Oregon Votes for Sport, Commerical
by Allen Thomas, Staff Writer
SALEM -- Sport and commercial fishermen in the lower Columbia River should share equally the harvest of summer chinook salmon the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted Friday.
Washington's commission will make its decision on summer chinook allocation between the two fleets today in Olympia.
If there are differences, the directors of the Washington and Oregon departments of fish and wildlife will negotiate an agreement.
Oregon's commission also wants a three-year pact with Washington, but subject to renegotiation at any time.
Summer chinook enter the Columbia in June and July and are headed for the upper river, upstream of Priest Rapids Dam.
The majority of their spawning area was blocked by completion of Grand Coulee Dam in 1941. The run persists in the Wenatchee, Okanogan, Methow, Similkameen, Chelan and Entiat rivers.
For 20 years, the run was small, but stable, never larger than 23,600 fish.
But in 2001, the run rebounded to 54,900 and peaked at 92,800 in 2002. The returns in 2004 and 2005 averaged 63,000 and the forecast for 2006 is 49,000.
Curt Melcher of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said there has been no formal allocation plan because the run was so small for so long. Sport fishing for summer chinook in the lower Columbia resumed in 2002 and gillnetting in 2005.
A permanent escapement goal at Bonneville Dam and a tribal/non-Indian sharing plan were negotiated with the Columbia River treaty tribes and are in place through 2007.
The spawning minimum is 29,000 summer chinook at the mouth of the Columbia. For runs larger than 36,250, the treaty tribes and non-Indians split the surplus equally.
The non-Indian share is divided among sport and commercial fishermen in the lower Columbia, sport fishing upstream of Priest Rapids Dam and the Colville and Wanapum tribes, who never signed treaties.
Washington officials and the Colville tribe are negotiating an agreement that will specify the sharing upstream and downstream of Priest Rapids Dam.
This year's run of 49,000 has 20,000 summer chinook available for harvest, Melcher said. The Columbia River treaty tribes will get 10,000 and all the other users will share the other 10,000.
Once Washington determines how many fish the Colvilles and Wanapums get, plus the sport fishery upstream of Priest Rapids, the balance will be split between lower Columbia sportsmen and gillnetters. Jim Wells, president of Salmon For All, an Astoria-based commercial fishing group, said the sport-fishing allocation for upstream of Priest Rapids should count against the sport share downstream of Bonneville Dam.
"Washington wants to take a slice off the top for sportsmen above Priest Rapids,'' Wells said. "That's not a fair way.''
Steve Watrous of Vancouver, president of Columbia-Pacific Anglers, said the summer chinook allocation should be included in the "north of Falcon'' process, a series of meetings in March and April where summer and fall fisheries in the ocean and inland waters are negotiated.
Watrous said he was representing a coalition of sport and commercial interests.
Jim Harmon of Southwest Washington Anglers said opposed that idea, saying the north of Falcon process is cumbersome.
In 2005, sport fishing for summer chinook was open daily June 16 through July 31. Gillnetting was allowed one day a week from late June through July.
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