Monday, February 06, 2012


We've had countless renditions of why Chatham Strait management of mixed stock pink salmon management works so well.  For starters the majority of the timing of our pink salmon management in Chatham does not coincide with the sockeye migration and for that matter, Hidden Falls chums (20 miles away from the mouth of Kootznahoo Inlet). Indeed when you read the excerpts from the Petition--if you want a copy please give me a call or  email--there is a request to shut down Hidden Falls hatchery permanently. Interestingly enough, with nearly 3 decades of data, the average exploitation rate of Hidden Falls chums is less than 10% in the mixed stock corridors of Chatham Strait.  Many years it is as low as 3-4%. So since the proximity of the hatchery is so close as to be so disconcerting to Kootznoowoo that they need to shut it down, then we can assume that the harvest rates are not so different from those the purse seine fleet would have on Kanalku sockeye.  Indeed the last day that a Kookesh has ever subsistence fished at Kanalku is July 25.  The peak is generally around the 4th of July through around the 17th.  Sound familiar for you Hidden Falls fishermen?  Same peak both locations, really.

 The purse seine fleet averages its first fishing day on the Angoon shoreline nearly at the identical time that the last subsistence user has finished their fishery in front of Kanalku Falls.  (For the uninitiated, Kanalku Falls is--on years of large rainfalls-- a 16 foot jump that only around 30% of sockeye make it to spawn at Kanalku Lake---Of course there are years where more get a shot due to lower water tables and a shorter jump because the official weir counts in 2009 and 2010 were 2600 sockeyes and 2900 sockeyes respectively.  The Chief SE Alaska Subsistence Forest Service Biologist told SEAS in 2006 that if the lake couldn't handle more than a consistent 1500 with a high end of 2500.  So by even their non-biological assumption-based escapement modelling, we're way in the money here.  In 2011 we were back down to around 700, with subsistence harvest reporting of around 250.  Subsistence harvest reports indicated around 600 average harvest during the large years.

Back to Chatham Management.  Even in the more abundant northend pink salmon cycles--there is rarely fishing in the main Chatham corridor to any major extent until the 3rd week of July.  In 2011, as in some other alltime high northend early pink salmon runs, there was a bit earlier of a start.  In 2008 and 2010 there was no Chatham fishing save for the hatchery and the test fishery at Augusta.  It is expected in 2012 that this will also be the case.

So there was, long before this issue arose, a propensity for the state to hold back commercial pink salmon fisheries to allow for safe passage of sockeye salmon runs throughout Chatham Strait.  Throughout the 1980s and 1990s there had been what is now a 3 decades long resurgence of pink salmon and all salmon throughout the northern areas of Southeastern Alaska, this 'propensity' developed into a basic unwritten management plan.  Early July is off-season for the main Chatham Strait areas, save for the far north early pinks migrating through Hawk Inlet on years of high Lynn Canal and Stephens Passage pink salmon abundance.  The ADFG also mandated closure lines (not voluntary closures but real ones) from Parker Pt. to Pt Samuel along the Angoon shoreline.  Basket Bay, Sitkoh Bay and Lake Eva have similar extreme closure lines for miles just as the 9 mile closure of Chatham Strait for Angoon.

So our fishery is managed so that we begin fishing in earnest after 90-95% of the sockeye migration has occurred in Chatham Strait. Even when we do begin, it is often with a single day on a small area.  During July, in the area from Hoonah to Angoon, Chatham Strait is closed to seining around 80% of the time and area on a good year and 97-100% closed on a bad pink salmon year.

Historical Background of the KOOTZN00WOO PETITION:
After just 2 short cycles of working within the Board of Fisheries process and failing to find a single voice or advocate that the Kootzawoo Corporation could lean on with the twisted  scientific evidence  (or obviously the lack of it) that was packed and presented at the 2006 Board of Fisheries (in 2009 he was MIA for some reason) by US Forest Service Marine Biologist Ben Van Allen (remember him, he's the guy who supported large scale commercial purse seining at District 104, with 70% sockeye originating in British Columbia, and believed that abundance based management was the way to go)  these guys decided to go back to the Federal route, attempting to Petition the Federal Government and try to assert their sovereign authority.

On May 10, 2010 Kootznoowoo, Inc.  sent a letter to The Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary of USDA, Petitioning for ownership of submerged lands in order to get hydro lines to their potential Ruth Lake project and to give them the Extra-Territorial-Jurisdiction to shut down the Chatham Strait Fishery.  The addendum shows a map which Angoon asserts tribal territory from Red Bluff Bay to Gardner in the south to Hawk Inlet and Whitestone harbor in the north then all of Tenakee and Peril Strait.

In April, I met with the petitioners Executive Director and explained how the state management worked.   He replied that he was sorry but this letter had already gone out and .... gee whiz....

On June 15, Kootznawoo sent a supplement as requested by Secretary Vilsack.

Here are the choicest excerpts.  IN large bold are the excerpts.  

The Italics are our comments.

Timeline  1880's, SE AK was exploited by Spain, Great Britain, Russia and the US..... Geez,  if they can't get that one right, how can they possibly be talking about salmon numbers and particular months.

history has shown that intensive fishing on passing stocks in Icy and Chatham Straits in not sustainable. 

increased enforcement has made it difficult for Angoon residents to meet their subsistence needs

it can be assumed that there is a broad overlap when commercial purse seining occurs and where and when the sockeye migrate

The following describes possible measures which may be considered as a part of the advice and recommendations to the Secretary:

Close all of fishing districts in Chatham Strait, Icy Strait and Peril Strait during the height of the sockeye salmon passage .... in June, July and through the first two weeks of August.

Establish a plan and date for closure and shut down of the Hidden Falls Hatchery.

maintain that Alaska 'seize and desist' in enforcement of subsistence law on Admiralty Island monument area.

And here is what they put together for sockeye escapement
Kanalku Escapement
2001  229 sockeyes
2003  276 sockeyes
2007 461 ///////
They forgot to mention that in 2009 and 2010 there were escapements of 2600 and 2900 after subsistence harvests of 600 or so.  And that every other year they skipped had over 1000, save for the weak cycle of 99-03-07-11, which, while building, put us at only 700 or so in 2011.  If one looks at the harvest trends you can see that there was heavy harvesting in the 1990's for subsistence.  The numbers for the late 90's get up to 1600 reported subsistence harvest at Kanalku.  As one resident told me, we just didn't leave enough for the future, but they'll come back and we'll learn.

Kanalku is a system that, while small compared to other sockeye systems, produces up to several thousand sockeye on a year with good conditions and when 70% of the sockeye don't die at the falls.  But it's always been the case, contrary to testimony of the hardships of getting across Chatham to secure sockeyes at Kook Lake and Sitkoh Bay, that Angoon residents have ventured far and wide to secure their subsistence.  

The major aboriginal Angoon camps were close to home but more reliant on chums and silvers from Chaik and Hood Bays than they really were strictly sockeyes.  Sockeyes could only be put up for a few weeks, while cohoes stay in the system from late July through September and into October at times.  Even so, the maps and allegations of traditional Angoon subsistence certainly and obviously shows that there was never a Kanalku-only strategy of food security.  Kook Lake in Basket Bay was one of the most important sites outside Kanalku, as well as Sitkoh, but it is obvious as well by the maps in the petition that they traveled all the way down to Red Bluff, Falls Lake, Hoonah Sound, and 
Tenakee.  While these appear to be exaggerations and may be disputed by the Kake and Hoonah locals, it is apparent that the seamanship and ability  for Angoon residents to cross Chatham existed long before the 1990's.

Anyways.  Just some pieces here.  Quite an amazingly misguided piece of work.
One of the most amazing things about the Kootznawoo, Inc's lack of confidence in the State of Alaska is that the Chairman's brother is none other than Senator Albert Kookesh, who has served in the Alaska State Legislature for a decade and a half.  A village of 400 people and their guy is state Senator ( recall that Petersburg has NEVER had a state Senator, ever), and they think the state system is unfair.  Well, who could it be fairer for?  And how much of the timing of this has to do with the fact that the Senator got caught violating subsistence laws??


Forgot to mention that the corporation is asking the Federal Government for 10 years of mitigation valued at $24 million or so and another $26 or so million for the next 10 years.

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