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) <firstname.lastname@example.org> and carbon copy the Commission at WDFW Commission <email@example.com>