FNW testifies before State Senate on SB 5421

The is a transcript of my testimony on February 9th, 2021 for HB 5421. The Bill being introduced outlines the establishment of an advisory board designed to facilitate dispute resolution between commercial/recreational fishermen and WDFW.

My name is Brett Rosson.

For the past 12 years, I’ve operated a Fishing Charter business in Puget Sound, and for the last 6 years, I’ve volunteered my time on two different Dept of Fish and Wildlife Advisory Boards.

I’m also the President of Fish Northwest, a non-profit dedicated to the conservation and preservation of Puget Sound salmon stocks, but also committed to restoring fishing opportunities for Washington’s anglers, their families, and businesses.

For years I’ve volunteered my time, sat through countless meetings and conference calls, read hundreds of emails, and I’ve participated in the annual salmon season setting process know as North of Falcon since 2010.

What I experienced and witnessed since 2014 led me, and many others, to the conclusion that WDFW has given up on advocating for the sport fishermen of WA State during NOF. And so we decided it was time to act.

In October of 2020, FNW filed a motion to intervene in US v Wa 384 F, (aka the Boldt Decision). Our intent in doing so is not to insert ourselves as Fisheries Managers (as both the State and Co-managers wrongfully claim), but to simply to ask the court to enforce the Boldt Decision requirement of equitable sharing of harvestable salmon and steelhead, which has not been happening.

In a nutshell, we are asking that the two parties named in the Boldt Decision (the State and the Co-managers) follow the dictates, rules, and guidelines contained therein, which they are currently not doing.

Since 2014, Puget Sound recreational salmon fisherman have witnessed their chinook fishing opportunity all but disappear. In north Puget Sound, where my business operates, we have endured an 83% reduction number of days available to fish for chinook salmon. In 2014 our chinook fishing season lasted 9 months. In 2020 our season had been whittled down to 6 weeks.

These cuts to recreational salmon fishing seasons cannot all be attributed to conservation measures taken by the State and Co-managers to protect endangered salmon. In fact, I estimate that up to a third have not been necessary, but are a byproduct of the dysfunctional and broken process know as North of Falcon.

And so, on Jan 29th, 2021, FNW filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue naming the State, the Co-Managers, BIA, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and NMFS for violation of the ESA permitting process. The reason this is a key lawsuit with regard to NOF is that neither the State nor Co-managers can go fishing until NMFS provides a permit, and the State neither has one nor has pursued one for the last 6 years.

This situation has made the NOF negotiation process vulnerable to manipulation, as the State must piggy-back on the BIA permit used by the Co-managers. The result has been a substantial imbalance of the agreed-to fishing seasons for the last 6 years, and the recreational fisherman have paid that price.

We believe that Dispute Resolution could be a valuable tool used in addressing the issue of a broken and dysfunctional NOF process (even perhaps elevating some of the need for so many lawsuits). An so we urge this body to work towards improving this Bill by consulting with representatives of the recreational fishing community when pursuing amendments.

I thank you for your time,

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Brett Rosson