Indian tribes are active leaders in protecting and restoring salmon and their habitat, and co-manage salmon fishing with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. These co-managers, in cooperation with federal agencies and other states, set the fishing seasons each year. Salmon fishing opportunities are managed with the dual goals of conservation and sustainability of salmon. The co-managers focus fishing on healthy stocks of hatchery and naturally spawning salmon and steelhead.
Through treaties with the federal government, many tribes reserved their rights to harvest fish and other natural resources in exchange for their land. In these legal promises, treaty tribes are entitled to 50 percent of the harvestable salmon returning to Washington waters. As sovereign nations, Indian tribes use their treaty rights to protect the natural resources, which benefits us all.
Treaty rights are at risk as salmon habitat continues to decline. The State of Our Watersheds report by the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission provides detailed data and information about pressures on salmon habitat in western Washington.
Indian tribes in Washington work closely with state agencies and local organizations to protect and restore habitat for salmon. Tribal members serve on the boards that run the regional and watershed recovery organizations. The successes we see in salmon recovery come from our ability to work together, and uphold our agreements. It’s time to support and build on the strengths of these collaborative efforts even more.
The tireless commitment by Indian tribes to work for salmon recovery is remarkable. We can find inspiration from the dedication of Indian tribes and their long-term vision to keep salmon strong and harvestable for future generations. This forward-thinking approach is inherent in tribal cultures.