While we all have the benefit of hindsight in our favor, I for one cannot demonize WDFW's management of the NON-treaty fisheries for Chehalis coho with any measure of intellectual honesty.
First off, everyone should understand that the only way to make a biologically defensible run-size update in this basin is to put commercial gear in the water, tally the catches, and work backward thru the harvest rate-based model (hindcast) to arrive at an in-season run-size update. Since our Commission policy effectively took the state nets off the water (4/3 constraint) during the most critical and opportune time to test the waters for coho, that left only the QIN fishery and its catches to "hindcast" a new run-size.
Some may argue the timing of the run-size update and the urgency with which fisheries were restricted/closed.... but the fact of the matter is that once a biologically defensible run-size update was made by the state after QIN completed their week 42 tally, WDFW-managed fisheries were swiftly and decisively constrained in the name of conservation.
The only other opportunity to make a run-size update was after the QIN catches for week 41 were tallied. This too would have produced a run-size update significantly lower than the preseason forecast, but slightly bigger than the one based on the week 42 numbers. This MIGHT have compelled the state to completely cancel our commercial fishery in week 43. It might have also made the state scale back the rec fishery a week earlier.
But in the great grand scheme of things, how much conservation benefit would have occurred by doing so? QIN would have denied any conservation concern existed after week 41, and would have fished week 42 regardless of state action or in-action.
Let's keep the catch numbers in perspective folks. The QIN's took nearly 11K coho for the season. State nets took a whopping 1500. Hook and line took considerably more, but we'll have to wait for the CRC's in another year or two to know for sure.
If the state nets had closed week 43 completely, it would have saved a whopping 600-700 wild coho for the gravel. If recs had been closed a week earlier, it might have saved a couple hundred coho tops.
In the meantime QIN would have fished full speed ahead (and they most certainly did!). Bottom line, their week 42 fishery was worth 2700 wild coho to either totes or gravel. They opted for TOTES.
And once again, the gravel would lose because of this chronically dysfunctional relationship we euphemistically call CO-management.
A week later, we had no choice. Even though the state was still well within its harvest share of the updated run-size, we HAD to choose gravel. It was the only moral/ethical choice.... and mandated by policy. CONSERVATION FIRST!
REGARDLESS of whether or not the state flinched, e-goal for Chehalis wild coho was already in jeopardy. The only question is how much additional impact would the state have to suck up AFTER the other co-manager had already fished the stock BELOW escapement?
Unfortunately, there is NO specific guidance in the Commission policy for that tragic scenario.
"Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." (Zane Grey)
"If you don't kill them, they will spawn." (Carcassman)