Tribes putting the resource first when planning fisheries

In a letter to the editor of the Seattle Times, Mount Vernon resident David Yamashita attacks tribal fisheries management without mentioning how fisheries managemnent has changed since Puget Sound chinook and several other species were listed under the federal Endangered Species Act more than 10 years ago.

Today all salmon fisheries in western Washington are viewed through the lens of the federal Endgangered Species Act. State and tribal fishing plans must meet the threshold that protects listed salmon. If a fishery has too high of an impact on listed or weak stocks, it doesn’t happen.

Last year, the federal government released a report that points out while we’ve made gains in reducing fisheries to protect salmon, we’re still losing ground on habitat.

Yes, even though some salmon stocks are listed under ESA, tribes still fish. But those fisheries are carefully constrained and monitored to make sure they don’t impact weak salmon stocks. According to the federal report, harvest limits have been followed and the goals of the fishing plans are being met.

It’s easy to see a net in the river, and assume that tribes are taking too many salmon. But for that one net to get into a river for even one day, tribal managers have to prove scientifically that it won’t harm the overall population. While the cumulative impacts of individual fishermen are taken into consideration when planning fisheries, the same cannot be said for ongoing damage and destruction of habitat that is the primary cause for the decline of wild salmon in western Washington.

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