February 1997 – Issues & Opinion
1997 Fraser River Sockeye update – Oh Boy! Sometimes you can have the best of ideas for solving seemingly unsolvable problems.
And sometimes that idea begins to come to fruition.
But then forces beyond your control step in, twist your idea to their agenda, making a mockery out of your idea, worse, using it to compound the problem at hand.
Such is what occurred at the last meeting in Portland, OR of the Fraser Panel.
A number of years ago the Board of the Puget Sound Gillnetters Association (PSGA) directed it’s representatives to the Panel to actively work for a solution outside the normal process.
Politicians, lawyers, state and federal government bureaucrats have had no success in the negotiations, since they began in 1985.
Our radical idea was to begin direct talks with Canadian fishermen.
The objective was, that since we were the effected parties, and that we both had similar interests in the harvest, survival and enhancement of the stocks harvested on both sides of the common water boarder, that we could settle the issue once and for all.
After meeting with the Canadians last year, it was evident that this idea would go ahead this year, if no agreement could be reached in a timely manner by the Big Boys.
So it was that at the last Panel meeting last week, the US Representative apparently told the Washington State Representative to go ahead with this idea, giving the parties full power to broker an agreement.
The Washington State Rep was or still is Bob Turner, who a few years ago was Director of the Department of Fisheries.
During the course of things at that time Mr. Turner found his job in jeopardy.
He turned to the Puget Sound Gillnetters Association for a favor.
Our support on a certain issue would allow him to keep his job.
We did and he did.
Thus it was that Mr. Turner was given the power to appoint people to the new Stake-Holders Panel. Stake-holders panels were formed to settle the Canadian-Alaskan and Canadian-US Coho interception issues.
Canadian and the Alaskan commercial fishermen appointed.
But on the US panel it was a different story.
Mr. Turner apparently, ignoring his debt to the PSGA, decided to load up on sport priority/Columbia river Tribal types.
Three members are from the Columbia River Tribal groups.
One member is from the Suqumaish Tribe.
On the Sport side, the President of Trout Unlimited was appointed.
After a long battle, one member of the US commercial Seine fleet was appointed.
The Trout Unlimited fellow was elected Chairman.
With the exception of the Seine Rep, none of the members has any interest in Sockeye.
Their issue is Coho.
Their only concern is how many and how fast the Sockeye can be traded off for Coho, which they will catch.
The fallout is as follows: the major Sockeye harvesting Tribe – the Lummi – is hopping mad; and the Canadian commercial fishermen are pissed off because we are excluded.
The Lummi are pissed at their exclusion because, they are not only the largest harvesters of Sockeye, but also the largest and most powerful of the Treaty Tribes.
Of course, the originators of the idea – the gillnetters, and the reefnetters are excluded.
The result was never our intention, and as is plain was not the Canadians’ either.
Now the problem is further compounded by this unjustly vengeful, biased, and arbitrary decision, made by an individual out to wreak havoc on those who had helped him maintain his job.
Is it any wonder that most people in the US distrust those politician and bureaucrats who are appointed to speak for them?
Is there any recourse for us? Who knows as of this moment.
But if the Northern Stake-Holders panel does not reach an agreement – and there is little likelihood of that – then any agreement reached by them Southern Panel is moot.
P.S. A number of the Northern Panel US Reps are seiners who also fish in Puget Sound.
The US Southern Seiner Rep. has stated that he will not sell us out.
He’s pissed too, and I’m hoping he’ll tell his boys in the North what the Right thing to do is..
And I think the Northern Canadian guys will understand what’s afoot.