We Have A Problem

We Have A Problem

As we progress down the road to the fall salmon season many have asked if the seasons are set. In a word NO. A number of issues are out and about creating a rather confusing landscape of issues. So here are a few to chew on.

 

Humptulips Natural Origin Recruits  ( NOR / wild ) Coho: The new Grays Harbor Management Plan ( GHMP )  requires that harvest be managed for NOR spawners and the Humptulips NOR Coho have not made escapement for over 23 years or more. In past years the both the  state & QIN counted the hatchery strays as part of the NOR escapements which the GHMP says is not allowed. This year before harvest the Humptulips NOR Coho would not make escapement so both the proposed QIN, Non Treaty Commercial, and Rec harvest proposed for Humptulips NOR Coho violate the GHMP. We have a problem.

 

Add to the mix that the Quinault Indian Nation ( QIN ) does not recognize the removal of the hatchery strays for NOR spawners and you have a big disagreement. Couple this with the fact that on the Satsop that WDF&W has depended on the hatchery strays to make escapement for NOR Chinook & Chum in the Satsop and you have the agency counting escapement two different ways. We have a problem.

 

If the water was not muddy enough then add this.  The QIN have been supporting the Humptulips hatchery with $25,000 in funding to replace the lost state funding last budget cut. I really doubt that would have happened if the QIN had been advised that while they help pay the bills the new GHMP would not allow them to harvest their share. We have a problem.

 

3/5 Penalty Box: Simply put the GHMP directs that if you have failed to make escapement on a stock ( Chinook / Coho / Chum each cumulative for the Chehalis Basin individually ) you can have no directed harvest. In addition the GHMP did not have the 3/5 start date as 2014 but rather directed 2009 has the starting point. Well we failed to make the 3 / 5 so no keeping Chinook and Catch and Release only. That was easy but not what is next.

 

The QIN petitioned and documented to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council ( PFMC ) a rational for reducing the Chinook escapement goal for NOR Chinook. Well surprise PFMC accepted the lower escapement goal meaning 6996 fish available for harvest with the states share being 3498. Add that the QIN does not accept 3 / 5 applying to their fisheries and we have the start of a problem.

 

So the QIN presented to WDF&W their proposed season in the first week of April and at this point WDF&W had several options available to pursue. One option would be go back to the Commission identify the issue and ask the Commission to change the 3 / 5 start date to 2014 to allow a inriver and bay recreational retain Chinook fishery. The combined bay and inriver recreational fisheries could have taken the state's share of the Chinook but WDF&W chose not to take this approach. At this point it must be understood that legal processes must be adhered to and it would have required the Commissions blessing and hearings but it was doable in May & June dependant on the Commission's decision.

 

 Instead agency staff devoted their efforts into trying to shoe horn in a non treaty net commercial season.  So now it is August and the QIN have no idea of what the actual state Rec & Net seasons will look like. The opportunity for the Commission to utilize the formal process has passed, the NT Nets Chinook impacts are limited by the GHMP ( thank god ) and the state's share of harvest of Chehalis Chinook will likely not be harvested by the state fishers, as the proposed NT Chinook impacts are at the GHMP limiter for NT Commercial. The GHMP limits the impacts on Chinook by the NT Nets " Areas 2A, 2B, 2D: the impact rate of the state-managed commercial fishery shall be 0.8% on natural-origin Chehalis fall Chinook when the impact of the recreational fishery is equal to or greater than 4.2%. The impact rate of the WDFW-managed commercial fishery may be less than 0.8% when conservation concerns for natural-origin Chehalis fall Chinook result in a less than 4.2% impact rate in the recreational fishery."  Simply put WDF&W just cannot get its arms around the thought that the Rec fishers CAN utilize the state's share of Chinook. The QIN DID NOT take part of the states share but rather just accepted the gift of additional Chinook in their harvest as the state refused to utilize the Recs to access harvestable Chinook. We have a problem.

 

The Harvest Model: I am not sure one can even explain this unholy piece of crap and what has happened. Let us try this. Will the QIN take more than its share? Yes. Did the QIN do anything wrong? Nope they just proposed a season and waited, and waited, and waited for the state. Are the QIN being unreasonable? Heavens yes but they are not required to be reasonable. Did the state have options? Yes outlined above.

 

So again what happened? Well first the QIN staff can read folks and they aren't stupid so once the GHMP was approved by the Commission they simply found the US v Washington / Boldt boundaries and started there as they have for years. WDF&W spent its efforts on attempting to shoe horn a NT Net season which did not fit rather than turn loose the Rec fishers. So frankly many will point to the QIN as the problem and while they do NOT help the situation ( and made it worse ) it was WDF&W's rejection of a viable Rec option that steered the fish to the QIN harvest.

 

To make it worse the harvest model does not reflect the fish caught before any user. If you change the NT Nets schedule as I did dropping them in seven days a week twice the NT Net numbers change but not the QIN. Think of it this way. If the Rec fishers are allowed to take 3500 Chinook in the model the QIN harvest would be less for Chinook as they were removed before reaching the 2A QIN fishers but it is not reflected by the model. One way or the other fish are being counted twice or more and charged to the QIN harvest. At this minute nobody outside of the QIN and hopefully WDF&W staff know what the true impacts of the proposed combined seasons are. We have a problem. 

 

So what we have is the QIN will get more than its share, which it will be unless you want NT Nets in the river resulting in seven days a week gillnetting OR allow the Rec's to harvest the fish. This refusal by WDF&W to recognize the value of the Rec fishery and pander to commercial interest pretty much sets the stage. The other issue is this " Indian v White Guy " thing.  The refusal of WDF&W to accept the court mandated QIN and Chehalis Tribal fisheries as the commercial fisheries is killing us. WDF&W in April had options and again the agency CHOSE this outcome by refusing to recognize the value of the Rec fishers.

 

So it is August and the QIN appear to be coming out a head in the numbers by default as the states side to failed access its share. That the GHMP would result in issues as it was implemented was always there as we transitioned to a conservation driven harvest plan not supported by the QIN. The Commission was very forthright and at the hearings stated that it was going to be both difficult and painful. It did not have to be as painful as it will be but again WDF&W chose this scenario. We have a problem.