OLYMPIA - Despite preseason forecasts for strong runs of chinook and coho salmon to many Washington rivers, catch quotas for this summer's coastal salmon fisheries will likely be lower than those established last year.
Fishing options adopted today by the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) reflect a continuing need to limit pressure on weak stocks of Columbia River and Puget Sound chinook salmon.
All three options for recreational fisheries are lower than the final quotas for chinook and coho salmon last year. A final decision on this year's ocean fishing seasons will be made by the PFMC during its April 5-9 meeting in Sacramento.
"The options adopted under this federal fisheries process give us a management framework that ensures weak salmon stocks get the conservation protection they need as we shape biologically sound fishing opportunities on healthy stocks," said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Jeff Koenings.
The council's proposed ocean recreational fishing options for 2004 are:
- 58,000 chinook and 206,250 coho;
- 45,000 chinook and 168,750 coho; and
- 30,000 chinook and 131,250 coho.
In 2003, the PFMC adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 59,600 chinook and 225,000 coho salmon. The actual recreational ocean catch in 2003 was 36,500 chinook and 168,800 coho.
While overall salmon abundances appear to be healthy in many portions of the state this year, a few critically low salmon stocks - including Puget Sound chinook - will require extra protection, said Phil Anderson, WDFW special assistant to the director.
These stocks are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and mix with more abundant wild and hatchery salmon stocks in coastal and pre-terminal marine areas, Anderson said.
In conjunction with the federal PFMC process, state and tribal co-managers are developing fishing seasons for "inside" waters, including Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Hood Canal.
The state and tribes are scheduled to meet March 17 at 9 a.m. at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites, and again on March 30 at the SeaTac Holiday Inn, to continue development of this year's comprehensive salmon-fishing plan.
Both ocean and Puget Sound fishing plans should be completed by the end of the PFMC's meeting in Sacramento.
More information on the preseason salmon planning process is available on WDFW's "North of Falcon" webpage on the Internet.