“Being Frank” Cooperation helps us survive

 

Lorraine Loomis, a Swinomish tribal member, is chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and fisheries manager for the Swinish Tribe.

 

By Lorraine Loomis, Chair, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

 

I am glad that the treaty tribes in western Washington were finally able to reach agreement with the state on a package of conservative salmon fisheries for Puget Sound. It took more than a month of overtime negotiations to make it happen, but cooperative co-management showed us the way.

Western Washington is unique because 20 treaty Indian tribes and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife jointly manage the salmon resource and share the harvestable number of fish returning each year.

That job was a lot easier when there were more fish to go around. But salmon populations have been declining steadily for decades because their habitat is disappearing faster than it can be restored. Salmon returns the past couple of years – especially coho – have taken a sharp turn for the worse.

Some say just stop fishing and that will fix the problem. It won’t. From birth to death, habitat is the single most important aspect of a salmon’s life. As the habitat goes, so go the salmon and tribal culture and their treaty fishing rights.

For millions of years, salmon were abundant in western Washington. Their sheer numbers, naturally high productivity and good habitat provided resiliency from the effects of disease, drought and a host of other environmental factors. We must rebuild that resilience.

As salmon populations grow smaller, management becomes increasingly difficult, and the co-managers struggle to divide a steadily shrinking pie. We must make the pie bigger.

The non-stop loss of salmon habitat in western Washington must be halted so that our habitat restoration efforts can successfully increase natural salmon production. In the meantime, we need to rely on hatcheries to provide for harvest and help offset the continuing loss of habitat.

We also must build resiliency in the co-manager relationship created by the 1974 ruling in U.S. v. Washington that upheld tribal treaty-reserved rights and established the tribes as salmon co-managers.

We remember the bad old days of the late ’70s and early ’80s when the tribal and state co-manager relationship was new and mistrust ran deep. We spent a lot of time, money and energy fighting one another in federal court hearings rather than focusing together on the resource.

Things didn’t begin to change until former state Fish and Wildlife director Bill Wilkerson said enough was enough and sat down with the late NWIFC Chairman Billy Frank Jr. The result was the birth of cooperative co-management in 1984 which led to the annual development of agreed fishing plans that allowed the tribes and state to focus on managing the fish instead of fighting each other in court.

This year, for the first time in more than three decades, the tribal and state co-managers failed to reach agreement on a joint package of Puget Sound salmon fisheries within the North of Falcon process timeframe. Instead we developed separate fishing plans for consideration by NOAA Fisheries under their ESA authority.

But in the true spirit of co-management, we kept the door open to further negotiations, and it worked. We weathered the storm together and we are stronger for it.

We know our relationship will be tested again in the years to come. But this year has shown us that we can survive those challenges as long as we keep cooperation at the heart of co-management.

Treaty tribes released 40 million salmon in 2014

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe conducts its annual coho salmon spawning at the House of Salmon hatchery, November 2014.

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe conducts its annual coho salmon spawning at the House of Salmon hatchery, November 2014.

 

by Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

 

Treaty Indian Tribes in western Washington released more than 40 million hatchery salmon in 2014 according to recently compiled statistics.

Of the 40 million salmon released, 13.7 million were chinook. Significant numbers of chum (16.9 million) and coho (8.6 million) were also released in addition to 658,00 steelhead and 456,000 sockeye. Some of the salmon released by the tribes were produced in cooperation with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state regional enhancement groups, or other sport or community groups.

Nearly all of the chinook and coho salmon produced at tribal hatcheries were “mass marked” by removal of the adipose fin — a fleshy extremity just behind the dorsal fin on the fish’s back. Clipping the fin makes for easy identification when the hatchery fish return as adults and are harvested. Many of the fish also received a tiny coded wire tag that identifies their hatchery of origin and is used to determine migration patterns, contribution rates to various fisheries and other information important to fisheries management.

You can view the data behind these salmon releases in the map below. By clicking on each circle, you can view more detailed release data:

 

Banner Summer On Tap For Ocean Salmon Fishing

File photo. Fisheries managers are expecting a banner year for ocean salmon fishing.Michael B Flickr


File photo. Fisheries managers are expecting a banner year for ocean salmon fishing.
Michael B Flickr

By Tom Banse, NW News Network

A federal fisheries management panel has approved what some charter captains are calling the best ocean fishing season in 20 years.

It’s a big turnaround from the recent past when ocean salmon fishing was sharply curtailed or not allowed at all.

Fishery managers are predicting strong returns of wild and hatchery-raised salmon to the Columbia, Klamath and Sacramento Rivers this year. These runs provide the backbone for the ocean salmon fishing season. This year’s spawners benefited from good river flows when they were young and productive ocean conditions as adults.

Coho Charters owner Butch Smith of coastal Ilwaco, Washington is looking forward to a seven day a week summertime fishery in the ocean.

“Fishing for both Chinook and coho salmon are some of the best we have had for a long time,” said Smith. “Salmon fishing — the fishing industry — to my town is like Boeing and Microsoft is to Seattle. It’s very important. It is the lifeblood.”

The good times may not last because of drought conditions in southern Oregon and California. Poor spawning and juvenile survival conditions today will probably dampen future returns. This could lead to varying degrees of restrictions coast wide in coming years.

“Hopefully, we’ve still got a couple more of these good cycles left before we happen to see an unfortunate downturn,” said Smith.

Meeting at a hotel in Vancouver, Wash., the Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted the 2014 season quotas unanimously on Wednesday after days of lengthy negotiations between commercial troll and recreational fishing representatives, treaty tribes and government regulators.

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Kinder Morgan Pipeline Threatens Ecology and Economy of Salish Tribes

Tribes on both sides of the border intervene in proceeding to address tanker traffic and oil spill risks

A boy pulls salmon from a net.Photo Courtesy of Tulalip Tribes

A boy pulls salmon from a net.
Photo Courtesy of Tulalip Tribes

Press Release, Office of Public Affairs, Tulalip Tribes, Earth Justice

 

Seattle, WA; Vancouver, BC — Opposition to Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain proposed pipeline project ramped up today as Coast Salish peoples on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border vowed to oppose the project as intervenors before Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB). Coast Salish intervenors include the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Tulalip Tribes, Lummi Nation, and Suquamish Tribe in Washington state, and the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations in British Columbia. The deadline for application to participate in the NEB process was last night at midnight.

“Over the last 100 years, our most sacred site, the Salish Sea, has been deeply impacted by our pollution-based economy,” said Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby. “Every kind of pollution ends up in the Salish Sea. We have decided no more and we are stepping forward. It is up to this generation and future generations to restore and protect the precious waters of the Salish Sea.”

“Our people are bound together by our deep connection to Burrard Inlet and the Salish Sea. We are the ‘People of the Inlet’ and we are united in our resolve to protect our land, water and air from this risky project,” said Chief Maureen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. “We will use all lawful means to oppose it. This is why we have applied to intervene in the NEB hearing process.”

In December, Kinder Morgan filed an application with the NEB to build a new pipeline to bring tar sands oil from Alberta to Vancouver, B.C. The NEB is the Canadian federal agency that regulates interprovincial energy infrastructure. It is responsible for reviewing, recommending and regulating major energy projects, such as the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

If approved, the proposal would see the transport of tar sands oil expanded from its present level of approximately 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. With an almost seven-fold increase in oil tankers moving through the shared waters of the Salish Sea, an increase in groundings, accidents, incidents, leaks and oil spills is inevitable.

Experts have acknowledged that a serious oil spill would devastate an already-stressed marine environment and likely lead to collapses in the remaining salmon stocks and further contamination of shellfish beds, wiping out Indigenous fishing rights.

“The fishing grounds of the Salish Sea are the lifeblood of our peoples. We cannot sit idly by while these waters are threatened by reckless increases in oil tanker traffic and increased risk of catastrophic oil spill,” said Mel Sheldon, Chairman of the Tulalip Tribes.

The proposed tar sands pipeline expansion is one of several projects that would dramatically increase the passage of tankers, bulk carriers, and other vessels through Salish Sea shipping routes and adjacent waters on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. In addition to oil, regulators in both countries are reviewing controversial proposals to export huge quantities of U.S. coal. Taken together, these projects would greatly increase the risk of oil spills and other accidents that threaten the Coast Salish economies and cultures.

“Today we are taking a stand to honour our ancient connection to the Salish Sea. The threat of oil spills and industrial pollution continue to threaten our way of life.” said Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation. “We stand in unity with all who care about the health of the Salish Sea and defend it for future generations.”

Chairman Timothy Ballew III of the Lummi Nation stated, “I am a fisherman, a father and a member of the great Lummi Nation. As the northernmost Washington Treaty Tribe of the Boldt Decision, we are the stewards the Salish Sea and will not allow the Kinder Morgan proposal along our waterways that will threaten our harvesting areas and further the detrimental impacts to the environment and natural resources.”

Read an FAQ on the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline expansion.