PSGA’s Reply to Carlson’s Salmon Plan

PSGA’s Reply to Carlson’s Salmon Plan
by Lanny Pilatos, Pres. PSGA

At a time when the State is looking at rebounding salmon stocks, burgeoning surpluses on many runs, particularly on the Columbia river, along comes another wannabe politician pandering for your votes with a simple sounding but idiotic solution to a complex problem.

John Carlson, who was booted from a radio talk show, now moves into State politics, believing he knows THE answers to the problems with salmon in this state. His thought provoking, radical solution? Get rid of the commercial salmon fishing fleet. Gee willikers! This is new!

When the last anti-commercial Initiative was underway, Johnny C, the boy wonder, said he would support it, if only it included the tribes. Did he imagine their omission was some sort of oversight by I-696 sponsors? Must have.

He wants to “make Washington state what it used to be, the cold-water fishing capital of the United States.”

Hogwash – Alaska was, is, and probably always will be the cold-water fishing capital of the United States.

Washington used to have more fish returning then today, but back then many more hatcheries were operating than today, and releases of smolt, fry, and egg plants were huge by today’s standards. Before Milo Moore put the hatchery system in place in the 50’s, the abundance of coho and chinook was low, perhaps as
low or lower than today. Yet, even then there was a healthy commercial fishery.

However, it might be noted here that then there was virtually NO sport fishing – not until the late 70’s did the sport fleet begin to grow exponentially, until today that fleet numbers in the 100’s of thousands of permit holders, but they are strangely omitted from The Carlson Plan. Wonder why? Does he imagine they don’t catch the odd endangered salmon during their virtually year round fisheries?

On the other hand, has he received some campaign funds from them? Hummm?

So while he’s busy raising state taxes, cutting state programs, begging the federal government for money to pay off the non-Indians for not commercial fishing – some $15 million per year, and picking out of thin air the $6 to $15 BILLION for the tribes – his new found buddies, the “sport fishermen”, will continue to fish on the same stocks. This is Carlson’s idea of fairness, it seems.

One might point out that the reason the tribal sum is so much larger than the Non-Indian sum, is that the Tribes have a treaty right to fish, while the Non-Indians have a privilege. However, the Supreme Court also said that the two are in essence equal – that is both have a treaty right to fish. Thus, Carlson will have to find a like sum ($6-15 Billion) to pay the Non-Indians.

Now if John can find 15 million a year for who knows how many years, plus the Billions for the tribes and the fairness Billions for the Non-Indians, doesn’t one wonder what that amount of money might do, if it were aimed at the real problems? Further, if Carlson is spending that sort of money on a non-problem, how much more does he plan on spending on real problems? Trillions?

Lets examine the recent past to see if Carlson’s money has any possibility of becoming real:

Not so long ago much noise was made in the press about retraining and granting financial aid to commercial fishermen hurt by these declines, but since the program was aimed at I-5 corridor workers (Boeing), we didn’t qualify. So when the ink is dry on Carlson’s fine print, will we actually qualify this time?

Then there is the much-ballyhooed US/Canada License Buy-Back. Two years and still waiting. The sum was to be $35 million, but the actual total was dependant on State matching funds. Gov. Locke tried to find us about 15 million, but he did not come close. So, some how Carlson will be able to do what Locke cannot?

If we go back in time we find that the landscape is littered with big numbered, highly publicized state/federal programs to help non-Indian commercial fishermen – but when we examine the results we find that very, very little of the total was ever spent and that most of us did not and could not qualify.

This time it will be different, just trust John! We think not.

Keep this in mind – in law, if the tribes’ fish, then we can.

Keep this in mind – the money to either party must be equal.

Keep this in mind – we do not fish just for money – it is a way of life, our heritage.

We’ve changed our nets, modified time and areas, and now the Non-Indian gillnetters have the lowest bycatch of any group (1-2%); the group which has the largest bycatch problem is sport fishermen at somewhere between 14-35%, depending on which study one looks at.

We’ve defeated four major Initiatives aimed at stopping commercial fishing and usually by a large margin. The non-fishing Public clearly believes they have a right to have access to freshly caught, healthy, local fish caught and sold legally to individuals, restaurants and wholesalers.

The Bottom Line:

Carlson will end commercial salmon fishing in Washington by paying nothing for a program that does nothing for the fish. Like all modern politicians he will say anything to be elected – this is judged in the polls as a plus! However, the cost will be more people without a living, families without income, kids without necessities, a heritage destroyed, and Public access denied.

Meanwhile taxes will be raised to pay for this program, federal funds potentially diverted, and the real problems of sewage, pesticides, population growth and density, development and plentiful clean water will continue to be talked about, but nothing done to change them.

But not to worry because 100’s of thousands of sport fishermen will still be out there with their families, so family fishing won’t die, no, just the fish; and flay and release will still be the preferred method of dealing with endangered salmon.

Since John Carlson supported us against I-696, we were leaning toward supporting him in his bid. Now, the Puget Sound Gillnetters Association says give the boot to John again.

P.S. We might remind John of the fate of the last “politician” who ran for governor on the same platform – he lost.

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