Salmon for All Releases Report on First Year
A recently released report prepared by Salmon for All says there were only minor harvest modifications during the 2013 fishing seasons -- the first year of implementation of a new non-Indian salmon harvest strategy for the lower Columbia River -- and thus it could "serve as a baseline year against which to measure the economic and social effects of the regime changes as they are instituted."
That Oregon-Washington strategy, among other things, aims to force a shift away from the use of gill nets by commercial fishers on the lower Columbia mainstem.
The 2013 commercial fishing group's report has been submitted to the Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife Commissions, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and the Oregon and Washington legislatures. The two states co-manage fisheries on the Columbia where it represents a shared border.
Salmon For All is a nonprofit trade association of Columbia River commercial fishermen and processors, representing the Columbia River gill-net industry. The annual report can be found at: www.salmonforall.org
"Salmon For All is providing comment regarding the commercial fishing and processing sector's experience during this baseline year," the report says. "Note that if the new rules had been fully in effect during 2013, the harvest for the consumer could have dropped substantially.
"The rules further suggest that it would continue to decline if the new allocation percentages are put fully into effect. The Commissions should apply adaptive management to sustain the successes realized for the consumer in 2013." The states' plan aims to step down over the next three years the gill-net fleet's share of the mainstem harvest.
The lower Columbia mainstem 2013 harvest was 101,000 fish, including salmon and sturgeon, for an ex-vessel value of $3,229,191.99, and ca. 1,546,503 meals provided for the consumer, the report says.
"Select area harvest value was ca. 74,000 fish with an ex vessel value $2,098,214.94 providing 867,016 meals for the consumer. The Select Area harvest was about 73 percent as many fish, but only 65 percent of the value. This discrepancy is because coho, a smaller and lower value fish than Chinook, is a much larger component of Select Area harvest than mainstem harvest."
"The commercial fishery stayed within its impacts and guidelines, thus meeting both state and federal conservation standards" intended to minimize the take of listed fish and assure adequate spawner escapement to spawning grounds and hatcheries upstream.
"The commercial fishery's success was achieved by use of selective gill nets operated under time/area/mesh size regulations, and by tangle nets. Sports participation in terms of angler trips was reduced from both 2011 and 2012 seasons, and stayed within its impacts on ESA listed species," the Salmon for All report says
The 2013 experience "demonstrates that successful commercial fisheries can achieve harvest and conservation goals in a cost-effective manner via careful management of gillnets and tangle nets," the report says. "
The new lower Columbia management policy aims to over the next three years shift most commercial gill-netting from the river's mainstem to off-channel sites and increase recreational fishers share of the mainstem salmon harvest. The goal is to increase the number of hatchery fish released at such "select areas" in order to boost commercial harvest there as gill-netting opportunities are reduced over the next three years.
The management shift was instigated by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. He and state managers say reduced mainstem gill-net harvest will reduce impacts on migrating wild salmon, and steelhead, that are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
State managers say that ultimately more fish friendly gear, such as seine nets, will be approved for use in mainstem commercial fisheries.
Commercial fishers have challenged in Oregon Appeals Court the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission's decision to adopt the new management plan.
Juvenile hatchery fish are brought to the long-used select areas for late-stage rearing in net pens, then released. Those fish have proven, for the most part, to home back in on those select areas when they return as adults and provide commercial and sport fisheries that show little incidental take of wild fish, which for the most part migrate up the main channel.
The states estimate that wild fish mortality is higher for fish released from gill nets, including small-mesh tangle nets, than it is for fish released from anglers' hook. During spring chinook fisheries in particular hatchery fish identified as a result of a fin clip can be caught and kept, while unmarked fish that are presumed wild must be released from nets and hooks.
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