Dear Senators Saloman, Van De Wege, Washington State Senators, and Representatives,
RE: Senate Bill 5617-unintended consequences.
I am reaching out to you today to make sure you understand what you are signing on SB 5617. As President of the largest fishing club in Washington state, Puget Sound Anglers with 16 state chapters, I feel that not all information is on the table and it being thought out all of the way to the end. It is not as easy as it sounds on the surface.
The results of the SB 5617 gill net ban, if implemented, will have unintended consequences. At a time when we are realizing that Chinook Hatchery Production cuts have been one of the main culprits causing our orca loss and eliminating our fishing seasons. This bill stops production increases. It does not address the ESA requirement of commercial clean up or commercial netting to stop the excess hatchery fish on spawning beds. This state bill removes the tool in the tool box that allows those increases to happen. There are ways to work with the commercials to adjust but this is flat out to remove them and going to stop hatchery increases dead in its tracks. Our commercials are the ones tasked to clean up excess hatchery fish, allowing us to make more fish for our Orcas, communities, and fishers of Washington. This is law in today’s world that cannot be ignored, until newer science is adopted, which is being working on. While the general public thinks it is the right thing to do, they do not understand the full dynamics and end result it will be bring.
The tribes on the CR are fishing above Bonneville dam and non tribal commercials below. Below Bonneville is a 80/20 split. It is 80% rec 20% commercial and a state managed fishery. Once you remove the non tribal commercials you are going to see tribes commercial fishing below Bonneville right among the recreationalists. Think you do not like this now, just wait and see what happens.
We are tired of fighting over the last fish and have joined forces with the Washington State tribes, coastal, and commercials to fix this mess. You should personally take time to visit some of those coastal and tribal communities to see what we have done to them by these extreme production cuts. It is time to change the way we do business, make the pie bigger, and return to fishing full seasons like we used to. What we have been doing is not working. We have a unique opportunity in our hands right this very moment. We can change Washington State for the better and bring back our “Salmon Capital of the World” status by producing more fish, once again, while rebuilding the Orca population. We have cut Washington State Chinook and Coho Hatchery Production by 152 Million fish annually since 1989. With a 1% return rate that would equate to 1.52 million additional fish for the 0rcas and us. (See attachment) Also see attachment showing that hatchery production cuts that track with the orca decline. This newly brought out data is not disputable. The numbers are straight from Washington Department of Fisheries Stocking records.
As an Orca Task Force member, appointed by Governor Inslee, together we put in thousands of hours to make sure that we are doing the right thing and giving it our best. There are a handful of us and tribes on the committee that help manage our salmon fisheries both federally and state. We are there to make sure that reality is used and the orcas were not failed as well as our salmon. The orca problem is a salmon problem. People came from all over the world, giving emotional testimony, asking us to save our Orcas. We took this plea to heart and intend to live up to those expectations and are asking the same of all of you.
At this very moment you are in the spotlight of the entire world. Checkbooks are ready to write checks to make fish to save our precious orcas. This might be our only chance. There is money available and attitudes are changing. We have to start producing more salmon again. The WDFW Commission has asked for a Washington State 50 Million Chinook increase that was supported at by the Orca Task Force. This as being characterized by some groups as reckless and is not the truth. Truth is dead end bay releases and fish produced where they do not impact wild runs are stated. Increased hatchery production is short term and habitat is long term. If we do not make fish for the orcas the salmon will not last long enough to use the rebuilt habitat that is proposed. Why does a recreational fishing organization not support a gill net ban? Because it does not fix the problem and stops production increases intended for all fishers and orcas.
If this gill net ban proposal if instituted, contradicts your bill to make more fish. Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires excess hatchery fish not to make it to the spawning beds. I would not want this on my resume as the ones that caused our orcas to go extinct. We can work with the commercials in different ways but just removing them is not the answer. This equates to having a controlled burn to clean up habitat and removing the fire trucks that are the safety net allowing the burn. The bottom line is that this bill does not allow the hatchery production bill to happen. Please reconsider this bill, endorse hatchery production, and make Washingtonians and the world proud.
The link above is the PDF prepared by Puget Sound Anglers concerning the history of Chinook transfers from hatcheries and how it effects fisheries policies.
If you have any questions I would be more than happy to talk with you.
Puget Sound Anglers State Board
SRKW Task Force Member
WDFW Budget Advisory Group Member
WDFW Shrimp and Crab Adviser
WDFW Halibut/Bottom Fish Adviser