Managers Select Possible Ocean Harvest Optionsby Bill Rudolph
NW Fishletter, March 29, 2013
The Pacific Fishery Management Council has picked three options for coastal fishing regimes this year, and will make a final decision next month after hearing from constituent groups at public meetings throughout the region.
With fall Chinook stocks in good shape throughout the West Coast, California commercial and recreational fishers are likely to get several months of fishing time. South of Cape Falcon, the index of Sacramento Chinook abundance is estimated at 834,200, slightly above the 1983-2012 average. Age-3 and age-4 Chinook abundance for the Klamath is pegged well above average, at nearly 400,000 fish, and 331,000 fish, respectively.
Washington anglers' Chinook quota may get dialed down a bit from last year, to keep impacts to ESA-listed wild lower Columbia tules within guidelines. More coho are expected this year, but catches should be similar to last year's to conserve wild stocks
"The abundance of lower Columbia River Chinook is forecast to be down from last year, but the expected return should be strong enough to allow for another quality Chinook fishery in the ocean," said WDFW director Phil Anderson, in a statement. "While a higher abundance of Columbia River hatchery coho is forecast this year, the quota will likely be similar to 2012 because of the need to meet conservation objectives for naturally spawning stocks." Two of the three options under review include mark-selective fisheries for Chinook in June, which have been in place the last four years.
For recreational fishers, the options range from 30,000 to 51,500 Chinook, and 63,000-75,600 coho. In 2012, the quota was 51,500 Chinook and 69,720 coho salmon. But this year's options aren't higher, even though nearly 200,000 more fall Chinook are expected to return to the Columbia River. That's because fewer tules are expected in the lower Columbia, About 126,000 lower Columbia River hatchery Chinook (above and below Bonneville Dam) are expected back this season, 65,000 fewer fish than expected last year.
The 51,500-Chinook option may need some tweaking, since it would likely result in an exploitation rate on lower Columbia wild tules over 43 percent, a couple of percent higher than the NMFS consultation standard for all Chinook fisheries.
The latest PFMC preseason report also noted that the expected harvest rate on ESA-listed Snake fall Chinook would not be a constraining factor, even though it would range between 47.5 percent and 53 percent, depending on which ocean harvest option is selected. The NMFS standard calls for an exploitation rate less than or equal to 70 percent of the 1988-1993 base period ER for all fisheries.
Managers expect about 500,000 coho back to the Columbia, 183,000 more than last year's forecast.
By Mar. 18, a dozen California sea lions were sighted at Bonneville Dam, but few salmon are yet passing the dam, fewer than 200 had been counted by Mar. 26. The Corps reported that three of the marine mammals had been sighted in previous years.
About 37 different Steller sea lions have also been observed near the dam, and all but three of them have been there before. It was also reported that about 200 hundred California sea lions were counted Mar. 19 between the dam and Astoria, along with 67 Stellers and 30 seals. "These are raw counts and not expanded," said the COE report, "but points to the fact that many pinnipeds are far up the Columbia River following the smelt run this year."
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