Gene Woodwick — Concerns aplenty for land, a lake and critters of the sea


Shades of the hippy era when the Quinault Indian Nation closed their beaches due to miscreants defacing sacred sites, littering and despoiling the shoreline of the reservation, Quinault President Fawn Sharp recently announced that Lake Quinault will remain closed to all non-tribal fishing until further notice.

AQUATIC ECOSYSTEM ENDANGERED

“The Quinault Business Committee has made the decision in a unanimous action, effective immediately” said Sharp. “We cannot stand by and allow our sensitive aquatic ecosystems to continue to be diminished. This action has been taken to protect the lake and is an emergency measure to protect the health and safety of all our communities.”

“We are very concerned about water quality in the lake,” she said. “We are concerned that non-tribal septic systems from the surrounding homes and businesses may have resulted in a severe problem with untreated sewage and caused serious health concerns.

“We have detected hot spots of pollution in the lake and will be using this time to conduct thorough water quality studies and compliance with our regulations. Any fish taken by tribal members in the meantime will be carefully monitored,” she said. “We will not reopen the lake to non-Indian fishermen until we consider it safe and appropriate to do so.”

Another key reason is a low predicted forecast of sockeye salmon returns. “We closed our beaches for much the same reasons many years ago and have successfully brought them back to health with our management practices,” said Sharp.

“The incidents of illegal fishing by non-tribal fishermen have become the subject of numerous reports to our enforcement officers and staff. We have also received reports of unpermitted docks and other structures built illegally on the lake, and boat speeding has occasionally gotten out of hand,” she said. At this time, we are faced with cuts to our budgets as a result of the federal sequestration and will not have the enforcement coverage at the lake to effectively patrol these illegal activities,” she said.

“The lake is on our reservation and belongs to the Tribe. It is our responsibility to manage this unique resource as part of our heritage, in a way that will benefit our people—today and in the future,” she said.

“So, it is indeed a variety of reasons that lead us to this action. When we choose to lease our lands to proprietors, or to allow non-tribal members to share our resources, we do so with the expectation that they will abide by Quinault law, practice good stewardship and treat this beautiful lake with the respect it deserves.”

LAND TRUST SEEKS ACREAGE

Meanwhile, the Chehalis Land Trust is applying for grants to buy 174 acres at Junction City owned by the Seaport Authority, just north of the 80 acres owned by the Grays Harbor Audubon Society.

COAL TRAINS HOT TOPIC

To coal train or not to coal train seems to be the hottest local question going around. Everyone wants jobs but the fishers are concerned about selenium levels effect on water quality, although the levels are more closely associated with the mining process as opposed to transportation.

U.S. studies have shown that selenium levels above four micrograms per liter in water can lead to concentrations in eggs of fish. University of Montana studies in Elk River Valley have found selenium in the eggs of cutthroat trout, frogs and red-winged blackbirds.

A familiar story to the old members of the former Grays Harbor Fish Enhancement is echoed in the study, indicating that high selenium levels cause spinal deformations and gill deformation so that the eyes budge out.

The whole story is not out yet but it sure makes for good coffee cup talk.

LOW OXYGEN KILLING CRAB?

The Quinault Indian Nation, through fisheries biologist Joe Schumacher, has been looking for grant money to place instruments on regular crab traps that would measure dissolved oxygen from inside the traps. The routine of crab fishing is perfect for gathering and downloading recorded data.

There is a possibility that low oxygen near Taholah may be killing off young crabs each year in the nearshore areas. The problem is more noticeable in the Moclips River to Taholah area, and is more noticeable when the winds and water go calm.

BACTERIA CONCERNS CONTINUE

Scott Berbells of the Grays Harbor Department of Health is also dealing with a water quality issue near Marine water Station 9 due to high levels of fecal bacteria in the water.

The Illahee/Oyehut drainage area just north of the Damon Road approach is being evaluated with 2013 closure dates as yet unset. The beach runoff is known to carry fecal bacteria, with the source not yet determined.

Last year, during the June 1 through August 31 closure, monitoring continued on water quality in the threatened shellfish area. A warning will be issued for people to avoid the freshwater discharge areas on the beach.

A final decision regarding the pollution problem will be announced once the data has been shared with the City of Ocean Shores, Grays Harbor County and the Quinault Indian Nation, which has Usual and Accustomed rights for the area.

GREAT COHO RUN COMING

Pat Pattillo, salmon policy lead for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFWL) put out the good news that coastal fishers should expect a great coho run this year from Neah Bay to the Columbia River. He said the forecast is for a stronger hatchery coho run.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), which sets the seasons for waters from three to 200 miles offshore, has set a quota for 74,760 coho, more than 5,000 more than 2012.

More than 6 million pink salmon are expected to return this year with a bonus catch of two additional pinks per day in all areas except Hood Canal.

HALIBUT YES — SMELT NO

In all marine areas open for halibut fishing there is a one-fish daily limit with no minimum size. Anglers may possess a maximum of two fish in any area and must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card. The quotas have been set at 9,516 pounds for the early season and the late quota is 2,379 pounds.

But, if you expect to go smelt fishing this year, forget it. Smelt are moving up the rivers, but the forecast is for the same as last year’s run. Smelt is being found in the stomach of salmon and, boy howdy, the migrating California sea lions are swarming after the fat-rich, little fish.

PITY THE PUPS

Lest the beachers succumb to the old “Californians go home!” syndrome, sympathy needs to be spared for the starving sea lion pups that are inundating California rescue centers. At island rookeries offshore of the southern California coast, 45 percent of the pups born in June have died.

Pups are normally weaned from their mothers in April. The most recently weighed pups in the area were about 37 pounds. They should weigh between 50 and 59 pounds at this time. Without the layer of fat, the pups easily become dehydrated in the cold sea waters.

Between January 1 and March 24, 948 pups were rescued, contrasted to only 100 the previous year. NOAA and other scientists are performing tests to see if the problem is lack of food, disease or both.

LICE NOT NICE

Just like the little does in Ocean Shores suffer from annual lice infestation, juvenile pink salmon traveling through coastal waters are susceptible to lice.

Our neighbors to the north in British Columbia have been arguing that farmed salmon should be treated in the fall and winter, but new studies are showing treated waters in the spring are bringing better results.

Recent studies are showing mortality rates for juvenile pink salmon fell to four percent from the 90 percent mortality rate from sea lice in the early 2000s. So, the argument continues related to the effect the sea lice has on wild salmon.

FISH AND ORCAS AND CLAMS, OH MY!

Since this seems to be the time to talk fish, let’s talk about really old fish. The discovery of a fish fossil on Ellesmere Island in Canada has led a team of researchers to identify a new meter-long predator species of fish 375 million years old. Some scientists are saying this fleshy four-finned fish with three dorsal fins is the missing link of a certain marine species evolving into four legged creatures.

Saints preserve us if it is decided man descended from fish, ‘cause that is one ugly fish.

According to the Columbia Basin Bulletin, U.S. commercial and saltwater recreational fishing generated more than $199 billion in sales and supported 1.7 million jobs in 2011. Washington was fourth in the nation for fishing jobs, but Oregon reported the third largest growth in the industry.

Compared to 2010, the numbers are up for all of the impacts except commercial seafood sales.

The small resident orca whale pod has been in evidence recently in southern coastal waters. This group is the smallest of the orca communities in the North Pacific Ocean. There are a total of 90 individuals in the pods that make up this currently protected community of whales.

Dan Ayers reminds the hide-bound clammers that there are still more tides to dig this month. April 26, Copalis and Mocrocks will be open at 8:24 a.m. on a -1.6 tide; April 27 a -1.7 tide will allow digging at 8:24 a.m.; April 28, another -1.7 tide will open the beaches up for digging at 9:11 a.m.

BE NICE TO MICE

Now if you are sick of fish, and more fish, let us close on this tidbit of nature plaguing homeowners right now—mice. It has been discovered that mice can cough. So, big deal you say? The beachers have endured one long winter of a miserable cold-like flu.

Now, perhaps, mice will come to their rescue. The little buggers are ideal lab animals because they grow quickly, reproduce more rapidly than rabbits, and are small enough to house easily.

Lest you disrespect mice, just remember they share a number of human traits besides coughing. Mice grimace when in pain.

So, the next time you cough and reach for a cough med or are wincing from pain and reach for a pain reliever, just remember the least of these little critters are helping test these products to make the life of humans much better. Now, aren’t you sorry you just loaded up on traps and such at Ace Hardware?

Gene Woodwick is available at genewoodwick@coastaccess.com or (360) 289-2805.