Federal Council Adopts Alternatives for Ocean Salmon Fisheries

Salmon managers have developed options for ocean salmon fisheries that reflect concerns over poor projected returns of coho salmon this year.

Three alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries were approved Monday for public review by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast. A public hearing on the three alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries is scheduled for March 27 in Westport.

Salmon managers developed options designed to protect the low number of wild coho expected to return to some 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).

“With these options in hand, we’ll work with anglers to establish fisheries for 2017 that meet our conservation objectives for wild salmon,” Adicks said. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead, but we anticipate ocean salmon quotas similar to, or perhaps slightly better than, last year’s.”

The ocean abundance of Columbia River coho is forecast to be about 386,000 fish, which is similar to last year’s forecast. Only 223,000 coho actually returned last year to the Columbia River, where some coho stocks are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. 

About 250,000 hatchery chinook are expected to return this year to the lower Columbia River – nearly 124,000 more fish than actually returned last year. Those salmon, known as “tules,” are the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.

Unfavorable environmental conditions, such as warm ocean water or flooding in rivers, have reduced the number of salmon returning to Washington’s waters, Adicks said.

The recreational fishing alternatives include the following quotas for fisheries off the Washington coast:

  • Alternative 1 – 54,500 chinook and 58,800 coho. This option includes early season fisheries, from June 17-30, in Marine Areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport) for hatchery chinook. This option also allows coho retention in all four marine areas during the traditional summery fishery.
  • Alternative 2 – 45,000 chinook and 50,400 coho. This option does not include early season fisheries but provides chinook and hatchery coho fisheries in all four marine areas that begin June 24.
  • Alternative 3 – 40,000 chinook and 18,900 coho. Chinook fisheries would begin in early July in all four marine areas. Coho retention would be allowed only in Marine Area 1.

The third alternative most closely resembles ocean fisheries last summer, when anglers were allowed to retain coho only in Marine Area 1 near the mouth of the Columbia River. Last year, the PFMC adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 35,000 chinook and 18,900 coho salmon.

For more details about the options, visit PFMC’s webpage at http://www.pcouncil.org/2017/03/46838/draft2017-sal-mgmt-alts-public-review/

Chinook and coho quotas approved by the PFMC will be part of a comprehensive 2017 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 fisheries.

State and tribal co-managers will complete the final 2017 salmon fisheries package in conjunction with the PFMC process during its April meeting in Sacramento, Calif. 

Meanwhile, several public meetings are scheduled in March and April to discuss regional fisheries issues. The public can comment on the proposed ocean alternatives as well as on other proposed salmon fisheries through WDFW’s North of Falcon webpage at http://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.

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