The 2016-2017 Puget Sound Salmon Fishing Plan has finally seen state and tribal officials reaching an agreement, ending a stalemate that could have had negative repercussions on sport, tribal anglers, and commercial fishermen in Washington.
Federal authorities haven’t approved the agreement yet, but fishermen and anglers are most likely to have permission to fish for salmon and other fish species sometime soon.
The Endangered Species Act protects the chinook and coho salmon, given their record-low populations, so fishermen expect leaner salmon seasons this year to aid the conservation efforts.
The recent talks are part of a long discussion from over 30 years ago, with negotiations starting in 1974with the Boldt decision; back then, the federal court decided the tribal fishermen had a right to 50 percent of the salmon harvests.
According to the 1974 declaration, the talks were set for joint management. But due to past failures, salmon fishing in the Puget Sound waters was shut down last May 1; a previous authorization from the federal government had also expired by then.
Following the closure, previous tensions were awakened again, spurring fresh debate over the joint management.
“I am still disappointed we couldn’t get this done in a timelier manner, and I believe that comes from just not having enough conversation,” said Ron Warren, the salmon-policy manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Recent negotiations saw tribal leaders talking about the need to “relocate the efforts on Puget Sound’s salmon run restoration across the region.” Willie Frank, tribal-fishing rights champion, also highlighted the dwindling salmon population and the habitat deficiency.
Frank, who is also the assistant manager for natural resources at Puyallup Tribe, was quoted saying that the negotiations shouldn’t be about “fighting over the very last salmon.”
About 200,000 fishermen had licenses for salmon fishing during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. In the last few years, the state developments, pollution, and increasing population have affected Puget Sound’s salmon runs.
At the same time, the ocean’s poor condition – that we keep hearing so often about – also contributed to the decline of the salmon population and caused a difficult fight for survival.
Many Puget Sound coho that swam in the ocean either didn’t survive or came back last year at a worrying weight. Experts predict more weak wild returns this year.
Image Source: Chromer Sport Fishing