Concerned Anglers Rally in Support of Fairness and Equality for Puget Sound Fisheries
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Over 200 hundred concerned recreational anglers gathered outside a meeting between officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to urge approval of a plan to re-open Puget Sound recreational fisheries.  Currently, nearly all Puget Sound recreational fisheries – including mark-selective salmon fisheries and mixed species fisheries in Lake Washington – are shut down until NOAA approves a fishery plan and issues the required permit.

For the first time in 32 years, WDFW and tribal fishery managers were unable to reach an agreement on salmon fishing seasons in Puget Sound through the annual “North of Falcon” process.  In recent years this annual salmon season-setting process has become increasingly dysfunctional.  As a result of the breakdown, the state and tribes are separately seeking the required permit to schedule salmon fisheries in Puget Sound, where some species of salmon and other fish stocks are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Unfortunately, federal officials at NOAA have been noncommittal about their willingness to provide the necessary permit to WDFW in time to re-open Puget Sound sport fisheries this year.  Meanwhile, Puget Sound treaty tribes have initiated commercial salmon fisheries despite the lack of the required permit under the ESA.  The tribes have also submitted a fishery plan that would far exceed their 50% share of the allowable harvest in many rivers.  This has been a common theme in recent years, where the historical allocation of Chinook, for example, has been unfairly weighted towards the tribes, with nearly 70% of the overall impacts going to tribal fisheries.

Meanwhile, the outlook for a recreational fishery this summer is uncertain.  The benefits of sport fishing in Puget Sound are immense, generating more than 500,000 angler trips at an economic value of over $100 million.  Sport fisheries also provide social and conservation benefits to our region and generate tens of millions of dollars in license revenue from more than 200,000 licensed Puget Sound anglers that help fund fishery management and conservation activities.

“The economic, social, and conservation benefits of sport fishing in Puget Sound are immense, but these and other benefits will be lost unless federal officials at NOAA take action to approve these fisheries”, said Nello Picinich, Executive Director of CCA Washington.  “With the failure of the state and tribes to reach agreement on a joint fishing plan, we are urging NOAA to stand for transparency, fairness, and equality as it considers the stand along tribal and state fishing plans for this season.”

“Moving forward it is clear that the co-management process is broken and in need of common sense reforms that promote conservation, transparency, and an equitable sharing of the harvest consistent with the Boldt Decision”, continued Picinich.  “We are urging our elected officials – including Governor Inslee and our Congressional Delegation – to provide the necessary leadership to reach an outcome that benefits the state’s residents, the treaty tribes, and the conservation of our fisheries.”

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