Tulalip Tribes, state Department of Fish and Wildlife sign hatchery agreement

TULALIP — The Tulalip Tribes and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife took a significant step in the process of coordinating hatchery production and salmon recovery efforts in the Snohomish region by signing a memorandum of understanding that recognizes anew the ongoing cooperative hatchery program between the Tribes and the WDFW's Wallace River Hatchery.

The agreement identifies joint goals for returning adults, eggs collected, fish released, and conditions for the marking and tagging of native Chinook and Coho salmon stocks. Additionally, numerous improvements to operating protocols, including organizational adjustments, were made to both programs.

"Where our declining salmon runs are concerned, we have acknowledged for some time now that we are all in this together, and must therefore find solutions together," Tulalip Tribal Chair Mel Sheldon Jr. said. "This agreement offers a model for how the Tribes and the state of Washington can work together to recover our greatest common natural resource."

Phil Anderson, director of the WDFW, also sees it as a positive step for salmon recovery in the region and called the agreement "a model of state-tribal cooperation."

Tribal biologists and managers and the WDFW have endeavored to build a working relationship over the years, with the result that the Snohomish River basin is on track to becoming a model for how hatcheries can aid in the recovery of wild salmon runs, while also continuing to provide opportunities for fisheries.

Terry Williams, commissioner of Fisheries and Natural Resources for the Tulalip Tribes, believes the agreement sets a standard for excellence in cooperation, and expects it to help the partnership achieve its goals.

"A successful plan allows enhanced fishing opportunities for everybody while continuing to reduce impacts on wild fish," Williams said. "The Tulalip Tribes are interested in arriving at a long-term solution to declining salmon runs. Working closely with the Wallace River Hatchery has allowed us to build a stronger hatchery program, one that helps salmon and people."

The signed MOU highlights recent progress made in finalizing a more detailed state-tribal regional hatchery plan.

Tulalip and WDFW regional staff were the first to complete their Hatchery Action Implementation Plan, which includes all state and tribal hatchery programs for all species in the Snohomish region, and are nearing completion of the Hatchery and Genetic Management Plans. Many issues between the Tribes and WDFW were brought up, analyzed, and resolved in the process of designing and implementing a regional plan, one compatible with habitat and harvest components of the larger salmon recovery plan.

Mike Crewson, fisheries enhancement biologist for the Tulalip Tribes, acknowledged the hard work and cooperation that was necessary to complete the plan.

"It was a long and sometimes complicated process, but in the end, we arrived at compromise, and that strengthened our partnership," Crewson said. "Applying new, innovative methods and having the willingness to compromise enabled us to balance hatchery production goals with the objectives for naturally spawning wild salmon, which will ultimately result in better outcomes for salmon recovery."

Ray Fryberg, director of Natural and Cultural Resources for the Tulalip Tribes, emphasized how integrally connected the Tribes are to the outcomes of salmon recovery.

"The Tribes have been living and harvesting fish here for thousands of years and we intend to keep doing so for at least that long into the future," Fryberg said. "A well-run hatchery operation means we have fish for our people and the means to help our wild runs recover. The Tribes and the state have worked out an agreement that enhances opportunities for everybody. It's a win-win situation."

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