03/18/2018: "Fed Options For Salmon Fisheries"
Salmon managers have developed options for ocean salmon fisheries that reflect concerns over poor projected returns of coho and chinook salmon this year.
This year's forecast of Columbia River fall chinook is down more than 50 percent from the 10-year average. About 112,500 hatchery chinook are expected to return to the lower Columbia River. Those fish, known as "tules" are the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976.
Council members are chosen by the governors of the four states within the Council region, in conjunction with the Secretary of Commerce.
Three alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries were approved Wednesday for public review by the (PFMC)l, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters 3 to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.
The three options are designed to protect the low numbers of wild coho and chinook expected to return to the Columbia River and other Washington rivers this year while still providing some fishing opportunities, said Kyle Adicks, salmon fisheries policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
A public hearing on the three alternatives is scheduled for March 26 in Westport. More details are available online at https://www.pcouncil.org/2017/12/51357/salmon-hearings/.
"We'll use this range of options to work with stakeholders to develop a final fishing package for 2018 that meets our conservation objectives for wild salmon," Adicks said. "We know that ocean salmon quotas for chinook will be the lowest in several years and that coho quotas will be limited again this year due to weak forecasted returns to several rivers."
Fishery managers expect 286,200 Columbia River hatchery coho to return to the Washington coast, down about 100,000 fish from last year's forecast. Only 279,300 coho actually returned last year to the Columbia River, where some coho stocks are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Unfavorable environmental conditions, such as warm ocean water and flooding in rivers, have reduced the number of salmon returning to Washington's waters, Adicks said.
The alternatives include the following quotas for recreational fisheries off the Washington coast:
• Alternative 1: 32,500 chinook and 42,000 coho. Marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) would open June 23, while Marine Area 2 (Westport) would open July 1. All four areas would be open daily through Sept. 3. This option would have a fishery scheduled from Sept. 29-Oct. 14 in the La Push late-season area.
• Alternative 2: 27,500 chinook and 29,400 coho. Marine areas 1, 3 and 4 would be open daily June 30-Sept. 3, while Marine Area 2 would be open five days per week (Sunday through Thursday) June 24-Sept. 3. This option would also have a fishery scheduled from Sept. 29-Oct. 14 in the La Push late-season area.
• Alternative 3: 22,500 chinook and 16,800 coho. All four marine areas would be open July 1-Sept. 3. Marine Area 2 would be open Sundays through Thursdays while the other areas would be open daily. This option does not include a late fishery in the La Push area.
Each of the alternatives allows for varying levels of chinook and hatchery coho retention. Fisheries may close early if quotas have been met. For more details about the options, visit PFMC's webpage at https://www.pcouncil.org/blog/.
The first alternative most closely resembles ocean fisheries last summer, when PFMC adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 45,000 chinook and 42,000 coho salmon.
Chinook and coho quotas approved by the PFMC will be part of a comprehensive 2018 salmon-fishing package, which includes marine and freshwater fisheries throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington's coastal areas. State and tribal co-managers are currently developing those other fisheries.
State and tribal co-managers will complete the final 2018 salmon fisheries package in conjunction with PFMC during its April meeting in Portland, Ore.
Meanwhile, several public meetings are scheduled in March and April to discuss regional fisheries issues. The public can comment on the proposed ocean alternatives and provide their thoughts on other salmon fisheries through WDFW's website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/. A schedule of public meetings, as well as salmon run-size forecasts and more information about the salmon-season setting process can also be found on the webpage.