The 2021 North of Falcon co-manager weapon of choice

Let me explain just what I mean when I refer to ‘the 2021 North of Falcon co-manager weapon of choice.’It works like this; Each year the co-managers need something to use as leverage over the state. They need this thing in order to achieve their ultimate goal of removing the recreational fisherman from the water. They are looking for something to pin their demands to, something that will allow them to force WDFW to make deep cuts to the recreational seasons. Or put a mother way, they are searching for a lever they can use to pry us off the water. But, they are patient and go about this incrementally, each year achieving a little more. Last year they used the Stilly hatchery fish. They demanded cuts that resulted in the complete closure of blackmouth in almost the entire Puget Sound. For its part, WDFW offered a workable solution, that being raising the size limit of chinook to protect the critical year group of fish that were returning. But no, the co-managers rejected this flat out. Why? Because it would have run counter to their goal of eliminating our seasons, specifically blackmouth. And so, without their own permit in which to go it alone, WDFW was forced to acquiesce. In short, Ron Warren caved. He had to or else no recreational fishing would be allowed because the State does not have its own section 7 permit to fish, and yet the tribes do. This has been the situation since 2014 and this very fact largely explains why for instance Marine Area 7 has witnessed a 93% reduction in the number of days to fish for chinook since 2014. And so here we are in 2021, and the weapon the co-managers will wield this year will be the data that shows Canadian overharvest of chinook that otherwise would return to U.S. rivers. They will demand cuts from the State right from the outset of North of Falcon. They will perhaps acknowledge that they also will have to make cuts, but they will offer none until the last day of ‘negotiations’ in the second week of April. And in that last week of NOF, they will offer what we call ‘paper fish”. The way this works is the co-managers ‘negotiate’ a number representing what their annual harvest will be (a higher number than they actually plan to take), and so when they do make cuts, they are making them on paper only. No real reduction in harvest actually occurs because they never intended to take that many fish anyway (a clear example of this is the Stillaguamish Tribes tactics last year, all a matter of public record. The Makah are well known for this little trick as well). So you see, the system is rigged, and the reason it goes on like this because the state does not possess its own section 7 permit to fish when ESA-listed stocks are present. If it did, when the co-managers tried to pull crap like this, the state could rightfully say ‘screw you, we are going it alone’. But that is not the case, and that my friends is a large part of why FNW is launching a lawsuit in 60 days (the other part is the overharvest of ESA listed fish, but I’ll get into that later).

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Brett Rosson