A proposal to restructure salmon and sturgeon fisheries on the lower Columbia River would prioritize the recreational fisheries in the mainstem river and move commercial fisheries to off-channel areas.
That and other recommendations were developed last month by a work group made up of representatives from Washington and Oregon.
The group – assembled at the request of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber – has worked since early September on developing the recommendations, which now will be considered by both states’ fish and wildlife commissions.
The group members tried to develop ideas that optimize the economic value of recreational and commercial fisheries while working within a conservation-based framework that assists recovery of Columbia and Snake River fish species currently listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Thirteen Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead populations are listed under the act. Limits on the allowable incidental catches of those fish significantly constrains access by recreational, commercial and tribal fisheries to hatchery stocks and healthy wild fish runs, the report said.
The group’s recommendations are a framework “intended to enhance the economies of Oregon and Washington as a whole, ensure the long-term viability of recreational and commercial fisheries and those communities that rely on them, and contribute to fish conservation and recovery.”
Among the other key elements of the plan are:
• Transitioning commercial fisheries remaining in the mainstem to alternative gear, such as beach and purse seines.
• Phasing out the use of gillnets by non-tribal fishermen in the mainstem by 2017, while maintaining the economic viability of the commercial fishery during and after the transition.
• Shifting a greater portion of current hatchery salmon releases to off-channel areas, and exploring options for expanding those areas for commercial fisheries.
• Gradually increasing the catch share of salmon for sport fisheries in the mainstem by 2017, including 80 percent for spring chinook and 100 percent for summer chinook.
• Requiring sport anglers fishing for salmon and steelhead in the mainstem and its tributaries to use barbless hooks beginning 2013.
• Considering catch-and-release only recreational fisheries for white sturgeon in the lower river, Washington’s coast and Puget Sound, to protect lower Columbia River-origin white sturgeon. Closing non-tribal commercial fisheries for white sturgeon in the lower river and coast also would be considered as part of this effort.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to take public comment on the recommendations during its Dec. 14-15 meeting in Olympia.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife commission is scheduled to consider the proposal at its Friday meeting.
To learn more
You can see the recommendations in “Management Strategies for Columbia River Recreational and Commercial Fisheries: 2013 and Beyond” at wdfw.wa.gov/ conservation/fisheries/lower_columbia.