Tag Archives: Sauk-Suiattle TRIBE

Baker Sockeye Issues Back On WDFW Commission Agenda

It turns out that my best idea for solving aggravating Baker sockeye harvest inequities would cost on the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars — money WDFW doesn’t exactly have at the moment — and require round-the-clock monitoring so thieves don’t steal valuable parts.

In-river sonar that counts salmon, like what’s used on the Fraser and in Alaska, before they reach North Sound tribal nets in the Skagit and sport hooks there and up at Baker Lake could yield better data on relative run strength than the preseason prediction now used to set fisheries and hope the fish come in.

IT’S BEEN AWHILE SINCE ALEC SCHANTZ CAUGHT HIS SOCKEYE LIMIT AT BAKER LAKE, WHERE HE DID SO IN 2013 BUT NOT THIS PAST SEASON WHEN HE TROLLED AROUND FOR TWO DAYS WITH NARY A NIBBLE. HIS GRANDFATHER FRANK URABECK IS TRYING TO ENSURE THAT MORE OF THE SALMON ARE PLACED INTO THE RESERVOIR. (FRANK URABECK)

Forecasts the past few years have been as much as 33 percent too high, leading to a 19,000-plus-fish disparity between the fleets, and that’s been rubbing recreational anglers the wrong way since 2017.

This coming Saturday morning the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will again hear about the issue, and fishermen are being called on to attend the meeting in Bellingham.

“Whenever the actual run is less than the preseason forecast the tribes wind up with more sockeye,” said angler advocate Frank Urabeck, who was rallying anglers on The Outdoor Line radio show on Seattle’s 710 ESPN last weekend.

Currently, the best way to tell how well the run is tracking versus the prediction made the previous winter is how many are showing up at the Baker River trap, minus tribal and plunkers’ catches. The time it takes the fish to swim to the trap limits the effectiveness of inseason actions. And when fewer show up than expected, it means less are put into Baker Lake, where the primary sport fishery is.

So one of the ideas Uraback is pitching is to use a run forecast buffer, like what is done with spring Chinook on the Columbia River. Thirty percent is chopped off the best guess of biologists to set fisheries before the halfway point of the run is reached as a check against overharvesting a weaker than expected return.

He also suggests “following year payback” — adjusting harvests the next season to even out overages the previous one.

That’s similar to how Puget Sound crabbing is managed and why this past summer saw an early closure in Area 10. There, last year’s Dungeness quota was 40,000 pounds, but sport crabbers harvested more than 46,000 pounds, and so through “buyback provisions” in negotiated state-tribal agreements, that dropped this year’s allowable take to 33,212 pounds.

Urabeck, a retired Army Corps engineer, also suggests managers use their “professional judgment” inseason to adjust the forecast.

“We again are asking that the Commission direct (WDFW) to give Baker sockeye harvest equity a high priority for the 2020 season, engaging the three Skagit Basin tribes on behalf of sport fishing license holders in a transparent manner that allows the public to track the discussions,” he said.

The sockeye fishery, particularly in the lake, has become more important in recent years with low returns to the Brewster Pool on the other side of the North Cascades and the decline of Lake Washington.

Sportfishing occurs off the banks of the lower Skagit between Mount Vernon and Gilligan Creek, and in Baker Lake, while three tribes net from the forks of the Skagit up to Mount Vernon, and from Gilligan Creek up to the Baker River, and the Swinomish in the salt to their preseason share.

Most of the nontribal catch occurs in the lake — 10,080 in 2015 versus 800 in the river.

With Urabeck and others pushing, Washington’s fish commission has been tracking the issue since at least October 2017, and last fall there was a workshop at WDFW’s Mill Creek office. On Saturday commissioners will be updated on the 2019 season and how harvest inequity issues are being addressed by state staff.

“The department absolutely thinks this is a worthwhile endeavor to find a solution that the state and tribes can live with,” say Aaron Dufault, a WDFW anadromous resources policy analyst in Olympia.

Even as it was off by a third this year, a new forecasting tool he and the biologists came up with and which uses environmental factors in the North Pacific is tracking better than the old model, which called for a return of nearly 60,000 sockeye in 2019.

Only 22,440 actually hit the mouth of the Skagit.

Yet Dufault acknowledges that the new model’s overprediction means there is “a little bit more room for improvement.”

He cautions that while ideas like Urabeck’s would impact tribal harvests and represent hurdles that would need to be overcome, WDFW is working with the Swinomish, Sauk-Suiattles and Upper Skagits to get an agreed-to harvest sharing dataset in place for 2020, as well as improve communications between the parties.

Because sockeye are seldom pursued much less caught in saltwater like Chinook, coho and pinks, it’s one of few fisheries where recreational anglers fish behind the tribal guys.

Since 2010, the tribes have harvested 134,035 Baker sockeye, sport anglers 113,074.

We caught more in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015, years when more fish came back than were forecast; they caught more in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, years the prediction was too high.

The disparity since 2017 is 37,864 to 18,782.

An uptick in marine survival could turn things around quickly, Dufault notes.

He says there are payback provisions in an overarching Puget Sound salmon management document, but that they’re not a silver bullet either as they haven’t been used in “a couple decades.”

Still, it’s an option and one that could have an impact but would have to be agreed to too via the North of Falcon salmon-season-setting process.

But what if everybody had a better, more accurate gauge of run strength, aka in-river sonar?

Dufault calls it “a really cool tool,” and says it could solve a lot of the issues around the inequity.

He adds that the units also cost on the order of a couple hundred thousand dollars — tens of thousands of dollars if rented — and they require pretty specialized operators to perform real-time analysis, another cost.

He says that on the larger Fraser in Southwest British Columbia, five or six people are needed for daily number crunching, and someone has to be onsite 24-7 to guard the valuable equipment used to scan the river.

Needless to say, with WDFW’s current budget issues, the agency has other stated priorities in its whopping $26 million supplemental request to lawmakers. And sonar would need to have tribal buy-in.

Meanwhile, Urabeck is pessimistic about next year’s sockeye run and Puget Sound salmon fisheries, adding importance to Baker Lake, which he speculates “may be one of the few places salmon anglers can troll in 2020.”

“Many sport fishing license holders are giving serious thought to leaving this sport. We must have a reason to continue which only fishing opportunity can provide,” he says.

As it stands, WDFW does report that hatchery fry production in the Baker is increasing, with north of 9 million released in 2019, up from 6 million just four years ago and 2.5 million in 2009.

With sockeye clearly going to be around in the Skagit system for the foreseeable future and representing an important fishery for the state and three North Sound tribes, it behooves the parties to come to an equitable solution.

Saturday’s Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting comes to order at 8 a.m., with sockeye on the docket at 9 a.m. Public comment will be taken after Dufault’s presentation.

The meeting is in the Chuckanut Room at the Holiday Inn, 4260 Mitchell Way, across from the airport.

OlyPen Mountain Goat Move Ends For Year With 101 Shipped To Cascades

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM WDFW ET AL

Capture and translocation operations are now complete for 2019 with 101 mountain goats moved from Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest to the northern Cascade Mountains. Since September 2018, a total of 275 mountain goats have been translocated.  An additional two-week capture and translocation period is planned for summer 2020.

WDFW REPORTS THAT 16 MOUNTAIN GOATS WERE REMOVED FROM MT. ELLINOR, ABOVE LAKE CUSHMAN, DURING THIS SUMMER’S TRANSLOCATION OF THE ALPINE DENIZENS FROM THE OLYMPICS OVER TO THE CASCADES. (JOEL NOWACK, USFS, FLICKR)

This effort is a partnership between the National Park Service (NPS), the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and the USDA Forest Service (USFS) to re-establish and assist in connecting depleted populations of mountain goats in the Washington Cascades while also removing non-native goats from the Olympic Mountains.  Though some mountain goat populations in the North Cascades have recovered since the 1990s, the species is still absent or rare in many areas of its historic range. Mountain goats were introduced to the Olympics in the 1920s.

In addition to the 101 mountain goats released in the North Cascades, there were seven adult mortalities related to capture, plus four animals that could not be captured safely were lethally removed.

Ten mountain goat kids that were not able to be kept with their families were transferred to Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in 2019. One will remain at Northwest Trek and live in the park’s 435-acre free-roaming area. The other nine kids will have new homes at other zoos. A total of 16 mountain goat kids have been given permanent homes in zoos: six in 2018 and ten in 2019.

August 2019 Results
Translocated Zoo Capture Mortalities Transport Mortalities Euthanized Lethally Removed
101 10 7 0 0 4

 

Leading Edge Aviation, a private company which specializes in the capture of wild animals, conducted aerial capture operations through a contract. The helicopter crew used immobilizing darts and net guns to capture mountain goats and transported them in specially-made slings to the staging areas located at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park and the Hamma Hamma area in Olympic National Forest. The animals were examined and treated by veterinarians before volunteers working with WDFW transported them to pre-selected staging areas in the North Cascades. The mountain goats were transported in refrigerated trucks to keep them cool.

Once at the staging areas, WDFW and participating Tribal biologists worked with HiLine Aviation to airlift the crated goats to release areas where volunteers and Forest Service wildlife biologists assisted with the release. Release areas were chosen based on their high quality mountain goat habitat, proximity to the staging areas, and limited disturbance to recreationists. Weather did complicate airlifting goats to preferred locations on 6 days, but crews were able to airlift goats to alternative locations on these days.

“We were very fortunate to have a long stretch of good weather in August which enabled us to safely catch mountain goats throughout the Olympics and make good progress towards reaching our translocation goals,” said Dr. Patti Happe, Wildlife Branch Chief at Olympic National Park “Many thanks to all the volunteers and cooperators, including several biologists and former National Park Service staff who came out of retirement to assist with the project.”

During this round, release sites in the Cascades included Cadet Ridge and Cadet Creek, Milk Lakes on Lime Ridge, Pear Lake, and between Prairie and Whitechuck Mountains on the Darrington Ranger District of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest; between Vesper and Big Four Mountains on Washington Department of Natural Resource Lands; on Hardscrabble Ridge and privately-held land; and near Tower Mountain on the Methow Ranger District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

“An operation such as this is impossible without the support and participation of a large team,” said Dr. Rich Harris, a WDFW wildlife manager who specializes in mountain goats. “All have worked tirelessly to give every goat the best possible chance at a new beginning in native habitat. In future years, we hope to be able to look back with the satisfaction of knowing we helped restore this wonderful species where there are currently so few.”

Area tribes lending support to the translocation plan in the Cascades include the Lummi, Muckleshoot, Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Swinomish, Tulalip, and Upper Skagit tribes. Volunteers from the Point No Point Treaty Council, Quileute Tribe, Quinault Indian Nation, Makah Tribe, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Skokomish Indian Tribe, and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe also assisted at the staging areas in the Olympics

A total of 22 mountain goats were removed from Olympic National Forest in August. Sixteen mountain goats were removed from the Mount Ellinor and Mount Washington area and six from The Brothers Wilderness.

“This operation would not have been possible without the invaluable assistance of volunteers, including the Olympia Mountaineers,” said Susan Piper, Forest Wildlife Biologist with Olympic National Forest.  “We also want to acknowledge that having popular destinations such as Mount Ellinor and Lake of the Angels closed may have been inconvenient to visitors, but it was important to have a safe and successful capture operation in those areas.”

In May 2018, the NPS released the final Mountain Goat Management Plan which outlines the effort to remove the estimated 725 mountain goats on the Olympic Peninsula. Both the plan and the associated environmental impact statement were finalized after an extensive public review process which began in 2014.

For more information about mountain goats in Washington State, see WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/oreamnos-americanus.

For more information and updates on the project, visit nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/mountain-goat-capture-and-translocation.htm.