Attached is a position statement from FWP regarding Flathead Lake fisheries issues, and a Q&A that gives more detail on these issues. These documents are consistent with letters sent to CSKT by FWP over the past year.
In summary, FWP has made the following points regarding the CSKT lake trout gill netting proposals which make up the bulk of the EIS:
• FWP believes that aggressive measures such as gill netting lake trout are not called for in the CSKT/FWP Flathead Fisheries Co-Management plan at this time. Bull trout populations are 60% above the secure levels, a guideline developed under the Co-Management plan. Because bull trout are above secure levels, FWP believes that there is no purpose and need to proceed with gill netting at this time. Harvest of lake trout through recreational angling and Mack Days are within the direction of the Co-Management Plan.
• FWP is concerned about the high level of uncertainty associated with the modeling results on which the EIS analysis is based. We believe that the analysis underestimates the risk to bull trout from the proposed gill netting actions, and overestimates the benefit to bull trout. We also believe that the impacts to the recreational fishery are underestimated.
• FWP is very concerned about the by-catch issue. Bull trout will be caught and killed in the nets along with the lake trout. Large numbers of lake whitefish will be part of the by-catch, as well as other species.
• Water quality could be affected by the removal of lake trout and lake whitefish, both of which prey on mysis shrimp. If mysis shrimp increase, this could lead to a food web interaction where more zooplankton are eaten by mysis. This could result in potential algae blooms, which are currently held in check by zooplankton grazing.
FWP believes that the best direction to take is for CSKT and FWP to work together on a shared vision and management direction before any changes are made to current management. FWP appreciates CSKT’s inclusion in the EIS of a possible decision that could be made by CSKT and BIA which states: “Select none of the alternatives and reconvene the management planning team.”