Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Buh Bye To Another Island Way Of Life

Editor's Note - the "Broken Dreams" series begun with the last post will be interspersed among other TH stories. Until the next one (probably in a couple of weeks), we now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Below is a plea from a Lopezian to help save another endangered way of life under threat from a governmental agency's senseless desire for control and pointless regulation. It's just one more straw on the camel's back of rural character and independence.

Subject: Re: Smelt ? The End ? (paragraphs separated) 
Date: March 2, 2014 1:13:05 PM PST
To: Randy OBryant <>

Hello Everybody, I really need your help. It is very likely that Beach seining for smelt will be eliminated. I received a letter from the Wa State Dept of Fish and Wildlife on a Tuesday the 28 of January informing me that there would be a meeting on Thursday January 30 ( 2 days latter ) at their Mill Creek Headquarters to present proposed changes to smelt fishing regulations . It meant spending a night in a motel but I made it to the meeting. 

There were 5 other active license holders there as well. 6 of us total. The leader of the meeting, Craig Burley,  seamed a little surprised. Here was 6 of the 7 active license holders. That's right, 7 total for the state. The other 5 license holders all seem to be related ( 2 brothers, a sister, a uncle, and the husband of a Aunt if I got it right ). They have been commercial smelt fishing for over 3 generations. They mostly Fish Hood canal, Down Sound, and around Camano Island. They Fish all over Puget Sound.   I got the impression that they come from the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas. We asked about the brief time between the notification for the meeting  and the meeting. They ( Fish and Game ) apologized and told us it was just  a over site. Dayv Lowry and Kurt Stick were also there with the Dept of Fish and Game. 

We were told that they want to reduce the smelt catch to 1970's levels. We were told that was 50 to 60,000 lbs. Craig Burley notified us of the proposed regulation changes.
  • Option #1 :Status-quo ; no change to current commercial or recreational regulations. 
  • Option # 2: Reduce the commercial harvest and close the recreational dip net fishery 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM. Closing the dip net fishery in the middle of the night looks like they would be doing something on paper , but would have very little impact on the fishermen or the quantities of smelt caught. 
  • Option #3 : Close all commercial fishing for smelt in Puget Sound and close the Dip net fishery in the middle of the night as in option #2. There would still be a recreational fishery. 
Needless to say we were surprised that there were any proposals to drastically scale back or eliminate Commercial smelt fishing. 

I have only been commercial smelting for 20 years in Mud Bay. While the numbers of smelt vary from year to year I have not noticed anything out of the ordinary. The smelt stocks seam to be pretty stable to me.  The other guys (and woman) have been smelt fishing  for generations. They grew up doing this. They have been in all the crooks and crannies around Puget Sound  in different seasons, times of day, and weather conditions. They are astute observers of nature. They have to be. They see a big picture. Their perspective through time gives them a Bigger picture than most people can take in. While things change from year to year, they see nothing out of the ordinary with the smelt stocks. 

We asked Fish and Game  why reduction or elimination of smelt seining was on the table at all. Were the smelt stocks declining? We were told that "Population estimates are not available for smelt ". They could not tell the strength of the stocks at this time. Did they have any idea about what they had been in the past ? " No ". I asked what about the surveys for smelt eggs on the beaches. Could that at least give them a idea of what is going on. They said they could not use those surveys to determine the strength of the smelt stocks, but  that every year they were finding more beaches with eggs on them. They could not say weather the smelt stocks were declining, stable, or increasing. They told us this over and over.  
I asked if there something anecdotal that they are seeing for them to propose eliminating a fishery and a way of life.  No they had not noticed anything. They don't have the money to get out and look. 

We were told at this meeting that the catch in the 1970's was 50 to 60,000 lbs a year (This was the target they were proposing to strive for with the change in regulations. Same catch as the 70's) and that it had increased to around 100,000 lbs in the 1990's. 100,000 lbs sounds like a lot. It isn't. It is 50 tons. For all of the waters from Neah Bay to Bellingham to Olympia the entire catch in a whole year was 50 tons. Those of you with fisheries experience will realize how small that is. Let me put it in perspective. Next summer off the west side of San Juan Island there will be many Purse Seiners that will catch 100,000 lbs of salmon in 1 set. They will do that  Day after day, set after set. As much fish in one set as a whole years worth of smelt caught.  

I recently received the smelt landings records from Fish and Game. These records go back to 1974. These are some of the same records that Craig Burley would use to come up with his catch numbers for the 70's and the 90's. The amount of distortion between the numbers that I have in front of me at this  time ( landing records ), and what we were told at the meeting is truly amazing. I don't know which is worse, the possibility that we were told deliberate falsehoods, or that someone with the position of authority to propose policy and bring it a meeting like this could bungle his homework so badly. Something really smells here.  

The records in front of me show that In the 70's there was around 21 active fishermen. The average yearly Washington catch for smelt was around 75 to 80,000 lbs. (compare to 79,800 lbs in 2013). The yearly catch averaged down until there were 10 fishermen that caught 17,000 lbs in 1990. I remember 1990 very well. There were lots of fish but the old men who would catch them had mostly died off and those that were left didn't put much effort into it. I started in the early 1990's. 

From 1991 the average yearly catch went up until 2000. The average yearly catch was around 140,000 lbs during this time  (1991 - 2001). From 2001 to 2013 the average yearly catch went down to around 91,000 lbs with about 6 active fishermen and has been relatively stable for the last 13 years. If anyone is interested I would be happy to forward the records that I have. Smelt seining has not really changed since the 1940's when out board motors became more available. The nets are the same length. The mesh size is the same. The net is still mostly pulled by hand. There has not been any big change in the technology. Plastic corks instead of wooden ones. Nylon lines instead of cotton or manilla.  We are no more efficient. If 21 fishermen caught  80,000 lbs of smelt in the 1970's and 7 caught 79,800 in 2013 one could make a argument that there are more fish in 2013 than in the 70's. This whole Regulation thing is not about saving endangered smelt stocks. 

Saving endangered stocks is a very emotional and colorful banner to wrap a cause in. Who could be against saving endangered species or habitat for them. I certainly am not and could not be. I am all behind saving endangered stocks. Especially smelt. No smelt, no fun down on the beach with all the kids getting their hands in the wiggling fish. This is a political issue.  Craig Burley hints at the real reason for the proposal to eliminate beach seining. It  is in the 3rd paragraph on the Puget Sound Rule making  web page  -        -  It is also the page you go to to give public input. 

Let me give you some history that I learned at this meeting. A few years ago there was a event in Hood Canal where there was very little dissolved oxygen in the water. These events have been happening every once in a while for at least the last 150 years. These events can really stress the fish. They can't breath. Because of this event Fish and Game closed all smelt fishing in Hood Canal. They did not reopen it after the event passed. Those guys that like to fish around Hood canal (sports and commercial) had to go somewhere else. They started spending more time fishing around Camano Island. 

The beach front homeowners don't like them on what they feel is their front yard. I am going to quote a paragraph from a hand out they gave us at the meeting. " Recent commercial fishing effort in Puget Sound has been concentrated at the North end of Camano Island (Marine Catch Areas 24A and 24C). Significant recreational fishing effort also occurs at public sites in the vicinity. Concentrated effort here has resulted in conflicts between homeowners and fishers, especially at night, as well as public concerns about localized over harvest. " It is not Fish and Game that is concerned about Local over harvest. It is the water front home owners on Camano Island making noise and Fish and Game is hearing it. They don't like the spot lights and the lanterns in what feels like their front yard. It would bother me also, but I would either live with it or else go down and join in the fun. The spot lights and lanterns have been down on that public beach a lot longer than they have lived in their beach house. The lights were already being used on the beach when they bought the house. They are a part of a way of life that is  old and primitive. 

These homeowners are in a very wealthy neighborhood. With wealth often comes power. They are squeaking. It is the squeaking wheel that gets oiled. Fish and game is doing something about oiling that squeak. It is easy for Fish and Game to throw 7 guys under the train to muffle that squeaky wheel with the loss of their way of life. It is a win win for Fish and Game. They quiet the noisy beach front homeowners and get to wrap themselves in the cloak of being active in protecting something. They really need the good P.R.. Too bad it will be just a distraction from some actions that could be effective and meaningful. 

Craig Burley touches on emotional topics. Smears things together. How can anyone be against saving something that is endangered. This is about beach front property owners, lack of funding at Fish and Game, and taking the easy out. It is not about saving endangered smelt. It is easier to put 7 guys out of business. In the mean time a way of life will be gone. No more kids on the beach being exposed to the wondrous things of nature and with that exposure a greater potential of them becoming a naturalist. It is not completely back to just video games. There is still the opportunity to go to the beach, but as you all know it would not be the same. You all know kids who spend almost all of their time inside with their electronic media. For some of them smelting is their only exposure to the wonders that are swimming around us. I have seen a lot of kids smiling and having a blast with their hands in squirming fish that would have never touched a live fish in their life. It makes me Happy. 

I really need all of your help. Everyone that has kids that come smelting needs your help. If they take away the beach seining it will be gone forever. This is a political issue. The more people that make their voices heard the better chance of something not bad happening. You can go to this web site and submit your views and opinions On the right hand side of the page under the picture of the smelt there is a box that says " Submit Your Comments Online ". Click on that . Please Click on the drop down box that says " select your preferred  regulatory option " and select option #1 No Change. 

This is really important. Please send this E - Mail  along to whoever you think could be helpful. The farther you can spread this the more people can select option #1 No Change.  

Thank You,
Randy OBryant,  Lopez Island .


  1. And this folks is the real culprit.
    The constant paranoid rants of Agenda 21and county government conspiracies distracts from the true threat to us, the middle-class.
    The wealthy are adept at utilizing activist groups and government processes to achieve a goal not implicitly outlined in their action.
    As an example, in the early 90's the espresso craze hit Seattle and suddenly there were cafe carts on every corner ran by small operators and it was a great source of income for typically young entrepreneurs. Then bug business discovered how much money was to be had and suddenly the question of "safe milk handling" became a topic for local legislators, then new rules about proximity to running water, and presto! All the carts were gone and along came Starbucks, and Tully's.
    There was no "government conspiracy" just people smartly using the system to obtain their goals. They talked about health safety and achieved a business take over.
    Learn to use the system as they do, participate in all the stupid committees, go to the boring council meetings because when you don't the squeaky wheels (FOSJ) do.

  2. I did follow through with this fisherman's well done suggestions as how to influence the unnecessary regulation of this fishery. And, it works. (At least the public input part does.)

    Note how this all relates to the important statement by the TH on RISK. So little of what is legislated today is in contact with reality or actual risk. I mean, seven (7) permit fishers for all of Puget Sound! Wow, gotta get those guys.

  3. I posted a comment to the WDFW as well and I'm sending a link to this to all of my friends. Hope everyone does the same. Stuff like this just fries me!

  4. The precautionary principle at its worst.

  5. To change the regulators, you have to change the politicians.
    We tried that locally, with what appeared to be success, but now realize what an utter failure one of our clowncil members is.
    Give up or try again?
    I think a lot of us will continue to grind out another efforts.
    Any viable candidate for Lopez? Judgeship?

  6. Surely, WDFW, an agency with actual power, must realize that when they pursue this kind of nonsense they lose credibility with the public at large.

    I hope these seven fishers persevere and continue to name names and outline ACTUAL current fish population conditions.

    As I have watched boat after boat where greed has ruled go by with decks awash and only the pumps keeping her from sinking, I know there is lots of big money in the Sound fishery and along with that money comes people who only care about getting it in their pockets.

    Seems unlikely Seven Smelt fishers fit in with that group.

    Does the high pressure brain trust that runs WDFW need correction? Probably.

  7. Must dwell on the TH issue.

    A long time ago someone had the opinion that if it was not for the TH becoming a place for people to let off steam, then maybe someone's car might have gotten blown up.

    The TH came along and everyone then and now had a place to say whatever they wanted to say, no matter how obnoxious.

    Then the TH started to have an effect on the power structure, the people with vested interest in the status quo and big paychecks.

    These people, felt pressure from the TH and found the best way to snuff this new venue would be to make it read completely crazy. By inserting goofy and irrational comments the site was marginalized but not shut up. These posts have have gotten the name "Trolls" for the people who post them.

    The only TH defense seems to be that all legitimate posters try not to write like these trolls.

    It's obvious, right?

  8. @7:25
    I respectfully disagree with one of your points. I don't think the TH was ever marginalized.
    Any intelligent reader of a blog or comment thread can sort out trolling for exactly what it is. A trite attempt to squash the message.
    I think any feeling or appearance of marginalization could more likely be attributed to a generally lower tempo post election.
    There is a cure for that. The next election.

  9. @6:44

    Your post confuses me. You mention that one of our clowncil members is an utter failure. I think you meant that ALL of our clowncil members are utter failures.

    We got exactly what we expected from Jamie. Bob may as well join in from his home phone, and Rick is do busy shaking hands and polishing up on his marketing that I have trouble finding the one you are eluding too.

    Sadly, the only one performing up to expectations is Jamie. That's pretty sad.

  10. You are absolutely right. The only council member getting their agenda through is Jamie. Rick and Bob have NOTHING to show for their presence. Neither together as a bloc or independently. Weather you agree with his politics or not at least he is doing his fucking job!

    But I digress. Just the mere presence of a county employee in the last posting initiated over forty posts. More than this complex post will organically stimulate.

    Which leads me to my point. Lets get back to what this blog does best and start trashing people anonymously.

  11. Anybody know how the arguements went during the CSA lawsuit hearing yesterday? If so, any comments from the judge that might suggest a likely ruling?

  12. Is swearin' heron Friday back?
    How bout best acronym for FOSJ?

  13. @7:27
    The court case went well for both sides, depending on who you ask. Eaton didn't too his hand. I believe that he will give it a fair shake and careful deliberations.
    But now it's wait, hope, and prepare for the next appeal if it goes the other way. I am not of great means but will send the CSA some more $$ to help.
    The Individual or group that can finally bring the FOSJ down in court and shut them down will be the true saviors our islands and our way of life.
    Odd to think we might have an IRS auditor as a hero, but hell, whatever it takes.

  14. FOSJ
    Fraud Orchestrsted Should Jail.

  15. FOSJ
    Furious Orators of Spurious Junk

  16. With a tip o' the hat to House of Cards, British or American version, what did those cuff links spell out:

    F U

    No one ever had to say it outright.

    So, in the case of FOSJ, its seems obvious to me:

    F O San Juans

    Does this need to be said outright?

    Didn't think so.

  17. Much as I hate to contribute to lowering the tone of the discussion on the TH, my favorite is still --

    (J)ackasses or jerks, if you prefer

    It works in sentences very well. For example, "The Executive Director of the FOSJ is Stephanie Buffum."

  18. Fools of the San Juans

    As in, one of the Fools just trespassed on my property.

    "Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power."

    ~ ~ ~ George Bernard Shaw

  19. ... sooo ...

    How many ethnic Russians live on Lopez?

  20. @7:06
    According to the last census, 32. Curious why you ask.

  21. Good 9:29 today. I agree. as CSA is the ONLY talent capable of taking on FOSJ they deserve our support. "Trust Islanders" is nowhere to be seen and has done nothing of substance. Meanwhile real estate values tank.

    Win or lose with Judge Eaton, and this guy might surprise everyone involved, it still remains as a suit that will be appealed in any event.

    CSA needs cash, lots of it. Cash is the mothers milk of wining lawsuits.

    Give em a hand will you? I do.

  22. Here's the story on Rick's "the barn" issue: it is an Orcas high school student's senior project, to replace the decaying barn that generations of HS students have painted their class mural on.

    Please help with your support:

  23. Brian,

    Thanks for the link, but it doesn't address the concerns that have been brought up here and as of yet have not been addressed:

    Is the barn being constructed in a wetland buffer?

    Was a wetland assesment done to make sure it is not in a buffer?

    Since the project is being down by a paid contractor, and thus not allowed as an owner-builder structure, does it have a valid building permit.

    Perhaps a good senior project would be for a student to answer these questions. The better part of the project would be to report to the community how difficult it is to get anything through the permit process without going insane along the way.

    I hope that at some point someone can answer the questions above.

  24. Sorry, I seem to have misplaced the location of Rick's "barn."
    Would appreciate a repeat of the location ID.

    Anyway, aren't old barns protected as historic structures for painters to paint portraits of; and TOURISTS to stare at and shoot their I-phones selfies?

    Why worry about a buffer when we can worry about a tourist attraction. Yeah, that's it: nothing can happen within 200 feet of a tourist attraction or anything that MIGHT BE a tourist attraction!

    Changing the view of an FOSJ constituent gets you jail time.

  25. Back to the subject...
    I hope EVERYONE who has come to this post has given the couple of minutes to vote and comment on this WDFW insanity. If you haven't, do it now, here is the link

    Your name, your email and your choice about whether to close the fishery or not. Do it and do it now. Please. This is (apparently, I don't know him) a guy who is just trying to work hard to make a living.

    .....Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

  26. @8:45

    Thank you for the reminder. I will send another check to CSA. I realized a while back that the more local the cause, the better the money is spent. No more $$ to the republican or democrat parties. Really there isn't much difference any more, they are all demopublicans. Give to the people who are actually doing something more than campaigning for another term of fleecing us.


    They really appreciate it, they let you know they do and besides, it's a tax deduction (I think it is anyway...?)

  27. It's really more like Rick's shed. Rick's two story shed. It's on Orcas Road across the street from Fowler's Pond, a wildlife preserve

  28. FOSJ
    Frequently Objecting to Sound Judgement.

  29. FOSJ

    Full On Sorryassed Jckers

  30. Sent my comment to WDFW and will be posting a link for others to do the same.

  31. I was way behind on the smelt issues but did send my comments and vote for Option 1 today. From the look of things, a lot of others have too. Thanks TH.
    Speaking of lawsuits, thank you CSA. And while I'm being grateful, I appreciate Stephanie, Nick, and the plaintiffs for following through on the lawsuit against the repulsive Proposition 1 that gave us 3 instead of 6 council members. Nick presented arguments at the Appeals Court in Seattle in late February.

  32. Removal of our way of life is due to giving power to the Zee family and the Lyshall - Schultz - Gregory WSU controlling parties of San Juan Island.

    Amazing use of island resources (and ignorance) to line their own pockets! And "partner" and beg for more money to bust local people for working on the land or managing it without an all natural, GMO free, climate friendly approach, as determined by these godlike folks.

    Non-profit? Stewardship? Conservation? No!
    Political scam artists who do nothing but spend tax money!

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