Illegal gill nets hooked by Suquamish PD

POULSBO — Illegal gill nets were removed from the North End of Liberty Bay by Suquamish Police crews Tuesday.

Officer Robert Norris of the SPD said officers found the two nets near American Legion Park the morning of Sept. 23. They were considered illegal because they were too far inland.

Rob Purser, fisheries manager for the Suquamish Tribe, said the line past which gill nets cannot be placed in Liberty bay is from the Sons of Norway’s Grieg Hall to the yellow house directly across the bay. Gill netters are not allowed anywhere north of that point.

“We’ve closed that area because we don’t want the nets high and dry when the tide goes out,” Purser said of the shallow bay area.

At about 10 a.m. Tuesday, crews assessed the nets, which were left on dry land during low tide, and took photos for evidence. The nets were later removed by boat when the water came in far enough. Norris said only about two dead fish were found entangled in the fabric. A number of dead salmon were nearby, but Norris said they were likely from local salmon spawning.

Poulsbo resident Stephen Augustine, who lives on the western shore of Liberty bay, said he was concerned with the harm the nets could have caused. Augustine said he began contacting tribal officials about the nets on Sept. 8 after he noticed two harbor seals entangled in them.

Augustine said through contacting several tribal sources, the fishers moved their nets twice, but still not far enough back in his estimation. He said he and many of his neighbors were frustrated watching the events unfold and because the individuals were vocally rude to several people who pointed out they were in restricted waters.

“No one can do anything about it outside of the tribe,” Augustine commented. “It boiled down to nobody could do anything and the tribe wasn’t enforcing it. I know the tribe can set its own regulations... But if they have these regulations in place, I think they should follow them.”

But Purser said the unfortunate part about Tuesday’s catch was that the individuals responsible for the nets were not the same ones who had been there the two weeks prior. Purser said SPD crews had checked out several calls on the first illegal nets and on the confrontational fishermen, however, they were never able to find the offenders.

“The two guys enforcement pulled out had only been there a couple of days. They only caught five fish in those nets,” Purser commented. “The guys that were there before were there about a week and these poor guys got the brunt of it.”

Norris said identification numbers on the nets’ buoys indicated that they belonged to a Suquamish tribal member. The incident was still under investigation, however, if tribal members were responsible for the placement, they would be prosecuted in tribal court.

Purser said anyone with a concern or question about gill nets is encouraged to call either Suquamish Fisheries or Suquamish Enforcement.

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