Plantings near streams a way to improve fish habitat

  • Saturday, April 3, 2021 1:30am
  • Opinion

Treaty tribes and our state salmon co-managers are looking ahead to another grim year of fishing because of poor ocean conditions that reduce marine survival, and the ongoing loss of freshwater habitat.

Higher marine water temperatures, changing currents and a disrupted ocean food chain are the main causes of reduced ocean survival. The salmon that do return are often smaller than normal, and females carry fewer eggs.

Queets River coho is one of the weak stocks driving fisheries constraints during this year’s North of Falcon process that sets salmon fishing seasons. While overall coho returns are expected to be better this year, the stock continues to decline despite a rebuilding effort that began in 2017.

Coho from Strait of Juan de Fuca tributaries and the Snohomish River are also failing to recover under rebuilding plans.

Tighter conservation closures will likely be necessary to ensure escapement goals are reached to produce the next generation of fish.

Stillaguamish River chinook returns are expected to be low again this year. Skagit River summer and fall chinook are also concerning. The summer run is expected to return in low numbers that will constrain fisheries and require close monitoring to avoid a closure. This is especially worrisome because Skagit River summer and fall chinook are the most abundant and healthiest natural chinook stock in Puget Sound.

Chum salmon, traditionally one of the most plentiful salmon species, are expected to be dramatically lower this year. We’re particularly concerned about stocks from southern Puget Sound streams.

Tribal and state co-managers face increasingly difficult decisions because we must also factor in increasing seal and sea lion predation and the needs of southern resident orcas on top of the ongoing decline of salmon.

Salmon were abundant in Western Washington for millions of years. Their sheer numbers, naturally high productivity and plenty of good habitat made them resilient from the effects of disease, drought and a host of other environmental factors.

We must rebuild that resilience if we are going to recover salmon, and we need properly functioning habitat to do that.

One way is to focus on what we can do to improve freshwater habitat. A new joint tribal/state riparian habitat initiative is taking that task on through a uniform, science-based management approach to restore and protect streamside vegetation. Trees, shrubs and other plants along streams help lower water temperatures, filter pollutants and reduce sediments that can smother salmon eggs.

The tribal and state salmon co-managers alone can’t recover salmon. We need help from federal agencies, local governments, environmental groups, agriculture and others. We also must continue to build resiliency in the co-manager relationship created by the 1974 ruling in U.S. v. Washington that upheld tribal treaty-reserved rights and established the tribes as salmon co-managers with the state.

As salmon continue to decline, every decision carries greater potential impacts to fishermen and the resource. As a result, our co-management relationship is increasingly tested every year. Still, we remain committed to cooperative co-management because our history shows we are better together.

Lorraine Loomis is chairwoman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

More in Opinion

Debunking the accuracy of the word ‘debunked’

Did I ever tell you about my late Uncle Vernon and the… Continue reading

Defending the Karens of the social media world

As parents of three teenage daughters, my wife and I expend a… Continue reading

Baseball strikes out on politics

You can’t escape politics anywhere now - not even in America’s once… Continue reading

Voters say yes to Biden’s infrastructure plan

Here’s a quiz for the Republican politicians among you. Check as many… Continue reading

Beware of a federal bailout of states

A year after the first COVID-19 shutdown, President Biden signed the American… Continue reading

Teachers betray local students, favor immigrants

Under the guise of the “This is not who we are. America… Continue reading

Georgia voting law is no return to Jim Crow

I am so glad the whole white supremacy and gun nut narrative… Continue reading

May I sing the Housing Subdivision Blues?

My wife and I would never have met, except that her family… Continue reading

This time Infrastructure Week is for real

What welcome words these were, from a newly elected president: “We’re going… Continue reading

Most Read