Makah salmon catch causes concern
By Mark Yuasa
Seattle Times staff reporter
An enormous catch of chinook salmon during the Makah Tribe's winter troll fishery apparently exceeded, by about 19,500 fish, the estimate set by state Fish and Wildlife and is causing concern.
An e-mail yesterday from Pat Pattillo — of the state Fish and Wildlife's salmon intergovernmental policy group — to the sportfishing advisory board said, "We have been informed the treaty troll fishery in Strait of Juan de Fuca has taken 20,000 chinook (through Jan. 10)."
Under state Fish and Wildlife's salmon fishing season package, the Makah's winter catch was supposed to be around 500 chinook in Catch Areas 4B (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (Port Angeles).
"I'm not sure what the effect will be, but it doesn't look good and we had assumed that the catch was going to be 500 fish," said Phil Anderson, a state Fish and Wildlife salmon policy coordinator.
The fish managers will have to adjust the amount of chinook that can be caught by all other commercial, tribal and sports fishers in the 2005-06 fishing seasons so as to not make a severe dent in Washington's wild chinook stocks of concern.
"The implications of this large catch are quite serious," Pattillo said. "The specific impacts are uncertain at this time, but it is likely that this catch will affect ocean (and Puget Sound) fishing opportunities."
The forecasts available from the state on March 1 for Snake River fall wild chinook and Puget Sound weak wild chinook stocks such as mid-Hood Canal, Stillaguamish and Skagit wild chinook could be less than anticipated because of this unexpected catch.
This large catch has occurred in U.S. fisheries at the same time the U.S. is expressing objections to Canada in the Pacific Salmon Treaty forum over increased impacts on Columbia River and Puget Sound chinook stocks.
The Makah troll fishery, Pattillo says, is managed not under a quota but as a season, just like most Puget Sound sport fisheries.
Each year when state, federal, tribal, sport and commercial fishing constituents set salmon seasons, they come up with estimates on the number of fish that can be taken in all fisheries and are expected to stay within that ballpark figure.
"We will be contacting (the) Makah to discuss the issue and will request they close the fishery," Pattillo said.
The tribe could not be reached for comment.
State Fish and Wildlife will unveil Puget Sound, coastal Washington and Columbia River salmon abundance forecasts March 1 in Olympia. Final salmon fishing seasons for 2005-06 will be announced April 4-8 in Tacoma.
Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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