This whole fish accounting thing is interesting. When Managers only work with estimates of harvest plus escapement as a measure of run size they are assuming all other uncounted fish losses are a constant percentage of the run from year to year. Over the long term this must be a bad assumption relative to Canadian and Alaskan harvest of Washington fish.

In the short term, pinniped harvest seems to have escalated. This year in the Chehalis there were more animals that were smarter and more aggressive than I have ever seen before. I observed a number of chinook being taken by pinnipeds while being played. I also noticed that seals and sea lions appeared out of no where to chase and often successfully grab a released fish. Once I tried to recover a natural origin coho prior to release and had it taken out of my hand by a large seal. I am starting to think that released fish have a substantial pinniped mortality possibly greater than 50%.

Pinnipeds are certainly a problem for gill nets as well. A tribal fisherman fishing above Cosi claimed that he boated six fish out of 47 net encounters. Sea lions took the missing fish. My own observations suggest that 20% of drift net encounters are taken by pinnipeds and perhaps 50% of set net encounters meet the same fate.

If pinniped harvest is increasing, then run size estimates based on harvest plus escapement should be expected to overestimate the predicted run size. They would also be expected to overestimate escapement. Since WDFW will not consider modeling a conservative run size estimate reduction and plans to harvest every theoretically available fish, one would expect regular failures to meet escapement goals. How can this be good management?