, plus meeting escapement goals are the key here. We have heard from the applicable advisory group that Summer Chinook, for example, seldom meet escapement. The days of having a limit of one fish/day put on those (poles) with the lowest mortality rate while netting thousands with non selective gear need to be over. Many steelhead are killed by nets also, and they are supposed to be game fish. The old saw of "netting to get rid of the surplus" did not work on our coastal fish and cannot in the Columbia either.

2. We are apparently faced with the Columbia River Endorsement surcharge being extended below Tongue Point to Buoy 10. We the public could not see any gain from this license increase unless the gillnet phase out continues as announced. Since announcing this phase out, our fishing area below the Astoria Bridge has shrunk. A large area where our family used to fish West of the bridge and south of the green buoy line, down towards Warrenton, has been placed off limits. This was to allow more fish into the commercial terminal net program in Young's Bay. Still, the Region 5 staff is not showing much anticipation for the main stem net phase out. At the same time, a race of Fall Chinook called Tules is in trouble, requiring harvest of unmarked t Tules to be restricted. As a result sport fishing at Buoy 10 is prematurely halted every year now, on or before Sep 1, not just to allow escapement, but to allow for net mortality above Tongue Point. Record runs bypass a truncated sport fishery to allow protected Tule Naturals to be available for non-selective net mortality. Before being cut off each year, the B-10 fishery is crowded more than ever before.The result is that as Region 5 staff data recently showed, sport fishing at B-10 is not growing, even when runs are at record levels. It is not growing because it is truncated by the "necessities" of non-selective gill netting upstream. These "necessities" include higher mortality rates put on fish not meeting escapement and HSRG goals, while sport fishermen with lower mort rates on these and other races are beached! Raising recreational fees while restricting the ability to apply lower mort rates on troubled runs would not make sense. The non-selective harvest must be stopped as we were told it would.

3. There is a move afoot to again kill burrowing shrimp with pesticide in Willapa Bay and Gray's Harbor. An application to reinitiate an NPDES permit process that was cancelled due to public pressure last year has been filed. We have no sturgeon season in Willapa Bay because of the dearth of both white and green sturgeon here, as well as Grays Harbor. Green Sturgeon are ESA listed! The main forage for green sturgeon here are burrowing shrimp. Since about 2002, one of the two species of burrowing shrimp has all but disappeared. With half of these native invertebrates gone, a program to decrease the other half makes no biological sense and is not legal per ESA. This would be the Poster Child for net loss of ecological function! Although WDFW personnel sometimes attend hearings and workshops on such subjects, they do not speak on behalf ofhabitat or wildlife conservation. This tradition must change. It is as if, sometimes, there is no wildlife division. Last year in a meeting in Pacific County we were told by a senior manager "WDFW does not have much to say about habitat." We would ask that this change. When people see and hear this, they sometimes feel as if their habitat input is of no use. There is no "net loss of ecological function" allowed with respect to our shorelines per the Shoreline Management Act. When the public sees that habitat is not regularly monitored, and not visibly protected by WDFW in permitting processes, it seems it is of no use for the public to speak up either.

4. There are several areas in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties owned by WDFW that have lent themselves to waterfowl management in the past. Some are no longer clearly being managed for waterfowl. What is our State Duck Stamp money for? One is the John's River area. For some reason sedges were mowed down there this year. These are major forage for ducks and geese, or were. There is an area in the Chehalis Valley that was purchased for waterfowl, but has gone downhill since WDFW purchase. It has been good that WDFW keeps numbers on salmon and waterfowl. Still, waterfowl counts are being drastically reduced for Willapa Bay again. Pacific Brant counts have been turned over to USFWS, who refuses to provide information on brant location in Willapa Bay when asked repeatedly. Waterfowl including brant, green and white sturgeon, and Natural Spawner salmon are on a downslide and we would like to see a proactive WDFW in this area.

5. Sport Fishing in Willapa Bay is ripe for enhancement. Chinook have been declared a recreational priority, yet thousands are dying in areas of North Nemah and Naselle Rivers where sport fishing is not allowed. Some such closed areas include public land! The most often reason heard by the public is that WDFW has inadequate resources to monitor such fishing. At the same time non-selective netting is heavily monitored on these same fish. This is not consistent with a recreational prioirity, or with license fee increases which should be used as necessary to allow the lower pole mortality rate to be put into play where needed for both recreational enhancement and for the resource. As currently managed, if we ever met Chinook escapement goals in the Willapa Drainage, neither hatchery nor gravel percentages prescribed by HSRG would be met anyway, with the North Nemah as a possible exception. The puny average size of these once magnificent fish directly reflects genetic domination by hatchery stock. We now have a policy that can turn this around with proper application of lower unmarked fish mortality rates. We ask that harvest be allowed, and volunteer programs be designed, to carry this out.
6. The new Willapa Policy has a flaw I have described as the "lump of coal" for recreational fishers' Christmas. It places sport priority in the North Bay where production is now being drastically lowered for HSRG reasons. It places surplus fish up in rivers in the South where recreational fishing is not optimized, and fish die. It leaves the Naselle River as a target for politically motivated moves to increase production through non HSRG compliant schemes which seem to sprout with each New Year. Keeping recreational fishers off these fish seems consistent with reserving them for future non-selective netting. The death of "surplus" fish is a positive PR item for commercials, and nothing more. Natural Origin Recruits die right alongside hatchery recruits. We have no quarrel with selective harvest of these fish. We have a quarrel with keeping them away from recreational selective harvest, and if budget priorities continue to not reflect functional weirs.

A WDFW serious about conservation and recreational fishing will allow the most selective harvest to take place when and where fitting in order to meet HSRG standards. A WDFW serious about enhancing recreational and commercial fishing of Coastal Fall Chinook in Pacific County will prioritize functional weirs on rivers such as the Naselle and Willapa. Given no sign of this we would be headed for minimal harvest in our two largest rivers, while managing a segregated run in the only place currently practicable, the North Nemah. In the North Bay we would have the recreational "lump of coal" between Tokeland and South Bend in a few years, where the sport fishery of most economic benefit to the county has taken place in the past. A WDFW serious about conservation will speak up about loss of estuarine habitat for ESA sturgeon, waterfowl, shorebirds, and naturally spawned salmon smolts. It will take action. It will do so in public where it can be properly appreciated by a more motivated public going forward.

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South Bend, WA


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