[env-trinity] Two Rivers Tribune- Ceremonies Could Stop Commercial Fishing at Peak of Fall Run

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed Apr 27 12:55:19 PDT 2011

Ceremonies Could Stop Commercial Fishing at Peak of Fall Run

Ken Norton, Chuckie Carpenter and Lois Risling discuss commercial fishing regulations at the April 12 Fish Commission meeting in Hoopa. Draft regulations are due to the Hoopa Tribal Council by May 24, 2011. Photo by Allie Hostler/TRT staff

All fishing, other than ceremonial fishing, could be prohibited for 50 days during Hupa ceremonies under draft commercial fishing regulations to be considered by the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council next month. Coincidentally, the prohibition would occur during the peak of the fall Chinook salmon run.

The 50-day prohibition was proposed by a cultural representative on the Commission, Clarence Hostler Sr. Other cultural commissioners have not returned to the table following a misunderstanding about their level of participation on the Commission.

During the previous meeting, Tribal attorney, Gene Burke said he would seek direction from the Tribal Council on how to proceed, and if a letter should be sent to the cultural commissioners who left their seats vacant following a Tribal Council motion to separate the cultural members from the voting body of the Fish Commission, reducing their role to the advisory level. Burke, nor the Tribal Council, provided an update at the most recent meeting.

Hostler defined ceremonial fishing in a draft proposal as, “The taking and provision of salmon, sturgeon and other Trinity River species, to supply food for ceremonialists, dancers, and the people at the time of the ceremonial dances, including distribution to elders and families in need during the time of ceremonies. And, Restoration and continuation of the First Salmon Ceremony with annual construction and use of a traditional fish dam on the Trinity River.”

Prohibition dates identified include ten days prior to the White Deerskin Dance, ten days during, ten days following, ten days during the Jump Dance and ten days following the Jump Dance. The consecutive ceremonies typically occur from mid to late August through mid to late September every other year.

George Kautsky, representing the Hoopa Valley Tribal Fisheries Department, clarified that a commercial fishing prohibition during the 50-day period would occur during the height of the fall Chinook salmon run and that marketable salmon tend to migrate through the Hoopa portion of the Trinity River during parts of August, September and October. Kautsky said that the marketability of salmon greatly drops in November as the fish near the end of their migration and natural lifecycle. Also, coho salmon, a federally protected species tend to have their peak migration in late Fall.

Audience member and Tribal member, Steve Baldy asked that the Commission consider writing the section more broadly so as not to restrict the prohibition only to ceremonies currently being practiced. He mentioned several ceremonies that could be reinstated in the future as Hupa culture becomes revitalized such as the Spring Jump Dance, the Salmon Ceremony and the Acorn Ceremony.

“If we expand our uses of salmon we can get more water and facilitate the rejuvenation of those ceremonies and better restore the fishery at the same time,” Baldy said. “I’m not trying to just stop commercial fishing, but it seems like we need to think of all these things if we are going to have a regulation that works for Hupa people.”

Commissioner Ken Norton expressed concern that further broadening the restrictions could eliminate commercial fishing completely. Although Norton had no objection to limiting commercial fishing during the specified days for observance of tradition during the White Deerskin Dance and the Jump Dance, he didn’t agree with limiting subsistence fishing.

“We also have to acknowledge that not 100 percent of our Tribal members participate in the ceremonies,” Norton said. “I’m a traditionalist, but I don’t see how this body can make a recommendation to prohibit subsistence fishing. I think that’s going too far.”

Audience and Tribal memberRhonda Jones-O’Neill said, “The cultural area is one that we cannot compromise on. If we become too far removed from who we are as Hupa people we begin to lose the essence of what makes us unique. We need to stay true to who we are.”

“Both subsistence and ceremonial fishing are to be protected for Tribal members as essential, cultural aspects of Tribal members’ cultural identity and legal rights, with seniority as rights, establishing a basis for tribal fishing rights, thus establishing a basis for tribal commercial fishing rights,” Hostler wrote in his draft proposal.


Kautsky provided a chart of information outlining the allocation process and conservation goals for Klamath River salmon, specifically the fall run. Kautsky also clarified that Trinity River salmon runs are considered Klamath salmon since the two rivers and their tributaries are part of a single watershed, the Klamath Basin.

The numbers show that in the past 20 years Hoopa Tribal members caught an average of nine percent of the inter-tribal allocation. But, numbers can be deceiving. The intertribal allocation, arrived at through a complex process facilitated by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, is currently shared with the Yurok Tribe, which claims 80 percent, leaving 20 percent to Hoopa—also a point of contention.

When the math is done, it is also accurate to say that Hoopa Tribal members catch nearly 50 percent of their quota on average.

Baldy said that by using the nine percent figure, the Tribal membership had been misled into thinking they were dramatically falling short of catching the quota, and at risk of losing a portion of their quota in the future—the use it or lose it conundrum. He added that another way to present the numbers would be to explain to the membership how close they are to meeting the Tribe’s quota rather than how close they are to meeting a shared quota with the Yurok Tribe.

Using more than 20 years of harvest management data, Kautsky said that about 11 percent of the inter-tribal allocation—or, just over 50 percent of the Hoopa specific quota—would be available for a commercial fishery. Kautsky excluded harvest numbers from 2008 and 2009—when Tribal Police began to issue transportation permits for those traveling off the reservation to sell fish—so as to avoid skewing the representation of subsistence and ceremonial take.

Kautsky briefly shared a chart he prepared to outline conservation and management of spring run Chinook. Natural spawning spring run Chinook are largely ignored in contemporary management of Klamath salmon and are currently being considered for listing on the Endangered Species List.

Chairwoman Lois Risling asked if the Tribe had identified its own conservation standard for spring run Chinook. Kautsky answered no, but provided an estimate of the impact Hoopa fishermen have to naturally spawning spring run Chinook. He said by prohibiting fishing for spring run Chinook, about 23 additional fish would make it to the South Fork of the Trinity to spawn. That’s about 14 percent of the entire South Fork of the Trinity spring run.

On the contrary, Hoopa fishermen and families would have foregone about 1,400 fish to allow about 23 to pass.

There will not be a Fish Commission meeting this week due to the Tribe’s primary election. Chairwoman Lois Risling plans to have a compilation of the Commissioners’ proposals in draft form for Commission review on Tuesday, May 4. The Commission is scheduled to deliver their draft regulations and recommendations to the Tribal Council on May 24.
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