PAT NEAL: The best available science for extinction

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news for the endangered species of the North Olympic Peninsula.

The Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission came to town for a meeting and to thank you for your input.

Here in Washington, we try to manage our fish and wildlife in a sensitive, caring manner that does not hurt anyone’s feelings.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission is a group of caring citizens selected by the governor that sets the rules for everything in Washington from blue whales to herring spawn.

That’s why the commission came to Port Angeles: to meet and greet you, the poor suckers who still buy a fishing license.

There are fewer of you each year. This has left a multimillion-dollar hole in the Department of Fish and Wildlife budget.

That’s got the bean counters worried.

People who fish may not be the brightest bulbs in the shed, but even they can figure out that the money they spend fishing in Washington is probably better spent somewhere else. They cross the imaginary line down the center of the Strait into British Columbia. Or head north to Alaska.

All in an effort to catch fish that are swimming back here to Washington.

Here, the Washington fishing rules have become so complicated that people have a rough time figuring out what they are.

You could not keep a salmon that did not have a clipped adipose fin; this is a form of mutilation that would indicate the fish is a hatchery fish, out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca last summer.

Meanwhile on the Hoh River, you were not allowed to keep a salmon with a clipped adipose fin.

Calling the Fish and Wildlife regional office for an explanation, clarification or excuse for these rules does did not offer any explanation of why we were not allowed to keep hatchery fish that we paid for with our fishing license fees.

One was merely referred to a website that referred to the fishing rules book, which said to check the emergency regulations or go back to the Fish and Wildlife regional office for clarification.

Our waters are divided up into small fishing areas that are open for brief windows of opportunity where every boat in the country is forced to clog up the water with a dangerous derby mentality that not only endangers the people who fish but those who are forced to rescue them because they must fish in any weather or not fish at all.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission is to be commended for journeying to the far end of its realm to thank us for our input and to declare still more endangered species for us all to enjoy.

The bad news is that the dismal fisher recovery efforts have failed to bump it off the endangered species listing.

The good news is that the fishers have stopped getting run over by cars.

For a while, we were calling them “endangered species speed bumps” because they refused to look both ways before crossing.

Recently, the fishers seem to have evolved more advanced pedestrian behaviors that could aid in their recovery.

The commission also agreed to up-list the yellow-billed cuckoo bird from threatened to endangered status. They’re so endangered that, like the newly listed loggerhead turtle, no one on the Olympic Peninsula has ever seen one.

Maybe one day, the fisher, the yellow-billed cuckoo and the loggerhead turtle will thrive in their pristine environment.

But as for the salmon, they will continue to be managed to extinction with the best available science.

Until then, thank you for your input.

_________

Pat Neal is a fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal [email protected].

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