Who Took All My Salmon? Email Exchanges

The following was an ongoing correspondence over the course of several months in 1996 between myself and Bart (not his real name), whom I suppose was representative of the average young sportsman in Washington State.

Before we proceed. I need to add that the original title was Where Have All The Salmon Gone? However, since so many in the sport-fishing community seem to think that salmon are in some manner their personal resource, I retitled it as above to reflect that view – even to publicly asking that very question!

I received this Email out of the blue from a young man obviously very concerned about the salmon resource.

It was also obvious that he, like most of us who are concerned, has an emotional investment in the issue. Which is fine, except, often, emotion gets in the way of the facts, or worse disregards them. And so an arguement issues, as all parties begin to harden their positions in what they all perceive as their own self interest.

Facts, these days, many of us take as someone’s opinion or even a deliberately distorted perspective. It is difficult to convey a point on a given topic with so much suspicion.

He asks, initially, very direct and pointed questions, demanding answers, which he deserves.

However, it is also apparent that he knows little of the history involved. History is made of events. While I don’t pretend to know all of the facts of each event, I do know much of what is history, having lived through and interacted with it.

My intent is to answer most of his questions by letting history tell it’s own story. So here’s the history as I remember it. I don’t think it is so necessary to include the names of the players; they are relatively unimportant. It is the results which are produced that are important. And it’s the results we must live and deal with today.

Bart – U@k.com:
what does your organization think of the proposed net ban in the Puget Sound? do you think that the nets are responsible for the death of the Sound. People say that years ago blackmouth, rockfish, sablefish, pollack, and true cod were abundant and that the nets affected all those fisheries. What about Florida’s net ban, Newfoundland’s net ban and recovery they say that since the net bans the fisheries have fully recovered? i read this in the paper and would like to hear your stand how your prepared to deal with this.

First, who are you (name, address phone & such) and what is your interest – beyond reading in the media?

Tell me something of youirself, please. There are good answers to your questions, and much of the misinformation that seems to form the basis for your questions. But I am reluctant to respond to an unknown person, as often this can cause problems for everyone.

what does your organization think of the proposed net ban in the puget sound?

What do you think we think of it? And more over it’s a non-issue, except on some non-local web sites, i.e., it’s in the head of a few hot heads residing in other states. There are more pressing issues affecting the fisheries than that!

do you think that the nets are responsible for the death of the sound.

The Sound is not Dead.

People say that years ago blackmouth, rockfish, sablefish, pollack, and true cod were abundant and that the nets affected all those fisheries.

People say many things not all of which have any foundation in fact.

what about floridas net ban Newfoundland’s net ban and recovery?

What about it? There was no problem to begin with.

they say that since the net bans the fisheries have fully recovered?

Recovered from what to what?

i read this in the paper

Media like to make up stories with emotional content to sell more media…facts are not necessary.

and would like to hear your stand.

What would you do with that info? It’s public anyway. Just look at the articles already published.

and how your prepared to deal with this.

The same way all other similar attacks have been dealt with in the past.

My name is Bart I am (in the) Rangers stationed at ft. lewis. I enjoy recreational fishing i spend 500-1000 dollars a year on the sports-fishing industry and I catch nothing. I just want to know why the only thing in the Puget Sound is dogfish. I am also a registered voter, concerned citizen and taxpayer not to mention a guardian of the nation’s freedom. I get the feeling that you’re hauling a little bit of baggage concerning this net ban (I-640) and I am inclined to believe the media, since your responses are standoffish and they did not convince me that YOU are wholeheartedly convinced that this issue is not an issue. I, in order not to sign a petition, designed to end your way of life need to be convinced. remember i am just a concerned voter looking for the truth not your adversary.

Am a pro-military sort… so am for you guys… have been paying attention to what you’re being asked to do with dwindling resources and at next to nothing for pay…

I was Army 66-70. We got screwed big time then – as far as how the public saw us and how or Vet benefits were stripped, but what is happening today is worse, in my opinion.

To address the standoff-ish point – just that so many hostile people have turned up attacking all of us viciously – "only good commercial fisherman is a dead one", "commercial fishermen are worse that child molesters", the churches called us ‘pirates’ and worse (even though Jesus was a gillnetter… on an on – we are the only group that it is safe to hate it seems these days… better to be a bit standoff-ish at first until one has some idea who he’s talking to about an issues that has a lot of emotion attached to it. I apologize for that.

Why you catch dog fish… number of reasons which have little to do with the state of the salmon resource… generally speaking they are either taking your bait on the way down or way up… other fish never get to see you bait/lore.

Or you are fishing in a rip where the dogfish are feeding on the bait and juvenile salmon below.

Or your hook is too big… Now days the Coho & chinook sports fish on are either “resident” or immature. Which means they have smaller mouths…

Another reason – dogfish tend to fall into 2 categories (migratory and resident) – back in the early 70’s the market for dogfish became strong again, after falling off just after WWII. So guys began targeting them. There was money to be made.

At that time, I lived on Hood Canal and it was tough to get a bottom fish, because the dogfish would take the bait before it got down. It wasn’t until several years of intense commercial net fishing on dogfish that the bottom fish resource ‘came back’… actually it was there all along, just not accessible to hook & line.

In the early to mid 80’s WDF crated a dogfish sanctuary around the San Juan… it not only includes the islands, but stretches out to Smith Is. This recreated the ‘resident’ dogfish… Since then the west coast market for dogfish has weakened and the State has placed many road blocks to any new, large scale dogfish harvest.

So of course the rest of the Sound’s dogfish population has increased…

There is no such thing as a ‘resident’ salmon, except in WA State. Why? because they were ‘created’ in ’72 by X – then a WDF Official and booster of his brother’s West End Charter business. Thus began the 365 day sport fishery on the 1st large ‘return’ in ’76.

These fish are taken as eggs and raised in hatchery ponds until the are big enough to release, but instead of a naturally timed release, they are held back, thus their migratory sense is screwed with… they just don’t know where to go… so they wash out to Neah Bay and come back into the sound and back again to NB, etc.

Since Coho & Chinook are carnivorous, they eat what they can on the way to the open ocean, except residents never make it to the ocean they just eat and eat… guess what? Other salmon! Surprised? Well, the salmon they eat are the naturally migrating wild & hatchery fish… so there are less natural, wild, hatchery fish that make it to the ocean, and those that do are stressed and their ocean survival declines, and so 2 to 4 years later, fewer return…

Of course in order to create this resident class, more financial resources are needed, and both take needed money from the natural, wild, and hatchery programs for naturally timed fish… so are fewer still.

Why there are no Coho in Hood Canal:
Because WDF killed them. In 1978-1981 WDF wierred off the Tahuya river, killing the last remaining wild (untamperd with) Coho run in the state. Why, has been a subject of debate with no clear answers.

A weir is trap. The fish swim in and then Someone comes along and removes all the fish. After 3 or 4 years of this – no more fish…end of run/species.

Second, HC is not a Coho watershed, so stock abundance were always problematic. “A thorn in our side” said one WDF biologist about HC Coho.

Next look at WDF/WDFG eyed-egg sales:
Where do you think those salmon in the Great Lakes came from? WDF (a freebie).

Why is France now self sufficient in Coho Production? See above. (France used to be our largest export market for smoked Coho, until WDF basically killed it.)

Where do you think the large salmon farms in Australia & New Zealand got their stock? See above.

Where do you think the large salmon farms in Chili got their stock? See above.

300,000,000 Coho eggs have been documented as sold to Chili and Peru. 60,000,000 king killed or egged in the last 8 years. 1. 4 chinook killed ’98 on Hood Canal.

This is just the very tip of the ice-berg in egg sales, much of the info is either been shredded or well hidden. Several investigations have been conducted but either were killed politically or the reporters ran into stone walls.

The worlds largest (and only) exporters of Coho, Chinook, Steelhead, and Trout is WDF. The 2nd spot goes to Local fish farms, which get their stock from WDF. The 3rd spot goes to U of Oregon. End of list. NO ONE else exports eyed-eggs, not CA, not Alaska, not Canada.

It is probably worth nothing here that Chili has been trying to breed WA salmon since the ’40s, but has been unsuccessful, due to too warm water.

Once the eggs are sold to Chili, et al, for a song and a dance, they are raised in pens and sold to the Japanese. Currently Coho originating in WA constitute the largest imported salmon market in Japan.

A multi-billion dollar business for the Chili farms… we pay higher taxes to further Chilean business interests. And both sport & commercial interests see fewer and fewer fish available for harvest. In our case we see 0. We haven’t had a directed (primary fish of interest) commercial Coho fishery on the Sound since the 80’s.

Appreciate the return very interesting.

I just cant understand what happened,

Why, and why cant they restore it to half of what it was?

If it was half as good the potential billion dollar tourist and fishing industry would completely justify the investment.

Again appreciate the information more would be even greatly appreciated


– Addenum: 6/30- got your message in all caps – please don’t use all caps – is difficult to read, and all caps is the electronic equivalent of shouting – just thought you’d like to know. –

To answer your question: "Why, and why cant they restore it to half of what it was?":

Keep this in mind: to them – There is NO money in Abundance, only in Scarcity

As you might know, where the salmon resource is today is a far cry from where it was in the 40’s… then it was hard to find a Coho or Chinook. Chum were numerous, but not plentiful.

The Puget Sound salmon had suffered greatly since the turn of the Century under the corporate run fish traps, which had just been outlawed, and the resource had not recovered. In the 50’s WDF Director Milo Moore bean the Hatchery program in WA. By the mid 50’s Coho were again becoming plentiful. A huge Chinook rebuilding program began on Capitol Lake and at Mitter Creek Hatchery.

On the Columbia, despite howls of protest from the commercial fishing community, during the 30’s, the River was dammed. The once plentiful CR Sockeye, Chinook and Coho began to disappear.

Commercial salmon fishermen were regularly pillared for their opposition to the damming.

There was no sport fishing in those days.

On the Frazer River in Canada, the 1916 Hell’s Gate slide, caused by railroad building, blocked the huge Sockeye and Pink runs. Only 1,200 spawning sockeye made it back that year – down from over 6 million spawners the year before.

(I bring this up here because you should know that this sockeye run was the mainstay of fishermen here and in Canada. It is important to note that permits were not limited. If you wanted to fish in a given year you paid your $35 or did something else in some other fishery. Thus the number of boats on the US side never exceeded 500, and then only once. Coho & chinook fisheries when available provided needed, but not necessary income.)

In response at the urging of commercial salmon fishermen on both sides of the boarder, the International Pacific Sockeye Commission was created and charged with rebuilding the sockeye runs. This was a non-political body. No government held sway, but was funded by them both, as well as thru landing taxes on the fishermen’s catches.

Fishermen on both sides did not press for larger sockeye quotas during the rebuilding phase which was expected to be completed in the mid-eighties – and it was. The set up worked so well, that it was coveted by both WDF and the DFO in Canada. To this day IPSC remains THE model for rebuilding salmon runs. A similar variation was used by the Japanese to turn the badly polluted Hokkaido River into the worlds largest Chum river.

At about the same time we urged the department – which was the WA Bureau of Commercial Fisheries – BTW, to create some state sockeye runs. To this end sockeye eggs were imported from Russia, because no one else would sell them, and the runs, which were strictly intended for commercial fishermen, were begun at Baker Lake and Lake Washington.

Also in the 50’s guys were fed up with working on seine boats for low wages and hard work – the nets were hand pulled in those days. They were tired of the treatment by many of the skippers, and resented seeing how much money they were making the skipper, and comparing it to the low crew shares, which they were often screwed out of anyway.

So began the gillnet fleet – rowing and pulling by hand. Still more money in one season than they would ever make in years working for a seiner.

The Commercial salmon industry was healthy and growing, salmon were becoming more and more plentiful as various programs reached fruition. Comm Fish was the 2nd largest industry here after Timber.

OK, you see how it was, and how it could have proceeded, had not other forces come to the fore.

I’ll send this much now and work on the next part today – have bunch of stuff to get caught up on around the house. Got a 4:50 am wake up yesterday by a rat on my bed! Trapped him out last nite. Need to seal up some holes some where.

Keep sending your questions. I’m keeping a file on all of it , and will get to them, it’s just such a long and complex situation, that as you might suspect, there is no single solution, so I’ll continue to elaborate.

I really appreciate you’re continued interest! So many people get bored and just want the answer NOW, which of course just isn’t possible and still make sense of it all.

Remember this however, it’s all about money and power, not fish and resources.

This is the difficult and often confusing part; how do you move from the relatively simple and straight forward to the complex and Machiavellian?

I’ll try outlining some of the events:

Keep this in mind also: there is no profit for bureaucrats in abundance, only in scarcity.

In the mid fifties, the Northwest Indian Tribes sold their hunting and fishing ‘rights’ to the Federal Government.

Following this widely publicized event, the three primary witnesses, who testified during the proceedings, received death threats, source unknown. None of them took it seriously – one died mysteriously, another had an ‘accident’. The third, seeing the fate of the other two, assumed a new identity and went into hiding in Hawaii, taking certain financial documents with him, where he remained until the early 80’s. When he was called on to testify in a later case, his testimony was discredited, since it could not be verified without the other two witnesses.

The significance of this is that the Tribes, having sold their ‘rights’, were free to press for them again, since there was no proof that they had actually ceded them in a prior time. They could claim: yes, there had been such a deal in the works, but they had not received any compensation; thus it was no deal.

This is a common tactic by the Tribes. Sell something for the going rate at that time, come back a decade or so later, and claim, as value of the something has risen meanwhile, that they were somehow tricked into selling the something for less than fair value. The courts almost always award them this new higher value. Case in point: the Port of Tacoma has been sold by the Tribes 3 times so far, each time for more money.

I was just thinking about the money issue you mentioned – spending $500 – $1000. FWIW, I used to spend 10X that much each year, in an average year. Other years, far more. So did every one else in the gillnet sector. Or even 100X what you spend.

Back to the story at hand.
Somewhere in the late 60’s sport fishing began to have an impact on all the fisheries. Before then, sportfishing was a non-issue. It mostly consisted of off-season Trollers and others fishing to feed their families. It was not then an issue of how many or what size the fish. But all that was shortly to change, as the population in WA began to explode.

Resource harvesting, timber and fisheries, were the major industries, with Boeing a distant third, and MS didn’t exist. The people in these industries didn’t care for tourism or trinket shops. Resources and the harvesting of them were all.

The rest of the Nation, meanwhile, was undergoing a boom, and people began to see their neighborhoods become crowded, unfriendly, higher taxes, etc. So they looked for cheaper places to live. WA came to the spotlight. (When I moved here (PT) in the early 70’s, you could buy a nice house for under $2000. This same house would cost upwards of 200K today. ) In 1975, King County had less than 750K population. Today, over 3M.

Local politics was insular and laid back – a golden opportunity for new residents to move into and bring the high pressure dynamics they were used to at home, as well as pay anyone whatever the locals asked for their property. Locals, seeing undreamed of big bucks, sold their houses and businesses, not realizing that this was now the new going rate. To buy another home might cost them every cent and more from the sale. So, many moved elsewhere, leaving a vacuum of sorts behind.

The new people, wanting to make the kind of money they were used to making, promptly set about creating the necessary conditions, including nationwide advertising about how wonderful WA was and what a nice place to live, please visit, etc.

So while the population dynamic was undergoing a flux, a group of these new people got together with some like minded residents and began the first petition to eliminate commercial fishing. It went down in flames.

An important WDF Official, X, roundly detested and despised by his co-workers, and whose career was going nowhere, stepped onto the scene. His brother had a failing Charter boat business.

The brother desperately needed to increase business or go under, so he went to his brother, X, and with the support of the above like-minded individuals, began a campaign to increase saltwater sport fishing.

One of the angles was to write a book, and the other was to do something about the seasonal nature of sport salmon fishing. To that end, the UW School of Fisheries was brought into the picture.

Several projects were put in motion: one was the creation of the “chumpy”, a biological freak cross between a Pink (humpy) salmon and a Chum salmon. This sickly thing had to have a directed commercial fishery on to eliminate it from the gene pool. Next was the creation of the “triploid salmon”. The theory being, that if you threw enough hard radiation at a Chinook egg, you could create a large Chinook, which, being sexless would remain in the Sound until caught, without interfering with the gene pool. There was not much success creating this mutant. God knows how much money was spent on these doomed-to-failure special projects.

The third project was the delayed release Coho and Chinook. This project worked like gangbusters. Plenty of fish and no gene pool interference. Now they would come. Sport fishing would take off, X’s brother would keep his business, and X’s career would rebound. And so they did.

You notice that there is no mention of increasing the numbers of wild, natural, or hatchery fish in order to achieve their goals?

Why? Because this would be a duplication of other department efforts, would still be a seasonal proposition, would not help the WDF Official’s career, nor the brother’s business. Worse, the returning naturally timed fish would have to swim through the WA and Canadian troll fleets; the seiners, gillnetters and reef netters would demand a share of the bounty. In the end the salmon fleet would prosper, while sport fishing, despite getting a bigger catch number, would not attract the year around business needed.

However, there were some very disastrous consequences to this approach, which (whether foreseen or not by the above parties, I cannot say) were to make their impacts felt much later.

When the first return of these fish in any numbers occurred in ’76, commercial salmon fishermen were amazed at the fish’s small size and at it’s ‘hotness’ – since they were still feeding, they got belly burn almost before you got them on deck. They where generally worthless and unsalable. Not a quality product from anyone’s point of view.

As time wore on, we began to see the size of the 9 – 10 lb. average Coho fall, and fall. Kings (Chinook) began to shrink from 20 lb. average. Today, these Coho average 3.2 lbs, and the Chinook, last I heard, was hovering under 12 lbs.

I should explain that, in those days, we fished in the Straits, from Neah Bay to Blaine to Discovery Bay and Admiralty Head.

Late in the fall, when the storms began in earnest, we came inside. There were no large areas closed, except in specific years and on specific runs. I might add that the one place the fleet did not go was Hood Canal, except in a late November directed hatchery cleanup at Hoodsport. There was also a minor king fishery clean up in August in some years. The Canal had a reputation for semi to dark chum, which, while available in quantity, fetched a very low price when salable at all, and after the long run at 4-6 kts., left gear in shambles. So the fleet fished North of the HC Bridge with the bright and marketable chum, and looked down on the rare individual that ventured to the other side.

Most guys were tired from the long grind in the Straits (starting in early June), missed their families, and their boats and gear needed work. So, while many hung it up for the season, no one fished too hard, except maybe some diehards and those who had a bad season. I should add that many would run back from some fishery in Alaska; some, after a peak had passed returned to AK to fish the remainder of the season there, before running back to WA to fall fish here.

But while we concentrated on fish price, markets and market conditions, other forces were moving, none of which we could conceive of existing.

To us a threat was a lowered fish price, or gear availability, or boat condition, or a lowered abundance of some species in some year. Everything else was noise.

We are still in the early 70’s as the following events take place.

The Nixon Presidency
I don’t know if you are old enough to remember the Nixon Presidency, but at it’s outset there were no hints of the later scandals which brought it down. Nixon seemed to be an honorable man, albeit with a reputation for being ‘tricky’.

Shortly into his 1st term, in 1972, one of his Aids, took a trip to the Pacific NW. I don’t remember the why of it, but he found time to do a bit of sightseeing. At some point he called his boss and asked him to join him during a short excursion he had planned.

The Aid and the President took a short trip around the San Juan Islands. During the course, one of them remarked on how beautiful the area was, how fragile the environment, and won’t it be a shame to see it spoiled by development, pollution, et. al.

So it was upon his return to D.C., Nixon began the process to set up the Environmental Protection Agency.

And the environmental movement, as we know it, was born.

The Tribes
Another vexing question, in Nixon’s mind, was the exact status of one group of citizens: The Tribes. They were Wards of the Federal government, and the BIA was as huge drain on the Budget, a condition that had existed for over 100 years. Being a Republican, Nixon naturally gravitated toward smaller Government. This was the 1970’s and it was time, Nixon felt, to end the Tribes’ ambiguous position. After all, many of the original Treaties had either never been passed by Congress, or had remained unsigned by the sitting President of the time. Also, in the early part of this Century, the Treaties were voided by Congress, and a few years later the Tribes were granted full citizenship.

So with good intentions, Nixon set out to remedy their situation and bring it in line with everybody else. However, there were, as you might imagine, complex legal issues that needed to be settled first. Remember these treaties were supposed to last ‘in perpetuity’ – forever.

When his Administration set out to change the status of the Tribes, they, doubtless, thought it was a easy win. Wrong. Had they known what they would face and the situation that would be created as a result of their efforts, I suspect they would have left it well enough alone.

The first hurdle that had to be crossed was to settle the exact status of the Tribes without treaties. This was exclusively a question that applied to the Alaskan tribes, which had been granted Aboriginal Status way back when AK was purchased from Russia.

Bart, I am told that it is necessary to skip ahead 7 years here. I’ll come back to where I left off later. To be truthful, this makes it somewhat difficult for me to chronicle, but I’ll keep grinding away nonetheless.

I think the point of skipping ahead here is that it addresses your last Email as to the why from point of view of establishing the foundation for the legal issues involved.

The Boldt Decision
In 1974, when Judge Boldt was flown to this state, taking an emergency leave of the Wage And Price Control Commission in D.C., he was asked to preside over the hearing on the NW Indian Treaty Case. The current Western District Judge either excused himself as having a ‘conflict of interest’, or maybe the post was vacant at the time, I can’t remember which.

The 1974 decision reached by Boldt was basically overturned, when The Puget Sound Gillnetters Association raised enough money to take the case to the US Supreme Court in 1979, after 5 years of chaos in the fishery.

Understand this, however, none of this applies to sport fishing, but solely to commercial non-Indian salmon fishermen – gillnetters, seiners, reefnetters, trollers, and, to some extent, charter-boaters.

The U.S. Supreme Court Decision
The July 11, 1979 Memorandum sent to PSGA, re: U.S. Supreme Court Decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in part: “…nor may treaty fishermen rely on their exclusive right of access to the reservation to destroy the rights of other (citizens of the territory). Both sides have a (right) secured by treaty to take a fair share of the available fish. That, we think, is what the parties to the treaties intended when they secured to the Indians the right of taking fish (in common with other citizens of the territories).

The PSGA’s lawyer, Yates, who argued the case before the Court, stated in his ’79 opinion of the Court’s Decision.

“The court interestingly seems to have established a privileged class of (citizens of the territory). It describes these citizens as (beneficiaries of the Indians reciprocal grant of lands in the treaty as well as the persons expressly named in the treaties and sharing fishing rights with the Indians).

“Finally the court undertook the most important steps of all when it stated: ‘…the judgments of the court of appeals from the Ninth Circuit, the District Court for the Western District of Washington, (Judge Boldt). And the Supreme Court of the State of Washington are vacated and their respective clauses are remanded to those Courts for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion’.”

Quick paraphrase: commercial non-Indian salmon fishermen have same Right as the Tribes. Further, since sport fishermen were NOT a party to the legal actions, nor had any legal status, they fall solely under State jurisdiction. What ever portion of the salmon resource sport fishermen receive is left to the determination of the State. The State cannot give sport fishermen more than the portion the State receives, nor may the State take away from the commercial non-Indian salmon fishermen any fish in order to increase the sport portion. The Court recognized that commercial non-Indian salmon fishermen have a Right, secured not only by Law, but also by Treaty. Sport fishermen are left with a State (and, by implication, Federal?) Privilege. Rights are inviolate, Privileges can be revoked at any given time.

Why does the whole matter seem to be directly opposite of the above? Because it takes a great deal of money to pursue, and we just don’t have it. The State knows this, and even tracks fish prices to ensure that our funds remain low, creates numerous laws and regulations in direct contradiction to the U.S. Supreme Court, Western District Court, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Washington Supreme Court rulings, i.e., they are illegal. Therefore, these laws and regulations stand because we have not been able to afford to contest them.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to slam sport fishermen, simply clarify the foundation legal issues.

Maybe just keep this in mind as we go along?

Thanks for the information really appreciate you going out of your way.

Tell me more!

one of the reasons i even sent that first message was an article i read out of the hunting and fiction news, I will quote this editor Skip Knowles.

he said that he was thumbing through a 1972 issue of the news (Hunting & Fishing) and it read like a marvel comic.

25 pound rockfish in the san jauns, anchovies off camano, thick steelhead on the Duckabush and Dosewallips, 12-25 pound blackmouth of fox island all winter long.

Basically this guy said that the nets killed the herring and anchovies and everthing else, the food chain disabled and everthing goes with it.

the seals go after salmon now that there easy rockfish food source is depleted.

Chris that article led me to ask a gillnetter why they want to end his livelyhood.

That is the reason I ask who is telling the truth I want the truth.

And more than that I would just like to know what the hell went wrong.

This guy says that there were resident blackmouth in 1972

gotta go

Another aside is in order here, I guess. Sigh, back to the story one of these days.

There is no ‘truth’, which is subjective, just events.

What went wrong unfolds as events occur. What to do in the present, to repair it, is another problem, and the one we are all faced with.

In directed gillnet herring fisheries, the mesh size used is on the order of 2-3 inches. There are no directed herring fisheries in WA. There used to be one in Bellingham Bay but no longer. The minimum mesh size for a directed Salmon fishery anywhere in WA is 5 inches. Herring and other fish pass through, if present at all during a salmon fishery. As for the directed bait herring fisheries, well, were do you think the herring bait, used only by sport fishermen, comes from?

However, sport fishermen think nothing of dipping those same herring stocks, breaking up the ball, scattering them, and so making the herring more vulnerable to other predators.

Of course, each sport fisherman thinks his little bit won’t hurt, falling to understand that there are a thousand other guys doing exactly the same thing. There is a cumulative effect, what that is I don’t know. But it is also true that herring stocks in general are down through out their entire range for other reasons.

Heavy predation by delayed release salmon on herring and other baitfish doesn’t help either.

Seals, et. al.
In the 70’s and before in Washington, seals were few compared to today. Sea lions were a rarity. There was no problem sending either a lead message. Some died as a result when they insisted on being a pest. Not a problem, as seals have always been hunted, and their numbers in control. The Army Air Corp. and later the Navy and Air Force used them and their rookeries for bombing and target practice. Still they flourished.

Then some bunch of people, used to playing with dolls with large eyes, decided to ‘protect’ them. As the seal and sea lion populations exploded, instant ecological disaster. Seals and sea lions are feeders of opportunity. Whatever is plentiful, they eat, salmon included, and so it has always been. When their food source dries up, they either die or move on to some other area, or stock.

For example: Port Townsend used to have a nice little commercial winter true cod fishery. But three things destroyed it. None of which had anything to do with the directed local commercial fishery.

  1. The Navy, despite loud protests and lawsuits from commercial fishermen, built the ammo loading dock on Indian Island, smack dab on top of the primary cod spawning area. End of spawning area, beginning of run decline.
  2. Heavy seal predation. On the sand spit at the entrance to Kilisut Harbor, I counted over 200 seals hauled out. This was on the last day the fishery was conducted, and I was the last boat to participate or give up, depending. Nothing can survive that kind of predation. When I began this fishery years prior, there were no seals present.
  3. Unregulated high-sea trawling off the WA Coast, Gulf of Alaska and in the Bering Sea by every nation that could field ships.

The Agate Pass cod run perished for similar reasons; substitute population growth for the Navy, however.

I guess this whole ‘blackmouth’, ‘winter fish’, ‘resident fish’ issue is fairly important to you.

It’s really a side issue to the overall picture. However, I’ll try to clear up some of the mystery about these “Frank Haw Mutants”.

  1. A ‘blackmouth’ is, strictly speaking, the term applied to juvenile Chinook – it’s size is only relevant to the size of a full grown adult of the given Chinook stock. Lately, it has been applied to ‘resident’ Chinook, but that is a misnomer, strictly speaking. Also, contrary to a popular belief, held by some sport fishermen, they are not a separate species.
  2. Chinook migrate along shore lines. They follow the coast as it meanders, usually in fairly shallow water. Yes, they are caught in deep water also, but if you look closely at the bottom contours and know where that given stock is going, you can see that they are crossing from one shallow area to another. Chinook, also, like other salmon, go deep for, as yet, unexplained reasons, perhaps to find a higher salinity content, perhaps to find cooler water, perhaps to escape a predator or high surface concentrations of vellela jellyfish.
  3. The legendary South Sound “Winter Chinook” could be one of several families, most likely a Frazer River Chinook, returning Spring stock bound who knows where, or even a mutant.
  4. 1972 is the date which saw the introduction of the first large scale releases of delayed release. The UW School of Fisheries and WDF had been experimenting with these fish for decades prior.
  5. The significance of these fish in the fishery is that they represent one less normal-timed natural or hatchery fish, which leads to increased mortality on the same natural stocks, which leads to the eventual decline of the natural stock, which leads to a Federal Threatened Listing, which leads to a 2 billion dollar proposed King county restoration, which leads to high taxes, etc.

To “Skippy” Knowles, a vociferous anti-commercial hate monger – what goes around, comes around.

As far as the reported fish referred to, it sounds about right for those times and places.

The Anchovies, however, generally only show up when a warm water plume pushes up the coast and into the Straits; same is true for Leather backed Sea Turtles, Sea Elephants, Sunfish, and Bonito Tuna.

Nature changes, weather, sea salinity, temperature all change. The critters in the oceans change. The last long range salmon prediction I heard was, that in a few decades, this will be the southern most extent of the salmon range… no matter what else happens. It’s just Nature doing what it does.

The Steelhead where fished out during the chaotic years 74-82. There was one Tribal gillnetter that used to catch 600 plus Steelhead every night during the fall in the Straits, like clock work for years; I know because I worked for the guy that bought them back in the mid seventies.

The early years following the Boldt Decision, many Indian “fishermen” went hog wild on the salmon in the Sound. The Hood Canal Summer Chum, for one, has never recovered. I think it was July – September 76 that the tribes with Canal Rights and their “guests” from other tribes took a documented 1,000,000 summer chum. Some of us guys caught a few of them also, but we might not have, had we known the scale of the tribal fishery taking place south of the Bridge. It wasn’t until several later that the Tribal catch numbers were available.

This highlights an on going problem within WDF/WDF&G – the inability to give timely and accurate catch data. Washington, alone, of the Pacific Salmon harvesting areas, has been congenitally unable to keep good records, for some reason. Both Alaska and Canada (though Canada’s reliability has fallen since the highly politicized DFO took over) are able to record, and tally salmon harvests as they occur.

Why is it necessary to wait years to find out which fish and how many where caught in what fishery on any given day here in Washington? This is not a problem elsewhere.

Why are sport tallies based on a guess from 1% (one percent) of the number of licenses sold, based on a guess of the catch in a previous year, in order to determine the catch for that same area this year?

As you can see this is totally ludicrous fisheries management, or is it? Are these WDF guys really that stupid or so utterly lacking in common sense? Some would argue for both. For years some of us racked our brains trying to figure out why common sense solutions to salmon problems used elsewhere just did not seem to be applicable here. Finally we figured it out: common sense has nothing to do with it.

What if there was another agenda, not readily in the public view? What if that agenda, spanning decades and numerous politicians, bureaucrats, and ‘important’ interests, involved an ongoing multi-million (billion?) dollar criminal activity?

Look at it this way: the largest user group of the salmon resource is WDF. WDF is the world’s largest exporter of Pacific NW Salmon eyed-eggs. How do they do that and why?

Why is it that commercially caught salmon is counted to the last fish caught, and not, as the sport catch, based on a guess? Why is the sport caught fish based on a guess, and not counted to the last fish caught? Yeah, there are numerous explanations that make sense, but don’t, when closely examined, explain all the details.

As the saying goes “The Devil is in the Details”.
For one thing, if I were to divide a group into two parts, and then count one group’s harvest, and at the same time, use guesses for the second group, I’ll have succeeded in getting the groups to quarrel. They are looking at each other now, not at me. What I do is not an issue. I can now do as I please, and no one will notice. This is the divide and conquer principle.

However, if one group begins to notice me, my tactic is to immediately blame them for some shortfall or pass some regulation that makes it more difficult for them to notice. If they persist, I’ll do whatever it takes, legal or not, to get rid of them, while at the same time encouraging the other group to attack them also. I’m not seen as doing anything more then what the ‘people’ demand. This principle is slight-of-hand backstabbing.

This is straight out of “The Prince” by Machievelli. It’s also what’s going on here today. As I write this, there are major moves afoot by WDF&G to further the above principles. What these events these moves become, is too early to tell.

If you were in the Navy, I’d say it was a bit like what the Secretary of the Navy, Dalton – who became a Clinton bagman in ’92 – after embezzling a Texas bank to the tune of $220M – is doing to the Navy. He was put in charge as a reward for his fund raising efforts. Those charged with oversight are looking the other way, while he, knowing nothing about the Navy or it’s needs, is busily stripping it. Not so long ago the Navy had 650 ships, now they have 300 and falling. Just like the salmon once were numerous here, now the resource is being stripped by politically appointees who know nothing of the resource or it’s needs, while those in charge of oversight (the media for one) are looking the other way.

The phenomenon we see here does not exist in isolation. Sadly. Jerks have always been with us and difficult to deal with, but, today, because of the huge population increases, jerks have simply reached critical mass, and the rest of us find it nearly impossible to deal with them; there are just too many. “They’re Everywhere!”

Update: Thu, 01 Apr 1999

Reply to “Who Took All My Salmon”

A comment from
billyjoe, to the proceeding pages:

I don’t know if you are the one that posted the email, "Where have all the salmon gone." (retitled to “Who Took All My Salmon”)

There are a number of concrete answers to this question:
1. Many of us remember the lakes of Idaho and Oregon when people would go in and catch fish by the gunny sack full. Those fish eventually disappeared due to over fishing, trash dumping and chemicals. The over fishing was an act of over zealous sports fishermen of the very early 1900’s, clear up to shortly after WWII. I can remember salmon being taken out of the Salmon River, the creeks up near Redfish lake in numbers that were rediculuous as much of what was caught became wasted rather than eaten. This was the beginning.

2. Fish biologists all have theories that have nothing to do with knowing salmon. One biologist recently presented a paper and a lecture in which he said salmon do not eat anything from the time they leave the ocean until they reach there spawning ground. By that time they are too tired to spawn. This individual evidently has not gutted a salmon anywhere along the journey from the ocean to any spawning steam in Oregon, Washingto or Idaho. Why do salmon fishermen use bait and lures, if salmon don’t feed along the journey to the spawning grounds?

3. The third problem arises with the government agencies involved in protecting and salmon recovery. They receive grants from congress to study the reason salmon are declining. Much of this money is not spent on research, but given to universities to conduct community meetings to find out what the community thinks about dam breaching and various other proposals. These agencies actually have no concern about what the public thinks. They have a concern of maintaining a money flow into their agencies to perpetuate the existence of their agencies. Every agency, practically, is at a standstill as no one actually wants to commit to an action, be it right or wrong. The money flow seems to be the objective and they will talk the matter to death, the death of the salmon.

3. Much of the ocean salmon decline can be attributed to over fishing by Russia, Japan, Korea and some of the other countries that have huge factory ships just beyond our borders. Much like the wood products business. The Japanese bought our logs, took them out to international waters, processed the logs into plywood on factory ships and sent it directly back into our market without any restrictions (I know this because I was a senior executive in the wood products industry). The over fishing of salmon food fish by these countries cut the food supply for salmon, resulting in some partial decline. Over harvesting of shrimp and other crustaceons by these countries also cut the salmon food supply. Add to this, changes in ocean currents, temperatures and the like and you have a total new environment for salmon to deal with.

4. The dams have been considered to be a fault relating to fish migration. Maybe so. However, dam removal or partial removal of 4 dams will not resolve the problem. The fish need a natural run to move through the dam system. I have proposed creating canals around one end of each dam and create an artificial river in this canal, with falls, rapids, sand bars, fine gravel, ponds, etc. Plant the banks with brush and trees to provide some degree of shade. Use a riser headgate to control the flow in the canal (artificial river). This would allow for a natural upstream environment, places for salmon to scratch their bellies to get any remaining sea lice and other parasites off their body and a pools to rest briefly in before they moved on up stream. Salmon have 3 basic elements built in that moves them toward a spawning ground. One is much like a magnet working as a compass to pull them toward the spawning ground. One is much like the wolf marking a territory, salmon follow a trail by smell which has been laid down as a marker much like the wolf and other animals mark their territories. The third factor relates to sonic sounds. Certain sonic sounds attract salmon. Fish ladders do not provide the same sonic sound as a running stream, like an artificial wild river would have. Therefore, the natural things involved in fish movement are not present when they come up against a dam in a river. The artificial wild river would provide the opportunity to mark their trail, it would allow pooling for rest stops, it would provide natural oxygen, it would provide the proper sonic sounds to attract fish and by getting moss growth and natural growth of fish feed "critters," salmon would have a bit of sustanance on the way upstream.

Fish biologists spend too much time reading books and raising salmon in hatcheries. They do not try to become the salmon itself and try to understand exactly what makes a salmon think, act and do what it was born to do.

Anyway, money seems to be the thing that is preventing much "do" in salmon recovery. Money seems to be the motivator for "talk" and paper shuffling an study after study that gets nowhere.

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