Makah Tribe defends its larger-than-expected chinook salmon
catch; state officials worried
NEAH BAY -- Makah officials confirmed Wednesday that tribal fishers caught about 20,000 chinook salmon during the tribe's winter treaty troll fishery, substantially more than they had predicted last spring.
They also said their larger-than-expected catch will have ``very little impact'' on future fishing on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Tribal officials were reacting to a report in which state Department of Fish and Wildlife authorities expressed concern that the tribe had over-fished wild chinook salmon -- a threatened species -- which might in turn produce negative consequences for neighboring commercial, sport and tribal fisheries during the 2005-06 season.
Fish and Wildlife public affairs officer Doug Williams said late Wednesday afternoon that the tribe caught about 18,500 chinook.
The winter treaty troll fishery off Cape Flattery is monitored under a fall-to-spring season -- not by quota -- but harvest targets are still set.
1,600 take was expected
Williams said tribal fishers were only supposed to take about 1,600 chinook, correcting an early report of 500.
When asked how such a large over-catch of chinook salmon happened, Williams responded: ``That would be a good question for the tribe.''
Dave Sones, vice chairman for the tribe, denied that the Makah fished irresponsibly.
``This will have no effect on other people's fisheries,'' Sones told Peninsula Daily News on Wednesday afternoon after taking part in a conference call with Fish and Wildlife officials.
``The chinook salmon we've caught this season represents a tiny percentage that exist in our fisheries.
``If we thought that we'd be impacting anyone else's fisheries, we would have reduced the number of fish we had been catching long ago.''
Sones said the Makah tribe is now considering pulling its lines out of the water.
``We've had an exceptionally good fishing season,'' he said.
``Closing the fishing season isn't going to have a significant impact on our fishers.''
Makah Tribal Chairman Ben Johnson also defended the fishing practices, saying the tribe keeps track of every fish caught.
He said the tribe would not intentionally cut into other anglers' take.
Johnson also lashed out at Fish and Wildlife officials.
``What they've done is irresponsible and devastating to our summer tourist season,'' Johnson said.
Makahs defend 20,000-chinook catch
NEAH BAY, Wash. -- Makah officials are defending the tribe's larger-than-expected winter catch of 20,000 chinook salmon, saying it will not put a dent in future fishing on the North Olympic Peninsula.
"This will have no effect on other people's fisheries," said Dave Sones, the tribe's vice chairman. "The chinook salmon we've caught this season represents a tiny percentage that exist in our fisheries."
The comments came after state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials expressed concern that the tribe's overfishing of wild chinook -- a threatened species -- might hurt nearby commercial, sport and tribal fisheries in the 2005-06 season.
Under state guidelines, the tribe was supposed to take about 1,600 chinook, Fish and Wildlife spokesman Doug Williams told the Peninsula Daily News, correcting a previous report from one of the agency's coordinators that the limit was 500.
In recent years, Sones said the tribe has typically taken fewer chinook than it had estimated at the start of each season. He suggested that the recent catch may turn out to be a sign of progress.
"Our biologists think this signals the increasing abundance of chinook salmon in the area," Sones said. "It seems that our stocks are recovering, which, if it turns out to be the case, will lead to more liberal fishing in the future."
The Fish and Wildlife Department is set to unveil salmon forecasts for Puget Sound, coastal Washington and the Columbia River on March 1 in Olympia. The final salmon fishing season for 2005-06 will be announced April 4-8 in Tacoma.
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