OLYMPIA -- The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Puget Sound
treaty tribes and the National Marine Fisheries Service have reached an agreement that
allows the resumption of fin clipping of hatchery coho salmon in Columbia River
The Department of Fish and Wildlife resumed clipping at those hatcheries
yesterday. Some Puget Sound tribes on Oct. 16 obtained a federal court order to stop
"I'm pleased we have reached agreement that allows resumption of the marking
on the Columbia," said Bern Shanks, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"I'm hopeful we and the tribes, which cooperatively co-manage the state's fisheries, will
develop a court-approved plan in the next several days to resolve outstanding
disagreements on marking Puget Sound coho."
To date 5.5 million coho have been marked for the Columbia River. Shanks
said the agreement means another 6.6 million coho raised in Columbia River hatcheries
can be clipped and then released this spring. The department already has completed
marking almost 6 million coho on the coast south of Grays Harbor.
"We estimate about 4 to 8 percent of these 18 million coho will return as adults in
1998. We will be developing harvesting plans for them in conjunction with the tribes and
federal government," Shanks said. The adult fish are expected to concentrate on the
coast off Ilwaco and Westport and at the mouth of the Columbia River.
"More importantly, fishers will be able to identify and keep hatchery fish so wild
coho can be released and return to their native rivers to spawn," he added.
Shanks said the joint agreement will assist the department in meeting the
Legislature's mandate to mark hatchery coho raised in state hatcheries. The marking
program is a cornerstone in the department's effort to avoid federalization of salmon
management in Washington through the Endangered Species Act.
Shanks said he was hopeful continuing negotiations with the tribes will resolve
other fin-clipping issues that remain before U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein. The
stipulation, filed Friday, advised Judge Rothstein the state, tribes and National Marine
Fisheries Service would submit a status report on efforts to resolve the other issues by
Nov. 15. Those issues are:
- The continuation of mass marking of coho in state hatcheries on the coast
north of Grays Harbor and in Puget Sound. Some 12 million coho remain unmarked in
- The possibility of marking north coastal and Puget Sound hatchery coho by
cutting a ventral fin rather than the adipose fin (the adipose fin is on the back near the
tail; the ventral fin is on the belly).
Shanks said no additional marking of north coastal and Puget Sound hatchery
coho would occur until the tribes, state and federal government reach an agreement
endorsed by the court.
- The release of approximately three million Puget Sound coho whose adipose
fins were clipped before Rothstein's Oct. 16 temporary restraining order halting all
The tribes and Canada have opposed the department's marking program on
grounds that it would interfere with an existing data collection system that relies on
implanting coded wire tags in the heads of some hatchery salmon. Adipose fins on fish
carrying coded wire tags are clipped so fishers can identify them and return their heads
to the department to record data.
The department believes metal detection systems can be used to identify fish
whose heads contain coded wire tags when all hatchery coho are marked by adipose