We are going to get very serious here.
Sometimes good intentions, mixed with a superior attitude, and assumed wisdom are
deadly. The results far from the intended "good intentions."
Here in the Pacific Northwest, a battle has been raging between factions, all of whom
assume they have the perfect solution to the horrendous problems which have caused the near
fatal loss of most Pacific Salmon species.
The results of these on-going battles is the Federal Government
stepping and listing those salmon species as threatened. All the cards
will soon have to be on the table, nothing left to speculation.
All parties involved in this battle for the right to catch which fish when, who has
priority or legal claim to which and when, ALL are to blame. The lack of proper management by
the State of Washington is also to blame. Improper use of hatcheries and random planting of
fish in streams willy-nilly is another culprit which can be laid at the feet of former Fisheries
Managers and Commissioners.
There is no one, including the non-fishers who abuse the watersheds and habitat for
profit or pleasure (some unwittingly) without blame. There are more than enough problems to
go around to every person, home, business, and governmental body in this state and others.
An Initiative, to place banning of nets on the fall ballot in
Washington is now gathering signatures. This Initiative (I-696) was
brought forward by basically the same people who did get a similar
Initiative on the ballot two years ago.
That Initiative failed.
Why? Laws banning near shore netting and off-shore trolling have passed in other
states and have been very successful. Why did the previous Initiative fail?
Perhaps a look at why the Ban the Nets, or Save Our SeaLife Initiatives succeeded in
Florida, California and elsewhere could shed some light on this murky situation.
In all the instances where a net ban was successful the key was - organization. Before
a draft proposal was made public the organizers met with every possible group which had an
interest in the fishery, (and some which may have only been marginal as far as the fishery was
concerned but who did have a vested interest - i.e. tourism?) Each group had an opportunity to
add their opinions. Each became convinced to support the net ban BEFORE the initiative
was ever made public.
With a wide variety of interests involved, once the initiative was drafted and finally on
the ballot, there still was some opposition, but most was predictable and the means to counter
that opposition already in place. Funds were set aside to buy back boats and equipment, and
re-train those displaced from the net fishery.
The very reasons the Ban the Nets initiatives worked in other places is the perfect example
of why the Washington initiative failed. The Washington backers of the previous initiative did
none of the above. They just rode off flailing at windmills.
So here we are the second time around, same group, backing a somewhat different
initiative but still in essence, Ban the Nets, and what did they learn from the first defeat?
I say, WHAT DID THEY LEARN? Nothing.
Not that help wasn't offered, from folks who have been part of the
successful initiatives elsewhere. " No thanks, we know better. You don't
know nothing, we know it all." More flailing at windmills.
Now, some others folks are concerned, they can see problems the Windmill
Flailers are creating. And they decided to get into the act. They write a letter to
every Trout Unlimited member in Washington asking folks not to endorse I-696
as local TU chapters.
Well I guess that is their right - except these five people - all former or current big
wigs in Washington TU put their letter on Trout Unlimited letterhead, mailed to a
Trout Unlimited mailing list (members) which in my opinion is not proper (and
certainly not what I want my dues used for.)
To make matters worse, parts of their letter were either poorly researched or they just
flat lied. This is referring to the section about the Save Our Sealife net ban in Florida and
non-migratory fish, and the economic inpact of the net fishery. Another section explains
according to a study by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, "
recreational fishers catch almost twice as many chinook and more than ten times as many coho
as non-treaty commercial fishers. . . including bycatch." Having spent part of my
life as a researcher, I questioned those figures, and discovered the year 1997 quoted
had a very limited commercial non-treaty season. But this is political
remember, you don't have to tell the truth.
If indeed the recreational fishers did take that large a percentage, hooray! Those are the
exact species that are designated by the state for sport fishing. These are not the species of
salmon the commercials are supposed to be catching in the first place.
On top of that, the TU letter repeats in several places, what I think their
bottom line is, concern for the image (read that influence and dollars) of
the Washington TU Council.
What appears to be a Washington TU letter is not. It is private individuals flying
under a TU letterhead. It is inappropriate, and if Truth in Advertising was in effect
in this case, it would not pass the test. Unfortunately, Truth in
Advertising does not apply in anything political. Go figure.
Which leads me to ask, is this about money? Is this about influence? Is this about who
catches the last Salmon in Washington?
Or is it about the fish?
For the former Fisheries Director, Bernie Shanks it was about the fish. That cost him
his job. Yes, there were other problems, but the end result is he made too many waves and it
cost him his job. If you missed the article here on that,
by Ted Williams you should read it.
Now there is a new Director, who I understand is a bit more politically savvy, and
new members on the Commission. The Federal Government has put most of the Pacific
Salmon species on the threatened or endangered list, which means Washington puts out a plan
to fix the situation - and implements the plan or the Feds take over. I can assure you, the last
thing anyone in Washington state government wants is Federal control of the fisheries,
water, and watersheds.
Now here is the place where TU could, should and has been involved successfully in the
past in other states. Providing input for the plan, and taking the State to court if the
plan is not adequate.
So what are we to do?
The average fisherman, including fly fishers are not politically active. They do not get
involved in state affairs, and the number who bother to ever keep up with most issues is sadly
small. A few get their dander up and show up for hearings on stupid bills and actually do some
good. Most fishermen complain to their fishing buddies, don't buy a license this year since
there aren't any fish anyway, and feel bad because they can't go fishing.
But hey! I-696 looks like an opportunity to do something! Never mind that
there may be other matters in process which will help the plight of the salmon. The
appearance is nothing is being done. The state, the commissioners, the
press, tv included do not attempt to show any good news. What we do hear, see,
and read is the bad stuff. Good news doesn't sell soap.
So the average guy says "Hey, I'll get behind the ban the nets!" Because it is better than
what he seeing being done. (Which if you missed it appears to be nothing.)
It is my belief that this initiative is not enough, (lacking any means of funding
the buy-out or gear, boats, or retraining of current commercial fishers,) nor proper in
many other areas.
Can a net ban work in Washington? Yes. Go back and read the beginning of this
article if you want to see how.
My vote? I will not sign the petition to place I-696 on the ballot, and if it should gain
enough signatures to be on the fall ballot, I will vote against it. ~ LadyFisher
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