Thursday, November 26, 2009
Hoopa Chairman Fires Back, Klamath Salmon are "...reserved for the Indians of the reservations a federally protected right to the fishery resource..."
The Hoopa Valley Tribe Spends Millions Every year to Restore the Tribal Salmon Fishery along 12 miles on the Lower Trinity River, from 19th Century Mining and Over Harvesting by Non-Indians
Masten, Mais: Tribes are true stewards of the salmon
Redding. Com Editorial
The Hoopa and Yurok tribes have fished sustainably on the Klamath and Trinity rivers for thousands of years.
Our great-grandparents remember when nearly a million salmon returned to the basin every year to spawn. They watched nearly all of the basin's timber fall, causing mountainsides to slide into the rivers and creeks, burying salmon habitat. They witnessed gold miners disfigure mountains and pour immeasurable masses of silt and mercury in the waterways. They saw dams go up, blocking and degrading hundreds of miles of fish habitat. They watched canneries take almost every harvestable salmon from the river in the early 1900s.
Because of the tribes' reaffirmed right to fish, they are now co-managers of contemporary, world-class fisheries restoration programs designed to return the basin to the prime salmon and steelhead river system it is meant to be. Our efforts greatly benefit tribal and non-tribal fishing communities, as well as the recreational boating and guide services on the Klamath and Trinity rivers. Because of the tribes' hard work, the Klamath and Trinity rivers have a fighting chance to one day see restored fisheries. In addition to restoration work, the Yurok and Hoopa tribes' salmon fisheries are monitored by each tribe's respective fisheries departments. Our expertise is applied not only to monitoring of harvest but extended basin-wide to habitat, hatchery and natural spawner assessments as well.
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about tribal fishing. The most common false belief is that we catch all the fish. That is simply not true.
Many ill-informed ideas are apparent in the Nov. 8 edition of the Record Searchlight's article about tribal gill-netting. The most notable example came from blogger Mike Aughney, who misused fisheries data to bolster his untrue contention that "because of gill nets, we are seeing almost no return." He later retracted his misstatement on his blog because a Department of Fish and Game official explained that the data Aughney cited was only a small portion of what is used to make the overall fish count.
In reality, more fish are making it to their spawning grounds and the hatchery than in years past. Up-to-date salmon spawning redds are at their highest counts since 2003. More than 2,500 redds have already been counted in the upper Trinity, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife announcement issued Nov. 9.
The Hoopa and Yurok are federally recognized tribes with federally protected fishing rights. We manage our fisheries and enforce our own laws aimed to ensure fish for generations to come. The Hoopa Valley Reservation stretches the lower 12 miles of the Trinity River. The Trinity is the Klamath's largest tributary and produces many of the Klamath's salmon stocks. The Yurok Reservation is located on the first 44 miles of the Klamath River, where all anadromous fish must pass through as they go out and return from the ocean.
The right of both tribes to fish and regulate their own fishing activities was preserved when the original reservations were set aside by in the mid to late 1800s. That right was later reaffirmed by Congress in the Hoopa/Yurok Settlement Act of 1988and again in 1993 when the solicitor for the Department of the Interior stated in his opinion regarding the fishing rights of the Hoopa Valley and Yurok tribes: "It reserved for the Indians of the reservations a federally protected right to the fishery resource sufficient to support a moderate standard of living or 50 percent of the harvestable surplus of Klamath-Trinity basin fish."
The decline in salmon populations directly coincides with the occupation and subsequent mismanagement of natural resources by the federal government. This is not a new sentiment. The federal government has begun to recognize its mismanagement, and efforts are under way to remove four dams on the upper Klamath River and bring needed resources to bear upon Congress' mandate for restoring the Trinity River and its fishery.
Today, Klamath salmon provide a livelihood for many Hoopa and Yurok tribal members, and our tribal governments make it a priority to meet the needs of our membership. We have always and will always work and make sacrifices to ensure salmon and our people remain part of the Klamath Basin.
Leonard Masten Jr. is the Hoopa Valley Tribe chairman. Matt Mais is the Yurok Tribe's public relations manager.