Tulalip Tribal Chairman addresses illegally harvested shellfish at Tulalip



I want to address a subject that weighs heavy on our community right now; the buzz currently in the media regarding Tulalip citizens accused of trafficking in illegally harvested shellfish.

Every citizen has a right to a fair and impartial trial, and the Tulalip Tribes protects our citizens’ rights by refraining from speaking about current investigations. Facts about the case will be available after the case goes to trial and a judgment is made.

The State did recognize our jurisdiction. The State went through Tulalip Court to obtain search warrants for an investigation that involved Tulalip citizens. The State recognizes both our interest in this case, as well as the authority of our judicial system.

Tulalip has jurisdiction over all fishing violations committed by Tribal fishermen within our usual and accustomed areas. The Boldt Decision reaffirmed that inherent right, and Tulalip is exercising that right by prosecuting 8 different cases of fishing in closed waters, not just the case that you’ve seen in the media. The State has not filed any charges to date.

We exercise our sovereignty by creating and enforcing our laws. Laws that apply to every citizen, and laws that were created for the benefit of every citizen. Just as our ancestors did, we use our knowledge of the resource to determine when to open fisheries so that our people can enjoy that resource, while leaving enough to ensure the future of the resource.

Regardless of whether it was harvested legally or illegally, for subsistence, financial or personal gain, every bit of our natural resources harvested by Tulalip citizens are counted as part of 50% of the catch that tribes are entitled to. Every fish that is taken illegally, is taken from the mouths of other Tulalips.

The Tulalip Tribes will prosecute Tulalip citizens who take from our families. We will prosecute crimes that endanger the co-management of our resource. We will exercise our sovereignty and enforce the laws that we created to protect our people.

I’m encouraged by all of the conversation. I’m gratified to know that our citizens are as engaged in protecting our sovereignty as our grandparents were.

Mel Sheldon
Chairman, Tulalip Tribes


Mel Sheldon