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Though Chinook Numbers Higher, Proposed
Ocean Catch Quota Lower to Protect Wild Salmon

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, March 11, 2011

Anglers fishing along the north Oregon and Washington coast will see a lower catch quota for chinook salmon this year even though the total number of fish expected to return is higher than in 2010.

Three ocean salmon-fishing options approved for consideration Wednesday by the Pacific Fishery Management Council establish a lower harvest range for chinook to protect weak salmon stocks – particularly those returning to the lower Columbia River. The PFMC, which met this week in Vancouver, Wash., establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the U.S. West Coast.

The Council will select final alternatives at their next meeting in San Mateo, Calif.,on April 9-14. The final seasons would then have to be endorsed by NOAA Fisheries Service.

More details on these ocean options, including proposed fishing days per week, are available on PFMC's website at

Despite an expected increase in chinook abundance, the federal panel approved tighter restrictions to protect wild salmon stocks and meet conservation goals, said Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"Our first priority is to meet crucial conservation objectives for wild salmon," said Anderson, who represents WDFW on the PFMC. "The ocean options approved today are designed to meet or exceed those goals."

Anderson said two of the options include recreational mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook that would begin in early June. If implemented, mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook would open ahead of the traditional recreational fishing season for the second straight year.

Mark-selective fisheries allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon, which are marked with a missing adipose fin, but require that they release wild salmon. The mark-selective rules are intended to protect, primarily, naturally produced lower Columbia fall chinook tules, which are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

About 760,000 fall chinook are expected to return to the Columbia River this year, nearly 108,000 more chinook than last year's forecast. A significant portion of that run – about 250,000 fish – is expected to be lower river hatchery chinook, which traditionally have been the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.

For coho salmon, the ocean quota could be similar to or slightly lower than last year's harvest guideline, said Anderson. This year's forecast of 362,500 Columbia River coho, which account for a significant portion of the ocean catch, is similar to the 2010 projection

Fishing prospects are good south of Cape Falcon, which is located just north of Manzanita.

"We are glad to see three alternatives calling for much better fishing south of Cape Falcon, due to strong forecasted abundance of Sacramento River and Klamath River fall chinook," said Pacific Council Chairman Mark Cedergreen.

"While we will have significant ocean seasons off Washington and northern Oregon, we still have some conservation solutions to work on for the salmon stocks in this area," he said.

Washington and Northern Oregon (north of Cape Falcon)

Sport Season Alternatives

Ocean sport fishery alternatives north of Cape Falcon in Oregon and off the Washington coast have mark-selective coho quotas ranging from 54,600 to 79,800 that start in late June and run into September (last year, the quota was 67,200 marked coho).

For chinook salmon, quotas range from 32,000 to 52,000 (last year, the quota was 61,000 chinook). Two alternatives include a mark-selective chinook fishery in June, and one alternative includes mark-selective chinook requirements early in the all salmon fishery. Two alternatives also allow one or two pink salmon to be retained in addition to the standard two salmon bag limit in areas north of Leadbetter Point, which marks the south side of the entrance to Willapa Bay on Washington's south coast.

Commercial and Tribal Season Alternatives

Non-Indian ocean commercial fishery alternatives north of Cape Falcon include traditional chinook seasons between May and September. Chinook quotas for all areas and times range from 25,000 to 45,000, which are greater than the 2009 quota of 20,500 but less than the 2010 quota of 56,000. The marked coho quotas range from 10,400 to 15,200 (compared to last year's quota of 12,800).

One alternative includes the potential to allow non-mark-selective coho retention in late August or September.

Tribal ocean fishery alternatives north of Cape Falcon have chinook quotas ranging from 35,000 to 55,000 and coho quotas ranging from 30,000 to 50,000, which are similar to last year's quotas of 55,000 chinook and 42,500 coho.

North of Cape Falcon, Columbia River hatchery coho returns in 2010 were larger than forecast, but still below average. Columbia River chinook returns were generally near or above forecast, and above historical averages.

The 2011 Columbia River tule chinook forecasts are mixed, but overall above average. The hatchery coho forecasts for the Columbia River are slightly lower than last year while the forecast for Oregon coastal natural coho is similar to last year's actual return and the second highest forecast since 1996.

Oregon (South of Cape Falcon) and California

Sport Season Alternatives

Oregon ocean recreational alternatives include both mark-selective and non-mark selective coho fishing seasons starting in June or July and running into August or September.

Ocean chinook fishing alternatives in the Brookings/Crescent City/Eureka area open in May and continue through Sept. 5. For the Tillamook, Newport, and Coos Bay areas, seasons will open March 15 and run through September or October.

Commercial Season Alternatives

Commercial chinook salmon season alternatives in the Tillamook, Newport, and Coos Bay area will open April 15 and generally run through August, although some alternatives reopen for the month of October. Oregon season alternatives in the Brookings area all have a May 1-31 season and monthly quota fisheries for June, July and August.

California season alternatives in the Eureka/Crescent City area range from monthly quota fisheries in June through September to entirely closed. All alternatives in the Fort Bragg area include open seasons in August and September, while quota fisheries are included in June and July for some alternatives. All alternatives in San Francisco and Monterey include openings in May, July, August and September, and two alternatives include short openings in June.

There are no alternatives that include commercial coho seasons south of Cape Falcon in 2011.

In 2008, poor Sacramento returns led to the largest salmon fishery closure on record. While the 2009 forecast was better than the previous year's, the season alternatives were extremely limited. In 2010, alternatives improved, with the first commercial fishing season off California in three years. This year, abundance is predicted to increase substantially, sufficient to provide robust fisheries and exceed the conservation goal o 122,000 – 180,000 spawning adult salmon.

In 2006, the Pacific Council established a rebuilding plan for Klamath River fall chinook after three years of low spawning returns. Since that time returns have increased, and in 2010 were sufficient to meet the Council's criteria for declaring the stock rebuilt. The 2011 Klamath River Fall chinook forecast is near average and will allow opportunity for ocean and river fisheries while achieving the minimum spawning goal of 35,000 natural adult spawners.

The conservation goal, or escapement goal, is the optimal number of adult fish returning to spawn in order to maximize the production of the stock.

Public hearings to receive input on the alternatives are scheduled for March 28 in Westport, Wash., and Coos Bay, Ore.; and for March 29 in Eureka, Calif.

The Council will consult with scientists, hear public comment and revise preliminary decisions until it chooses a final alternative in April. NOAA Fisheries is expected to issue its final approval before May 1.

The Council is made up of appointed representatives of states, tribes, the federal government, fishing and fishing industry groups and other entities.

The PFMC is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 for the purpose of managing fisheries 3-200 miles offshore of the U.S. coast. The Pacific Council recommends management measures for fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Pacific Fishery Management Council:

Though Chinook Numbers Higher, Proposed Ocean Catch Quota Lower to Protect Wild Salmon
Columbia Basin Bulletin, March 11, 2011

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