Report on Hearing for increase of Wild Steelhead By-Catch Limits

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Teeg Stouffer, Feb 5, 2005.

  1. I attended the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission’s hearing today (Sat. Feb 5) on the increase of allowable wild steelhead by-catch on the lower Columbia River from 2% to 4%. (There was misunderstanding on whether it was an increase to an allowable 6%, the legislation actually reads 4%). I wanted to provide a report of the meeting for those who were not able to attend, and offer applause to all who showed up to defend our wild fish. In the end, the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s proposal to increase allowable by-catch was adopted.

    I will try to offer an objective report and then my biased commentary. Please feel free to correct or amend, those of you who were present, if I’ve gotten something wrong. My intent is not to misrepresent or mis-characterize anyone.

    The Report

    It was standing room only, by my count, about 80 people from both sides of the issue, present in the room. 41 people signed up to provide testimony in the 3-minute per appeal format.

    Guy Norman, SW Washington Regional Director, and Cindy LeFleur, Policy Director, first delivered the proposal and the rationale for the proposal. This included an onscreen powerpoint demonstration of the key points for their decision, and supporting data.

    The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s position was that our state, in cooperation with the state of Oregon, should allow an increase in steelhead by-catch in order to make it easier for commercial (non-tribal) Spring Hatchery Chinook netters to reach their allowed limits. Under current policy, netters must stop fishing as soon as a 2% by-catch is reached. The new legislation would allow up to a 4% by-catch before stopping the fishery. Increased by-catch would only be used if wild steelhead limits exceeded the present 2% benchmark before Chinook goals are met. The rule would be a one-year test. The Department argued that management intent would be to remain at the lowest possible levels, and that 4% or 6% would not be a goal. Furthermore, the department believes that an increase would not register any additional impact on the recovery of wild steelhead.

    Following their presentation, the commission asked a handful of questions, then began to hear public testimonies. As I followed along (I may have missed a few, or heard a name wrong) the following organizations had representation, and gave the following support or opposition:

    Recreational Fishing Alliance (opposed)
    Vancouver Wildlife League (opposed)
    NW Sportfishers Association (opposed)
    Flyfishers of Vancouver (opposed)
    Bellboy Crab Co (supported)
    Wild Steelhead Coalition (opposed)
    Southwest Washington Anglers (opposed)
    Clark County
    Friends of the Cowlitz (opposed)
    South Sound Flyfishers (opposed)
    Recycled Fish (opposed)
    Washington Trout (opposed)
    Washington Chapter Trout Unlimited (opposed)
    Commercial Fishing Advisory Council (supported)
    Salmon for All (supported)
    Waikiakum County
    Doman Fish Company (supported)
    Fish First (opposed)

    Also, there were 14 individual anglers who did not cite representation of an organization who were in opposition to the increase. Among them were a commercial developer, someone with a family history of commercial harvest, a member of the Steelhead and Searun Cutthroat Advisory Board, a guide, and others. Eight individual / self-represented commercial fishermen or supporters of commercial fishing also provided commentary. They unanimously supported the increase in by-catch.

    Following public comment, the commissioners made their comments. Here are a few paraphrased selections:

    Director Jeff Koenings – felt that much of the “righteous indignation” from opponents of the measure was hypocritical, because data suggests that sport fishermen account for 4-6% of wild steelhead mortality. He also felt that opponents were harsh in their negative characterization of commercial harvesters, and in their language toward the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Other commissioners echoed Koening’s concerns.

    Commissioner Bob Tack – This is a hard issue. When it’s a close call, I defer to the fish.

    Commissioner John Hunter – “We’re all in this together.” Everybody questions the science, but it’s limited to your own perception.

    Commissioner Ken Chew – “Any time there is an impact on a stock…it can be hard to bring it back.” Felt habitat was a key issue, looked favorably on a jump to 6% with hope it will stay to 2%, comfortable with trying it as a test since it’s limited to just one year.

    Commissioner Pete Schroder – “What if we put all this energy and money into this, and NOAA decides to ignore us? That’s what’s happening here…I would feel uncomfortable taking away a tool from managers.”

    Commissioner Clyde Mayer believes that the commercial fleet will get their allocation regardless of the increase, and notes that some tools available to managers had not been talked about.

    Commision Chair Ron Ozument – “This is a resource that is owned by everyone.” He is comfortable that this was proposed only as a management tool, and finds comfort that it is just for one year. He supported WDFW science and their proposal.
    Commissioner Fred Shoshoni supported the proposal and said that “we must be practical.”

    Commissioner Pete Schroeder proposed the amendment of the rule to read that by-catch would be managed on a 0% - 4% basis rather than the then-existing language that it would be managed on a 2% - 4% basis. He argued that our goal should be to get as close to zero as possible, and that public would prefer to hear the lower limit in the legislation. That amendment passed with votes from all but Fred Shoshoni, who felt that a 0% goal was impractical, and threatened to tie the hands of staff and fisheries.

    After other housekeeping and brief comments, the measure was put to vote, and was supported by all commissioners but Commissioner Bob Tack. So it passed, and in the upcoming Chinook fishery on the lower Columbia, the department can choose to allow a by-catch of 4% rather than 2% of the total allotment of wild winter steelhead for this season only.

    My commentary

    The science is suspect. We won’t know for sure (if ever) with any accuracy until June, according to Cindy LeFleur, program manager for the WDFW, whether or not the ceiling of 4% was met or exceeded, because the study will be based upon redd counts. There is no accurate way to assess on-the-fly what percentage of the total return is being harvested. Those percentage numbers do not refer to percentage of fish in nets, they refer to percentage of fish that are supposed to spawn in order for wild stock recovery to occur.

    I was impressed with the quality of arguments and give high praise to all who came out to present an appeal to the commission to reject this measure. Congratulations on a valiant attempt, at least it’s only one year.

    I am frustrated by the Department of Fish and Wildlife – and NOAA – to base recovery plans on arbitrary numbers – 2%, 4%, 10%, etc. Let’s not base management decision upon rigid, arbitrary policy guidelines that don’t have the capability to be intuitive. Let’s use observation of facts and situations to determine legitimate stewardship of the resource. We have a low-water year and a lower-than-expected forecast for fish return, why would we want to INCREASE allowable fish kill, this year especially?

    Finally, the nail in the coffin to the credibility of the sport anglers, who comprised the near-unanimous majority of those who objected to this new rule, was that the Wild Steelhead Moratorium did not pass. As a result, sport anglers kill wild steelhead, so who are we to say the commercial fleet can’t do it? This makes me very upset. Those sport anglers who could not give up killing wild steelhead when they had the chance, the mayor of Forks and her contingent, who went to bat to keep killing fish, not only continues to allow for a preposterous sport harvest – it probably is the key element that enabled this detrimental commercial “by catch” harvest. So it has an increased effect. WE MUST ALL STOP KILLING WILD STEELHEAD IF WE WANT TO AID IN THEIR RECOVERY.

    In conclusion, here is the testimony that I offered to the commission, for the record. Those others of you who have notes on what you shared, please be encouraged to add your appeal to the commission here. We will have to build our case once again for next year, assuming public input is allowed if/when the measure returns in next year’s cycle.


    I’m Teeg Stouffer, Executive Director of Recycled Fish, a nonprofit corporation for improving wakened fisheries and sustaining strong ones.

    I would first like to thank you for maintaining this forum in which we public can be involved in decision making for our resources. I would further like to thank each of you as individuals for the careful attention you are giving those of us who have come to comment today.

    With regard to resource management in general, because I believe it speaks directly to the heart of this issue, I want to address the Commission and the Department directly to encourage you to be advocates first and foremost for the long-term health of the resource. Let me clarify that further by saying that I am not speaking to you on behalf of sport fishermen. Nor am I speaking on behalf of commercial or tribal harvesters. I am speaking on behalf of the resource and the users as a whole, and I hope that you’ll also take that kind of holistic approach to management – including this matter specifically. I am certain – and I know that you will agree – that when the fish thrive, so do we, the users of the resource. Allow me be bold and say that when you make short-term decisions that serve any harvest group – sport or commercial – at the expense of the resource, over the long term, nobody wins. I think it’s clear that past performance has borne this out by now.

    With regard to this specific issue – I strongly oppose an increase of allowable bycatch of endangered wild steelhead. I humbly and respectfully ask that you not advocate for an increase in wild fish bycatch. It is an immutable fact that there is a relatively small number of wild steelhead remaining in the Columbia River System as compared to historical numbers. It is an immutable fact that if we kill more of them, there are fewer capable of reproducing, which hinders their recovery, for which I – and others like me – are still hopeful for.

    Today, the department has tried to contrast “management intent” against “NOAA limits” but wants “flexibility.” Let me add my voice to the strong majority who says NO INCREASE is acceptable, because ANY INCREASE means FEWER FISH and endangered fish need the BEST CHANCE for RAPID RECOVERY.

    For the Department of Fish and Wildlife to continue its appeal for a three-fold increase in allowed steelhead mortality is to advocate for short-term gains for commercial anglers, which brings me back to my initial plea. Please make the long-term recovery of this fishery your top priority. Please let nothing stand in the way of it. Please let it be the one issue that “trumps” all other issues, and please know that while there may be kicking and screaming in the short-term, you will be building a legacy of recovery – something for which you will be forever applauded.

    I have faith that you will act prudently and wisely here. You have my humble gratitude and respect. Thank you.
  2. Teeg,

    Awesome job of notetaking. Thanks for your report.

  3. Teeg,

    Very nice job on your presentation. Well written and I am sure well delivered. I tip my hat to you and all others who took the time to attend and defend wild steelhead.

    Thanks very much for the report.

  4. Outstanding job, doubt you were a helluva lot more objective than I would have been. :thumb: The fact that the director and some commissioners perceive some "righteous indignation" on the part of the sporties speaks volumes as to just how far out there we really are. :beathead:
  5. Nice job, Teeg. Thanks for the report.

    When Koenings claims that sport anglers are responsible for 4 - 6% of wild steelhead mortality, what is he talking about? If some sport anglers are still intentionally killing wild steelhead, it is only because the staff and the commission opted not to ban it despite overwhelming support for a ban from the sport angling community. Now they're using their own decision to make an asinine policy decision in favor of commercials? I don't care if he's talking about both intentional harvest and incidential mortality, the solution at a minimum is to ban sport harvest of wild steelhead. They could go even farther and ban bait to lower the risk of incidental mortality. I cannot believe that sport angling would be responsible for 4 - 6% mortality of wild stocks if they did those things. But to say "we do a terrible job of managing sports' impact on the resource so we should be able to do just as horrible a job managing commercials' impact" is just pathetic.
  6. O mykiss -
    I believe that the figure of 4% for the sport fishing mortality is from the average WSR hooking mortality during recreational seasons on the various tributaries.. As I read the biological opinionn the sport fishing mortality varied from a low of 1% to as much as 6% depending on the stock and the sport fishing seasons that were excerted on them. As I recalled the Cowlitz, Kalama, and Lewis were expected to have a 6% wild steelhead mortality from the wild steelhead release during the winter/spring steelhead seasons and spring chinook season in those rivers.

    Those sport fishing wild steelhead mortalities were of course incidental from the anglers that were "targeting" hatchery steelhead and chinook. NOAA fishing in reviewing Washington and Oregon's request to up the allowable incidental mortality in effect that the if combined sport and commerical wild steelhead impacts were less than 10% it would not significantly jeopardize the steelhead population of the Lower Columbia River ESU.

    Frankly part of the problem with those opposing the increase in incidental mortality on biological grounds was the appearance that folks were attempting to hold the commerical fishery to a standard that they were not willing to hold the recreational fishery. Afterall with the 4% cap on the commerical fishery it is expected to be no worse than from the recreational fishery.

    Tight lines
    S malma
  7. Someday nobody will be fishing for them. :mad:
  8. Smalma's response is a great one.

    My perspective is exactly what you're saying here, though, O_mykiss. A whole bunch of sport anglers said "release all wild steelhead statewide" in hearings last year. A FEW sport anglers said, "we still want to kill some, sometimes, in some places." So WDFW said, "our hands are tied, the public is spoken, we have to allow some harvest." Now, I believe they should have said, "the strong majority has spoken, and the writing is on the wall, so we're going to prohibit any/all harvest," and the only issue on the plate would be WSR mortality - which may still be as much as 6% as Smalma points out.

    However, these are the same guys who sat and listened to that testimony from sport anglers begging to keep a kill season last year, and some sport anglers this go-'round used "our share" language, which I can't help but think colored the opinions of the commissioners.
  9. Here's Chester Allen's report, published today in the Olympian. I think it accurately shows the argument made by both sides.


    Columbia steelhead kill raised

    Conservation groups criticize increase in acceptable 'by-catch' death rate


    Columbia River commercial fishermen will be allowed to kill up to 4 percent of the wild winter steelhead run during this year's spring hatchery chinook season.

    Most of the wild winter steelhead in lower Columbia River tributaries -- including rivers such as the Cowlitz and Kalama -- are under Endangered Species Act protection.

    Commercial netters were allowed to accidentally kill -- but not keep -- 2 percent of the wild steelhead run during the past few years.

    But the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, which oversees the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, decided Saturday to increase the accidental death rate -- called "bycatch" -- on the Columbia to help commercial anglers net their full quota of hatchery chinook.

    Sport anglers and representatives of Washington Trout, the Wild Steelhead Coalition and other conservation groups ripped the commission's decision -- and vowed to fight on.

    "They didn't meet their responsibility to conserve wild steelhead stocks," said Ramon VandenBrulle of Washington Trout.

    Wild steelhead still are struggling in many rivers, and spawning goals aren't being met in many rivers, said Todd Ripley of the Wild Steelhead Coalition.

    Activists will go to Oregon next week to lobby that state's fish and wildlife commission to reject a similar move, VandenBrulle said.
    A lawsuit also is a possibility, he said.
    Oregon and Washington co-manage the Columbia River hatchery chinook fishery.

    How it works

    While wild steelhead are protected under the Endangered Species Act -- sport anglers cannot keep the fish -- federal regulators allow commercial fishermen to unintentionally kill some fish while netting.

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, which oversees endangered fish, ruled earlier this year that up to 6 percent of the Columbia's wild steelhead run could die during net fisheries without permanently harming the fish.

    Washington commission members listened to more than two hours of public testimony Saturday before voting to accept a staff recommendation to allow state fish managers the option to increase the total kill of wild steelhead to 4 percent of the entire run.
    Fish and Wildlife estimates that 27,000 wild winter steelhead will swim up the Columbia and into tributary rivers and streams this year.
    Commission members and Fish and Wildlife Director Jeff Koenings were quick to add that they hope the wild steelhead kill remains at 2 percent of the run -- or less.

    No one at Fish and Wildlife wants to kill wild steelhead, Koenings said, but some of the fish inevitably die during the chinook salmon netting.

    Why the increase?

    Why do state fish managers want the option to increase the kill?

    Giving fish managers more leeway in allowing wild steelhead deaths will let commercial fishermen get their full share of chinook, said Guy Norman, Fish and Wildlife Region 5 director.

    Cindy LeFleur, Fish and Wildlife Columbia River policy coordinator, said managers would allow a steelhead kill greater than 2 percent in a case like this:
    Commercial salmon netters have killed an estimated 1.7 percent of the wild steelhead run, but there are still 5,000 chinook left to catch.

    Those 5,000 chinook are worth about $1 million to the 150 to 200 netters in the fishery.
    But allowing another day -- or hours -- of netting would kill another 0.5 percent of the steelhead run.

    Under the old regulations, the netters would not be allowed to go after those salmon, as they would end up killing more than 2 percent of the steelhead run.
    Under the new regulations, state fisheries managers would allow another day of netting, as the wild steelhead toll would be 2.2 percent, which is well below the 4 percent maximum.

    Several Columbia River commercial fishermen told the commission that spring chinook are the backbone of their struggling industry.
    Special nets that tangle in fish mouths let them live until fishermen pull the nets, said Steve Gray, a commercial fisherman from Long Beach.

    Fishermen pull the nets every 45 minutes, and there are fish recovery tanks on board every boat to help steelhead revive before returning to the river, Gray said.
    "We don't want to kill wild steelhead," Gray said. "This is the most selective fishery in the world."

    By the numbers
    Increasing the commercial toll on wild steelhead makes no sense at all, dozens of sport anglers said.

    Carl Burke of Olympia pointed out that commercial fishermen caught more than their chinook quota on the Columbia during the past two years -- and without killing more than 2 percent of the steelhead run.
    - In 2002, 2003 and 2004, commercial netters had no problem taking more than their allotment.

    - In 2002, netters were allocated 0.68 percent of the total run, but they ended up landing 0.70 percent.
    - In 2003, netters were allocated 0.59 percent of the total run but ended up with 0.62 percent.
    - In 2004, netters were allocated 0.80 percent of the run, but landed 1.12 percent.

    "In short, staff has recommended a solution to a problem that doesn't exist," Burke said.
    At the same time, many steelhead rivers that flow into the Columbia aren't meeting spawning goals for wild steelhead, Burke said.
    Bob Tuck of Selah was the only one on the nine-member commission to vote against the increase in steelhead net deaths.

    The new rule expires Dec. 31, and commission members vowed to take another look next year. Tuck said he couldn't vote for the increase because a dry winter and troubled ocean conditions will hurt wild steelhead this year.

    Wild steelhead also are declining on many Columbia River tributaries, Tuck said.
    "In this business, as far as I'm concerned, close calls go to the fish," Tuck said.
    Chester Allen is outdoors reporter for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-4226 or crallen@olympia.
  10. Smalma,

    Thanks for the info, but I can't say it changes my view on this. You suggest that the mortality percentages range from as little as 1% to as much as 6% depending on the stock and scope of the recreational fishing (I assume that's what you meant by "the sport fishing seasons exerted on them"). If a run is showing incidental mortality of 6% because the sport season is too long (or because there is one at all) or because bait is allowed or whatever the reason, then WDFW should do something about it by changing how that particular recreational fishery is managed. I'm not a biologist, but a combined mortality rate of 10% on stocks that are listed under the ESA doesn't sound like all that great an idea, given all the other myriad challenges to successful spawning that these returning fish face. Even 6% doesn't sound like a great idea, so if recreational anglers are exacting that kind of toll on these listed runs, why not manage the recreational fishery differently, rather than deciding to give the commercial fishery an equal opportunity at killing listed steelhead stocks? It's really hard for me to get all that enthusiastic about allowing greater incidental mortality of listed steelhead just so someone can catch more hatchery chinook.
  11. O mykiss -
    There is the dilemma -to prtoect ESA listed fish should all fisheries be closed or should some minimal impacts be allowed (not likely to impact recovery efforts) on stocks of concern to allow the economic gain from those other fisheries (recreational and/or commercial).

    Here in Puget Sound a strict WSR on a stock through Febraury typically has about a 2% impact on a given river's steelhead. As often found on the Lower Columbia a longer winter steelhead season or fishing in the spring for chinook with bait would increase wild steelhead impacts (mortaltiy on both pre-spawn adults and kelts). Should all those fisheries be closed?

    A very similar situation occurs on the Puget Sound streams with the listed chinook. Typically NOAA fisheries and the co-managers have agreed that fishing well below MSY levels but at incidentally impact levels of 20 to 30% isn't likely to jeopardize recovery. It is very much a risk management game. Let's just hypothically say that it is decided to how fishing impacts on list to chinook (a popular option for some non-fisheries). What would that mean for say the Snohomish system -
    1) There could no marine fishing anywhere in the state for salmon, sea-run cutthroat, bottom fish etc.
    2) The whole anadromous section of the Snohomish system (inlcuding the Skykomish and Snoqualmie) would be closed while chinook are in the system. For the Sky that would June through early November - no summer steelhead fishing, no sea-run cutthroat fishing etc and the Snoqualmie would be closed until well into December.

    The result be virtually no fishing impacts on the stocks of concern but there would also be no virtually no fishing except of for those waters above anadromous barriers and the winter period. That might be acceptable if all of society was working equally to recovery the fish and such sacrifice would result in recovery in a few short years. The reality is with no fishing we would be no closer to recovery in 10 years or 20 years than we are today. Instead the approach has been to limit those incidental impacts in non-targeted fishery to a low level that would not impede recovery or use of newly restored habitiat while allowing at least some fishing.

    If one feels strongly that such an approach is too liberal (and many do) I would suggest that one not partake in any fishery that may encounter an ESA listed fish. However addressing one users group's impacts while ignoring another would at least give the appearance of hypocrisy. After all on the Lower Columbia wild steelhead prior to this year (since 1998?) the incidental imapcts from the recreation fishers was about 4% while the commerical boys were held to 2%.

    I would have thought that a argument that the best economical value of the limited impacts was in a recreational fishery rather than in a commerical fishery would have been less hyprocial that say the impacts for the commerical were too high. If the goal is to reduce all fishing impacts to a very low level (say less than 1 or 2%) are you prepared to close those recreational fisheries? As I have said those fisheries and impacts have been around for several years and I have not heard or seen any discussion that they should be closed from the wild fish protectors - so I think much of the recent to do on the LCR has more to do with allocation than the biological health of the resource.

    tight lines
    S malma
  12. Smalma, you know a lot more about this than I do, but you seem to keep implying that it's hypocritical for any recreational angler to criticize government agencies' management decisions with respect to commercial fisheries merely because recreational anglers inevitably have a negative impact on the same resources they are suggesting need better protection from the commercials. Does one have to lay down one's rod in order to have something non-hypocritical to say about these agencies' management decisions? Suggesting that if one is concerned about the state of ESA-listed fish he should just avoid the fishery is missing the point. If we are suspicious of government agencies' management decisions, we're supposed to turn our back on the fishery and let the WDFW, ODFW and NOAA do whatever they want? It's their job to do what is right by the resource, and whether I decide to stay away from these lower Columbia tribs (which, by the way, I've never fished) doesn't mean these agencies should get a free pass. I know it rankles government bureaucrats and scientists when someone from the outside questions their decisions (after all, they are all-knowing and have done such a good job up to this point), but when it comes to decisions that affect ESA-listed stocks, I think the onus should be on these agencies to offer better proof that their decisions are in (or at least consistent with) the best interests of these stocks.

    The problem is that the government agencies in charge of regulating our fisheries do a lousy job of conveying to the public that they are responsibly taking into account the myriad variables that could negatively impact recovery when they make decisions like this. (From the article that was posted, it seems that only one WDFW commissioner thought seriously enough about other variables that it impacted how he voted on this proposal.) The impression they too often leave is that they consider every variable in isolation. Maybe in actuality they are considering all significant factors, but it sure doesn't seem to come through in how they communicate these types of regulatory actions. I don't care about the biological opinions that are written in a manner that only a trained biologist can comprehend. I'm talking about how they communicate their decisions to the public.
  13. The more variables within any system that one is trying to study, quantify, understand and manage, the more possibility there us for error.

    I think that this plays a great role in the troubles we have with understanding fish management; We keep trying to (preferentially) reduce the arguement to only a few of the many variables that impact fish.

    We are always missing something.
  14. O mykiss -
    I don't feel it is hypocritical to critize the management agencies but do feel that is hypocritically to attempt to hold one user group to a standard that we are not willing to hold ourselves to.

    To say that a commerical fishery should not be killing say 4% of ESA listed run because it is not biologcially sound but willing accept the same imapcts in a recreational fishery does little to enhance the recreational fishing communities creditibility. However to say that if there is an acceptable impact it maybe make more sense economically that those imapcts be used in a recreational fishery rather than a commerical fishery (more economic value generated per dead fish in the recreational fishery) would seem to me be fair game. It may be a selfish argument but in the end that what all allocation disagreements come do to.

    I find your second question of interest. What would you purpose the State and its bios do to increase the understanding of the public of these complex issues? Is it that the bios are doing a lousy job of communicating to the public? or is the public doing a lousy job of attempting to learn about and understanding the issues? Some of both I think.

    Tight lines
    S malma
  15. I dont blame the "bios". I think that they have the hardest job of anyone in this situation. And they are under social and political pressure all of the time. So some of the bios are a there because they fit in with the management goals first, and some are there because they actually care about the truth of the science first, and they want to work from within the system for the best result for the resource. My hat is off to them.

    I think that it is the civil servants, including the biologists, in environmental and species management- state and federal- who provide the buffering, moderating influence, surviving from political party regime-to-regime, dampening the radical tides of change, to work on behalf of the future.
  16. I don't necessarily consider it the job of the bios to do a more effective job of communicating whether the WDFW (or any other management agency) is appropriately considering the huge number of significant variables that impact the health of depressed stocks when they make a decision on a particular issue (like allowable incidental mortality). I'd rather have the bios doing good science and not worrying about the PR. That I consider to be the responsibility of the director and the commissioners (in the case of the WDFW or ODFW) or the head of NOAA-Fisheries, in the case of that agency. They just don't do it right now. When was the last time a proposal or press release came out of any of these agencies that actually gave any comfort that they were considering all the important variables? The fact that in the stuff the public sees these agencies do a lousy job of addressing the question of how other variables were taken into consideration leads one to question whether they really are taking them into account.

    Of course, from what I can lay my hands on, I'm rather suspicious of whether they are. For example, here's an excerpt from the NOAA-Fisheries biop that cleared the way for the ODFW and WDFW's proposal:

    "Given all the factors for decline—even taking into account the conservation measures being implemented—it is still clear that the biological requirements for Upper Willamette River, Lower Columbia River steelhead, and Middle Columbia River steelhead ESUs are currently not being met under the environmental baseline. Their status is such that there must be a significant improvement in the environmental conditions of the species’ respective habitats (over those currently available under the environmental baselines). Any further degradation of the environmental conditions would have a significant impact due to the amount of risk the species presently face under the environmental baselines. In addition, there must be improvements to minimize impacts due to dams, incidental harvest, hatchery practices, and unfavorable estuarine and marine conditions. In this case, the states have proposed to allow an increase in mortality rate in 2005 and argue that the small increase is justified by the recent increase in abundance in winter steelhead populations. How the fisheries are managed after 2005 will depend on further analysis and consideration of the relevant factors."

    WTF? On the one hand they seem to be acknowledging that there are huge long term problems impacting the recovery of these runs, but then basically roll over because of one simple factor: the current "abundance of winter steelhead populations"? I get it, it's easy to count fish but it's hard to figure out precisely how these other things could negatively impact the runs, so we'll just toss all that other stuff out and raise the allowable mortality because, well, because we can count fish. And they seem to be looking no further down the pipe than 2005? Again, I'm out of my area of expertise, but this just doesn't seem like rational decision-making. I can admit the possibility I've misconstrued this; but if I did, then all I can say is that these agencies are doing a horrific job of explaining the rationale for their decisions.

    All of these agencies love doing press releases about their decisions; what would be so hard about ticking off the ten most significant variables (reasonable worst case) they considered in reaching their decision, and why they felt they could implement the regulatory change notwithstanding the reasonable worst case scenarios? These guys work for the public, not the other way around. If they want to win the public's faith in their decisions it's their responsibility to communicate more effectively the reasons we should have faith. It shouldn't be the public's responsbility to grope around for reasons. How much sympathy do you think "Kenny Boy" Lay would get if his lawyers were to tell the judge and jury in his criminal trial that Enron shareholders just should have done a better job at understanding Enron's impenetrable disclosures hidden in the darkest depths of their financial statement footnotes?
  17. O mykiss -
    I think I understand where you are coming from but as I'm sometimes reminded by my better half communication is a two way street!

    Virtually all the news releases from public agencies (certainly WDFW's) include a contact person. When is the last you or others contact one of those folks for clarification, more details or referal to someone with more detailed knowledge? If you find those releases are inadequate I would submit it is your responsibility to let the authors know so that future releases will be complete.

    Tight lines
    S malma
  18. Smalma- another way to look at it is accidental mortality per successfully harvested target species basis, or on a $ basis. If 2% mortality is achieved on the wild winterrun steelhead (as you said above) during the release period that ends in febuary, they are catching way more hatchery steelhead than is equivalent to 2% of the wild run, and for each wild fish killed, the fishery for the target species is generating lots of $. However, in the tangle net fishery, I read that they were catching 4 non-target species for every target fish, which, with the 20% mortality of tangle net recovered species, leads to an almost identical mortality of non-target fish to to target fish. Furthermore, the money gained per non-target fish killed is a tiny fraction of that of the sport fishery during the winter that attains similar mortality (per your numbers). Just another way to look at it.
  19. Once again this was a case of business as usual and quite predictable.

    How the laws are written in this state it is the duty and top priority of fishery managers to insure the maximum harvest for the commercial fishery. Sport catch is of minimal concern.

    I believe the time has come to start a campaign focussing on changing the legal priority of our fisheries. Changing it from emphasis on commercial to sport. The dollar is the biggest leverage tool to accomplish this goal. A sport caught fish generates 8 times as much revenue for the state as a commercial caught fish. Revenue for the state is one of the few things that attracts the attention of our legislators.

    A complete end to commercial fishing cann't be achieved though a shift to a greater catch for sport fishing can possibly be obtained. Maybe with a bit of luck the gill nets can be removed permanently. That alone would be of great benefit.


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