Loc: Somewhere on the planet,I hope
Last call for NOF Willapa Adviser meetings tonight for those following the process. With the new model many have started inputting seasons and to see what is possible so it should be interesting to say the least.
Tuesday April 21st, WB advisory Meeting, Raymond High School Library, 6-9pm Thursday April 23rd, WB Public Meeting, Raymond Elks, 6-9pm Tuesday April 28th, WB Advisory Meeting, Raymond High School Library, 6-9pm Thursday April 30th, WB Public Meeting, Raymond Elks, 6-9pm
Back to Grays Harbor and keep in mind this is Grays Harbor as things are different depending on which tribe is involved and what WDF&W staff is involved. After watching the finger pointing between Region 6 staff and the QIN over the years I think it is time for it to come to an end. It matters little as to who started it ( but I do believe WDF&W gets the dubious honor in Grays Harbor ) but rather that the poking each other in the eye stop. I doubt that staff of either the QIN or WDF&W have it in them so I am urging the Commission to look at another approach.
I would like to thank the Commission for all its efforts in developing the Grays Harbor Management Policy ( GHMP ) over the past year as it has been a difficult journey for both the public and Commission. From my perspective it has been successful but during the Commission review of the GHMP on April 9, 2015 the issue of Quinault Indian Nation ( QIN ) harvest policy was discussed. What I was struck by was not the fact that this was a issue but rather the failure of WDF&W staff to provide a "big picture" view of the issue.
The driver of this conversation appeared to be that the QIN had taken more than its share negating any conservation gains provided by the GHMP. The GHMP mandates three net free days a week ( 4/3 ) and additionally the failure to make Chehalis Chinook escapement three out of five years resulted in GHMP mandated harvest restrictions. ( 3/5 "penalty box" ) With the information provided I can fully understand the Commission's concerns but the failure by WDF&W staff to fully present the "big picture" was very apparent to those familiar with the issue. What was not presented to the Commission was that after back mathing the Harvest Model it was apparent that neither the QIN or WDF&W staff would have known the Chehalis Chinook forecast was not materializing. This resulted in the QIN harvest numbers and escapement being very different than if the run had been as forecasted.
The discussion appeared to be driven by the issue of QIN 50% share of Chehalis Chinook being exceeded. What staff has told us in public recently but did not tell the Commissioners was the fact this often happens be it the state or QIN fisheries. If you look at the issue in totality it looks different. Take Steelhead where the non treaty Recreational fisher utilizing C&R targeting hatchery production harvest more than the QIN. If you factor in Summerrun Steelhead the states share gets even larger. With Razor Clams the QIN have allowed the state to use more than its share to keep the beaches open for Clam digging with significant economic benefit to the coastal communities. Let us not forget Crab and the state has harvested into the tribal share in the past without even asking.
Which brings me to the purpose of this letter. It is my belief that the relationship between the staff of both WDF&W and the QIN has become so toxic that it will not improve but rather continue to deteriorate at a ever increasing rate. I urge the Commission to consider a alternate approach. Frankly it is diplomacy that is needed. I ask the Commission Chair and Fish Committee to consider meeting with the QIN tribal representatives without either WDF&W or QIN fisheries staff. Not to negotiate but rather for both parties to have a conversation, listen, and begin to understand the others views. To see it " through the others eyes " is another way to describe it.
Commissioners after Boldt our community went through a turbulent time that was difficult to say the least. It could have been much worse had it not been for the QIN leadership under Joe DeLaCruz. Joe joined with Grays Harbor Port Commissioner John Stevens in proposing that all come together and work toward a different way of doing things. From this effort in Grays Harbor would come the Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group concept that was adopted statewide. We were able to convince the Northwest Renewable Resource Foundation to create what became Long Live the Kings Chinook restoration effort on the Wishkah River. Tribal fishers worked side by side with non tribal in Chinook broodstocking efforts on three rivers. The Confederation of Chehalis Tribes worked intensely with local volunteers with Chinook restoration efforts.
So after overcoming the aftermath of Boldt and leaving the past behind just how did we get to where we are? I can only give my thoughts that come from 34 years of involvement in fisheries in Grays Harbor and the Chehalis Basin. I do not believe it was any one thing but rather a death by a hundred cuts. The things that stand out most are the following.
• Region 6 under Tim Flint separated the Chehalis and Humptulips into separate management zones. The courts have given the QIN fishing rights to the aggregate of both rivers and the QIN did not and do not to the best my knowledge support or accept the separation. In fact some view the issue as requiring the QIN to accept a modification of the court decision to accept the separation of the Chehalis and Humptulips. I would also point out that the separation was not for conservation but rather to enable a Recreational bay fishery.
• When WDF&W implemented the Grays Harbor Management Plan ( never approved by the Commission ) it was followed with major use of mark selective fisheries in both recreational and commercial. It is my understanding the release mortality rates which were of greatest concern as they should have been. To be honest Commissioners the rates used by the state were simply in the words of a WDF&W Bio, SWAG. SWAG is term used meaning Scientific Wild Ass Guess. In fact in my Public Document Request I was able to verify that agency staff did not even know where the previously utilized 45% mortality on commercial Chinook releases came from.
• The harvest model did not reflect reality in any way as to actual harvest impacts, in particular the Recreation C&R or commercial selective fishing. Rather than fill a page with verbiage the actual impacts of the state fisheries modeled vastly understated the state share of the impacts. Add to the mix that WDF&W's relationship Confederation of Chehalis Tribes has deteriorated to the point that they no longer even report their catch which as a Non Treaty tribe is part on the state allocation, which is a issue within itself. One could attempt go back and year by year attempt to apply an appropriate harvest impact of the state fisheries to get the correct impacts but I am not sure that is even possible. What I am sure of is in the record of historical harvest the QIN numbers are reasonably accurate and the states harvest impacts are so understated that it places them close to being totally inaccurate.
• The Tacoma City Light Wynoochee Mitigation has not been accomplished for over twenty years. To move the process forward the local community working with the WDF&W Science Division under Jim Scott developed a proposal that was supposed to be presented by Fish Program to the QIN for review, comment, and input. It did not happen despite repeated attempts by citizens to make it so. In fact under Ron Warren Region 6 staff substantially altered the plan around 2010 without the public or the QIN being aware of it. I have attached both Mr. Warrens letter and QIN manager Ed Johnstone's response.
In closing again I urge the Commission to chart a new course and meet with the QIN leadership. Have the conversation that is so desperately needed. Look at the issues from QIN eyes and ask the QIN look through your eyes to. Listen to each other and find where common ground exist as well as where deep disagreements reside. If left to staff of both the QIN or WDF&W this thing is not going to go away but only continue to become more dire.
CC: Director Unsworth
Dazed and confused.............the fog is closing in