The Jamestown Shellfish Program is primarily responsible for the harvest management of shellfish resources, which include clams, geoduck, crab, shrimp and other species. In addition to maintaining records of all subsistence and commercial shellfish harvests, the shellfish program conducts several types of biological assessments, monitoring, research and enhancement.
The Jamestown Tribe works cooperatively with the State of Washington to co-manage the shellfish resources. Management agreements and harvest plans are developed to preserve, protect and perpetuate shellfish resources while providing equal sharing of allowable harvest.
As with salmon, the right to harvest shellfish lies within a series of treaties signed with representatives of the federal government in the 1850s. In 1989, the tribes filed suit in federal court to have their treaty shellfish harvest rights recognized. Years of negotiations were unsuccessful, and the issue went to trial in May 1994. Federal District Court Judge Edward Rafeedie followed in the footsteps of the Boldt Decision. He ruled the treaties’ “in common” language meant that the tribes had reserved harvest rights to half of all shellfish from all of the usual and accustomed places, except those places “staked or cultivated” by citizens – or those that were specifically set aside for non- Indian shellfish cultivation purposes.
“A treaty is not a grant of rights to the Indians, but a grant of rights from them,” Rafeedie wrote in his December, 1994 decision, adding that the United States government made a solemn promise to the tribes in the treaties that they would have a permanent right to fish as they had always done. Rafeedie ruled all public and private tidelands within the case area are subject to treaty harvest, except for shellfish contained in artificially created beds. His decision requires tribes planning to harvest shellfish from private beaches to follow many time, place, and manner restrictions on harvest.
Clams & Oysters
Intertidal clams and oysters on state owned tidelands are managed through eight management regions. In each region, a management plan between the State and Tribes is used to coordinate harvests, surveys, and other activities.
Jamestown tribal members harvest clams and oysters for commercial, ceremonial and subsistence purposes. Subsistence clam harvest is monitored through a permit system with an associated catch-reporting requirement. Harvesters are required by regulation to have a valid subsistence harvest reporting card in their possession during each subsistence harvest and to record subsistence catch by species on the card prior to leaving the beach.
Commercial fisheries generally occur with an onsite monitor to observe the fishery and record catch as it is removed from the beach. Jamestown, Port Gamble and PNPTC staff conduct population assessments on selected beaches to determine the total allowable catch for each species and beach.
The geoduck fishery began in 1994. The Jamestown Tribe requires that all tribal divers complete extensive training before participating in the geoduck fishery. The geoduck fishery is managed by regions (Hood Canal, Strait, San Juans, South, Central and North Sound) and harvest levels are based on a 2.7% annual harvest rate of surveyed geoduck. The geoduck fishery is strictly monitored by enforcement and fisheries staff. Prior to geoduck harvest, geoducks are sampled and tested for Paralytic Shellish Poisoning. Commercial harvesting of geoduck clams are done by hand, subtidally, using surface supplied air and water jet hoses called stingers. Since the geoduck are can burrow down to 2 or 3 feet, the water jet is used to liquefy the sand and the geoducks are hand-pulled from the substrate. Fishers harvest off of specialized fishing boats set up to allow one or two divers to harvest at a time in water depths that range from 18 to 70 feet below the surface. Geoducks are found in discreet tracts of suitable habitat, usually close to shore, but are found in shallow open-water habitats such as reefs and banks.
The Jamestown Tribe and State perform biological stock assessment of the commercial geoduck resource and to make annual recommendations on the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for each geoduck management region. Systematically spaced strip transect surveys are used to estimate the density of harvestable geoducks within commercial tracts, and a sample of geoducks is taken from these transects to estimate average weight. Biomass estimates on commercial tracts are the product of mean biomass per unit area and the total area of the tract. Regional biomass estimates are the sum of all surveyed commercial tract estimates within the region. Regional TACs are the product of the regional biomass estimate and the recommended harvest rate.
Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) is one of the most important shellfisheries (both commercially and recreationally) in Puget Sound. Puget Sound is divided into 6 crustacean management regions, with the Jamestown Tribe participating in Regions 1, 2 West, 3, and 5. The crab fishery is managed to protect softshell males and females and is based upon all males greater than a carapace width of 6.25 inches. It is believed that this size ensures that the males have the opportunity to reproduce at least once prior to entering the fishery. There is a projected harvestable amount specified prior to the season. The amount can be modified (higher or lower) based upon additional information collected during the season.
Jamestown and WDFW staff jointly conduct test fisheries to determine appropriate openings and closings and to collect data on crab molting. Harvest during periods of soft-shell conditions can increase the mortality of soft crab, decreasing future abundance. The commercial crab fishery is conducted using crab pots with escape rings for undersized crab and rot cord for conservation measures. The State recreational fishery also utilizes ring nets, wading and other methods
The fishery is managed according to species, gear type, and regions. The primary commercial shrimp species targeted by the Jamestown tribe are spot shrimp. The shrimp fishery is managed to protect smaller males (which later become females) and ovigerous (egg-bearing) females. The shrimp pot fishery is conducted using shrimp pots with rot cord for conservation measures. Shrimp gear (7/8 inch mesh) allows for the escapement of small males.The pot fishery season is opened from April 15 through September 15 of each year but may be adjusted if test fisheries for ovigerous females are conducted.
The spot shrimp fishery is opened when 97% of the females sampled have released their eggs. State and Tribal allocations are based on an equal sharing of the estimated harvestable surplus. The harvestable surplus of spot shrimp is based on an average of the historical harvest with adjustments based on recent fishery performance. There are separate allocation for spots and non-spot shrimp. The actual shrimp population varies from year to year and region to region.
(Strongylocentrotus franciscanus, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis )
The primary fishing season for both the red and green urchin fishery is between September and February. Projected harvestable allocations are based on historical data and a population model developed by WDFW. The commercial sea urchin fishery is managed by fishing districts and upper and lower size restrictions. The minimum size for green sea urchins is 2.25 inches and red sea urchins smaller than 4.0 inches or larger than 5.5 inches (size in largest test diameter exclusive of spines).
The sea cucumber fishery in divided into 5 management regions: San Juan, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Central Puget Sound, Hood Canal, South Puget Sound. The harvest season is between May 1 and April 30th. The harvestable amount is determined using a catch per unit effort based harvest rate. There are no maximum or minimum size restrictions for sea cucumbers. Sea Cucumbers are harvested by divers using surface supplied air or self contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA).
The octopus fishery is thought to be underutilized. The State and Tribes agreed to passively manage the fishery and not strictly adhere to the 50% treaty right until the fishery becomes fully utilized. However, there is little information on the Puget Sound population, total harvest amounts, and recruitment information to fully make a determination when the fishery is fully utilized. This is a directed pot fishery and is also commercially sold as incidental catch in other fisheries.
(Chlamys rubida, Chlamys hastada)
The scallop management agreement between the Tribes and the State expired September 1, 1999 and there has not been any interest in the commercial fishery to develop a new agreement. Similar to the octopus fishery, the commercial scallop fishery is not fully utilized and does not strictly adhere to the 50% treaty right. In addition, the fishery must abide by the shellfish sanitation agreement and the National Shellfish Sanitation Manual in terms of growing area openings and biotoxin (PSP) testing.
The squid management agreement between the Tribes and the State was signed in 2005 and will be in effect through December 31, 2010. The squid fishery is thought to be underutilized. This is a primarily a State recreational fishery. Although the recreational harvest is believed to be substantial, there is currently no estimate on the amount being harvested. The State and the Tribes have agreed to implement a joint effort during the 2006 season to assess the recreational harvest.