By: RACHEL LOVROVICH ’18
As the weather warms up, and the sun is shining, the Puget Sound is usually crowded with fishing boats. However, looking out on the Puget Sound today, you won’t see many.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) reported that the state and tribal fishery managers did not reach an agreement on this year’s annual Puget Sound season-setting process. Because of the disagreement, all salmon and steelhead fishing is closed until further notice.
As the daughter of a third-generation commercial fisherman, this disagreement hurts my family. Because of this salmon stalemate, my father won’t be allowed to fish in the Puget Sound this fall.
My father is already risking his life in the 2nd most deadliest profession in the country. His industry feeds millions of people, but if he’s not able to fish, he won’t be able to feed his own family. I’m deeply worried.
This is the first time in over 30 years that the state and tribes haven’t come to an agreement. Since the Boldt decision of 1974, American Indian tribes in the State of Washington have acted alongside the state as co-mangers of salmon and other fish.
In recent years, tensions have grown as a result of politics and decreasing salmon populations. The record low returns of Coho salmon have many worried that the fish may be in danger of going extinct. From an environmental standpoint, it is fair to see that continuing the fishing on salmon may harm the run even more. However, because of the current stalemate, fisherman that target pink salmon, or any other non-endangered fish, can’t fish at all. That’s simply not fair.
As proof of the Boldt decision, agreements between the state and tribes have worked in the past, and need to continue working for the future. Without an agreement, a multi-million dollar industry is being damaged. According to a WDFW report, commercial and recreational fishing in Washington fisheries directly and indirectly supports an estimated 16,374 jobs, and $540 million in personal income in 2006.
To make matters worse, the American Indian tribes have created an emergency permit, where they are allowed to fish, while the commercial and recreational fishermen sit on the sidelines waiting. The industry is clearly upset over the debate, as a King 5 news report on May 9 shows over 100 people protesting outside the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration office last week. Mostly sport fishermen, I symbolically stand with them, as they stood together for the economic livelihoods of all.
My family is not the only one feeling the hardships of this disagreement.
King 5 reports on McKenna Kesling, the daughter of a charter boat captain who’s also being affected by this disagreement. “It’s not very fun,” Kesling said. “I’m a little worried sometimes.”
For the sake of the entire fishing industry, the state and tribes should come to an environmentally and economically conscious solution. I hope to see all fishing boats out on the Puget Sound soon.