SACRAMENTO – Washington salmon fishers face a lean fishing season in the ocean this year following the lowest Columbia River coho forecast in a decade, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
The low expectations for Columbia River wild and hatchery coho mirror significantly reduced salmon projections to many other areas of the West Coast, said Phil Anderson, deputy director of WDFW. The poor coho runs also overshadow a slight increase in hatchery chinook returns forecasted for portions of Washington.
Those low coho returns, along with tighter restrictions needed to protect both coho and chinook salmon populations listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, will severely limit salmon fisheries this year in the ocean, Anderson said.
“We haven’t seen a Columbia River coho salmon forecast this low since the late ‘90s,” he said. “Poor ocean conditions that persisted off the West Coast in 2005 and 2006 appear to be the primary factor in the dramatic decline of Columbia River coho, as well as chinook salmon originating from central Oregon and California river systems.”
This year’s Columbia River coho salmon return is expected to total about 196,000 fish, nearly 266,000 fewer salmon than last year’s actual run.
Ocean fishing options for chinook and coho salmon fisheries were adopted today by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) at its meeting in Sacramento, Calif. The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean water three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast, is expected to adopt final ocean fishing harvest levels from among the options at its April 6-11 meeting in SeaTac.
Last year, the PFMC adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 16,250 chinook salmon and 117,600 coho. This year’s recreational ocean options are:
- 22,500 chinook and 21,000 coho;
- 17,500 chinook and 21,000 coho; and
- 12,500 chinook and 12,600 coho.
Although Columbia River hatchery chinook forecasts are up, the ocean options for chinook are similar to those proposed last year, said Anderson. Those options, which are at near-record low levels, reflect the need to protect wild Columbia River chinook salmon, he said.
“To meet conservation objectives, most salmon fisheries in Washington’s waters will be even more restricted this year,” Anderson said. “There are some opportunities to craft fisheries that target healthy hatchery stocks, and fishery managers will work with the public in the next couple of weeks to develop those fisheries.”
Chinook and coho quotas approved by the PFMC will be part of a comprehensive 2008 salmon fishing package, which includes marine and freshwater fisheries throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s coastal areas. State and tribal co-managers are currently developing those fisheries.
The co-managers will complete the final 2008 salmon fisheries package in conjunction with the PFMC process during its April meeting.
Meanwhile, public meetings are scheduled for March and April to discuss regional fisheries issues. Fishery managers will consider input from these regional discussions during the “North of Falcon” process, which involves planning for fishing seasons in Washington’s waters.
Two public North of Falcon meetings are scheduled for March 18 at the General Administration Building in Olympia and April 1 at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites. Both meetings will begin at 9 a.m.
More information about the salmon-season setting process, as well as a schedule of public meetings and salmon run-size forecasts, can be found on WDFW’s North of Falcon website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/northfalcon/).