Good news for anglers and fishermen make headlines for Puget Sound as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has given the go-ahead on salmon sports fisheries after a long series of debates.
Heated negotiations had been underway with the state and tribal fishery managers since early March to the point where a stalemate in mid-April threatened to close all of Puget Sound’s waterways for salmon fishing on May 1st. The debates were centered on conserving Puget Sound wild Coho and Chinook on the brink of extinction from excessive fishing and therefore listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Numerous sport-fishing organizations protested against a Swinomish tribal spring Chinook gillnet fishery on May 4 in the Skagit River, which sparked another on May 5 at the National Marine Fisheries Service Office in Lacey drawing a crowd of 100 protesters. Such tension was felt among many frustrated fishermen and anglers as well, who had lost all hope in the possibility of fishing being open at all this year.
After talks had dragged well past the initial April deadline, the state met with the Pacific Fisheries Management Council in May with whom they established federal guidelines and approved a permit. Some of the restrictions are that marine areas like south-central Puget Sound, southern Puget Sound, and the Tulalip Bubble Fishery are open strictly for Hatchery Chinook, meaning that Coho and wild Unmarked Chinook are off bounds and should be released if caught.
Strait of Juan de Fuca at Sekiu, Port Angeles, and the San Juan Islands
Other marine waterways such as the Strait of Juan de Fuca at Sekiu, Port Angeles, and the San Juan Islands will be open for Hatchery Chinook fishing only from July 1-30, then it will be extended to all Chinook from August 31 to September 30. Skykomish and Cascade rivers are some of the freshwater areas also open for Hatchery Chinook and Steelhead, while the Skagit River will be open for Sockeye.
The agreement allowed for all fishing in waters such as Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish but will be closed in the fall from September 1st to October 31, in an attempt to protect a weak return of Coho to Puget Sound. The coastal salmon fisheries remained unaffected, however, which led the federal fishery council to approve a limited ocean sports summer salmon fishing season set to begin July 1 at Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay. The agreement saw sea sports quota this season decrease to 35,000 Chinook, compared to 64,000 last year, and 18,900 Hatchery-Marked Coho, compared to 150,800.
This decline echoes the tribal officials emphasis on restoring the Puget Sound salmon runs and habitat throughout the region where they decided to reduce the Makah tribal winter troll fishery quota off the western edge of the Strait of Juan de Fuca from 8,500 to 4,500 Chinook and reduce their Coho netting time on the Puyallup River.
As a response, the state regulated fishing conditions by closing the sport-fishing season on the Puyallup River during peak Chinook time, which are the same waters where the tribal managers opted to reduce Coho netting time, closing central and northern Puget Sound as soon as the summer Hatchery Chinook quota has been reached, and increasing monitoring during the catch and release fishery in central Puget Sound during June and northern Puget Sound in early July. Furthermore, the winter salmon fishery in south-central Puget Sound, also known as Marine Catch Area 11 in the Tacoma area, will be closed from November through January.
The conflict between the tribal managers and the state is no new occurrence; issues on salmon conservation have constantly been on the table for discussion between the authorities. This particular debate, however, made history by taking the longest amount of time to resolve in thirty years.
Luckily for anglers, fishermen and salmon lovers in general, the two-month-long negotiations came to a close, and both the state and tribal managers have each set terms on how to save certain species like Coho and Chinook from extinction. Excited for the summer fishing, state Fish and Wildlife Salmon Policy Coordinator, John Long, admits that the friction has had an undesired impact on fishermen but is optimistic for the recent opening of the season.
“This opening puts the year’s salmon fisheries back on track,” Long said.
According to a news report published by The Olympian, avid recreational fishers did not waste time to take to sea. By late Friday morning, there were already at least six boats hungry for salmon off the Point Defiance Marina. The summer has become tastier and more fun for many in the US state, however, not so much for the fish themselves, it would appear.
Source: The Seattle Times