In recent weeks there have been articles relating to commercial fishing for steelhead in the mouth of the Skagit River, and much discussion concerning unrestricted fishing by the Indians. We as a group would like to voice our opinion on this matter of unrestricted fishing for any fish, steelhead or salmon. The debate is not one of who has the sole right to the fish, but rather how can we preserve and rehabilitate our fishery. In the early days when the Indian treaties were drawn up, they were not concerned with the future. When the treaties were signed, the Indians were fishing from canoes with spears, dip nets and related homemade nets. They caught fish for their food. Their methods of taking fish were not very efficient and were not endangering the fishery. Today we are faced with a serious problem, and anyone who will not face it is not using sound judgment. We are using outdated 19th Century laws to govern 20th Century technological advancements. Today’s fishermen are using highly developed nylon netting, fast powered boats and fish traps. In effect we are using scientific methods for catching the fish and using outdated laws to govern these new advancements. Why do we employ scientists to study our fishery problems when we can’t use their recommendations to help rebuild the depleted fish runs?
The Indians and the whites must reach an agreement if we are going to have any sport or commercial fishery in the future. We must use all the scientific information we can get and use it wisely. We must have strict regulations which will apply to everyone who fishes, hook and line or net fisherman. Cooperation is of the utmost importance, and now, before it is too late. What good is it to limit white fishermen to two or three days a week and give unlimited fishing time to the Indians? Can the fish be brought back with this method? To rehabilitate our fisheries, we must use scientific data with strict fishing laws for everyone who fishes. We have only to look north a few miles to see the fruits of science and strict fishing regulations. The Frazier River fishery was doomed some 15 years ago, but through the combined efforts of the International Salmon Commission and the cooperation of the fishermen, whites and Indians, the river is now producing more fish than ever before. There is still hope. Let’s all pull together instead of in opposite directions.