VANCOUVER–The Columbia Compact has postponed a decision about this year's sport sturgeon fishing seasons in the Columbia River until Feb. 11 to allow fishers and fish managers more time to reach consensus on ways to reduce the harvest.
The heart of the issue is the need to set a season that will provide a sports harvest of 40,000 white sturgeon this year. Traditionally, the Columbia has been open all year to sturgeon. An all-year season in 2000 likely would mean a harvest of 44,000 white sturgeon, which is too high for Washington and Oregon's efforts to rebuild the stock.
In addition to making the sturgeon fishing decision on Feb. 11, salmon fishers will have an opportunity to comment on proposals affecting the mainstem spring chinook sport fishery through the end of March.
The Columbia Compact meets to discuss the two issues at 10 a.m. Feb. 11 at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2501 SW First Ave., Portland.
In discussing the sturgeon issue yesterday, Bill Tweit, Washington's representative to the Compact, and Guy Norman, Oregon's representative, were unable to reach agreement. The two states manage Columbia River fishers through the Columbia Compact.
They did eliminate from consideration an option that would have banned sturgeon retention in the Columbia below Bonneville Dam from Feb. 16-29 and Sept. 1-Oct. 15. The states' representatives agreed the option was unfair to some sturgeon fishers and business people.
The three options remaining open for consideration are:
- Close the Columbia below Bonneville Dam to sturgeon retention each Sunday in June and July
- Close the Columbia to sturgeon retention from the mouth upstream to the Wauna power lines at river mile 40 from Aug. 16-Sept. 30 and from the power lines to Bonneville Dam from Nov. 16-Dec. 31
- Close the Columbia to sturgeon fishing, possible from the bank as well as boats, from Bonneville Dam to Beach Rock in May, June and July so that spawning sturgeon won't be hooked by fishers. Spawning sturgeon have been protected from boat fishers in that area in May and June since 1996
At yesterday's meeting, Tweit said WDFW favors extending protection to sturgeon spawning in the sanctuary below Bonneville Dam.
He also noted several fishers told compact members in public testimony that they had been working on a consensus that focused on extending the length of the sanctuary's closure to sturgeon fishing.
Biologists from WDFW and ODFW told the compact members that closing the sanctuary an additional month would reduce the harvest by approximately 1,100 fish, but other closures would be necessary to reduce the harvest by 4,000 sturgeon.