Time for a change
If you have been following the debate on north coast wild steelhead fisheries management at all, you have heard the term”Status Quo” thrown about pretty constantly.
From the head phrenologists at the “WDFW fisheries and palmistry lodge”, to the patriarchs of the “fair trade cuban tobacco, farm to table scotch, and helli-fishers association”, “Status Quo” is the buzz word du jour.
And these grand high wizards of steelhead management have a point.
We have been managing steelhead stocks pretty much the same way for about 60 years now, and our failure rate is an almost perfect 100%.
The suggested management “improvements” for my home river this year range from; no sport fishing, to sport fishing but not from boats, to “same as ever”, with variations in between.
None of these options, would in my mind, deviate in any way from our management status quo.
To be clear. They will have exactly zero impact on the success of steelhead in the Quillayute system.
WDFW said again last week, in writing that 5900 hundred spawning native winter steelhead is plenty for the Quillayute system. And they have no intention of raising that goal.
That’s a problem. In fact that is THE problem.
Here is one weird trick that could save native steelhead.
Here it is. Ready?
Step 1. (Optional) Sit back, smoke a joint, or open a beer, or have a cup of chamomile tea, or whatever..
Step 2. (Essential) Relax, and let a whole bunch more fish swim upstream and spawn.
If we want to have a healthy river system, we need to let a whole bunch more salmon spawn and die in it. That is the one thing we could do that might improve the habitat enough to reverse the trend of loss of salmon, steelhead, and the 137 species that rely on healthy rivers here.
But to allow more fish to spawn, legally, we would need to scrap our entire management plan, rework fisheries agreements with California, Oregon, Canada and Alaska. And negotiate with the North west tribal fisheries council.
It’s a HUGE, maybe impossible job, so we better get started right away.
It’s very possible that salmon and steelhead could follow the path of white tail deer, striped bass, and redfish. From the brink of collapse to flourishing.
But they will need the same kind of help these other species had.
Step one. M.S.Y. management goes on the scrap heap.
If you belong to a fisheries conservation group, or subscribe to a fishing or conservation magazine, or go to fishing or conservation internet forums, start a conversation there about ending M.S.Y. management for salmon.
People will tell you it can’t be done. Tell them I said “bullshit”.
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