An island stewardship area where we make our own decisions

Say what you want about certain local sports fishermen, they are sincere… boy… they’re sincere!

On April 4 and 5, public meetings were held at the Friday Harbor Grange, Lopez Community Center and the Orcas Fire Hall. The Washington State Department of Resources was interested in our opinion. How should they change what they do here? Of the many people who turned out our fishermen were the most obvious.

Several years ago I wrote an opinion piece for the Journal of the San Juans. I asked: “Why not do what it takes to improve fishing? Why not do it with more local control? Let’s have an island stewardship area where we make our own decisions.”

People stopped me on the street. Strangers honked at me on the road. I thought to myself, “This is strange.” It turned out that they liked the idea of improving our resources – and doing it ourselves.

Everybody knows we don’t have the fish we used to have. We don’t have the fishing opportunities we used to have. Everybody knows San Juan County has many more people sharing a smaller pizza.

At the meetings this month people asked good questions: “How come we haven’t heard about working with the DNR?” Some people asked where the idea of collaboration with the DNR came from. Some wanted to know the effect on private property. Others realized we don’t have tangible information – after reading the 84-page document.

The fishermen asked: “How will this take away from our fishing”? I personally think that’s a very important question but I also think it is missing this point: DNR does not control fishing. They do control part of the habitat the fish need to survive. If someone proposes to put in a thousand enormous turbines on the bottom of channels here (and they did), the DNR could say: “No”, but probably not without citizen support.

Here’s some background. I’m on the SJC Marine Resources Committee. We try to represent everybody and we try to keep the County Council informed about marine issues.

That’s our mission: to represent you. We’re local, we support you and we are you.

Guess who I like to hear from most…fishermen have a claim to our resource – and – they’re sincere. It would be a treat if the vocal ones were also sensible.

Right now we need to hear from everybody: fishermen (again), fishermens’ spouses, non-fishermen; locals, non-locals, tribes, all of you. Let us know before May. Should we work in conjunction with the Department of Natural Resources in their administration of the public marine bottomlands?

I kind of wonder. It’s like someone was steadily dropping bricks on your head. Someone like me comes along and says, “Let’s go talk to this agency and see if they’ll stop dropping bricks, or at least the heavy ones…”. Why would you say, “No way! I refuse to talk to agencies that drop bricks on my head, and don’t you either”. I don’t get it.

Let’s get the resource back, let’s do it by advising the agencies in charge, and let’s not have sore heads.

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David Loyd is a resident of Waldron Island, operates a freight company, and has been a member of the Marine Resources Committee since 2002.