Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Puget Sound

Commercial fishing in Puget Sound has fascinated me for as long as I can remember.

Where else can you fish in plain view of Qwest field and the Space Needle. Folks tried again and again to run us off in 1995 and 1999 and we beat back both attempts with million dollar campaigns. Folks sometimes say this fishing stuff isn't about money but when your states' residents vote to take away your livelihood you're happy to have a checkbook to write that check that saves your job.

Many of the issues that we face in Puget Sound and many of the struggles we've survived are a harbinger of things to come in Alaska. Puget Sound has more resource issues although the chums have had a great series of runs lately on the Nisqually, Puyallup, Skokomish, Skagit, Snohomish and other wild rivers.

But we've got the resource in great shape in Alaska and especially Southeast. The ADFG track record these past 30 years is incredible. Streams near Petersburg, where my great-grandfather Loui Martens began fishing in 1903,( he moved there for good several years later) are generally at the healthiest levels of abundance that they've seen since the 1930's. Certainly there are systems that wax and wane with regime shifts.

But one thing is for certain, we've got a great resource to work with and we've been commercial fishing for salmon for 130 years in SE Alaska and we have more fish than we started with in some cases. Now certainly we may have more fish if no one ever fished, but wouldn't that then sort of defeat the purpose. I mean, what are fish for, if not to catch and eat. Certainly the brood stock always needs to be maintained, but we should righteously be entitled to catch, sell and eat that part of the fish stocks or runs that are surplus to escapement needs. I have to admit, with all the time I spent outside between residencies (1990-2003) as an Alaskan, I got soft and I do immensely enjoy just seeing jumping salmon in a river or lake or school upon school of bright red sockeye on their spawning grounds. But fish need to be more than just watched.

One other important aspect of Puget Sound is its proximity to SE. Certainly the permit numbers in SE were inflated in 1974, right after the Boldt decision hit Washington state. That leads to another buyback point, that the swelling permit numbers in 1974 need to be taken back a few notches. There were an unsupportable number of permits issued due to the Boldt decision and therefore we need to have the buyback.

Yet another very instructional idea here supporting buybacks is that Puget Sound has only 75 permits rather than the 282 available at the time of the 2001 buyback. The benefits of less nets for public viewing runs hand in hand with the benefits of having a hookoff where you can share with a couple others rather than having lineups with over a dozen boats, engines idling, with 60 guys waiting aboard to do the job that 2 boats could have done.

Good fishing and hunting and hope it's not raining where you are.
I'm feeling like a rainmaker this year. I even missed the 5 day mini-heat wave in Juneau in June.

Oh. And one last question that defines why many of SEAS members come south to fish Puget Sound in the fall. Where else in North America can you find salmon available to harvest between Alaska Day and Thanksgiving.

Only in Puget Sound.


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