Salmon Habitat, Hatcheries, Pinnipeds Among Billy Frank Jr. Salmon Coalition Priorities

THE FOLLOWING IS THE MONTHLY “BEING FRANK” COLUMN BY LORRAINE LOOMIS, CHAIR OF THE NORTHWEST INDIAN FISHERIES COMMISSION

The Billy Frank Jr. Salmon Coalition is looking forward to another year of working together to accomplish responsible management through responsible leadership.

We formed the coalition of tribal, state and local policy leaders, sport and commercial fishermen, conservation groups, scientists, business and others following the inaugural Billy Frank Jr. Pacific Salmon Summit in March 2018. Our goal is to return to the kind of cooperation that has always been the key to natural resources management in our region.

WDFW’S RON WARREN AND NWIFC’S LORRAINE LOOMIS SPEAK DURING A RARE BUT WELL-ATTENDED STATE-TRIBAL PLENARY SESSION IN 2017 ON WESTERN WASHINGTON SALMON. THE TWO AND THEIR ORGANIZATIONS ARE AMONG MEMBERS OF THE NEW  BILLY FRANK JR. SALMON COALITION. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Earlier this month, we presented our priorities at the second Salmon Summit. They include restoring and protecting disappearing salmon habitat, enhancing hatchery production, and management of seal and sea lion populations.

We are advocating for expanding salmon habitat by supporting protection of streamside habitat through uniform, science-based requirements across the region. That means creating healthy streamside buffers with plenty of mature trees and vegetation that keep water temperatures low, stabilize riverbanks and contribute to diverse in-stream habitat for salmon.

We are working to revise habitat standards in the state’s Growth Management Act and other land-use protection guidelines from one of No Net Loss to one of Net Gain. We know that we are losing salmon habitat faster than it can be restored and that the status quo does not lead to salmon recovery. We also advocate for a statewide permit tracking system to create transparency, accountability and efficiency in tracking land-use decisions.

HEAVY EQUIPMENT BREACHES A LEVEE TO TURN OLD FARMLANDS NEAR MARYSVILLE, WASH., INTO HABITAT FOR LISTED CHINOOK SALMON. (NOAA)

Healthy habitat is critical for both naturally spawning and hatchery salmon to sustain their populations. Until habitat can be restored, hatcheries remain key to salmon recovery. The Billy Frank Jr. Salmon Coalition supports increased state, federal and other funding to provide for increased salmon production and maintenance of state, federal, tribal and non-profit hatchery facilities in the region.

We also support increased hatchery production in key watersheds to produce salmon for Indian and non-Indian fisheries and contribute to prey availability for southern resident orcas based on the latest science.

KIRAN WALGAMOTT PEERS INTO RACEWAYS AT THE WALLACE SALMON HATCHERY NEAR GOLD BAR. THE FACILITY REARS COHO, SUMMER CHINOOK AND STEELHEAD FOR HARVEST BY STATE AND TRIBAL FISHERMEN. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

We know that predation by pinnipeds such as harbor seals and California sea lions on both adult and juvenile salmon is out of balance and slowing salmon recovery significantly. Harbor seal populations in the Salish Sea alone have grown from about 8,500 to nearly 80,000 in the past two decades. It has been documented that seals and sea lions are eating more than six times the number of salmon harvested by fishermen.

HUGH ALLEN SNAPPED THIS HARBOR SEAL STEALING A SAN JUANS SALMON LITERALLY OFF AN ANGLER’S LINE. (HUGH ALLEN)

Our coalition is developing recommendations to maintain stable seal and sea lion populations that won’t undermine salmon recovery efforts.

As a first step we are calling for an assessment of the status of pinniped populations in this region to determine the optimal sustainable populations of harbor seal and sea lion stocks that won’t slow salmon recovery. If need be, we support lethal removal of problem animals similar to efforts on the Columbia River.

There are no more easy answers when it comes to salmon recovery. Those got used up a long time ago. What we are left with is hard work. We can only be successful if we work together to do what we agree is necessary, then speak that truth together to everyone who lives here. The Billy Frank Jr. Salmon Coalition was developed to honor Billy’s legacy by connecting the best in all of us to face the challenges before us and do the work needed to maintain the health, wealth and culture of our region.

A TESTAMENT TO THE SHIFTING NATURE OF WASHINGTON FISH POLITICS — BILLY FRANK JR., WHO WAS ONCE BRANDED A FISH POACHER AND ARRESTED BY STATE FISHERY OFFICERS DOZENS UPON DOZENS OF TIMES, APPEARED TOP CENTER ON THE DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE’S WEBSITE AFTER HIS MAY 2014 PASSING. THEN-WDFW DIRECTOR PHIL ANDERSON SAID HE’D BEEN HONORED TO KNOW HIM.

You can find out more about the Billy Frank Jr. Salmon Coalition at https://salmondefense.org/projects/advocate/coalition/

Editor’s note: Nontribal core/leadership members of the Billy Frank Jr. Salmon Coalition include Puget Sound Anglers President Ron Garner, Butch Smith of Ilwaco Charters, retired WDFW Director Phil Anderson, Fish and Wildlife Commission Vice Chair Barbara Baker, and Long Live The Kings Executive Director Jacques White, among others.

Tribal core leadership members include Lorraine Loomis, Swinomish Tribe/NWIFC Chair; Dave Herrera, Skokomish Tribe /NWIFC; Willie Frank, Nisqually Tribal Council; Ed Johnstone, Quinault Nation/NWIFC; and Justin Parker, Makah Tribe/NWIFC.

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