We live in one of the most complicated fishing areas there is. We have more compiled data on our salmon than probably the rest of the world. With all of that data our fish stocks are in worse shape than ever before. We have so many compound problems that it has gotten about impossible to fix. We have rode the Chinook train to the bottom and are not far off from it ending-unless we are willing to change course. But there is something we can do.
These issues are key to fixing our fisheries.
1. ESA Salmon are paid for at home waters-here in Washington state not in the high seas up north. The tribes, non-tribal commercials, and sport fisheries of Washington state have to pay for those impacts, causing us to fight over these last fish. Alaska and British Columbia are accessing them wide open. When they lay off of our fish we have better seasons. A couple of years ago, Alaska went 100,000 Chinook salmon over on their quota. They did not have to pay anything back. Our fishing would have been better if they had not done this. If they would let as little as 20% more of our fish to get back to us yearly our seasons would be far better! This needs to be pressed on NOAA as they are the ones overseeing these negotiations.
2. We have quit producing fish out of our hatcheries. Since 1989 (this date was picked because it is after the Boldt decision and before ESA salmon listings showing hatchery production is the problem).
Washington State Hatchery output
1989 23,302,293 Chinook 21,606,740 Coho
2016 9,308,019 Chinook 5,641,951 Coho
See the problem? We are only putting out 39.9% Chinook and 26.1 % Coho that we used to in 1989. We are riding that death spiral to the bottom of the barrel. These numbers are quite a bit lower than before 1989. This shows that we used to have pretty good fishing when we had larger numbers of salmon releases from the hatcheries.
3. Many want to ride that HSRG (Hatchery and Science Review Group) accepted theory that hatchery fish on the spawning grounds are bad for our wild fish. We now have less wild fish than ever and have cut hatchery output to the bone, so this clearly is not working. But as of right now it is the law of the land. So we have work to do to back this off. When methods are not working we have to change them.
4. A salmon "Wild Fish" and a "natural origin fish" are not necessarily the same thing. A "wild fish" is deemed a fish that spawns naturally in a river. A natural origin fish is a fish thats genes are from that river originally. Most of these "Wild Fish" are a bastardized cross breed of other strains of fish. Over the last 100 years the state has supplemented many rivers with runs of salmon from the green and other rivers in other rivers all over the state. So this begs the question why are we so worried about saving these bastardized fish at all costs?
5. A 1996 study of Puget Sound Harbor Seals said that the carrying capacity was around 7300 seals. It is upwards of 20,000 today. Even though salmon are not their prime food source, the amount of seals is causing a horrific impact as well as cormorants in our rivers eating the fry traveling out of the rivers. Sea Lions are an additional impact over the seals and cormorants. Hatchery output helps to cloak the wild fish so they have a chance to survive their journey. Take the hatchery fish away and its nothing but the few remaining wild fish exposed to predators with no buffer.
6. Our local Orcas are starving. They eat Chinook Salmon and with the lack of Chinook, it causes a hardship on them. Our over abundance of seals and sea lions are competing with and hurting our Orca's recovery.
7. We have become the master of cutting our own throats. While we fight with each other-Washington State salmon user groups, our hatchery production continues to decline causing more irreparable harm to all of us and our great state. Instead of all user groups coming together to work on hatchery production and making the pie bigger we are concerned about taking each others pie. This is a problem that is eventually going to take us all of the water. People in the industry are losing their homes, boats, businesses, stores, manufacturing, etc. Let's face it, even if you are not in the industry, you spend your life trying to figure out how to fish more. Well the answer is right here in front of our face and we are not recognizing it.
Puget Sound Anglers is committing to fixing this problem. We are engaged and are in full motion. PSA has relationships with many federal, state, and local government entities, private organizations, and the tribes. We intend to use those relationships. We have certain cards we can play and ones we can't. We are forging forward using the cards we have. Forget about the infighting of the past. We can continue to fight and blame each other or we can work together for a better solution for all. Think back 20 years ago when we had commercial fishing around and we had full seasons. Do we want to return to getting back to to those times or do we want to continue to get a few weeks a year to fish for King salmon? Under HSRG management and guidelines we have to have a commercial cleanup of the hatchery fish so that these fish do not spawn with the wild fish. Would you rather do this and return to fishing or keep on fighting until we are off the water permanently? We are not that far off. Washington State is suffering and we have one last chance to fix this problem.
In meetings with government officials, we have been told that if we (the tribes, commercials, and sportfishers) come together, we can get hatcheries funded again. This is the avenue that we are going started. Let's face it, what we been doing is not working. Is there any clear evidence that wild fish are even going to survive our problems of today and future? PSA works with many federal, state, and local government entities, private organizations, and yes, even the tribes. We all want to fish.
Did you know that some yelloweye rockfish
that are here today were Washington residents before it became a
state in 1889? They have been and continue to be an important
part of our heritage.
Halibut and bottomfish fishing have also
been a part of Washington’s culture for hundreds of years. Many
generations of fishermen have relied on halibut and bottomfish
for food and recreation.
A recent stock assessment indicates that
the yelloweye rockfish population has declined over 80% from its
initial level. As a result, immediate action must be taken if
the stocks of these long-lived fish are to be rebuilt.
To rebuild yelloweye rockfish populations,
the harvest opportunities for this species must be severely
curtailed. In recent years, the Pacific Fishery Management
Council has set yelloweye rockfish harvest levels for all
commercial, recreational, and tribal fisheries combined for
California, Oregon, and Washington of about 17 metric tons (mt).
This number includes yelloweye rockfish that are discarded at
The Washington recreational harvest target
is about 2.7 mt (fewer than 1,000 fish) in coastal waters. To
put this in perspective, in 2001, the Washington recreational
fishery harvested 15 mt.
Yelloweye rockfish, in general, are harvested during the
Washington recreational halibut fishery. If the yelloweye
rockfish catch is projected to exceed 2.7 mt, then Pacific ocean
waters adjacent to Washington outside 25 fathoms will be closed
to recreational bottomfish fishing (including halibut).
If yelloweye rockfish cannot be avoided when anglers are
targeting halibut, then we may have to close recreational
halibut fishing in the future to protect yelloweye rockfish.
Because the yelloweye rockfish stock may not be rebuilt for over
100 years, the problem of managing the yelloweye fishery will
continue through our lifetime; however, you have the ability to
help save the halibut fishery now and preserve the yelloweye
resource for the future.
Live to be 120 years old
Range extends from Mexico to Alaska
Found in deeper, rocky bottom areas
Slow growing,low productive species
Reddish-orange in color with bright yelloweye
Commonly called "red snapper"
Often spend their entire lifetime on one rockpile
How You Can Help
If you are participating in the recreational halibut or
bottomfish fishery, please avoid areas that are known to
have yelloweye rockfish.
If you do accidentally catch a yelloweye, please return
to the water s soon as possible.
Help spread the word to others about the severity of the
yelloweye rockfish depleted population and the possible
consequences of not avoiding yelloweye areas
If you do not know what areas may have yelloweye
rockfish, please consult a local resort, motel, or charter
office or other expert before fishing