NEXT UP THE NOVEMBER 13 COMMISSION MEETING

NEXT UP THE NOVEMBER 13 COMMISSION MEETING

I thought I would share my testimony for the upcoming Commission meeting. Frankly I think everyone is in such a state of shock over the fall salmon season that they loose track of the December fisheries. Not a good idea!

November 13, 2015

 

Good morning Commissioners:

 

My name is Dave Hamilton and today I wish to address two issues. The first issue is the total failure by WDF&W Fish Program staff to recognize and react properly to the collapse of the 2015 Coho returns. From the failure to recognize the poor ocean conditions ( NOAA PDO Forecast ) to the refusal to address the harvest indicators from June forward the 2015 harvest went on auto pilot to nearly the end of the run. In Grays Harbor it was particularly glaring but I do not regard it as a failure by any particular staffer but a complete system failure driven by culture of harvest first and at all cost that exist in WDF&W today. I urge the Commission to entertain the option of a third party independent review of the 2015 season setting process and management of the 2015 harvest. Simply put I doubt that staff have the ability to complete a open and frank look at the issue in a unbiased manner. The culture of harvest first is simply to ingrained in the agency to allow for such a process internally. I asked a former WDF&W staffer what on earth anyone could say to Director Unsworth to bring the issue forward and his reply was simple enough. Tell the Director when it comes to harvest and conservation  " his dog don't hunt". I think that captures it Commissioners.

 

My second issue is one that shortly will confront users and staff in Grays Harbor. On December 1 the late Coho season is scheduled to start. This is a component of the GH Coho run that has the last vestiges of our Native Coho run. One must assume that it will perform similarly to the Normal timed run with the preseason prediction being totally wrong and reduced.

 

The fishery on Late Coho is primarily local and retired fishers. Due to the lower water temperatures and other environmental factors the Late Coho inriver sport fishery has the lowest C&R mortality that exist in any fishery. Even if numbers dictate extra protection for the Natural Origin Recruits ( NOR ) Late Coho several areas exist where little to no NOR Lates are present. This is primarily in the upper Chehalis Basin targeting the Skookumchuck Dam Mitigation Coho which utilizes a Late Coho stock. Other opportunities may or may not exist in the mainstem below Porter and on the Satsop but to accomplish this it would take a carefully thought out approach. This differs substantially from the recent reopening for Normal Timed Coho in the Chehalis Basin. To put it bluntly Region 6 manager Mr. Thiesfeld, the public, and the fish were poorly served by the ill advised and poorly constructed Coho season modifications by District 17 staff. From little access to the wrong fish being present it was and is little more than a attempt to deflect attention away from mismanagement of the fall salmon season by the co-managers.

 

To complicate matters the Quinault Indian Nation ( QIN ) Winter Steelhead season starts December 1 and Commissioners few Steelhead are present and it is a thinly disguised targeted Late Coho fishery. The December 1 start of the QIN Winter Steelhead season is product of the time before the joining of the old dept of Game & Dept of Fisheries into the current agency. The former Dept. of Game utilized out of basin early timed ( December returning ) plants to provide harvest for the QIN harvest and sport to a much smaller degree.  The use of out of basin stock is a discredited practice that has since been stopped but the December 1 QIN opening for Winter Steelhead remains in place which in reality is harvesting 15 to 25 to Late Coho for each Steelhead caught until after December 25th. This can clearly be seen in the QIN 2014 landings. QIN 2014  In a year such as this there can be little doubt that the Late Coho run cannot sustain this level of harvest by the QIN fishers.

 

Additionally if one looks at the 2015 terminal Salmon season the vast majority of Coho and Chinook impacts were taken by the QIN commercial harvest followed by the Non Treaty Commercial harvest. That the QIN fisheries managers could and should have recognized the clear trend of a underperforming Coho return by week 40 ( September 27th ) and in the following weeks where the trend of a underperforming forecast was no longer a question is a given. If this information was not provided by the QIN to WDF&W Region 6 that is a failure of the QIN managers. If Region 6 staff did not follow the QIN harvest or request the landings numbers then that is a failure of the Region 6 staff. Documents I have indicate that it was not until October 22 after several days of Non Treaty Commercial harvest that Mr. Thiesfeld approached the QIN to address the issue and frankly the damage was way past done right to near not making escapement.

 

So Commissioners we are to the last fishery for Salmon in Grays Harbor in 2015. It is at risk due to a probable low return complicated by a QIN Winter Steelhead fishery that is in reality a targeted December Late Coho Fishery. To complicate the issue further is the inability for the co-managers to work together to monitor and manage harvest honestly and openly which is unacceptable. Commissioners if the Co-managers cannot even turn loose of a relic of the past such as the QIN December Steelhead season that is not a Steelhead season then I seriously doubt one should have much hope that the array of complicated issues we face will be resolved.

 

In closing Commissioners let me say that this thing where Region 6 and the QIN's inability to work in a organized coherent manner should not be used as a tool to continue to abuse the inland recreational fisher and just as importantly the fish. We have options to carefully craft the Late Coho season for the inland Chehalis Basin citizens but the question is does WDF&W Region 6 ( and the QIN ) have the ability to work with knowledgeable citizens to get it done? History says nope and Commissioners this is a issue that has to be resolved prior to December 1st.

 

Dave Hamilton  

 

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