State Fish and Wildlife and tribal fishery managers continue to work out the details on 2016-17 salmon fishing seasons, and as of Wednesday contrary to what has been heard in other media outlets there is no agreement.
“Currently we do not have an agreement with our co-managers and we are collaboratively working on finalizing agreed to fisheries, model runs and monitoring,” said Ron Warren, the state Fish and Wildlife salmon policy manager. “Until we can sign off on the details that would have taken place in the middle of this past April, and make sure all of the dots and periods are signed off we cannot move forward with any of our joint consultation to NOAA Fisheries.”
“It could happen in the next few hours, but it will likely be (Thursday), and I know I have been saying that for the past two weeks,” Warren said. “We have a lot of little things coming up that need to be taken care of, and want to make sure that we hold off in the face of difficult conservation issues.”
Tribal officials also indicated to The Seattle Times on Wednesday afternoon that while process of reaching an agreement has been delayed all parties continue to work hard toward resolution.
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“We are very close to an agreement but not quite there yet,” said Tony Meyer, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission spokesman.
This comes after talks failed during a meeting on April 27 in Fife with around 60 representatives from state, tribal, NOAA Fisheries, and officials from the governor’s and attorney general’s office.
The positive signs in recent days will hopefully end a month-long dispute on how to share the burden of forecasted poor Puget Sound coho and Puyallup River chinook returns.
This could mean anglers just may be able to fish before the bulk of summer salmon begin migrating into Puget Sound, which have been off limits since the closures took effect on May 1.
In earlier proposals the state agreed to reduce the sport-fishing season on the Puyallup River sport fishery closure of two months during peak chinook arrival time; close the central and northern Puget Sound to fishing once the hatchery chinook quota catch has been attained this summer; and close salmon fishing in south-central Puget Sound – known as Marine Catch Area 11 in the Tacoma area – from September through January.
In turn among other cutbacks the tribal fishery managers had made they would also reduce the tribal winter troll fishery chinook catch quota off the western edge of the Strait of Juan de Fuca; and reduce their coho netting time on the Puyallup River.
Scientists say the coho’s ocean survival was undermined by the blob, a vast area of warmer ocean water that altered the makeup of the food chain in the waters off the West Coast.
Many Puget Sound coho that went to the ocean either didn’t survive or came back in an unhealthy state.
If an agreement can come to head both the sport and tribal fishing seasons could be saved and the process to get those seasons approved through the National Marine Fisheries Service will move much faster.
On May 4, 20 sport anglers gathered to protest a Swinomish tribal spring chinook gill-net fishery on the Skagit River. The fishery – which was consulted under Endangered Species Act as a federal action through the Bureau of Indian Affairs – allows tribal fishermen three, two-day openings in May.
Another protest followed on May 5 at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/National Marine Fisheries Service Office in Lacey drew an even larger crowd of 100 protesters waving placards emblazoned with “Equality, Fairness, Transparency; Above the Law?; Save Our Fisheries; Restore Fairness; and Common Sense Conservation.”
The silver lining to the current stalemate is both parties are on the same page about the need to bolster salmon stocks and improve the season-setting process.
State fishery has acknowledged the tribal need to address long-term resource management concerns, such as restoring habitat and increasing hatchery fish production.