The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is inviting public comments on proposed options for updating the state's Columbia River Basin Salmon Management policy, adopted in 2013 to conserve wild salmon and support the economic benefits generated by area fisheries. Developed in conjunction with Oregon fishery managers and stakeholders from both states, the policy calls for a progress assessment before the next phase of the plan takes effect in 2017.
General comments are welcome, but the Commission is especially interested in those addressing the options shown here.
Comments can be submitted in two ways:
- Testify in person: The Commission will hear public comments on Columbia River reform issues Jan. 13-14 in Vancouver, Wash. Details of the meeting – including the time of the public comment period – will be posted on the Commission's website about a week ahead of time.
The Commission is tentatively scheduled to take action on any updates to the policy at the Vancouver meeting following the public comment period.
The policy adopted in 2013 provides the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife a set of guiding principles and series of actions to achieve the stated goals. Key strategies include:
- Promoting the recovery of species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the conservation of wild stocks of salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River.
- Prioritizing recreational fisheries in the mainstem Columbia River and commercial fisheries in off-channel areas.
- Transitioning commercial fisheries remaining in the mainstem to alternative gear, such as beach and purse seines.
- 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 allocation ESA impacts of upriver spring chinook salmon for the sport fishery in the Columbia River to 80 percent by 2017, while increasing spring chinook opportunity for the commercial fishery in the off-channel areas.
Per the "adaptive management" provision of the policy, the Commission will consider progress toward these and other objectives to determine whether changes are necessary after the transition period ends in 2016.
The Commission is currently considering a series of options for managing spring, summer and fall chinook fisheries on the lower Columbia River beginning in 2017. These options include 1) extending the transition period, 2) current proposals under consideration by the Oregon Commission, and 3) maintaining the current guidelines in the state's reform plan.
The commission has also asked staff to provide an economic analysis of each option and analyze an additional option that would explicitly allow a gillnet fishery for upriver bright fall chinook upstream from the Lewis River in 2017 and 2018.
Public comments on these options should clearly identify the species involved and the number (one through three) identified with each options. General comments about efforts to reform Columbia River salmon management are also welcome.