Last year after MA-7 was “temporarily” closed to all salmon fishing after just 7 days, many of you were rightfully outraged to learn that both tribal and non-tribal commercial fishing boats were spotted off San Juan Island conducting their fishery. Now to be clear, we at FNW don’t take issue with commercial fisheries, but when we inquired as to the impact those boats were having on Stillaguamish hatchery chinook, we were told by Department staff that there wasn’t any. This answer from them flew in the face of common sense of course, for how can there be purse seine nets in the water off Eagle Point and there not be some impact to chinook? This answer was all the more maddening when Director Sussewind later announced that recreational fishing in MA-7 would not reopen at all in 2021 because too many hatchery Stillaguamish fish were caught during the first seven days of July.
So in this slide presented by Baltzell just a few weeks ago, he makes an attempt to address the outrage many fishermen felt concerning the Department’s obvious less-than-transparent response. Here we read the following in the lower left-hand column, “Commercial fisheries directed at Pink and Sockeye have little or no modeled impact to contribute”. These highly deceptive and carefully chosen words dance around the fact that in the past WDFW has sampled only the non-tribal purse seiners for impacts to chinook for this fishery, and what Baltzell failed to reveal here is that these non-tribal seine boats are required to release back into the water all chinook caught in their nets. However, and here is the tricky part, tribal seine boats are not required to release chinook because they are allowed to retain a certain number as by-catch, and these boats WERE NEVER SAMPLED FOR IMPACTS. So you see it is this little fact that allows the Department to say things like “…little or no modeled impact to contribute” because based on the boats they sampled, this statement is true, but only because the boats they chose to sample were required to release their chinook. Cute little trick eh? But what is most disconcerting is that we recreational fishermen were shut down for harvesting 7 hatchery chinook over our quota and yet an unknown number of hatchery and wild Stillaguamish fish were killed in tribal seine nets during July, Aug, and Sept while fishing for pink and sockeye salmon.
The Absurdities are endless and there are plenty more to flesh out of this slide. Stay tuned.