THE TALKING HEAD on the local Seattle news dispensed with the story as though it were the afternoon traffic report, or a live shot of the bottom of Jon Kitna’s locker at the Seahawks’ summer training camp headquarters in Cheney – put it in the can, throw it back to studio, pack up and head for the airport for a story on the size of the ticket line at the Alaska Airlines counter.
But it caught my attention. And it caught the attention of Dave Morgison at Possession Point Charters. And it should have caught your attention, even if you didn’t see it. The story, aired in the third week of August, informed the general public that the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, in conjunction with commercial fishers and the members of two local Indian tribes, were beginning testing on a new type of fishing net that “significantly increases the survival rate of fish returned to the water after they are caught.”
Say hello to the tangle net, a piece of fishing technology that WDFW head Jeff Koenings lauds as a possible next step “in the new era of selective fisheries in our state.”
The new net, which was still being tested at presstime near Port Madison on the Kitsap Peninsula and on Budd Inlet by commercial boats and members of the Suquamish and Squaxin tribes, features a smaller, looser weave that theoretically allows the user to release fish easily instead of compressing their gills like a traditional gillnet. The net is already in use in British Columbia, and, according to the WDFW, is beginning to generate interest among commercial fishers in the state of Washington. Rightfully so. If it works as it’s designed, the tangle net could ultimately redefine the way that mass-quantity fish are caught in Puget Sound and could provide some much-needed relief from the disgusting ravages of commercial and tribal gillnetting. It could also open the door for commercials to nudge sports right out of fisheries from one end of the Sound to the other.
“I applaud it as a theory, because selective fishing for the common good is admirable,” says Northwest Marine Trade Association representative Frank Urabeck. “But does that now open the door for the state to allow commercials to selectively fish for more fish, at the expense of the sports? We’ll certainly have to keep our eyes open for warning flags that there might be deals or provisions made to the commercials that would allow them to encroach on the sports’ share of the harvest.”
Don’t kid yourself – that’s exactly what the commercials will push for. Any of you who saw that mid-August news report also saw a taped interview with “Joe Commercial,” who flat out stated that he was in favor of the tangle net because it would allow him and his buddies to “fish where they can’t fish now.”
“Isn’t that just typical?” asked Morgison when I talked to him shortly after the report aired. “It’s not bad enough that they’re taking all the fish that they’re already allowed, but now they think they need to come in and take more of our fish?”
The report has already been filed by News Central Channel 28, and you’ll as likely see a rebroadcast of the Aug. 18 traffic report as a second visit to the tangle-net debate. Keep an eye on it as we head toward next year’s North of Falcon process, and don’t let commercial interests net more than they’re already getting.