Tribal Fishing Approvedby CBB Staff
The Columbia River Compact on Monday approved a proposal that will allow, beginning Thursday, June 17, tribal platform and hook-and-line fishers to sell chinook salmon and steelhead caught in the Columbia River mainstem reservoirs between Bonneville and McNary dams.
Four treaty tribes -- the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakima -- can use hoopnets, dipnets and rods and reels to catch walleye, carp and shad for sale as well. Tribal fishers can also sell fish caught in the Wind, Klickitat and Big White Salmon rivers through July 31, according to the Compact decision. The Compact -- which sets mainstem commercial fishing seasons -- is made up of representatives of the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife.
The decision prohibits the sale of sockeye salmon caught during the period, though sockeye may be kept for subsistence purposes. Sturgeon, likewise, cannot be sold but fish caught in The Dalles and John Day pools that measure between 4 and 5 feet long can be kept for subsistence use. Sturgeon between 45 and 60 inches caught in the Bonneville pool can also be kept for subsistence.
A fact sheet submitted by the tribes notes that the preseason forecast is for an adult return to the mouth of the Columbia of 102,800 adult summer chinook salmon. An interim management agreement between the states and tribes allows the tribes a 5 percent "impact" on the summer chinook -- 5,140 fish if the forecast is accurate.
Such a return would be the third largest since 1960. Upriver summer chinook returns remained at record low levels from 1973-2000, ranging between 15,000 and 38,700. But like many Columbia River basin runs, the past few years witnessed rising counts. The return in 2001 was 76,400, followed by a record high count of 129,000 adults in 2002 and 116,900 last year. The Bonneville Dam escapement goal is 80,000-90,000.
The anticipated 2003 run allowed the states to set a selective sport fishery for marked summer chinook that resulted in the harvest of 1,850 fish. That sport fishery in the mainstem below Bonneville was approved again this year and began Wednesday.
The preseason forecast for sockeye is 80,654 adult fish. The agreement allows the tribes a 7 percent harvest rate on sockeye if the run size bigger than 75,000 adults. With the current forecast that equates to a harvest of 5,645.
Based on recent year's harvest rates for platform subsistence fisheries, tribal staff has estimated that the 1 1/2-month fishery would result in a 1 percent impact on summer chinook and a 3.1 impact on sockeye.
"Based on these estimates, even if allowing sales increases platform fishing effort modestly, platform sales appear to present no risk to exceeding harvest limits for either chinook or sockeye," according to the fact sheet.
The impact limits are imposed because the Snake River components of the summer chinook and sockeye runs are listed as threatened and endangered, respectively under the Endangered Species Act.
The sockeye forecast includes returns to the upper Columbia of 27,500 Wenatchee-bound fish and 53,000 Okanogan fish. The forecast includes 154 Snake River sockeye. Only 28 Snake River sockeye returned last year and only 14 of those made it past Lower Granite Dam on their way back to the Stanley Basin in central Idaho.
The sockeye return has bounced up and down. The 2002 return was 49,629 and last year the 39,400-fish count was the smallest since 1999 and fifth smallest since 1980. The followed runs of 116,623 in 2001 and 93,754 in 2000.
On average, 50 percent of both the sockeye and summer chinook runs will have passed Bonneville Dam by June 26. The difference is that the summer chinook run is normally a relatively steady flow that begins to slowly taper off in July while the sockeye speed upriver, building quickly to a peak with a large portion of the total run passing Bonneville within a few days in late June or early July.
Through Tuesday, the adult summer chinook count at Bonneville was 27,988 with counts over a six-day span ranging from 1,900 to 2,200 daily. The sockeye count climbing steadily, from 1,241 to 2,940 for the week ending Tuesday, June 15. The total count is 17,426 through that date.
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