Looking Ahead Or Not - By Bob Hooton

OldBlackDog

Well-Known Member
 

OldBlackDog

Well-Known Member
Hello Rich,

Well, after looking through the Steelhead Provisio Draft and attempting to view it from 10,000 ft, there are a few features that leave me thinking the only difference between WA and BC is scale. The basic issues are identical – preoccupation with collecting data while precious little of substance is being done in terms of protecting the fish. I call it the science trap. Everyone agrees that more and better science is desirable (mandatory?) but, by the time any conclusive data to guide better management decisions is in hand, circumstances are virtually guaranteed to have changed such that the latest science is no longer conclusive enough (if it ever was) to withstand the pressures brought to bear by the business community. And what happens in the meantime? All too often the key players in the management agencies have moved on to other assignments or retired before the results of the data collection systems they set in motion bear fruit. (When I look at the names on the current roster of our federal fisheries management agency, I hardly ever recognize a single one.)

I think you’ve heard me say previously, the only future for wild steelhead is to bring supply and demand into balance. Supply we have very little control over (e.g smolt output, ocean survival and even Indian fisheries that are first in line). Recreational fishing demand is the only thing we can control if there is ever any agreement by the divergent factions as to the efficacy of doing that. I’ve struggled for years to understand why management agencies don’t see the parallels between highly sought after wildlife species like elk and steelhead. Both are facing excess of demand over supply but I think we all understand an open access polity for elk would be disastrous. Only so many hunters are set free on a unit of landscape and time to harvest specific numbers of animals and the population of those animals is generally well understood long in advance of a hunting season. In contrast, there are essentially no prior limits on how many anglers can show up where and when to apply the latest high power catching techniques on steelhead populations that just keep on diminishing.

As foreign as it may seem, it strikes me that if there is money around to search out “better methods of gathering additional information and strategically manage fisheries to balance the availably of angling opportunities with conservation objectives” (lines 1569-1573) that money would be far better spent implementing something parallel to the limited entry hunting scenario on at least one stream of significance and thoroughly evaluating outcomes. It would obviously take some work to develop such an approach but it isn’t rocket science and I think it could be sold as a potential model for broader application. I also think it would make a lot of sense to establish one representative wild only stream and one mixed stock hatchery/wild stream, close them to all fishing and put all the researchers and monitors to work on those instead of spreading them thin on a much larger number of streams where definitive results are infinitely less likely and open to interpretations of convenience by whomever doesn’t like them. Living laboratories could produce the sorts of results that even competing interests would have a hard time denying.

WA and BC are clearly similar in terms of guides and the economy that has built up around them being a political club that is the antithesis of conservation. I’m not familiar with restrictions, if any, placed on the number of guides or what they pay for what appears to be unlimited access to a public resource in WA but I fall back on the wildlife example again. It is unconscionable that hunting guides would be managed the way angling guides appear to be. Isn’t it time to address that? Who owns the fish and the privilege of catching them? Is there some inherent right none of us have heard of that predetermines guides should enjoy freedom of entry and no control on how many or what proportion of a given population of steelhead they can catch? Does anyone recognize the collective ability of the angling community to apply ever more sophisticated angling techniques to catch a steadily increasing proportion of a fixed or diminishing supply of steelhead? (The illusion of abundance!)

The hatchery/wild debate is endless. More study is not going to change that. Republicans vs Democrats, Catholics vs Protestants, Palestinians vs Israelis, take your choice for an analogy. There’s enough definitive science out there already to demand a major course correction. How are we doing? My personal view is pick your river(s) and open the hatchery floodgates but leave all others inviolate. It’s taken how many years to begin to understand consequences of mixed stocks? It will take that many again to reverse what we’ve created, even if there is broadly accepted information to illustrate the need. Business is certain to “trump” conservation unless there is a defined separation of rivers that facilitate the hungry hoardes descending on them in trade for forgone opportunities elsewhere.

This probably doesn’t help you much Rich. I don’t know what might given what I’ve read here. Bigger budgets and more sophisticated information gathering techniques and processes are not the answer. There has to be a fundamental shift in thinking on the part of competing interests and guidance by those in command. It isn’t impossible but positions are seemingly as unalterable as genetics. Stated simply, you can pay me now or pay me later. Can anyone provide evidence to the contrary?
 
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