The Twin Harbors Fish & Wildlife Advocacy

The Advocacy is a duly formed nonprofit corporation registered with the Office of the Secretary of State for the state of Washington.  The purpose of the Advocacy is to "Provide education, science, and other efforts that encourage the public, regulatory agencies, and private businesses to manage or utilize fish, wildlife, and other natural resources in a manner that insures the sustainability of those resources on into the future for the benefit of future generations."

Formed in 2014, the Advocacy evolved through a settlement of a legal challenge by the Advocacy's members to the commercial gillnet seasons adopted in 2013 by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife for Grays Harbor and Willapa bay, two estuaries on the coast of Washington state. The following documentation is available for viewing or downloading:

Sec. of State filings

Articles of Incorporation

Organizational Bylaws

IRS 501 (c) (3) Approval

 




Nasalle

 

 

The Nasalle River (above) that flows into Willapa Bay is an example of the quality fish streams and wildlife habitat commonly found in the coastal region of southwest Washington.  Two large bays, Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay share features in common with each other, especially when it comes to the scores of rivers and streams that flow into them.

Both are home to recreational and commercial fishing for salmon, sturgeon, steelhead, crabs, clams, oysters, and other natural resources.  While the majority of the harvest is taken in the bays or the lower stretches of the river, the fish and wildlife are found in the rivers and streams over a hundred miles inland.  

In addition, the rivers that flow through the forest lands into the estuaries and estuaries provide habitat for all types of birds, deer, elk, bear, and other types of wildlife.  The combination of the salt water bays, rivers and forests creates a region prized as a natural resource haven for a diversity of public use including bird watching, fishing, hunting, hiking, and camping.

In Grays Harbor, the Chehalis River (right) begins its 115 mile westward journey to the salt up in foothills in Lewis County near Pe El.  Along the way, the Newakum, Skookumchuck, Cloquallum, Satsop, Wynoochee flow in and all join together in the harbor with the Humptulips, Hoquiam, and Wishkah rivers flowing down from the Olympic mountains on the north side.  Johns River comes in from the south.

While sorter in distance than some found in nearby Grays Harbor, the Nasalle, Willapa, North, Nemah, and others are similar type streams with fish and wildlife including the prized Chinook and Coho salmon, sturgeon, and steelhead or other trout species.

The Twin Harbors Fish & Wildlife Advocacy recognizes the ecological value of these bays, streams and forests to not only those who live, fish, hunt or visit the region today, but also to those generations that will come behind.   We are committed to the concept that it is every citizen's responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner that insures the future generations can likewise enjoy these resources.   The Advocacy further believes it is every person's responsibility to "practice citizenship" and insure that governmental agencies perform their duties and fulfill their responsibilities to serve the interests of all the current and future citizens regardless of where, how, or even if, they fish and hunt.  The Advocacy was formed specifically, not just to encourage the public to practice citizenship, but assist and support those that rise to that challenge.

 



wynoochee-falls

 

The falls near the headwaters of the Wynoochee in the Olympic Mountains is a popular summer time camping and recreational destination.  The water coming over the falls flows south to enter the Chehalis River near Montesano on it way to its final destination, Grays Harbor and the Pacific Ocean.

Twin Harbors

 

The region on Washington's coast where Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay are located is commonly referred to as "Twin Harbors".  The areas are known for fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, razor clam digging and other recreational activities.  Commercial activities include logging, sawmills, pulp production, import/export, fishing, crabbing, and shell fish production.  While the Advocacy members have "roots" in the Twin Harbors region, the organization does not limit its efforts to any one particular region of the state.

morrison-park-8-2

 

With a length of 115 miles, the Chehalis River is the state's second longest stream.  The "Chehalis Basin" begins in Lewis County and flows north and east for 115 miles, collecting tributary streams including the Skookumchuck, Black, Satsop, Wynoochee, and Wishkah that drain the Willapa Hills, Black Hills, and the southern slopes of the Olympic mountains before it enters Grays Harbor at the 101 bridge in Aberdeen.  The Basin is well known for its fishing, wildlife, and natural resources. The estuary just beyond the mouth is internationally renowned and a favorite of "birders" that travel to the Harbor during the migratory season to observe and photograph birds as they travel south for the winter.  The nearby Hoquiam, Johns, and Humptulips rivers all flow directly into Grays Harbor.



Advocacy joins with Washington Citizens Sportsmen group to file a petition to the WDFW Commission to adopt North Of Falcon Policy into a rule

The Advocacy was founded in litigation in 2013 trying to get the Department of Fish & Wildlife to comply with state transparency that forbid meetings behind closed doors when adopting fishing seasons during the process called North of Falcon (NOF)  The Washington Citizens Sportsmen group camed together via a petition drive objecting to the closed door meetings held between the Department and Tribal co-managers.  Thousands of citizens across the state signed onto the petitions.

The recent announcement that the Department had committed the state to an agreement with Tribal co-managers on a ten year Chinook recovery plan in Puget Sound that will likely decimate recreational seasons in Puget Sound shocked not only the public, but members of the Fish & Wildlife Commission as well.  The description used was the Department "blindsided" not only the public but the Commission members as well.

In response, the two groups came together on December 21, 2017 and filed a petition requesting the Commission provide stricter instructions to the Dept. by converting the NOF Policy from an advisory policy to a rule.  By state law, the Commission has 60 days to either move forward or provide written reasons for not doing so.  Read the petition HERE.

 ADVOCACY FILES LEGAL CHALLENGE TO WILLAPA "CHUM CHUCK" 

On October 18, 2017, the Advocacy filed a legal challenge to an emergency rule adopted by WDFW that amended the commercial season underway in Willapa Bay.  The action taken by the Department was to repeal the requirement that Chum encountered and brought aboard the boat could be "chucked" overboard without first being revived in the recovery boxes required to be operating on the boats when fishing.  A copy of the petition to the court and additional information is available on the Legal Issues page.

NOF TRANSPARENCY UPDATE #3- (KING TV)

In response to the transparency initiative launch by the Advocacy, KING TV traveled to Montesano and ran a featured story using interviews from local merchants and the members of the Advocacy.  The feature was focused on the problems with the secret meetings being held behind closed doors wherein state and tribal co-managers where the two set recreational and commercial fishing seasons in the state.  The feature is available for viewing on the KING website HERE.  The story also pointed out how one citizen responded to the transparency issue by launching a web petition that has now gathered over 1500 signatures electronically and in written form.  The petition is available HERE.

In response to the feature, a group of non-tribal commercial gillnetters from Puget Sound contacted the television station and a second story came out.  The gillnetters interviewed stated opposition to opening the meetings fearing the tribes would cut off all non-tribal fishing in Puget Sound.  The follow-up feature is available HERE.


NOF TRANSPARENCY UPDATE #2-

WDFW Director Jim Unsworth has responded to the Advocacy's letter to the Department and Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC) requesting the two comanagers open the secret meetings used in the North of Falcon (NOF) process to set tribal and non-tribal fishing seasons (see below).  The Director states that the meetings are closed by the tribes due to "mischaracterization" of the tribal positions by observers allowed to sit in on meeting in the past.  He goes on to state "Unfortunately, this means the general public has not direct access to the negotiations without an invitation from the tribes."

The Advocacy has issued a response to the Director.  The response outlines how the Advocacy will never accept the notion that citizens can only participate in governmental processes by invitation from the tribal comanagers and only then, if the citizens agree to give up their constitutional rights to free speech.  In doing  so, the Advocacy explains the case law and application of the Open Public Meeting Act (OPMA) and asks the Commission take actions to insure the Department ceases operating outside the state's transparency laws.  The Advocacy response is available here.  The Director's letter is available here.

NOF TRANSPARENCY UPDATE #1-

A "blue sheet" is the term for a written directive to the Department of Fish & Wildlife from the Commission on a subject matter to be placed on the agenda of a future meeting.  In response to the Advocacy's letter to tribal and state co-managers requesting they cease the practice of using meetings closed to public (see below), on December 10, 2016 the WDFW Commission passed a blue sheet calling for a future presentation to the full Commission on the rights of citizens and the application of open meeting and other transparency laws of the state of WA during the North of Falcon process used to set fishing seasons.  Introduced by Commissioner Wecker and seconded by Commissioner Kehoe, the sheet passed unanimously.  The document is available for viewing here.    

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

RECENT ACTIONS-   

Advocacy requests WDFW and Tribal co-managers open NOF season setting meetings to the public

In a letter jointly addressed to the Director of WDFW and the Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, the Advocacy has requested the season setting meetings between the two co-managers be opened to the public.  Currently, the two co-managers meet behind closed doors, typically in tribal offices on reservations, and decide the seasons for non-tribal and tribal fisheries.

The letter addresses in detail that while the tribes may be sovereign governments, the Opening Meeting Act and the Administrative Procedures Act of the State of Washington apply to the Department and it is required to operate in a transparent legal fashion with or without tribal co-management approval.  

The letter explains how, regardless of the factual accuracy, many in the public are currently under the perceptions:

 •  At the expense of the non-tribal fishers, tribal seasons are resulting in tribal fishers exceeding the 50/50 allocation formula in U.S. v- WA (Boldt decision);

•  The Department is either unable or unwilling to adequately represent the non-tribal fishers during its negotiations with tribal co-managers;

•   Department staff engaged in the negotiations are being pressured by the Office of Governor or elected Legislators to agree to the tribal seasons proposed;

•  In areas where stocks are covered by the ESA, federal regulators (NOAA & BIA) are using the threat of blocking non-tribal seasons entirely as a means to pressure the Department to agree to the seasons proposals offered by tribal negotiators.

In the closing, the Advocacy respectfully asks that the two co-managers simply honor the legal rights of transparency that both tribal and non-tribal citizens are entitled to under state law. In the event the request is rejected, the Advocacy members are preparing to seek a remedy in court.  With the 2017 season setting about to begin, time is of the essence.

The letter is available for viewing and downloading HERE  Those that would like to support the effort to open co-management meetings to the public are asked to send a short email to Director Jim Unsworth at Director (DFW) <director@dfw.wa.gov> and carbon copy the Commission at  WDFW Commission <commission@dfw.wa.gov>

Editorial on the culvert case omitted key facts

In response to a previous editorial from Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation, Mary Ann Schweitzer has published a letter to the Editor of the Aberdeen Daily World.  Mary Ann, wife of Advocacy Member Ron Schweitzer, points out what she believes Sharp failed to mention.  Specifically, she and her children have a right to catch a fish with a pole in the Chehalis River same as a member of the tribe has with a net.  Sharp's editorial is available for viewing here.   Mary Ann's response is shown below.

The editorial published in the Daily World written by Fawn Sharp of the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) contains many factual points about habitat and declining salmon runs. It’s not what she says that is troubling, but rather what she omits.

The culvert case is the latest ruling of the long running suit wherein the federal government sued the state of Washington. The first major ruling in U.S. v- WA was the “Boldt Decision” which established the QIN had the right to “fish in common” with non-tribal citizens which Boldt translated to 50/50 sharing of the salmon. At that point, both tribal and non-tribal citizens were granted a right to fish together and the state and QIN would “co-manage” the resource.

Ms. Sharp wrote “Don’t fall into the trap of blaming tribal harvest for the demise of this precious resource. It’s just not true. ……..the process used to determine if the harvests are safe are exhausting, highly scrutinized and based on escapement levels tailored to available habitat.” I strongly challenge this commentary.

First, the escapement goal for salmon is established under a concept called “Maximum Sustainable Yield” (MSY). MSY is theoretically, the largest yield (or catch) that can be taken from a species' stock over an indefinite period (Wikipedia). Then, in Grays Harbor, the seasons set often exceed MSY and the over harvesting of salmon reduces the run size too less than the escapement goal. The solution offered by the QIN for failing to reach escapement goals for Chehalis River Chinook was not to cut back on its harvest. Rather, the QIN chose to successfully petition federal and state regulators to lower the escapement goal so the rate of harvest could be continued. As a result, fewer Chinook are expected to reach the spawning ground today than in the past.

Seldom do the co-managers allow adequate numbers of salmon to clear the lower stretches of the rivers to use the currently available habitat. Requiring non-tribal taxpayers to invest nearly $2 billion on culvert replacement will do very little, if any, in recovering salmon runs unless the harvest that is co-managed by the QIN is set at a level that allows adequate numbers of salmon to actually reach the reopened portions of the streams.

As for the 50/50 ruling in Boldt, the state Fish & Wildlife Commission passed a policy for Grays Harbor that prioritized conservation over harvest. At that time, Ms. Sharp was critical of the action on the grounds no conservation issues existed in our area. As a result of the policy, Fish & Wildlife lead the way and curtailed state non-tribal seasons last fall. No retention of natural spawning Chinook (unclipped) was allowed in the Chehalis River in an attempt to get more salmon up to the spawning grounds. The Quinaults then moved to take advantage by setting a net season that captured 8,697 Chinook. Far in excess of its 50 percent share, many of those salmon that expired in a tribal net in the Chehalis from the Port of Grays Harbor to S. Montesano were from the non-treaty half that was “foregone” in an attempt to insure enough Chinook reached the spawning grounds. This was extremely frustrating to the non-tribal fishers like myself who were asked to hang up our poles only to see our fish end up on ice at the tribal dock on the Wishkah.

I agree with Ms. Sharp on the notion conservation is a standard that needs to be fostered by all the state’s citizens, tribal and non-tribal alike. Same with the harvest. As Judge Boldt stated the “fishing in common” language of the treaty means 50/50. My great grandchildren have the same right to catch a fish with a pole as a Quinault child does with a net. Boldt did not say that the non-tribal citizens (taxpayers) get 100% of the bill and tribal citizens get all the fish.

I agree with Ms. Sharp that we are at a crossroad of historical importance. Not just for our children who would fish, but those who don’t as well. Most my age who’ve lived in Grays Harbor remember the loss of jobs and extremely negative economic impacts of the “spotted owl” when it hit the endangered species list under the Endangered Species Act. Numerous salmon and steelhead runs in Puget Sound and the Columbia River that are co-managed with tribes have already reached that designation. The first step in that process is a notice of “over-harvest”. Last year, the feds so flagged the Chehalis Chinook. The coastal economy simply can’t risk seeing those salmon runs to decline due to the rate of harvest to the point where we have another spotted owl disaster.

Ms. Sharp proudly presented the importance tribal citizens place on preserving fishing and restoring habitat. Many in the Quinault Indian Nation deserve that recognition. However, the fall salmon season is approaching and once again the state is asking the non-tribal side to step aside and allow the necessary numbers of salmon reach the spawning grounds. Hopefully, the Quinault Indian Nation will “practice what it preaches” and not take advantage once again by exceeding its right to catch half the fish available for harvest.

Mary Ann Schweitzer

Elma

02/11/2016-   Advocacy requests consideration in harvest seasons on the ocean set by the Pacific Fishery Management Council

Following up on a similar request to the Pacific Salmon Commission that sets seasons north of WA to AK, the Advocacy has requested PFMC to likewise consider the impacts of its fisheries on natural spawning stocks returning to Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor, and tributaries on the WA coast.  PFMC is a multi-jurisdictional organization of west coast states, the feds, and tribal governments that establish fishing seasons within WA coastal marine waters. 

As we did earlier with PSC (see below), the letter explains how a very small portion (estimated between 6-8%) of the coastal natural spawning Chinook stocks actually survive the gauntlet of fisheries installed on the Pacific from AK south.  Citing Willapa Bay as a prime example, we point out the runsize is often depleted to the point where the number of fish coming out of the Pacific into the bays and streams is less than the escapement goals for spawners making management for conservation nearly impossible even if all commercial and recreational harvest inside the bay was entirely eliminated.  The Advocacy goes on to explain the inappropriateness of continuing to lay all the conservation burdens onto the people who live and/or fish on the bay or local streams. 

The letter to the PFMC is available for viewing or downloading here  

 01/08/2016-  Request to PSC to adjust ocean harvest 

The Advocacy has sent a request to the Pacific Salmon Commission asking for an adjustment in ocean harvest.  The PSC is an multi-government group that sets ocean harvest for salmon from AK south to the border between British Columbia and Washington.  The letter cites a report from the PSC that shows 86% of the fisheries related mortalities on WA coastal Chinook stocks occur in AK and British Columbia waters in fisheries managed by PSC and coastal streams are not getting spawners back into freshwater in numbers adequate to reach escapement goals.  Read the letter sent to PSC here.

 11/10/2015  Chehalis River Fishing Alert
 
 

On November 10, 2015, the Advocacy sent out a letter addressed jointly to Dave gauntlet, Director of the Quinault Division of Natural Resources and Jim Unsworth, Director of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. The Advocacy is publicly requesting the two co-managers in Grays Harbor terminal to take actions to limit the impacts of the treaty and non-treaty fisheries in December on the late run cycle of natural spawning Coho due to return in late November through December in tributaries that enter Grays Harbor.  Read the letter here.

UPDATE-

  The Advocacy has decided to share the letter with the citizens who live in the coastal region.  A notice of the letter and its availability for viewing or downloading on this website was incorporated into an ad and placed into the Aberdeen Daily World, Montesano Vidette, East County News, North Coast News, and South Beach Bulletin serving the coastal region on the week of November 22, 2015.

 

 LEGAL UPDATE-   GILLNETTERS file another legal challenge, this time in Thurston County.

The Willapa Bay Gillnetters Association has filed yet another legal challenge to the Willapa Bay Salmon Policy recently adopted by the Commission.  After a judge in Pacific County dismissed a prior suit challenging the policy, a suit was filed in Thurston County challenging the actual season regulation adopted for 2015.  The Advocacy will once again file a motion to intervene in the case to protect the interests of its members and others who have supported the Commission's efforts to manage fisheries in a responsible fashion.   Read all about it on the "Legal Issues" page shown above in the menu bar or click here.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••