Saturday, November 14, 2009

Are Sport Fishermen Unfairly Targeting Tribal Culture For the Demise of Klamath Salmon?

Are Hoopa Gill Nets Decimating the Salmon in the Trinity River? from

Leonard "Spam" Ferris has stretched a gill nets into the water of the Trinity river near his home for about 50 years. After starting as his grandpas helper when he was 7 years old, Ferris now 57, says he catches as many as 700 salmon in a year with his gill nets. So far this year he's caught 400 and expects to keep filling his smoke house. "Its a late run so their still coming", he said.

While Ferris who is a member of the Hoopa Tribe, say he hasn't seen more gill nets this year along the river through the reservation than a typical year, up-stream salmon fishing guides charge that tribal gill nets are decimating the fish's fall run. "We just aren't seeing the fish we should be seeing" says Weaverville fishing guide Ron Hubber, 43.

While the two tribes on the lower stretches of the river the Yurok and Hoopa Valley Tribes report they've hauled in over 28,000 fish, close to this years allotment, Huber and other salmon fishermen are saying that very few fish make it past the tribal waters and into areas where they can catch them. The angry anglers are airing their concerns on the internet

Mike Augheny,48, of Petaluma who started in 1995, has launched a campaign against gill netting on the Trinity, warning tribal nets, particularly those on the Hoopa Reservation are wiping out the Trinity run. "Because of the tribal gillnetting we are seeing almost no return", Augheny who says he's fished the north state for 40 years.

Allie Hostler the Hoopa Valley Tribal Spokeswoman said her tribe aims to protect the fish on the Trinity and American Indian gill netters are unfairly targeted. "I feel like this is a witch hunt to blame (the Hoopa Valley Tribe) for something", she said (a misquote- SFW).

Tightening Tension

To fuel his online argument, Augheny points to low numbers reported by state scientists, at a weir, a submerged fence used to collect migrating salmon, near Willow Creek. The data shows (with disputable scientific methods with error margins-swf) 9 salmon the week of October 2nd, and 19 salmon the week of October 29th. The guides and anglers say the counts should be in the hundreds. But Wade Sinnen the associate fisheries biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game in Arcata in charge of the project, said the numbers don't mean that there's a problem with the fish population.

"its not a crash situation", "there's been a misinterpretation of the data Sinnen said. While there are weirs that channel fish to pass by video cameras, or others tools to create a count, the Willow Creek weir corrals salmon into a trap where they are marked by scientists, Sinnen said. The marked fish that then show up at the Trinity River Hatchery in Lewiston is used as a part of the formula to create a population estimate.

Data collected on the runs since 1977 shows that the runs can vary widely, he said. The hatchery returns range from a low of 1,551 in 1993, to 30,386 in 2003, Sinnen said. The natural return vary from 5,249 in 1991 to 113,007 in 1986. He said it is too early to tell what this years run total will be, but all indications so far are that it won't be a large one. "The bottom line is the Trinity River is going to have an OK run", Sinnen said, "but not a real robust one."

Augheny said he thinks that tribal members are using more gill nets as a result of the ongoing bad on commercial salmon fishing on the California coast. As the commercial salmon supply drops commercial salmon prices have shot up. He said 20,000 lbs of fish is worth about 2000 fish $60,000, from the Trinity caught by members of the Hoopa Valley Tribe ended up for sale in the San Francisco fish market and he wondered if it were legal. (an uninformed position on native rights-SWF)

Dan Torquemada assistant special agent in charge at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries office for law enforcement in Santa Rosa said he received an anonymous tip about the salmon, but no laws were broken by tribal members. He said the tribe is allowed to sell some of the fish caught along the Trinity River. "Currently we have no evidence that the tribal members are using the nets in an illegal manner", he said, "they are operating under the Hoopa Tribal authorities."

The Hoopa and Yurok Tribes work with the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, a federal entity managing commercial fishing on the west coast, to set salmon catch allotments for the rivers and the ocean, said Chuck Tracy salmon staff officer for the council. This years allotment is 30,900 fish for the non-American Indian anglers, and the American Indian fisheries in the Klamath and Trinity Rivers.

Huber said anglers will be lucky to catch 4,500 salmon on the rivers, about 15% of their allotment, because of a diminished run. (opinion, not scientific fact, perhaps non-Indian sport fishermen should try working harder for their catch!-SWF) Gill Netting has long been controversial in Northern California especially along the Lower Klamath, said Tracy. (the PFMC-SWF) "Its a pretty consistent fishery, its pretty intense", he said.

Tribal Tradition

The state outlaws gill nets, but they are allowed on waters running thru the Hoopa Valley and Yurok Reservations that are governed by separate tribes (why does it seem like non-Indian have to learn the same things every ten years or so?-SWF). Flanking 44 miles from the mouth of the Klamath at the Pacific Ocean to the rivers confluence with the Trinity River, the Yurok reservation is centered on the river. Just upstream from the Yurok Reservation, (actually their boundaries abut one-another-SWF)the Hoopa Valley Reservation is a 12 by 12 miles square, 144 miles square it is similarly river driven. (actually the largest Indian Reservation in the state of Ca-SWF)

Gill nets allow the fish to swim partway thru their mesh. Cinching around the fishes body the nets trigger the salmons instinct to swim backwards (actually they turn-SWF) when they encounter an obstacle, when they do they become ensnared by the net in their gills. (this is a poor description by a non-Indian reporter of the mechanics involved with gill netting salmon-SWF) The technique is a traditional one used by American Indian along the river, said Hostler, the spokeswoman for the tribe. "We used to make them out of iris twine", she said. (and some people still do today like Matt Root (Wintu/ Karuk)-SWF)

Today the nets are made of thick braided fishing line held afloat with plastic foam (can plastic be foam too?-SWF) Hostler said nets on the reservation are usually 50 to 100 feet in width (actually that is a length dimension, the author is not familiar with native traditions-SWF) and tribal laws prohibit them from covering (another inaccurate one dimensional idea-SWF) more than one third of the river.

Traditional dictates placement of the nets, said Ferris, who's uncle jokingly said he felt like a can of Spam when he was a newborn baby, a nickname that stuck. "Everyone knows your spot and protects your spot," Ferris said. He said today he takes his grandchildren fishing and the fish they catch goes to his large family and elders in the tribe. Hostler said Tribal Fisheries Officials and (Tribal Safety-SWF) Law Enforcement Officers also patrol the rivers making sure members using gill nets are following tribal laws.

Tribal leaders meet each year to set a division of the allotment, This is split 80% to the Yurok and 20% to the Hoopa (while sport fishermen still get their 30,900 salmon total while Hoopa and Yuroks are forced to share-SWF) reflecting the larger size of the Yurok Tribe, Hostler said. The Yurok have 5,500 members the Hoopa have 2,500 members. This year the Hoopa members caught about 4000 fish of their 6,128 allotment, said Mike Orcutt who lead the Hoopa Valley Tribes Fisheries Department. (Way to go Orcutt!-SWF) The Yurok have caught 24,000 salmon only 720 short of this years allotment, said Troy Fletcher, political analyst for the tribe. (way to go Fletcher!-SWF) We're pretty close to the end of the season. Up River on the Hoopa Valley Tribe Reservation (the author is having trouble with the Tribes names obviously fumbling his way thru this article repeatedly using the wrong titles-SWF) the run continues.

Orcutt said on a busy day there are as many as 50 gill nets in the water on the reservation, but he said there hasn't been an increase in the number of nets this year. He said there has been questions on internet sites questioning whether the tribe is exceeding its allotment this year. "Our answer is we are in out harvest objectives, we haven't gone over our harvest objectives", Orcutt said.

Racial Divide (better be able to back up your inciting this issue

The issue boils down to a racial divide says Fletcher, the Yurok Official (rude to omit this mans official title-SWF). There's always been tension over the tribal fishery. Fletcher said the Yurok Tribe has the most monitoring and enforcement on the river, but non-Indians don't trust the Indians because there is no state or federal oversight. (but there is, state and federal oversight-SWF) However, he insists that the tribe is focused on protecting the salmon and improving its stocks on the Klamath, of which the Trinity is a tributary. (the largest tributary to the Klamath is in fact the Trinity River-SWF)

"That is our river", Fletcher said, "those are our fish, and we manage those fish in a responsible way. Augheny said he plans to continue his online criticism and his concerns are not motivated by race, but by the type of fishing he sees crippling the salmon run.

"I am not an Indian hater", he said "I hate gill nets."

No comments: