: WSC Meeting
03-08-2001, 12:02 PM
I'm curious what other's impressions were of last nite's meeting. I was both impressed and depressed by Curt Kraemer's presentation. One moment he makes the stand that the WDFW is the agency getting things done and making tough management decisions for both the health of the fisheries and the recreational benefit of the users based on the best available science, then he rolls over and blames the user groups (especially the flyfishermen and C&R proponents) for not taking an active part in lobbying for their chosen methods of managing the resource.
So which is it - are the WDFW conservation leaders or simply pawns of the user groups?? How much of a part does best science have in determining our seasons, equipment restrictions, and catch limits? Once there's a sufficient # of steelhead predicted to return for a given season, is the process of deciding allocation of this resource entirely political? Curt was asked this question in a number of ways and dodged it at every turn.
All the same, I learned a LOT about the political wheels that decide our fate and discovered that the history of hatcheries on the Skagit river amazingly dates back to 1901. He shared a lot of information (as did Pete Van G), and I'm glad I went.
There were a lot of people at this meeting - guides like Ed Ward and Dennis Dickson and a LOT of Skagit regulars I've run into on the river. It was good to see so many familiar faces.
03-08-2001, 01:24 PM
I also came away with a mixed-bag of impressions. I agree that Kraemer was adept at responding to questions with unrelated answers. Another impression was that WDFW is still clearly driven by a harvest and allocation mentality, rather than a science-based "fish-first" philosophy. As Kraemer said, some things are out of the department's control, like habitat destruction and ocean conditions. But if stream habitat and ocean conditions as the major limiting factors for wild steelhead production, why not attempt to do something about them? There are ways to address those issues, basically by restoring habitat and the life history diversity of the wild runs. Why has the department failed to take a meaningful stand on habitat? And while Curt pointed out the fact that today's winter hatchery and wild runs have little spawn-timing overlap, I didn't hear anything about the impacts of harvest rules on squeezing the wild runs into a March-April-May return and spawning window (though I arrived 20 minutes late, maybe he did talk about that?). That practice sure seems effective at reducing life history diversity to me.
It was a very informative evening. There are lots of tough issues to deal with, no doubt about that.
03-08-2001, 01:35 PM
Because I am very interested in habitat issues, I did my best to press Curt for the current state of habitat within the Skagit-Sauk Watershed.
He told me that the Upper Skagit and its upper tributaries are in very good shape and so is the Sauk-I beg to differ on the Sauk. He did mention though that the Middle Skagit tributaries are degraded and that the Skagit is so channelized in the middle section that there is very little 'structure.' According to Curt, the middle Skagit does not have the edges formed by islands and structure that the Sky has. I was very intersted in getting some information on what kind of habitat rehabilition would benefit wild steelhead but either I do not ask the question clear enough or he did not want to answer it.
Curt did have a point about our user group being relatively absent from meetings, hearings and lacking a voice. The recreational, c&r wild steelhead groups have been very absent from large and important meetings.
But all in all it was a good night although I was worried we were going to have to seperate Curt and Dennis. And you may not always agree with Curt on what he has to say or his management policies but you do have to appreciate the fact that he is so open to our questions, comments and screaming and yelling.
03-08-2001, 02:00 PM
Curt and Dennis going at it. Sorry I missed it. My money would have been on Curt. And why would anyone want to seperate them?
03-08-2001, 04:17 PM
It was an interesting program. I agree on Curt's ability to deflect tough questions. He is a good speaker and has mastered the politician skills. I was struck though with the occurence of double speak. Case in point, the department uses catch record data in its models. It acknowledges this data is often biased but "bad data is better than no data". When asked why the dept. dropped the C and R portion of the catch cards, the response was "the data is bad so we can't use it". There were other instances of this as well.
I did get two gems out of his talk though. First, for the first time, I heard him making an argument for maximum recreation as opposed to MSY. He was not embracing it but was acknowledging that there is value in the fishery that does not result from harvest.
The second thing was his data on repeat Skagit spawners (13%). Last time I checked, a bonked fish not only cannot spawn in the current year but not the year after either. What I getting at here is that catch and kill fisheries for native fish last year are impacting the returns for this year.
I think the repeat spawner issue will be important as well should it come to a legal review of "foregone opportunity". The ability to spawn again separates steelhead from salmon and at least in my mind, renders returns in excess of MSY valuable rather than wasted.
03-09-2001, 01:46 AM
Well, I guess I too was struck by the adept skill both speakers had at not answering questions. Which is to say, I saw their mouths moving, but when they stopped, I realized my questions were not answered. Must just be the political nature of these guys' jobs. Frustrating for me, and it must be frustrating for them. The good news I came away with is that it seems (according to Pete Van Gytenbeek) that they already have the votes they need for our coveted statewide wild steelhead release law to be passed next December. The strange news is that they're holding a big symposium on the issue in September as a courtesy to the minority that support c & k. I'm guessing the taxpayers will be footing the bill for what appears to be a political formality. Ah, democracy.
As for the accusations of lack of participation from the sportfishermen at the North of Falcon process meetings, I think there's a simple explanation. The other user groups (commercial and tribal) each have a clear mandate, and a direct financial stake in the outcome. It's a little more complicated under the heading of "sportfishermen." By this I mean that some of us want catch and release, some want catch and kill, some want flyfishing priority, some would rather have no seasons than c & r seasons, some want their piece of the pie in the salt, others fresh, etc...In short, we as a group are extremely fragmented and in many cases, in complete disagreement. Anyway, I don't know what the solution is, I just know it's an uphill battle to try to find a single, coherent voice from this group. Unfortunately, that isn't the case with the other two main groups, and that makes their cases more impactful to the politicians who want to please their constituents. Anybody have any ideas on this dillemma we face?
Other than all that, I did enjoy the meeting, learned a bunch about salmon harvest allocation (especially the explanation of why it seems the river anglers seem to get the short end of the stick), and it was great to see a lot of old friends and acquaintances--many of whom I hardly recognized out of waders and vests.
Lastly, if I have any advice at all for interested parties, it is this: Don't waste time fighting the Indians. Energy spent complaining about or working against this issue is better channeled into constructive solutions in areas we actually have some degree of control (and chance of success) in. Since the tribal fisheries are a fact of life, we just need to make the best of what we can.
Okay, that's it for now, hope everyone else is suffering the same March withdrawals I am.