November 28th, 2011
To The Membership Of PSSEHA
Greetings to you all,
As we approach the end of 2011, I would like to take this opportunity to update you all on our activities over the past year. As you read through this letter, I am sure you will agree that our Association has made progress toward our goal of advancing enhancement of salmon here in the Greater Puget Sound.
We all know the dire state of our public salmon hatcheries. From the time of the passage of HB 1951 in the 2009 Legislative Session, the Washington State government has made it clear that funding of our state hatcheries is no longer a priority for the public sector. In 2011 we saw further cuts to the state hatchery system—the biggest of which was the plan to close the Hoodsport Hatchery in Hood Canal.
To ensure a stable base for salmon enhancement both now and into the distant future, we proposed legislation during the 2011 Legislative Session. We proposed two similar bills: SB 5453 and HB 1821. SB 5453 received a hearing at the Senate Marine Waters and Natural Resources Committee, and passed through the committee on a unanimous vote. The bill, unfortunately, did not make it much further, as there was insufficient time to make it through both the Senate and the House. In addition, there was opposition from WDFW, which wanted to control the expenditure of the funding raised by the bill, as well as some gillnetters and others. Also, some legislators saw it as a tax bill, and “tax” bills were not seeing the light of day in that session.
Enhancement planning—Working with sovereign Tribes
WDFW has softened its position on the bill since last session. However, as much as agency employees might want to "do the right thing" and continue with salmon enhancement to the degree that they should, they cannot fight the sad reality that their budget is being cut, sometimes more than once in a single year. Agency employees are fortunate just to keep their jobs.
Because of this reality, we decided that the only way that we could keep enhancement programs alive was to work with the other half of the co-management system, the 17 Treaty Tribes of the Greater Puget Sound region (from the Makah eastward, all the way through South Sound and up to the border in Bellingham Bay),
We have spent this entire year meeting with nearly all of the Treaty Tribes, explaining our organization, requesting cooperation from them, and seeking concrete plans to either keep current State hatcheries alive, or expand other enhancement opportunities. We are happy to report that many of the Tribes are enthusiastic about joining with non-tribal commercial and seafood processing interests.
Until we have reached a formal agreement with any one of the Tribes we have been asked to not reveal the names of the Tribes involved or the types of projects proposed, but we can speak generally about our ideas.
- Every one of the Treaty Tribes has political considerations regarding overlapping jurisdiction with other Tribes, and co-management issues with the State. Thus, getting a new agreement into place is difficult, will take time, and involves a lot of negotiating patience.
- Rather than “swing for the fence” and try some big new project, we have elected to first try to build confidence with our new tribal partners. The initial scope of any new project will be small.
- Given the tremendous capital cost required for a new hatchery, we have tried to start out small, and use either existing State or Tribal hatcheries, or even use surplus net pens or remote site incubators (RSIs).
As a basic rule our proposals to all of the Tribes have been consistent, and follow these principles:
- Our Association, because it is not a “co-manager” of the resource, cannot directly engage in any enhancement activities. Thus, we can only offer financial support to the Tribes to assist their enhancement activities.
- If and when possible we will try to assist with the required planning and equipment necessary for enhancement.
- We have proposed to the various Tribes that we share the cost (50/50) of any additional enhancement.
Enhancement proposals (some examples)
While we cannot yet share details of current negotiations (such is the request of our Tribal Natural Resources partners), here are a two examples of what we are thinking:
- Net pen enhancement of Chum salmon in Hood Canal
Raise Chum fry in surplus net pens in the upper end of Hood Canal. Feed the fry for a short period of time (~2 months) after hatch out, and release directly in the salt water. Start with a small pilot project (2 ~ 3M fry), and test the procedure for a few years.
- Restart enhancement of Chum salmon at a State hatchery on the Nooksack River
There is already a large stock of Chum salmon available at this hatchery—the State used to produce Chum at this facility. Restart the dormant Chum program. Pay the Tribe (or the State) to feed and release Chum from this facility. Start with a small amount of fry (<5M), and test the program for ~5 years.
In addition to these 2 projects, the Association has also been holding discussions with Tribes in the South Sound, in the hopes of using the abundant stock of Chum salmon from Coulter Creek, and increasing enhancement somewhere in that region. Discussions are still in an early stage, be we are hopeful that some kind of an agreement could eventually be reached.
Going forward: Our plans for 2012
We have set two important goals for the Association for 2012:
- We must pass a funding bill in the 2012 Legislature
- In order to provide funding for both the current State enhancement programs (prevent closures of State hatcheries), and also support increased enhancement going forward, we must establish a stable funding mechanism.
- The funding bill is the best way of achieving our goals, because it follows the principle of “user pays.” Only those who catch fish would pay the fee.
- We will work with any interested group (PSVOA, Harvesters, PSA, CCA, WDFW, Tribes, Federal agencies, RFEGs, etc.) to craft the bill to achieve maximum support.
- We will revise the bill (currently SB 5453) prior to re-submission. We will post the bill again on the website.
- We must complete our negotiations with Treaty Tribes and WDFW
- The detailed plans for Chum enhancement must be completed in the Spring of 2012, for enhancement to start in the Fall of 2012.
- The negotiations with the Tribes are very complicated (many issues of Tribal sovereignty, historical problems, co-management problems). Completion of the discussions does take time, but we hope for resolution soon.
We need your help!
There are three things that you can do to help our Association achieve our goals:
- Please contact your local legislators
At a minimum, please call your local Senator (you have 1 in each district) and your local Representatives (there are 2 in each district). Please feel free to contact our advocate in Olympia, Mr. Steve Robinson (his e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org) for details on how to contact your local legislators. As long as you understand our goals listed above, your discussion will make an impact. Please ask them for support (votes AND vocal support) in the 2012 Legislature.
- Please join your local community groups
Your local State hatchery probably needs your help, and your local RFEG (regional fisheries enhancement group) could use your volunteer support. Please consider giving some of your time to assist. Also, please remember that we are in a new era with respect to Tribes. We need to work together, whenever possible, and support their efforts to manage, enhance and protect and restore habitat.
- Please help us with our funding needs
Your financial support is critical to us as we press forward with our plans. Attached are a tax form (a receipt for your contributions during 2011), and an invoice for dues for 2012. (Some of you will also receive a Second Invoice for 2011 dues….). Please pay your dues as soon as practical.
2011 Annual General Membership Meeting