Yes, salmon management is a very complicated issue, particularly in Washington State which is the origin of a large share of even the “Alaska” salmon harvest. For an example, take the Willapa Bay. Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) manages the salmon harvest here without many of the problems that we see in other locations regarding Tribal rights, dams or multi-state management.
The latest estimate by WDFW state that it will take twenty years for the natural Chinook salmon run to recover. It’s really been a simple case of over-harvest on the Willapa. The key value is “escapement”, the number of spawning adults that is required to maintain the salmon run, and the simple goal of conservative management would be to meet or exceed this number every year. WDFW’s management has not achieved this for natural Chinook in nearly all of the last twenty years.
Oh yes, some like to point at lost habitat as the problem, and it’s surely had its impact. But there is a huge effort underway to increase that habitat today by removing barriers to fish migration, yet WDFW management continues to harvest to the last available fish each year, which has resulted in the problem we see in the Willapa today.
When you look at other watersheds where the management problems are much greater, is it any wonder that we question today’s management by WDFW?