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Ecology and salmon related articles

Picture isn't Great for Chinook, Coho

by Mark Yuasa
Seattle Times, December 30, 2007

The early outlook for Columbia River summer and fall chinook, sockeye and coho returns next year are a mixed bag, with some looking decent and others poor.

The total Columbia River fall chinook return this past year was 200,000, and that figure was considered to be a poor run. However, fisheries managers indicate next year's chinook return should be an improvement.

"The general outlook for chinook is better, but definitely not fantastic," said Cindy LeFleur, a state Fish and Wildlife salmon manager. "The upriver bright chinook stocks will be improved, and that is good for in-river fisheries."

Next year's Columbia River upriver bright chinook run should be greater than the 100,000 that returned this past summer.

The lower river hatchery chinook stock in 2007 was smaller than the predicted 54,900 fish (actual return will fall under 35,000), but next year's return should be better. The lower river wild chinook return was one of the poorest on record (10,100 forecast), and will mirror next year's predicted return.

"The lower river wild fall chinook stock doesn't look good, and that could be a constraint to the ocean and in-river fisheries," LeFleur said.

A strong return of Bonneville Pool hatchery jack chinook this past summer (40 percent greater than the recent 10-year average) will mean a much stronger run next year. These fish contribute both to the ocean and in-river fisheries, and each could benefit from it.

The mid-Columbia River chinook return this past summer will be less than 30,000 (68,000 was forecast), and next year's return is similar.

A bright spot next year will be the Columbia River sockeye runs, which is forecast to be 75,600 compared to 26,700 this past summer. Of that prediction, 13,700 (4,400 in 2007) are Wenatchee sockeye; 61,200 (23,300) are Okanogan sockeye; and 700 (57) are Snake River sockeye.

The early coho outlook for the Columbia River doesn't look very rosy, and the jack coho return this year was 13,200, which is the worst jack return since 1997 and 43 percent of the 10-year average.

"The coho news is just devastating, and it doesn't look good at all," said Doug Milward, a state Fish and Wildlife salmon resource manager. "We may be looking at ocean coho fisheries that are comparable to the 1995 to 1998 time period."

During the mid-1990s, unprecedented fishing restrictions were imposed on coastal fisheries to protect struggling runs of wild coho.

Fisheries managers base their predictions for the following year's adult coho run on the number of jack coho that return the year before.

The jack coho return in 2006 was 34,000 with an adult coho return of 306,600 to the Columbia River mouth this past year.

Looking back at years with similar jack coho returns as this past summer, the following year's adult coho run averaged anywhere from 146,000 in 1995 to 212,000 in 1998.

"What these early figures speak of are some pretty horrible ocean survival for coho," said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.

Mark Yuasa
Picture isn't Great for Chinook, Coho
Seattle Times, December 30, 2007

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