Fisheries Program

Fisheries/Harvest Management

The Harvest Management component of the Natural Resources program involves managing numerous natural resources, which are part of the Tribe’s treaty rights. These rights were reaffirmed in the 1974 US v. WA, Judge Boldt decision and the subsequent 1994 US v. WA Judge Refeedie decision, which reaffirmed the Tribe’s right to harvest shellfish.  The Nooksack Tribe has inhabited the Nooksack River watershed for thousands of years, our culture is based on harvesting fish, wildlife, and other natural resources in the region. Today we co-manage numerous freshwater and marine natural resources with the state and other tribes in which we share a common U&A. The management of these natural resources including shellfish, salmonids, halibut and other finfish, is an annual process and involves numerous state and federal agencies, along with treaty tribes.  Through a number of management forums, in which tribes meet with state and federal natural resource managers, agreements are typically reached which specify management methods and harvest levels. The agreed-to annual management plan for the salmon terminal areas- Bellingham and Samish Bay along with the salmon fishing schedule for the Nooksack River is published annually in the Tribal newsletter. The weekly commercial fishing schedule is also available on the Natural Resources Information hotline. That number is (360)-592-5140.

Fin FIsh

The management of marine areas 7 and 7A (charts are available in the Natural Resources Office, which delineate these areas) are typically done by in-season management.  The only commercial salmon fisheries which occur in these areas are Fraser River and Puget Sound sockeye, pink and chum salmon. There are no commercially directed coho and chinook fisheries in these management areas.  Coho and chinook are typically harvested incidentally during the directed commercial fisheries.


The lower SFNR provides habitat for all Pacific salmonid species, including spring and fall Chinook salmon, coho salmon, pink salmon, chum salmon, sockeye salmon, steelhead, bull trout, and cutthroat trout.  South Fork (SF) Nooksack early chinook is an independent population of the threatened Puget Sound Chinook Evolutionarily Significant Unit that is essential for recovery. Chinook spawn upstream to the anadromous barrier at RM 31, although Sylvester’s Falls at RM 25 constitutes a partial blockage, and in larger tributaries to the South Fork.  The abundance of both early Chinook salmon populations (North Fork/Middle Fork early Chinook salmon, South Fork Nooksack early Chinook salmon) is critically low, on the order of dozens to a few hundred natural-origin spawners for each population. A report by the US Commission of Fish and Fisheries on Fisheries of the West Coast that includes 1895 Nooksack River catch data estimates that nearly 25,000 Chinook inhabited the Nooksack River at that time.  The populations comprise two of 22 independent populations in the Puget Sound Chinook Salmon Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESU), which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Nooksack early chinook (including both the SFNR and the North/Middle Fork populations) is the highest priority species, although restoration of Chinook habitat is expected to yield collateral benefits to other species. Nooksack spring Chinook salmon hold great cultural and subsistence importance to the Nooksack Tribe and Lummi Nation.

Shell Fish

Shellfish management areas include 20A- Point Roberts, Cherry Point area, 20B and 22A- San Juan Islands, 21A and 21B- Bellingham and Samish Bay and 22B- Padilla Bay.   There are opportunities for tribal members to harvest shellfish commercially and for subsistence or personal use. Tribal members may subsistence harvest clams, oysters, Dungeness and rock crab, shrimp, urchins, sea cucumbers and geoducks.  There is also a commercial and subsistence halibut fishery in the spring. The halibut subsistence fishery typically remains open through December 31. Typically there is an annual limited commercial manila clam harvest in the Spring at Birch Bay State Park.