MY TESTIMONY ON WILLAPA

MY TESTIMONY ON WILLAPA

Well today was the Commission meeting and Willapa was on the Agenda with a public input time after WDF&W's Steve Theisfeld presentation on past and present Willapa fisheries. Steve did a descent job of putting things in perspective. The Commission did set some priorities and direction the effort to redefine goals and objectives which I will put up after getting my notes in order. So below is my testimony I submitted today and the Commission Fish Committee guidance in a following post.


Good morning Commissioners I would like to bring forward several issues in the Willapa Plan restructure effort underway.

First Commissioners is the fact that in the past decade the Willapa communities have sacrificed much to restore salmon. From RMZ setbacks, to reduced timber harvest it has cost them millions of dollars, lost jobs and no economic stability. Controversial in the beginning, most have come to accept the need to restore salmon but Commissioners there is an issue. Those that shouldered the steep price of environmental reform actually thought " salmon restoration " meant that once again salmon would return to the home streams. This has not been the case in many places in the state but in Willapa it has been particularly egregious as harvest impacts have continued to go unabated and in some cases increased. We have an over harvest / under escapement issue in Willapa that must be addressed if the promised " salmon restoration " is to be real reform.

The second issue I wish to address is the simple fact, despite much talk and grandiose plans, little has changed with the hatchery production issue. From HSRG to the 21st Century Salmon and Steelhead Initiative, and many other conceptual ideas, all direct the agency in the direction of salmon recovery. In Willapa these directives have and continue to be simply ignored. WDF&W verbiage says compliance yet resulting actions paint a far different picture. The current Willapa Plan was supposed to be the answer but it only made things worse. Commissioners the current plan simply failed in all aspects to address hatchery reform or failing escapement of wild stocks. Again the end result being in most cases only making the problem worse. The failure of WDF&W to comply and embrace hatchery reform and natural spawning populations reform in the Willapa is glaring. I urge the Commission to simply confront this issue head on and not skirt it. If this is not done the issues in Willapa will continue to worsen and again return to the Commission for resolution.

My last issue Commissioners is the understanding that the Commissioners have a desire for solutions and not the usual finger pointing and posturing. To accomplish this task the Commission must clearly and without confusion set the direction is to proceed. Frankly if one thought the Grays Harbor Management Plan was difficult to achieve then Willapa can be labeled nearly impossible.
Simply put Natural Origin Recruit Chinook ( NOR ) are declining due massive overharvest, hatchery Chinook straying is substantial, far above any acceptable level in the Willapa, and North River, the last Willapa stream with and any resemblance of the natural order, is not protected. Returning NOR Coho are in a massive decline to near critical levels due to extreme overharvest. Chum stocks have suffered virtually the same overharvest as Chinook & Coho.

So Commissioner tell us the direction and parameters that both the agency and citizens are to utilize in the drafting of the new Willapa Plan. It is the necessary first step.