Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife officials say tribal fishery managers and the state are in the final stages of reaching an agreement in the stalemate over salmon fishing. A deal could be finalized at any moment.
Salmon fishing could reopen in a couple weeks, but the agreement must first be approved by NOAA.
The deal will likely include the closure of rivers with dramatically low coho predictions, like the Nisqually and Puyallup. Certain Lake Washington fisheries may be closed as well.
After a limited Chinook season last year, coho returns are predicted at historic lows. With so few fish, state and tribal authorities could not agree on how to split the available catch and with it the rules for a salmon fishing season. With no deal, there are no permits.
As the season stalls, the tension grew between the recreational fishing industry and the tribal fisherman. Certain tribes were able to secure an emergency permit to fish, while recreational anglers were forced to park their boats.
Tribal authorities have called for a focus on habitat restoration and protecting the fish for future generations instead of fixating on the short-term fishing season. Leaders often cite federal law which guarantees them a certain share of a resource that continues to wane in large part due to major habitat issues.
Commercial and recreational salmon fishing around Puget Sound typically profits about $100 million each year.