Salmon are Losers in Squabble
by Chester Allen
The latest controversy over Columbia River spring chinook salmon makes me sick to my stomach.
The Fish and Wildlife commissions of Oregon and Washington can't agree on sport and commercial netting seasons for the most prized salmon in the Northwest.
Commercial netters and sport anglers are glaring at each other - again - over how many fish each group gets of the estimated 298,900 spring chinook that are forecast to roll up the Columbia River this spring.
And, once again, economics are stomping reality in Northwest salmon management.
First, a little history.
Wild Columbia River spring chinook salmon - which once swam up the mighty river by the millions - are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
So, how can sport anglers hook - and commercial netters drop gillnets - for fish teetering on the brink of oblivion?
The answer is hatchery fish.
Most of this year's predicted run of 298,900 Columbia River spring chinook were born in hatcheries. Fisheries managers don't want hatchery salmon to spawn with wild salmon, and the latest research backs them up.
Hatchery fish were marked before they were released - all of them lost their adipose fin, which is the tiny, fatty fin between the dorsal fin and the tail.
So, it's easy to tell the difference between a hatchery springer and a wild springer.
The goal is to get as many hatchery fish out of the river - and onto dinner tables - as possible. And Columbia River spring chinook ooze the rich fats and tasty oils that taste so good - and are so good for us humans.
A fresh Columbia River springer tastes much better than the much-ballyhooed and ultra-marketed Alaskan Copper River salmon.
Springers are very valuable to commercial netters - and to sport anglers with barbecues.
But it's even more complicated.
Because the wild spring chinook swim right next to hatchery chinook, the wild fish often end up in nets or on hooks.
Netters and anglers must release all wild springers, but some do die.
The federal government allows anglers and netters to kill a certain number of wild spring chinook - about 2.2 percent of the total run of wild and hatchery fish.
Colville Tribes' Selective Fishing Gear Tests Show Low Wild Summer Chinook Mortality by Columbia Basin Bulletin, 2/6/9
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