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LocalFishing for an agreement

July 1, 2016

Sports fishermen were angry at the start of fishing season this year in May.  They couldn’t fish for Chinook salmon, but Indian fishermen could. The sports fishermen protested, “It’s unfair.” But the lack of a joint fishing agreement between the tribes and non-tribal people was the real issue.

The big problem in 2016 is very limited stocks of fish. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that on an average over the last ten years, the Chinook salmon run will be 31% lower this year and Coho will be 60% lower.

The federal government under the Endangered Species Act protects Chinook and Coho salmon. This means that both the state of Washington acting for sports fishermen and the tribes need to get federal approval to fish. This year, neither side could agree on how to manage the fishing.

Joint management of salmon fishing began with the famous Boldt Decision. From the 1850s to 1974, Puget Sound Indian tribes had been struggling to exercise their fishing rights. Finally Judge Boldt ruled.

  1. Indians would receive fifty percent of the salmon catch.
  2. Indians would act as co-managers of fisheries along with the state government.

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs gave Indians approval to do three days of early-season fishing to honor their custom of celebrating the first run of salmon.  Sports fisherman had no permission.

After each side tried to negotiate separate proposals, they came together again. The 2016 joint agreement closes fishing in the Puyallup River completely and in many rivers and lakes, including Sammamish and Washington in September and October.

Developed by Bo Yang

Published July 2016

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