the film
Commentaries and editorials

Carlson Unveils his Salmon Plan

by Dan Hansen
Spokesman Review, September 7, 2000

GOP candidate for governor would shut down all commercial fishing to avoid breaching dams

Brian Plonka photo (Spokesman Review) - Gubernatorial Candidate John Carlson talks about his salmon recovery plan Wednesday in Spokane Spokane -- The leading Republican candidate for governor proposes shutting down Washington tribal and nontribal commercial fishing as a keystone to his plan to save salmon without breaching dams.

"What other endangered species can be legally trapped in large numbers while traveling to lay its eggs?" John Carlson asked.

However, salmon regulators note that Native American fishing is protected by treaties and federal court decisions. And biologists have concluded that ending all fishing would not save wild salmon.

"That's a very simplistic solution that simply isn't going to work and doesn't even recognize the problems with salmon in the state of Washington," Gov. Gary Locke said.

Carlson unveiled his salmon plan Wednesday, in a downtown Spokane parking lot that overlooks the falls where generations of Indians gathered to spear and trap salmon. No salmon have spawned in the Spokane River for decades. And many runs throughout the Northwest -- including nine on the Columbia and Snake Rivers -- are listed as threatened or endangered by the federal government.

Biologists say salmon have been harmed by a number of factors, including dams, over-fishing, pollution and abusive land-use practices. There's growing evidence that poor ocean conditions also contributed to the decline, as well as competition from hatchery fish.

The number of nontribal commercial fishing boats in Washington has declined from about 7,000 in 1970 to 1,600. Most seasons, like the one Puget Sound gillnetters enjoyed this week in Sammish Bay, target hatchery fish, which Carlson said should be treated as equals to those reared in the wild.

Washington voters last year rejected a proposal to ban commercial fishing by nontribal fishermen. Carlson said he believes Initiative 696 would have passed if tribal fishermen would have been included in the ban.

Federal court decisions have upheld treaty fishing rights and mandate that the states of Washington and Oregon consult with the tribes when setting seasons and catch limits.

Carlson said the courts would allow a ban on tribal fishing as a last resort to save a fish species. But Charles Hudson, spokesman for the Columbia Intertribal Fish Commission, said he doubted the state could convince a judge to go along with a net ban when federal studies show that dams kill more endangered fish.

"The amount of gillnet harvest is a minute fraction of the total man-induced mortality," Hudson said.

Tribal members will be allowed to catch 70,200 chinook salmon in a season that started Aug. 30 and may end Saturday. They can also catch 11,090 steelhead.

Federal biologists estimate that the tribal catch will include up to 406 chinook and 1,764 steelhead from endangered runs. The others are either hatchery reared or come from wild runs that are not in danger of extinction.

Carlson said the state should reimburse commercial fishermen for their losses, and restore fishing seasons if salmon make a comeback. He predicted Washington will someday be a salmon fishing mecca.

Like Carlson, Locke opposes breaching the four Snake River dams in Washington. But Carlson criticized him Wednesday for not coming out strongly against the issue immediately after it was proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Carlson accused Locke of having no salmon plan, a charge Locke disputed.

The governor noted that his administration negotiated a federally blessed agreement with timber companies to restrict logging along spawning streams. In addition, Locke and the governors of Oregon, Idaho and Montana this summer released a plan that called for hatchery reforms, the creation of salmon sanctuaries and financial incentives for landowners to improve salmon habitat.

Carlson also criticized Locke and the federal government for not yet establishing goals for salmon recovery.

"How could we ever claim success without recognized goals that tell us the salmon are no longer endangered?" he asked.

However, the National Marine Fisheries Service in July released a draft salmon recovery plan that would set goals for the number of adult salmon returning to spawn to specific streams.

Finally, Carlson complained that tribal fishing seasons are established behind closed doors, with the nonfishing public excluded. That's not the case, said Steve King, salmon fishery manager for the state of Oregon.

"All season setting is done in open public hearings," said King, adding that the next such hearing is Friday in Portland, when the tribal season may be extended. "We often have reporters and the interested public (attend). Heck, even politicians."

Dan Hansen
Carlson Unveils his Salmon Plan
Spokesman Review, September 7, 2000

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation