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Illegal commercial fishing alleged at Dewatto

"Neighbors of protected streams and bays had a chance to vent their frustration with illegal commercial salmon fishing, as well as learn how governmental agencies are handling salmon harvests at Wednesday's Salmon Harvest Management Forum at the Kitsap Pavilion.The forum was sponsored by the Kitsap County Commissioners.Commissioner Chris Endresen opened the meeting and Keith Folkerts, natural resources coordinator for the county, introduced the four panelists. They were Pat Patillo, salmon policy coordinator for the state Fish and Wildlife Department, Nick Lamsakas of the Point No Point Treaty Council and Jay Zischke and Paul Dorn of the Suquamish Tribe.I want to make sure someone talks about the illegal fishing going on in Dewatto Bay. There's night fishing inside the terminal areas well inside the ... lines, said Al Adams during the question-and-answer session.Dewatto Bay is at the end of Seabeck Holly Road where it ends at Hood Canal.You must strongly address the illegal commercial fishing going on, Adams said. Where does enforcement come in as far as your jurisdictions are concerned?Patillo said he didn't have specifics on the Dewatto problem but promised to look into it.He added, Enforcement and compliance is a requirement (for the state) to have fisheries.Lamsakas vowed to investigate the alleged infractions.But he added, All streams are closed to commercial fisheries. Tribal fisheries have a standard closure of 1,000 feet from the outer shore.The term fishery is used to mean all taking of fish, for sport or commercial fishing, said Folkerts.Lamsakas said the closure for Dewatto Bay is farther out.The fishery going on now is coho. It was closed until now to protect the summer chum. As of yesterday we're placing extra emphasis on this area. The fines are quite heavy, and tribal enforcement also imposes heavy jail sentences, he added.Geoduck pilfering also came into play when Jim Turner, who said he lives down the beach from Paul Dorn, said he doesn't believe the giant clams should be harvested because doing so impacts salmon habitat.Habitat has been mentioned over and over but there's been no mention of what salmon eat. They eat candlefish and herring, and eel grass is a habitat for candlefish, he said.Divers dredging for geoducks are disturbing the eel grass, and Turner believes, affecting the recovery of salmon in the area.But Dorn said, It does have an impact, but it's relatively small now. (The areas) do recover fairly quickly.Anyone diving illegally for geoducks may find themselves on a candid camera, he noted: Geoduck harvest is monitored by the tribes. They have underwater cameras.Dorn said that the questions he's asked most are about who is exempt from the Endangered Species Act ban on chum and chinook salmon. Commercial harvest ... hatcheries, and Indian tribes are not exempt, he said.The Suquamish Tribe's Zischke said that the harvest management process has gotten more complicated over the last few years because more (government) groups have gotten involved.But the harvest of returning hatchery fish experienced a rise in 1999 over numbers from 1995 and 1998.Conservation tools they use include time/area restrictions on fishing, in-stream information, live capture-release (fishing) gear so endangered salmon can be identified and released, and out-migrant study sites.Not long ago we were urged to remove wood from the streams. We learned that's not the best idea for good salmon habitats, Zischke said.We try to take a conservative approach, realizing we'll have better information further down the road, he said.Patillo said that changes in how the government agencies manage salmon made them realize they had to manage more specifically for certain stocks, such as the chum and chinook.One example is that the state closed fishing in the strait of Juan de Fuca because of the fish coming back to Puget Sound to spawn.We set up fisheries based on pre-season estimates. ... We've got to be sure the information is the best we've got, we have to show we're not increasing the fisheries' impact, Patillo said. We'll be making changes in the way we make decisions, and we want (the public) to be part of that. "

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