Sometimes in the ongoing conflict between the Rec & Commercial fishers we forget that the discussion ( sounded better than brawl ) has a very human element. The following two letters one addressing Grays Harbor and the other Willapa, obtained in a PDR, capture that rather well. It is rather easy to blind one's self to the human cost to REC families and traditional Commercial fisheries but it is very real.

A Commercial perspective:
To the Members of the Washington State Salmon Commission,

I am the wife of a 4th generation gillnetter out of Grays Harbor. Adolf Bold, our great grandfather, made and fished his gillnets by hand as he worked as a German immigrant coming to the United States in hope of a better life. This year my son was the 5th generation from our family to step on a grays harbor gillnet boat. This fishery is very much a part of our family's history and heritage. We value commercial fishing, specifically gillnetting as it has supported our family for over a century .

I am saddened to learn that commission is favoring sport fishing over commercial fishing. I am also disappointed to see that many other avenues of conservation have not been explored. It seems that all accounts of fishery depletion are being pinned on the gillnet fleet. Commercial gillnetters are following the guidelines clearly set out by WDFW, and yet they are being "punished" for following the rules.
While I understand that Chinook salmon runs are low and concerns are high, I do not believe that allocating more fish to the sportsmen will do anything to further conservation efforts. With the introduction of live boxes and net changes, gillnetters have adapted and have seen decreased mortality. We would like to see similar efforts made on the part of the sportsmen whether it be isolation of spawning grounds, regulations on jet boats, decreased catch limit, or limited entry, there must be concessions made on both sides- not continually on the part of the commercial gillnetters alone.

Please keep in mind that these fishermen are family driven people, they work very hard to make a living and are dependent on the resources that they harvest. There is continual accusation of the moral character of the fleet, the honesty of their catch and the professionalism of their endeavors. While sportsmen continue to advocate for increased observation and supervision among the gillnet fleet, we would like to see increased observation among the sport fishery. The assumption that an individual has better intentions, better moral character, and stronger inclination to follow the rules simply because of fishing for sport vs. fishing for income is ridiculous. Assume the best of these men, their work ethic alone speaks volumes on the strength and endurance of their character.

While we all recognize that changes must be made, I certainly hope the commission will consider the impacts of the continual cut back of the non-tribal gillnet fleet. These impacts certainly will have an immediate impact on our income, and the incomes of those in the fishing community, but in the long­ term they will impact the legacy of family's like ours. Please do end our way of life in order to silence the present demands of those who are unwilling to compromise.

Commercial fishing is our heritage; it is our history and our future.

And a Recreational Fisher Perspective:
Westport/Grayland Chamber of Commerce

I am contacting you on behalf of recreational fishers in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. Business owners should be able to support both commercial and sport fishing. They should not be bullied into making a choice. Most of the gill netters in this area are fine people. There is a very small fraction that want the sport fishers out by any means. There has been name calling and harassment on the Tokeland docks. Here is an example, a man was walking down the dock to his boat in the morning. He passed by a few gill netters standing by one of their boats. He said nothing to them but after he walked by one of them shouted "we gotta get these ---- suckers outa here". They threaten business people with the loss of their dollars if they support us in any way. My wife and I stayed a month per year in Tokeland for 18 years and spent a considerable amount of money from South Bend to Westport. We don't fish there anymore because of what I have encountered. I won't elaborate on what I have been called.

In past years, we had to struggle but both sides got a decent season at the annual salmon meetings. In 2010 the WDFW made no pretense of fairness. The sport fishing representatives that attended thought it was not a legitimate negotiation. They held private meetings with the gill netters before each of the last two meetings. Towards the end of the last meeting, one of the commercial fishers said something like, "we've wasted enough time, isn't it time to tell them how it's going to be?" Soon after his statement the DFW did just that. In recent years the gill net fishing started around mid September in Willapa Bay. In 2010 They received a so called "test fishery" with not many boats but quite a few dates. They got two full fleet openers in August just when the recreational season is beginning. They started their regular season about four days earlier than the recent average.

The DFW also required us to release all unmarked Chinook and coho. This is very frustrating, many anglers reported a 50% release rate. With Chinook, the naturally spawning and hatchery salmon are all the same stock. The native silvers that are scarce don't come in until nearly a month after the marine sport fishery is basically over. They required the gill netters to release the unmarked salmon also. Catch and release gill netting makes no sense. At the mortality rate they are assessed at, they wasted 940 kings and 9,544 silvers, then add the sport fishing mortality. This is an awful waste of food and I was told it was a disgusting sight, the dead salmon drifting down with the tide.

Westport spends a lot of money attracting us to this area. The DFW and the gill netters appear to be trying to get rid of us. The Department totally ignored the letter the Chamber sent last year. If this doesn't change there will be a constant decline in recreational fishing. I was told the South Bend launch was down about 50% last year, Tokeland was down too. Some members of the Legislature seem to have some leverage on the DFW. You probably know a lot more about that than I do. We do not want to take over, we just want what is fair for us and for the business community. I am sending a copy to the 19th District Legislators.

On the subject of South Grays Harbor, as you know a great Chinook sport fishery has been lost. It was good for us and for you. The DFW still allows a non tribal gill net Chinook mortality and they have allowed a sport fishing Chinook mortality with a coho fishery. With Tribal fishing, I wondered if you had tried talking directly to them. This could be of interest to sport and commercial fishers also. There is also the habitat destruction in the Chehalis headwaters. I really hope we can make some progress on all these problems.

Edited by Rivrguy (07/28/14 01:13 PM)
Dazed and confused.............the fog is closing in