Tribes up to their same old tricks at 2022 NOF

Any of you who are familiar with collective bargaining negotiating tactics will recognize this move by the Tribes during this year’s North of Falcon. It’s called “running the clock out”. It’s nothing new. We saw it two years ago when the treaty tribes refused to proceed with recreational chinook discussions until they got what they claimed was acceptable concessions from the non-tribal commercial chum fishery. Well, here we are again. Different year, same tactics, a different set of B.S. objections. In my opinion, these tactics are planned and coordinated well in advance of the NOF meetings.

What’s changed this year? Well, FNW and its members have handed the Director the ability to pursue his own Section 7 permit if the treaty tribes keep playing their games. Will he use it? Doubtful. The following is a letter from Pat Pattillo, a friend of ours and a 35 year veteran of WDFW. He now operates independently on the other side, advocating for the recreational anglers of Puget Sound. Read this!

“WDFW’s initial proposal for Puget Sound fisheries is much closer to an acceptable final position than the situation represented in recent public meetings. Tribal co-managers weren’t prepared for constructive negotiations with WDFW on March 17. Instead of rolling up sleeves and getting right down to the task at hand of addressing clear conservation issues, the Tribes offered WDFW a disingenuous set of fisheries that are not even in the ballpark of reality for modeling alongside realistic state proposals. The Stillaguamish Tribes proposed a terminal area C&S fishery that is approximately ten times the level they actually have taken in recent years. The Makah Tribe made the usual, expected proposal of a maximum catch for their winter troll fishery (8,500) that is more than four times the level of last year’s fishery and even greater than their actual catch. With that highly unproductive routine in place, as WDFW reported to the public, the Tribes wasted most of WDFW’s time focusing not at all on realistic fishery issues that address conservation problems but on challenges to WDFW’s coho modeling that were supposed to have been addressed well ahead of the first North of Falcon negotiation session. They refused to agree on a first set of model runs for evaluating the impacts of coho stocks.

The North of Falcon co-management process dysfunction was in full display on March 17 – too bad the public isn’t allowed to observe.But we have seen this preliminary distraction to progress many times in recent years, and have learned to ignore the sideshow in that other ring of the circus. We cannot afford to interpret as realistic those outcomes of modeling unrealistic tribal fisheries. For example, the modeling of Stillaguamish chinook impacts WDFW presented to the public show the SUS total is seriously exceeding the agreed limits for the hatchery stock (18% vs limit of 14%) and the natural stock (14% vs limit of 9%). Also, in terms of the total number of AEQ impacts that WDFW has said will be shared equally, the Tribes’ proposed fisheries have an impact totaling 128 that compares to the 50% share of not more than 75 AEQ fish. Don’t be distracted by the dysfunction.WDFW’s proposed fisheries have an AEQ impact on Stillaguamish chinook of 77 fish, just 2 fish more than the 50% share. Further, the impact on the natural stock with a limit of 9% that WDFW claims is most constraining to our fisheries, is just 16 fish – four fish less than the 20 fish that is 50% of the SUS total. WDFW’s proposal is clearly close to the impact needed to meet the sharing as well the conservation limits agreed upon between the co-managing partners. They are not constrained by the Stillaguamish natural fish limit, but just slightly by the Stillaguamish hatchery fish limit. But there is much to play out over the next three weeks of this dysfunctional process. Noting without need that the Tribes fish non-selectively, and observing that the tribal fisheries harvest only 1.6 Stillaguamish hatchery fish for every 1 Stillaguamish natural fish (fisheries such as the C&S net, Makah troll and the Tulalip terminal net), it is clear that the tribes cannot harvest their 50% share of the Stillaguamish hatchery fish (54) without seriously exceeding their share of the Stillaguamish natural fish. With about 20 harvestable Stillaguamish hatchery fish uncaught, tribal fisheries are constrained by the Stillaguamish natural stock’s limit. Or are they? We know from WDFW that the Stillaguamish Tribe doesn’t intend to harvest 52 chinook, as inputs to the recent modeling indicate, but just 5 chinook. But the tribes can use their full share of Stillaguamish allowable impacts if WDFW requires sport fisheries to be selective.

The tribes may bash selective fishing, but their fisheries depend on the low unmarked fish impact of selective sport fisheries to enable their fisheries. The Tribes have a long way to go toward meeting the agreed objectives for impact limits on Stillaguamish chinook, including both conservation limits and fair sharing. Flexibility in sharing is vital to a healthy cooperative, co-management process and WDFW would be wise to negotiate limits for sharing of the limited number of impacts in a manner that meets the needs of both tribal and state fisheries. If the tribes require more than 50% of the Stillaguamish natural stock impacts, then WDFW is right to consider balancing that need with legitimate sportfishing needs for tribal agreement to reduce the intensity of in-season management constraints in sport mark-selective fisheries. Without such a tradeoff, WDFW should simply adjust the current proposal to reduce Stillaguamish hatchery impacts by approximately two AEQ fish”.

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Brett Rosson