As true products of their environment the S'Klallam people spent much of their time fishing, because of their geographical location. The S'Klallam territory comprised most of the northern Olympic Peninsula, with access to a large number of rivers as well as the open waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They also made seasonal migrations north to the San Juan Island area, where they set up temporary fishing camps, and south to Hood Canal where they shared fishing sites with the Skokomish.
Mike and Billy working at the fish hatchery.
The waters within these areas produced countless numbers and varieties of fish, most of which the S'Klallam utilized. The most important of these was the salmon since it constituted the principal food of the S'Klallam. Common among the other varieties of fish they caught were halibut, herring, lingcod, smelt, dogfish (a species of shark), and candlefish. Some of these fish appeared only seasonally, but the S'Klallam had ways of catching and preserving them, so they always had a supply of those particular types of meat at their disposal whenever they wanted a change of diet.
Treaty Rights and Finfish Management
Salmon have always been vital to sustaining cultures and economies, a fact that is no less true today than it was in the 1850’s when the tribes’ treaties were negotiated with the United States. Treaty-protected fishing rights were reaffirmed by a federal district court ruling in 1974, referred to as the “Boldt Decision” (U.S. vs. Washington). The ruling, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1979, established the tribes as co-managers of the resource entitled to half of the harvestable number of salmon passing through their traditional fishing areas. However, legal battles continued into the early 1980’s as the state of Washington resisted the recognition of treaty fishing rights and fought the tribes in court to avoid implementing the federal court rulings upholding those rights. Because the state and tribes could not work together to manage the resource, the court assumed management by default.
The court made almost every fishery management decision in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, with the state and tribes arguing before a federal magistrate every step of the way. The tribes and state realized that the job of managing the salmon resource must not be in the hands of the court, and that only by setting aside differences and working together could they accomplish their respective and mutual goals. Over the past 20 years, in response to dwindling populations and a commitment to sustainable fisheries, the tribes and the State of Washington have worked together as co-managers of the resource to reduce harvest of Puget Sound salmon by as much as 90 percent.
Today, cooperative fisheries management in Washington State has produced a number of procedural and substantive programs and efforts aimed at achieving a common goal. That goal is to provide for the protection, restoration and enhancement of the productivity, production and diversity of salmon and their ecosystems to sustain ceremonial, subsistence, commercial and recreational fisheries, non-consumptive benefits, and cultural and ecological values.
The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe’s annual fisheries management activities include salmon run-size forecasting, monitor catches and allocation, sample fisheries, assess spawning escapement needs, monitor stock status, establish fishery regulations and other tasks to provide fishing opportunity while protecting the salmon resource. The primary responsibilities of tribal fishery management efforts are to provide resource protection, as well as to meet various socio-economic and cultural needs. Tribal fishery management decisions are based on the traditional Indian philosophy that decisions made today must be evaluated for their impacts on subsequent generations.
Port Gamble Net Pens
Fisheries management planning serves the long-term needs of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe through joint planning with other Tribes, and coordination with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC), Washington Department of Wish & Wildlife (WDFW) and federal fisheries agencies such as, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Fisheries (NOAA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Annual management forums include the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the Pacific Salmon Commission and the International Halibut Commission.
Little Boston Hatchery
The Little Boston Hatchery fall chum salmon hatchery is located at the mouth of Little Boston Creek on Port Gamble Bay and is operated by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. The program uses an isolated harvest strategy to attain the program goals of fishery augmentation to provide local fall chum salmon fishing opportunity and promoting the stability and viability of treaty and non-treaty fisheries. The program proposes to collect up to1,300 adult fall chum salmon from fish returning to Little Boston Creek to release 950,000 fry annually. Fish are released into Little Boston Creek during April and May at 400-450 fish per pound, when impacts on listed species would be expected to be minimal.
Port Gamble Coho Salmon Net Pens
The Port Gamble Coho Salmon Net Pens are located at the northern end of Port Gamble Bay in northern Hood Canal and are operated by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. The program uses an isolated harvest strategy to attain the program goals of fishery augmentation to provide local fall coho salmon fishing opportunity and promoting the stability and viability of treaty and non-treaty fisheries.
The program is a cooperative effort between the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Eggs are collected by the USFWS from broodstock of the Quilcene National Fish Hatchery and eggs are transferred to WDFW’s George Adams Hatchery where they are hatched and reared to smolts before transfer to the Port Gamble net pens.
The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe operates and maintains the net pens and fish food is provided by WDFW. The program proposes to release approximately 400,000 yearling coho salmon after April 15 annually in tributaries of the bay or near vicinity where impacts on listed species would be expected to be minimal.
In 2002, a rotary screw fish trap was installed in the lower Hamma Hamma River, to estimate the abundance of outmigrant smolts from the Hamma Hamma River. This is a collaborative effort between the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe together with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Long Live the Kings (LLTK), Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group (HCSEG), and the Skokomish Tribe.
The data collected over the long-term will provide insight on the annual variability in freshwater survival and will be used to refine estimates of recruitment. The data will also provide information on the quantitative relationships among various factors (e.g. peak flow, flow, water temperature etc.) that influence survival, timing of events, and overall smolt production in the freshwater phase. Such information is vital for proper management of the fishery.