SEATTLE–The sport chinook fishery planned for Elliott Bay tomorrow (Aug. 6) has been canceled because biological data show the salmon run at a record low level, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today.
The sport fishery had been scheduled to take place over the next two weekends beginning at noon tomorrow.
"Based upon the test fishery conducted by the tribes and other key indicators, the Green River run size appears to be substantially below pre-season expectations.
Good science and stewardship require us to cancel this fishery to give these salmon all the protection we can," said Jeff Koenings, WDFW director.
Tribal fishers have been conducting test net fisheries over the past three weeks. The first test caught 83 chinook, the second caught 73 and last night's fishery produced only 180.
"Last night's test fishery should have produced more than 500 chinook," Koenings said. "Instead, the harvest for the past two weeks was 10 percent lower than anything in the records."
Koenings attributed the poor return of Green River chinook to several possible factors, including heavy flooding in Puget Sound rivers in 1995 when this year's adults were hatched. Heavy flooding scours salmon nests and washes away and kills young fish that cannot find shelter. The heavily urbanized Green River has lost many of its natural features that protect salmon from floods.
Preseason forecasts, indicated some 24,000 hatchery and naturally spawning chinook would return to the Green River via Elliott Bay this month. With approximately 9,300 hatchery and naturally spawning chinook available after meeting the spawning needs of the fish, WDFW tentatively scheduled a short, conservative sport fishery for two weekends.
"We had been hopeful WDFW could provide some limited fishing opportunities deep in inner Elliott Bay," Koenings said. "Crafting the seasons that way would have allowed a harvest on surplus Green River salmon while protecting other wild Puget Sound chinook stocks."
Koenings said the carefully sculpted Elliott Bay fishery fit well within the array of protective measures WDFW is implementing to allow fisheries in an era when some stocks are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.
"Unfortunately, based on scientific information, the fish aren't here in the numbers expected so it is clear we cannot allow this particular fishery to go forward at this time, " Koenings said.
Sport fishing for salmon in Elliott Bay (west of a line from West Point to Alki Point), except from the Terminal 86 and Seacrest fishing piers, remains closed until Sept. 1, when it opens with a 2-ounce weight restriction, as in the adjacent waters of Puget Sound.