The letter below is a option for a interim Willapa Harvest Policy. It is a compromise position developed by Tim Hamilton to address the 2015 salmon season. It is truly a compromise as most signing on objected or rather did not care for a issue or solution someplace in it. But that is what a compromise is, something you do not necessarily love but can live with. So read away.

WB Request For Adoption Of An Interim Policy For Willapa Bay Fisheries

February 19, 2015 Via Email

The Honorable Members
Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission 600 Capitol Way N.
Olympia, WA 98501-1091 RE: Interim Willapa Policy Requested

Dear Commissioners:

As all are aware, the Commission decided to “slow things down” in the Willapa discussions to allow the Department time to address different questions and issues. Getting things right the first time is a goal with merit and deserves support.

At the last several Commission meetings, a discussion occurred on the potential for the Commission to pass an interim guidance that the Department could follow when proposing and setting the 2015 seasons. We strongly encourage the Commission to move forward with adopting an interim guidance at the next available opportunity. Having a clear and precise guidance from the Commission for the upcoming harvest seasons will assist the Department staff in moving through the NOF process without increasing tensions between the stakeholders. A clear direction from the Commission would also reduce the Department’s risk of legal intervention.

The endorsees shown below who have diligently participated in the process have taken the liberty of providing a list of items for the Commission’s consideration for adoption into an interim policy. The list was created from our impressions of the directions the members of the Commission were providing the Department and the public during its monthly meetings.
Consideration was also given to the ongoing research, options, etc. produced by the Department in the Ad Hoc process and provided for review by the Commission during its meetings. Again, not implying any final decision on permanent language has been determined but rather offering a list of “what we seem to know that could or should be done in the 2015 seasons”.

We offer the following list of issues for consideration and incorporation into an interim guidance. A rationale for each follows.

Issue 1. Conservation is the highest priority The Willapa basin has experienced difficulties in achieving escapement goals for natural origin spawner (NOS) populations. The problem is especially significant with Chinook where NOS run sizes have steadily declined below the escapement goals and the downward trend will likely continue over the next three years due to past harvest seasons. The following items are requested:

1. Reduce the current 20% maximum harvest rate for natural origin Chinook to 14%.

Rationale- Due to actual harvest rates exceeding the maximum rate anticipated when setting seasons, Chinook natural spawner run size has been on a steady decline to the point where the run size is below the escapement goal. The historical harvest rate was dropped from 30% to 20% in 2014. AHA modeling by the Department shows a maximum harvest rate of 14% will be

required to reach recovery within 16-21 years. Another year of overharvest will create even greater problems for the future.

1. No targeted commercial fisheries on Chum with a maximum 5% incidental impact during schedules targeting Coho

Rationale- Chum runs have also declined as escapement goals are often not achieved. Recognizing the problem, the 2010 draft Willapa Plan called for no targeted commercial Chum fisheries and the 2014 season removed 2 weekly cycles of net season during the Coho run to allow Chum a free passage. Restoration of the Chum is a key to removing future limitations on commercial opportunity and allowing increased commercial harvest of the more abundant Coho.

1. Effective inseason monitoring and utilization of inseason adjustments when the harvest underway exceeds the preseason expectation to the point conservation standards are threatened (see Grays Harbor Policy).

Rationale- The historical commercial seasons installed by the Department were set using a maximum harvest rate target of 30% of Naselle Chinook NOS. Then, actual season harvest often rose above 40%. In 2014 the target was dropped to 20%. While the Department has not released the results of the 2014 season, the results will likely show that the reduced target was once again exceeded with actual harvest reaching approximately 45% dropping Chinook escapement to less than half the goal (<2000 of 4350 goal). Inseason monitoring and adjustments when needed are imperative to preventing yet another season that over-harvests dwindling NOS Chinook populations.

1. Retain the NR protection zone established for the 2014 season unless the Department determines prior to season adoption that the North River Chinook spawning population is not distinguishable from the other Chinook populations.

Rationale- In the past, the Department recognized the Chinook in North River as an early run time natural spawning stock with native genetics. An effort is underway to confirm whether or not this determination is correct. Since NR could be the only native origin Chinook population remaining in the Willapa, the protection zone should be maintained for another year unless the Department determines prior to the start of the season that the natural population is not genetically distinct from the greater Willapa population.

Issue 2. Allocation and stakeholder priorities Fisheries in Willapa, especially for Chinook, will be limited in the future by the allowable season impacts on NOS returns. Currently, an abundance of Coho exists that allows maximum harvest at above historical levels provided seasons can be designed to stay within the limitations created by low returns of Chinook early in the season and Chum in the later part. The Commission requested the Department develop “options” that provided “recreational priority for Chinook and commercial priority for Coho and Chum.” Further, the issue of geographical priority for Chinook was addressed in the Department’s options that avoid installation of a commercial season in marine areas relied upon by the recreational sector during the prime Chinook run time cycle. The following items are requested:

Commercial priority for Coho and Chum utilizing 70% of the available NOS impacts for Coho and 90% for Chum.

Rationale- The 70% allocation of Coho NOS impacts recognizes that additional commercial opportunity currently exists for increased harvest of the more abundant Coho that provide the second highest value per pound. The 90% impact percentage provided the commercial sector for Chum is a compromise position from amongst the recreational/conservation sectors intended to provide the ability of the fleet to remain in the water longer in pursuit of the readily available Coho that travel in the same run time.

1. Commercial parity for Chinook with 50% of the available impacts

Rationale- Parity in Chinook NOS harvest impacts is a compromise position taken by recreational/conservation interests to allow the commercial sector Chinook impacts for selective fishing and alternative gears to provide opportunity to harvest hatchery Chinook and the more abundant Coho that are currently under-utilized.

1. Recreational priority for Chinook using the following:

1. An enhanced full season opportunity for marine and freshwater beginning with the ocean opener in the marine areas and August 1st in freshwater streams with hatchery returns.

1. Commercial seasons in marine areas 2T and 2U shall not be established prior to September 16th.

Rationale- An enhanced full season Chinook opportunity in both marine and freshwater will increase the recreational sectors ability to harvest abundant hatchery Chinook while using selective fishing that reduces impacts on the NOS that are in short supply. Not establishing commercial seasons in the northern marine zones during Chinook prime run cycle will dramatically diminish gear conflicts and reduce commercial NOS impacts on North River and other spawning Chinook populations.

The following endorsees respectfully request that the Commission consider our request and adopt an interim guidance for Department’s use in the upcoming NOF season setting process that incorporates the list of items shown above.


Tim Hamilton Ad Hoc, Brian Kraemer Ad Hoc, Francis Estalilla Ad Hoc,
LeeRoy Wisner Ad Hoc, Steve Boerner Public, Bob Mulhauser Ad Hoc, Art Holman Public, Bill Osborne Public, Ron Schweitzer Public,
Joe Koski Public, Loren Gee Public, Dave Hamilton Public, John Campbell Public, Gary Johnson Public
Dazed and confused.............the fog is closing in