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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Pacific NW

Salmon harvest draws scrutiny from state

Associated Press

SEATTLE – Under pressure from sport fishermen, Gov. Christine Gregoire is asking state officials to look into the Makah Tribe’s winter chinook harvest, which was nearly 12 times greater than had been anticipated for the season.

Some anglers fear the tribal harvest of more than 19,000 salmon – 1,800 had been expected – might reduce the recreational summer fishery, and are asking why the state Fish and Wildlife Department failed to stop the harvest.

The tribe has defended its catch, saying it should not have any impact on protected stocks or on non-Indian fishing seasons.

The Makah closed the fishery earlier this month, well ahead of the scheduled April 15 closing date, tribal fisheries manager Russell Svec said, noting that fisheries managed under the guidelines are traditionally allowed to continue despite high catch rates.

When word of the much larger catch reached state biologists, they informed members of the Fish and Wildlife Department’s salmon advisory panel. Sport fishermen reacted angrily to the information, some calling for a boycott of businesses at Neah Bay on the Makah reservation.

In past years, Svec said, the tribe’s winter troll fishery took as many as 50,000 chinook. The catch has been voluntarily cut back since the 1990s to protect weak stocks.

When early numbers were high this winter, Svec said “we felt it was safe to assume populations of these stocks were probably greater than anticipated.”

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