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Intergovernmental Policy Council Formed for Olympic Coast
National Marine Sanctuary

The coastal treaty Indian tribes, State of Washington and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Sanctuary Program have established an Intergovernmental Policy Council to inform and cooperate in the management of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. The Policy Council will provide a forum for the tribal, state and federal governments to coordinate activities within the sanctuary.

Intergovernmental Agreement Signed.
Intergovernmental Agreement Signed. Representatives from coastal Indian Tribes, the State of Washington and the National Marine Sanctuary Program sign an agreement forming government-to-government working relations and the Olympic Coast Intergovernmental Policy Council. Signers are (from front to back): Vivian Lee, Chairwoman, Hoh Tribe; Micah McCarty, Tribal Council Member, Makah Tribe; Christine Gregoire, Governor, State of Washington; Daniel Basta, Director, NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program, Chris Morganroth, Tribal Council Member, Quileute Tribe; Fawn Sharpe, President, Quinault Indian Nation. (photo: OCNMS)
“This Policy Council is a landmark collaborative opportunity, one of the first of its kind and a tribute to the resolve of the partners vested in the future of the sanctuary waters,” said Daniel J. Basta, director of the sanctuary program. “It will bring together entities that have varied responsibility for regulation of activities and management of one of the most pristine marine ecosystems in North America.” 

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary was created in 1994, encompassing 3,310 square miles of Washington coastal waters from Neah Bay to the Copalis River. The area is home to many marine mammal and seabird species, diverse populations of kelp and intertidal algae, and thriving invertebrate communities.

The sanctuary is entirely encompassed by the traditional harvest areas of the Hoh, Makah, and Quileute tribes, and the Quinault Indian Nation. As sovereign nations, the tribes have treaty fishing rights and co-management responsibilities with the State of Washington for fishery resources and other natural resources within the sanctuary.

“This is another positive step toward an ecosystem-based approach to managing these resources,” said Mel Moon, natural resources director for the Quileute Tribe. “We must address the entire ecosystem and the relationships between the various components to ensure effective management,” said Moon.

Billy Frank Honored.
Billy Frank Honored. NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Director Daniel Basta recognizes Billy Frank Jr., Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, for his leadership role in creating the Olympic Coast Intergovernmental Policy Council. (photo: OCNMS)
“The Policy Council brings tribes to the table and integrates us into the management and decision-making process about resources that we co-manage with the state within the sanctuary,” said Jim Woods, policy representative for the Makah Tribe. “This is an important step in improving federally-mandated government-to-government communication between the tribes, the state and the sanctuary on coastal marine matters.”

“We look forward to continuing our management of this area in cooperation with our partners for the conservation of our marine ecosystems,” said Carol Bernthal, Olympic Coast sanctuary superintendent.  “The sanctuary is the new kid on the block when you compare it to the tribes and their long history of place-based management on the coast.”

Coordination of research projects within the sanctuary was a key reason the treaty tribes sought the creation of a Policy Council. Tribes are especially interested in research into low oxygen zones like the one that occurred this past summer off the beaches of the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN). Thousands of dead fish washed up on QIN beaches and pots full of dead crab were being pulled up by QIN fishermen.

“In the modern era of fisheries management, no one remembers ever seeing anything like this,” said Ed Johnstone, fisheries policy representative for QIN. “We need additional and more accurate monitoring devices and more research to understand what’s going on.”

The Hoh Tribe is also eager to participate in coordinating research projects within the sanctuary, said David Hudson, policy spokesperson for the Hoh Tribe. “Many Hoh tribal members have observed a decline in certain marine resources such as razor clams, smelts and flounder in recent years. Collaborative management within the sanctuary is a positive step toward preserving these resources for generations to come.”  

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