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March 09, 2001
Contact: Craig Bartlett, (360) 902-2259

Coastal fishing options reflect improved salmon projections

OLYMPIA – Preliminary proposals released today for Washington's coastal salmon fisheries should be good news for anglers as well as for the state's ongoing effort to recover depleted wild stocks, the director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) said today.

"We may have the best of both worlds this year," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings, commenting on a trio of coastal fishing options for chinook and coho salmon adopted today by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). "Improved runs of salmon projected for the Columbia River and coastal areas should boost fishing opportunities while also allowing us to meet – or exceed – our spawning escapement and recovery goals in all areas."

According to WDFW's pre-season forecast, nearly 365,000 chinook salmon are expected to return to the Columbia this year, compared to 134,000 last year. For coho, the forecast calls for 1.7 million returning salmon, compared to 728,000 last year.

The three ocean fishing options approved today provide a framework for the final salmon fishing seasons the PFMC is scheduled to adopt the first week of April. All three options for 2001 include higher catch quotas than last year, when non-tribal fishers were allowed to catch 25,000 chinook salmon and 100,000 coho salmon in coastal waters.

The three options are as follows:

  • Option 1: The total non-tribal quota would be 60,000 chinook and 300,000 coho. Of those amounts, 30,000 chinook and 225,000 coho would be reserved for the recreational fishery.
  • Option 2: The total non-tribal quota would be 50,000 chinook and 300,000 coho. Of those amounts, 25,000 chinook and 225,000 coho would be reserved for the recreational fishery.
  • Option 3: The total non-tribal quota would be 30,000 chinook and 150,000 coho. Of those amounts, 15,000 chinook and 113,500 coho would be reserved for the recreational fishery.

In weighing those options, fishers and fisheries managers in Washington and Oregon must decide how to apportion the available fish between coastal waters and "inside" fisheries in such areas as Puget Sound and Grays Harbor, said Phil Anderson, WDFW intergovernmental affairs director.

"Those are the kind of issues we'll be discussing with fishers over the next few weeks," he said.

One forum for that discussion is an all-day public meeting scheduled Tuesday, (March 14) at the Airport Sheraton Hotel in Portland, where representatives of Washington, Oregon and treaty tribes will be meeting to reach agreement on issues related to the 2001 salmon season. Information on that meeting and others related to North of Falcon fishing issues is available on WDFW's website on the internet.

Besides offering good prospects for ocean fishing, 2001 should also be a good year for salmon runs that have been struggling, Anderson said.

"Our projections show higher returns for rivers like the Queets and others in the Puget Sound area where some stocks are in trouble," Anderson said. "Those stocks, too, are benefitting from improved ocean conditions and we plan to craft fishing seasons that will give them every possible chance to recover."