Guest Opinion: North of Falcon process underway earlier

Guest Opinion: North of Falcon process underway earlier

The 2017 state and tribal salmon season-setting process got an earlier start this year.

Nobody wants a repeat of last year’s North of Falcon process that required a month of overtime negotiations and led to a delay in opening some sport fisheries. It was the first time in more than 30 years that the co-managers were unable to complete the process in the usual late February through April time frame.

Some said the delay showed that the process is broken. It’s not.

The fact that we reached an agreement is proof of that. What is true is that salmon management is becoming more difficult every year as the resource continues to disappear. Poor ocean food supplies, climate change and the ongoing loss and damage of salmon habitat have led to record low returns of chinook and coho for the past few years. This reality demands increasing caution by the salmon co-managers as we work to share and rebuild a steadily shrinking resource.

More of the same is expected again this year. In fact, we may be seeing a new normal when it comes to salmon returns in western Washington. We’ve been working with the state to take a close look at the North of Falcon process and how we can be more efficient. One thing we did was get the ball rolling earlier this year. We began our preliminary meetings in January so that tough issues can be addressed more quickly.

For example, we are addressing species like pink and coho salmon earlier in the process. That gives us extra time to deal with more at-risk species such as Puget Sound chinook, which have continued to decline since being listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1999.

I am optimistic that we will finish on time and agree on a package of fisheries that balances the needs of all fishermen and the sustainability of the salmon resource.

Still, no fisherman is going to get everything he wants this year. We all want more fish, but there just aren’t enough. So, let’s look at what we can do together.

We can do more to protect salmon habitat. The ongoing loss and damage of salmon habitat is the single biggest source of our problem. The collapse of our fisheries mirrors this destruction of habitat.

We can advocate for hatcheries. About half of the salmon harvested in western Washington are hatchery fish. We will all have to depend on hatcheries for as long as lost and damaged habitat restricts natural salmon production.

The importance of hatcheries should be reflected in their funding, but as the need for hatchery fish has increased, state funding for hatcheries has declined or remained flat. Federal funding for tribal hatcheries also has not kept pace with maintenance and operation costs.

We can continue to cooperate. It has taken more than 40 years for the tribes and state to build the working relationship needed to jointly manage the salmon resource. Like all relationships, ours has its ups and downs, but at the end of the day we all want the same thing: healthy, sustainable salmon populations that can support harvest.

Even with an early start it won’t be easy for the co-managers to reach agreement again this year. As salmon continue to decline, every management action we take requires increasingly careful consideration. One thing that’s certain is that fisheries management is better when we work together.

Lorraine Loomis is Chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. See www.nwifc.org.

More in Opinion

x
From the Back Nine: On the brink

I can feel a ground swell of old folks who have their… Continue reading

Bertha Cooper
Think About It: Goodbye, Charlie

“I love helping a community be what it wants to be,” says… Continue reading

Guest opinion: Where is the accountability?

The thread that seems to run through Bertha Cooper’s opinion piece in… Continue reading

Crystal Linn
Aging Successfully: We really do need each other

In my opinion the person, who created the phrase “social distancing” should… Continue reading

Guest column: UW scholars program can help next generation build strong communities

A large majority of youth across a wide spectrum of races, cultures… Continue reading

Don Brunell
Guest column: Removing Snake River dams is unwise

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson’s $33 billion plan to remove the lower Snake… Continue reading

Kris Johnson is president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturers association.
Guest opinion: January windstorm is reminder of value of diverse energy sources

A windstorm swept through Washington state last month, doing damage on both… Continue reading

Bertha Cooper
Think About It: A shot in the arm

Of all the news coming out of Sequim, the best news is… Continue reading

Being Frank: Increased outdoor recreation impacting tribal treaty rights, resources

Already robust levels of hiking, camping, boating and every other kind of… Continue reading

x
Guest column: Reflecting on 40 years of federal recognition

Editor’s note: This column was originally printed in the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s… Continue reading

Don Brunell
Guest opinion: Portland carbon tax may doom recyclers

In 1971, Oregon was the first state to enact a “bottle bill.”… Continue reading

Guest Opinion: Time to end spread of QAnon, similar conspiracies

My seventh great grandmother, Phebe Wilde Day, was imprisoned as a suspected… Continue reading