As the dance over the fall salmon season continues the following comments were submitted. I will look around for some commercial input but I think that will have to wait until the Concise Explanatory Statement is released addressing comments from citizens regarding the Non Treaty Commercial CR 102. The one thing that is clear at the minute is Grays Harbor has a new conservation driven management plan and the QIN view that they have court directed to access to 50% of hatchery plus wild for the total of Grays Harbor combined and do not recognize the separation of the Humptulips and Chehalis Basins. Two trains traveling at high speed on the same tracks in opposite directions. Going to be one hell of a collision someplace some how, soon.

Dear Mr. Thiesfeld:

RE: Revised comments to GH Commercial Proposal

The Twin Harbors Fish & Wildlife Advocacy offers the following as a supplement to the comments filed earlier related to the Department’s proposed commercial gillnet season in Grays Harbor. We provide additional comments, revise an option, and add an additional recommendation for consideration while maintaining our position the proposal is contrary to legislative mandates and the new policy passed recently by the Commission.

The new policy for Grays Harbor adopted by the Commission states any season set by the Department must intend on reaching escapement goals for natural spawning and hatchery Chinook in the Chehalis after consideration of the impacts of both, tribal and non-tribal seasons. Therefore, the maximum impacts of the season cannot rise beyond a level where the fish available for harvest drops below zero as a minus number of fish remaining reflects the number expected to be short of the escapement goal.

In its previous presentation on the proposed NT net season for Grays Harbor, the Advocacy raised the issue that the harvest model showed the combined harvest of all users resulted in only 184 natural spawning Chinook and -120 hatchery fish remaining for harvest for a combined number of 63 left above the escapement goal. Since the Commission policy states the season has to intend on reaching escapement goals for hatchery and wild Chinook, the minus number of hatchery fish found in the harvest model shows the season proposed by the Department is not intended to reach escapement goals and the Department is fully aware of that fact. Additionally, the Advocacy felt that the use of an assumed 90% compliance rate for selective fishing and an assumed catch by the Chehalis Tribe tied to the court set formula of its treaty rights was flawed and held great potential to underestimate the harvest impacts far beyond the 63 fish remaining. If corrected, the Advocacy believes the harvest model would likely show a minus figure for both natural spawners and hatchery and the season was not expected to reach escapement goals.

On the Friday before the hearing set for Tuesday, August 26, 2014, the Department provided the public with a revised season model with changes to the summary tab. While the Department improved its presentation by listing the changes it had made, the email cover for delivery did not provide any rationale for the changes or disclose the effects of said changes. The Advocacy has not had the time or information available to confirm the rationale or effect of the changes.

However, in our attempt to do a review of the changes we have located what Advocacy believes at

this point are flaws or errors in the model that if confirmed, likely further underestimate the impact of the commercial season proposed on Chehalis Chinook. The problem could exceed the 63 fish number by a significant amount on its own. This new concern, in combination with the 2 concerns listed previously reinforces the Advocacy's believe that the commercial season proposed does not rise to the standard of the new policy that requires the season adopted have an intention of meeting escapement goals.

The problem with these assumptions and potential modeling errors are truly significant. As an example, consider the results if the Department inserted the Chehalis Tribal assumption in a similar manner for the QIN. If the Department "assumed" the Quinault season would only result in impacts tied to the formula in U.S. v- Washington (Boldt) of 50% of the available harvest across the bar, the harvest model would reduce the expected QIN impacts on Chehalis Chinook for this proposed commercial season by 4,270 fish. The 63 fish in the model would grow to 4,333 remaining above the escapement goal. Add the modeling error and Chehalis tribal assumption and that number could grow significantly further. The problem is simply underestimating commercial nets seasons only serves to create "paper fish" in the model and while the model is “tricked” into accepting the season proposed, paper fish cannot spawn in the gravel.

In the Advocacy’s earlier presentation, Option 2 stated “The only other means available to convert the season into a proposal we could support is to remove the fishing in either week 40 or 44. This would lower the number of impacts on natural spawning Chinook to provide a buffer against harvest undermining the escapement goal for the Chehalis.” Now that the Advocacy has been provided the revised summary tab in the planning model, we amend this option to say, “….into a proposal we could support is to remove the fishing in both week 40 and 44.

If adopted, the proposed season will likely create controversy and distrust between the public and either the Commission or tribal co-management

The Advocacy has steadfastly tried to avoid the annual allocation battle between the nets and the poles. However, a primary goal of the Advocacy is to encourage all the citizens to manage and share natural resources for the benefit of future generations. The proposed season sets the stage for a controversy that will have lasting impacts on the public image of the Department and Commission. It will also likely further complicate the troubled relationship between non-tribal fishers and the co- managers representing the interests of the tribes. As a result, the Advocacy has no choice but to comment on the Department’s proposed allocation, which comes in the form of the proposed non- treaty net season.

The proposed season by the Department creates an overwhelming share of the harvest to the commercial sector. While federal courts have mandated the Department honor tribal fishing rights, the non-treaty commercial fisheries holds no such right to fish. The Department’s legislative
mandate states, “In a manner consistent with this goal, the department shall seek to maintain the economic well-being and stability of the fishing industry in the state1.”

Since the tribal fishers are also citizens of the state and large segment of the fishing industry, the economic well-being and stability of the industry is assured by the tribal commercial seasons without


the installation of yet a third gillnet season into the same river. The recreational sector has repeatedly pointed out a net is a net regardless of a tribal affiliation or not. More importantly, the tributaries of Grays Harbor simply don’t have enough fish available this year to fill those non-treaty nets without undermining the effort all have engaged in trying to find season that meets escapement goals.

The Department’s proposed season fails to recognize the effect of the Boldt decision and tries to once again “shoe-horn” a non-treaty gillnet season into the already crowded calendar. In doing so, similar to the experience in nearby Willapa where no tribal nets are in play, the Department is in essence promoting an allocation between nets and poles that is extremely lopsided in favor of commercial nets. Combined, the harvest model provided by WDFW shows the Department is promoting a season that will result in the three net seasons taking 79.4% of the Chinook, 76.8% of the Coho and 97% of the Chum in Grays Harbor and its tributaries.

Harvest Sector
Commercial Nets (Tribal & Non-Tribal)


Commercial Percentage

Recreational Percentage

If adopted, the current NT net season is destined to create tensions between the recreational sector and either the Commission or tribal fishers if not both. Especially if the Department decides to utilize emergency rules to close down recreational opportunities to protect escapement goals as the season progresses.

It is noteworthy that the Department seems to have spent much of its effort trying to “wiggle through cracks” to avoid the policy in an effort to maximize a season for the non-treaty nets. At the same time, the Department reported on numerous attempts to get meetings with the Quinaults whom were apparently not overly excited about sitting down with the Department. Not all that surprising since the obvious purpose of the meeting appeared to be an attempt to convince the tribal managers to pony up some of the tribe’s fishing rights so the Department could use their fish to extend the season for the non-tribal nets. Regardless, the tribe simply stayed the course and remained on its long announced season set to match its treaty rights. To argue that the QIN somehow “sucked up all the state’s fish” is simply not correct.

The stage is now set for the phase commonly known as “the search for the guilty” which will begin immediately upon the Department announcing inseason adjustments that cut back recreational opportunities to protect natural spawning stocks. That will be followed by the next step “Prosecution

of the innocent” when the finger gets pointed at the Commission for passing the policy or the tribes for insisting on fishing to the limit of their court awarded treaty rights.

The Advocacy believes the real root of the problem rests within the Department, not the Commission or the tribal interests. WDFW’s season setting procedures and its historical reliance on using the NT commercial gillnet season to equalize harvest between tribal and non-tribal fisheries has created a large level of distrust for the Department.

This year is a prime example. The Commission policy was passed on February 8, 2014. The QIN provided its proposed season to the Department in April. The Department then set the recreational season limiting the impacts of the recs to insure room would be available for the non-treaty commercial nets. From that point forward the Department has been in a “full court press” trying to provide the maximum season possible for its commercial license holders.

To this day, neither the QIN nor the recreational sector actually knows what the non-treaty net season will be. Then once adopted, whether inseason adjustments will be used to extend the NT commercial season even further is unknown to any outside the Department. Any consideration of conservation during this process by either the recreational sector or the tribal co-management was likely limited as the historical management practice of the Department has been “all paper fish must die”. Those that considered giving up some of their harvest impacts were taught those fish would not get back to spawning grounds but rather used to expand the season for the NT nets.

Lower returns of natural spawning Chinook in the Chehalis and Coho in the Hump create a shortfall early in the season and then later in the season. Then the shortfall spreads through both major tributaries. As a result, the tributaries of Grays Harbor simply don’t have enough fish for three commercial net seasons concentrated where all those troubled stocks must travel.

The risk that the commercial non-treaty net season will over-fish the gravel or create confrontation between the public and either the Commission or tribal co-managers creates a negative that far exceeds the small economic value delivered to a handful of commercial license holders. The commercial license holders have the ability to use their commercial license in the Columbia where the opportunity is one of the largest returns in history and in addition, use their recreational license to fish local waters the same as all the rest of the citizens.

Recommendation #3

The Advocacy adds a third recommendation to its initial presentation and grants this recommendation its highest priority.

The insistence of the Department to try and install such an ill-advised season has created a “mine- field that is difficult to cross” for the Commission, public, and tribal co-managers. As a result, the Advocacy recommends the following actions in 2014:

1. As quickly as possible, announce elimination of the non-treaty commercial gillnet season in Grays Harbor for 2014 and redirect the commercial NT fleet to the Columbia;

2. Revisit the recreational season to determine if the recreational season could be amended or modified to increase harvest by the pole as a means to increase harvest within the state’s

sector and balance the scale with the tribal sector while utilizing the ability of recreational fishers to fish selectively, move geographically, and modify gear to limit impacts on troubled wild spawning stocks that have been failing to reach escapement goals.

The bottom line is any imbalance in the fishing between the state’s sector and the treaty tribe sector should not be laid at the feet of the QIN, as it simply hasn’t changed it practices. The Department has the tool (recreational season) it needs to enable the non-tribal side an ability to increase harvest while still avoiding troubled stocks. Such is simply not available if WDFW tries to continue using a sledgehammer to drive a square peg (non-selective NT nets) into a round hole (not enough fish to go around). If it moves in this direction, the Department takes the high road and assures the QIN that it will not attempt to undermine its treaty rights by moving any fish they leave on the table over to the non-treaty nets.

While the commercial sector will question our position and likely continue to claim we favor the recreational sector, this recommendation is directed toward encouraging the Department to use the tools available within each sector that provides the ability to maximize harvest while still attaining escapement goals. In a time with limited fishing opportunity, the sector that can fish selectively with the least impact on struggling stocks is the appropriate selection. The sector that utilizes gear type with the highest level of geographical mobility for avoidance and the least mortality of bycatch that are encountered should be rewarded by increased catch. Granting seasons to those who choose not to fish selectively creates a disincentive to adapt and evolve fishing gear and technics.

The Advocacy has a stated goal of helping the Department restore public confidence in the processes used to set seasons. Adoption of this third commercial net season at this point in time paints the Department into a corner regarding its conservation mandates. The recent PDR request by Advocacy found no preparation by the Department for a procedure to use inseason adjustments to rein in the NT nets if the combined harvest appears to be undermining escapement goals. To the contrary, the PDR located drafts showing the Department has revised and enhanced its ability to use inseason adjustments to curtail the recreational season as it did last year in the bay rec fishery. If the recreational sector that started out with a small piece of the harvest is suddenly asked to hang up its poles while the nets are in the river, the reaction will be extremely negative. One example would be curtailing rec opportunity in the Hump to protect natural spawning Coho. In the Chehalis, the same for the Satsop or above Oakville to protect Chinook.

The Advocacy believes this recommendation will minimize the potential for public outcry and finger pointing. It sets the stage wherein it’s up to the QIN to decide whether to meet all of us in the middle of the road and talk through any differences of opinion on conservation standards. The long-term value of this factor should not be overlooked. The public, whether a tribal or non-tribal citizen, needs and deserves to see improvement in the co-management process created under U.S. v- Washington.

Edited by Rivrguy (08/29/14 02:49 PM)
Dazed and confused.............the fog is closing in