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Jim Foley's presentation on unregulated Karuk Tribe dipnetting
of Federally protected salmon

To the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors 3/17/09

Today I made a presentation the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors. I asked them to summon California Department of Fish and Game before the board to answer questions about why Fish and Game has granted a special "exception" to the rules that everyone else must follow.

The board voted unanimously to summon CDFG and NMFS so that the board can gather information on this issue and seek answers as to why one class of people should be allowed an exception to the same laws that everyone else must obey.

What follows is my presentation to the board.

Request for assistance from the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors
On March 2nd. 2009 a broad coalition of concerned citizen groups, led by the New 49er’s prospecting organization and comprised of agricultural, ranching, mining and other concerned citizens, submitted a petition to the California Dept. of Fish and Game to repeal an illegal exception to the state Fish and Game Code. This exception allows the Karuk Tribe to engage in an unregulated and unmonitored fishery at a time when the Tribe, Commission and Department are actively involved in efforts to restrict all other economic activities in the Klamath Basin, including but not limited to agriculture, logging, mining, grazing and hydroelectric generation.
We seek the repeal of an exception to the CDFG General Area Closures set forth in § 7.50(b)(91.1)(b)(2): Exception: members of the Karuk Indian Tribe listed on the current Karuk Tribal Roll may fish at Ishi Pishi Falls using hand-held dip nets.
Our coalition takes this step with extreme reluctance, but we cannot remain silent while our own activities in the vicinity of this fishery, with no adverse impact on fish whatsoever, are threatened by the Tribe and Department. Specifically, the Tribe and Department appear to contend that status of fishery resources in the area is so dire that any and all human activity which fish biologists speculate may possibly injure fish must be shut down, except intentional killing of the fish for human consumption.
Indeed, the Tribe has commenced one federal and two state lawsuits and has repeatedly
sought legislative and administrative actions attempting to destroy federally protected citizen rights. At the same time, the Commission and Department continue to authorize, and the Tribe continues to conduct, an unregulated dipnet fishery with substantial direct, immediate, and adverse impacts on fishery resources­the fish are killed.
A September 22, 2008 article in the Los Angeles Times reports that the fishery is conducted in “a gray area of the law” and that “no one officially keeps track of the 2,000 or so salmon that the tribe can take in a good year”.
Right now, their fish are not even paper fish, said Neil Manji, a senior fisheries biologist for the California Department of Fish and Game.  Anything they catch, it’s kind of like ghost fish.
Leaf Hillman, vice chair of the Karuk Tribe, is quoted as saying, “People have been satisfied for many, many years to pretend the issue doesn’t exist.”
Coho salmon in the Klamath River are listed as a federally-protected threatened species, 50 C.F.R. § 223.102(a)(10)  Any take” of Coho is a violation of federal law. They are also listed as threatened under California law.  14 C.C.R. § 670.5(b)(2)(E)
According to a November 2005 report on the Karuk Tribal diet 3.2% of Karuk households reported harvesting “11 to 50” Coho, and 11.1% of Karuk households reported harvesting “10 or less” Coho in the 2004-2005 season, a season in which catches were reportedly at “record lows”.   A 2006 master’s thesis at Humboldt State University reports that 30% of the tribal households harvested Coho.
We have also noted that the current draft of the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources Eco-Cultural Resources Management Plan does not specify any protections whatsoever for Coho salmon, referring only to the goal protect activities in tributaries that contribute to the quality and availability of spawning, rearing and migration habitat. The Plan acknowledges that: Fish harvested include; Fall Chinook Salmon, Fall, Winter and early Spring Run Steelhead, Coho Salmon, Crayfish, Trout and Pacific Lamprey.  Many of the listed fish are harvested at Ishi Pishi Falls, while all are harvested to a lesser extent at many locations throughout the Karuk Aboriginal Territory.  Ishi Pishi Falls is currently the only place traditional salmon fishing methods are consistently practiced and known by management agencies and the general public.
In light of the above conditions and the impact they have on our entire community, we respectfully ask this board to summon CDFG to appear before this board to answer questions regarding why they continue to illegally authorize an activity such as this, when they are charged with “protecting” our fish and game resources.

James Foley
Property and Mining Rights Advocate
Klamath River, California  
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