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March 16th, 1998
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From Disgust to Action

by Terry Sonnabend

The following contribution came to us from the March issue of The Catch & Release, the newsletter of the Northwest Steelhead & Salmon Council of Trout Unlimited, Bremerton Washington. While the local and species of fish may be different than yours, the problems are international. We hope you enjoy Terry's article as much as we did. Our thanks for use permission.

I joined the Bremerton chapter of Trout Unlimited in the fall of 1985 only because of the nets strung across Sinclair Inlet. You know, those disgusting Indian contraptions designed to capture and kill all life form attempting to cross it's line. I wanted to join forces with some organization and fight to save our salmon from being wiped out by the tribal fisheries. Two years later, November 1987 to be exact, a salmon rearing pond was being constructed on the east bank of Clear Creek on the Sonnabend property.

In January 1988 the first batch of Chinook salmon were delivered to that pond by the Suquamish tribal fisheries. Yes, those net pulling Indians were putting 50,000 Chinook in my pond. Now I have the eleventh batch of 50,000 Chinook; not that big an impact on the fish population, but every little bit helps.

In addition to the rearing of Chinook, releases of Coho and Chum have been made directly into the creek over the same period of time. A small wild run of Coho still exists on the stream; along with the trout and an occasional steelhead.

While all of this was going on the club was working on habitat restoration projects, trout rearing and trying to inform the stupid public on matters of fish, clean waters, habitat and other fishy stuff.

During that fifteen years the salmon populations continued to decline, streams have been polluted, stream canopy has been lost, siltation from development and logging has increased at an explosive rate.

Now the Federal Government has given this state one year to develop and submit a plan as how they are going to save the threatened Chinook run of Puget Sound. Maybe the governor can call upon the three wise men, Blum, Schmidt and Turner, to fix things up. I don't see how any one director or a team can devise any plan other than complete closure to undo the mess those three created.

Billy Frank Jr. put his two cents in again during the February 26 meeting by pounding out his old song on the tom-tom, "Habitat, habitat, habitat." Billy, I can name you many rivers and creeks with little or no siltation or loss of habitat and they don't have any fish in them either. Just look at the streams that flow out of the Olympic National Park with no logging or development in their water sheds.

I do see many causes for the loss of salmon populations; loss of habitat in stream, loss of canopy, siltation, pollutions, dams, loss of flow due to irrigation, warm water returning into streams, but most of all over-fishing. One problem this state can do nothing about is piracy on the high seas. But the problems in the home waters are so great that it will take years, and a lot of work, restrictions, along with some failures to get the salmon runs even started to return to their numbers of even fifteen years ago and that is a long way from what they should be.

In the meantime I will continue to rear and release salmon smolts if the tribe is allowed to take and spawn salmon; if not maybe I will raise trout. But I will always define closure to mean, "closed to all; sport, Indian and commerical." Terry Sonnabend



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