US tribal fishing rights under threat
The Associated Press has reported that some US Indian tribes' fishing rights under treaty rights with the federal government are at risk because of disappearing salmon habitats.
The issue is that treaty rights don’t count for much if there is no salmon to harvest.
Ongoing salmon shortages in Puget Sound and along the coast saw the Washington tribes taking their case to the White House lasy year. The tribes charged the federal government with not living up to treaty obligations signed in 1854 and 1855 which preserved the tribes’ rights to harvest fish and shellfish in the traditional grounds outside their reservation.
The Northwest Indian Fisheries Association (NWIFA) is an organisation of 20 treaty tribes in the area, including the Hoh and Puyallup tribes - it argues that the tribes are very much dependent on these natural resources and that something has to be done to address the issue. It says that it’s: "Losing the battle for salmon recovery in western Washington because salmon habitat is being damaged and destroyed faster than it can be restored."
On the back of the report submitted to the White House last year, AP says that the White House Council on Environmental Quality charged the US Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to come up with an action plan to address the tribes' concerns.
But despite millions of dollars being spent on salmon recovery efforts in the region, steelhead and salmon numbers continue to decline - a number of issues including development, loss of wetlands, overfishing and pollution are being blamed.