Billy Frank: Act now to protect water resources
"Rockfish are part of the bounty that the Pacific Ocean has always provided for the Indian tribes along the Washington coast. Fish, shellfish, marine mammals and other marine life have been staples of our diets and economies for as long as anyone can remember.

But now our fish populations are in trouble and being mismanaged. The reasons for the recent declines are either complex or unknown, most likely because we aren’t looking in the right place. So it’s urgent that we fund much-needed research about fish stocks off our coast.

The practice of assuming rockfish populations up and down the Pacific coast are the same, and managing them as a single stock, has failed.

Big time declines in the stocks are driving management decisions for all of the West Coast. A multi-million dollar groundfish fishery in Washington waters, where rockfish resources are stronger, is at risk of a complete closure because of weak stocks in northern California waters.

To avoid such an economic disaster, we must act now.

The Hoh Indian Tribe, the Makah Tribe, the Quileute Tribe, the Quinault Indian Nation and the State of Washington have proposed a five-year ocean monitoring and research initiative to manage rockfish at the ecosystem level. Federal support is needed to collect basic information we need to manage the waters off the Olympic Coast.

For a small percentage of the value of the fishery to our communities a year, we can begin to collect the data needed to improve our understanding of a vital part of our heritage and an essential part of our future."

Get the Story:
Billy Frank, Jr.: Let’s understand our watery world (Indian Country Today 11/14)