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Feedback: More On Sockeye Escapement During Fishery From CRITFC, Salmon For All
Posted on Friday, July 22, 2011 (PST)

-- From Babtist Paul Lumley, Executive Director, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

 

Re: CBB, July 15, 2011, “Feedback: Sockeye Escapement During Fishery,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/410789.aspx

 

The response from Mr. Bryan Irwin to the July 8, 2011. CBB article "Another Tribal Fishery Aims At Summer Chinook While Allowing Sockeye Escapement" is laden with misleading information, demonstrates a lack of understanding about gill nets, unfairly describes how gill nets impact fish, and shows a general animosity for the tribal fishery. Mr. Irwin’s letter to the CBB and his current efforts to ban gill nets are nothing more than an attempt to mislead the sports fishery into an allocation grab.

 

Mr. Irwin’s first error was the size of the non-Indian commercial gillnet fishery’s incidental catch of sockeye. Data from ODFW/WDFW Fact Sheet #11 (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/crc/) show that the non-Indian gillnet fishery using 8-inch mesh nets caught 5,076 non-ESA listed summer chinook and only 52 sockeye.  That is approximately one out of every 100 fish caught. Of the total 185,000 sockeye run only 2,000 are expected to be Snake River sockeye. That means that only 1 percent of the run is comprised of ESA-listed sockeye.

 

The tribes are not opposed to any fishery harvesting reasonable numbers of wild fish while targeting healthy stocks. We do, however, find it disturbing when people like Mr. Irwin imply that their sports fisheries are somehow more selective than others. The reality is that sport fishery catches wild fish of all sizes and species. There are also significant mortalities associated with the catch and release fisheries.

 

Mr. Irwin stated, “the fundamental problem with gill nets is that irrespective of mesh size they capture all sizes and species of fish.” That is simply untrue. This year the tribes have used a number of different methods to exercise their treaty fishing rights for chinook, sockeye, and steelhead as well as other species. General knowledge of fish behavior, like the tendency for sockeye to be found near shore and chinook being found in deeper water, combined with net size and location allow gillnets to be quite selective. Using the appropriate net size in appropriate locations can target certain species. Gillnets can be fished quite selectively and are a completely reasonable method for harvesting fish in the Columbia River.   

 

The U.S. v. Oregon Fisheries Management Agreement is a court-ordered agreement that is being followed by the tribes, states, and federal agencies. The important thing about managing fisheries is to keep the total mortality on stocks of concern within the appropriate level to allow enough escapement to take advantage of all of our work to restore habitat and improve passage conditions through the hydrosystem. Gill nets, as well as any other type of gear, can be part of a reasonable fishery system that harvests appropriate numbers of fish.   

 

The tribes reserved the right to fish at all usual and accustomed places in their treaties with the federal government. The sport fishery is a privilege granted by the states to its citizens. The non-Indian fisheries start in the ocean and move all the way up-river. The tribes usual and accustomed fishing areas, however, will not change.

 

The tribes remain committed to life-cycle management and have done more than any other entity to restore upriver salmon to the Columbia River basin. The majority of the upriver fish that benefits the sport fisheries are the direct result of tribal programs and advocacy. Mr. Irwin should refocus the energy he has placed in trying to ban gillnets into other management tools such as hatchery reform and restoration work that will actually do something to benefit and recover the Columbia’s salmon populations.  Everyone benefits from healthy salmon returns.

 

Sincerely,

Babtist Paul Lumley

Executive Director

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

-------------------

 

-- From Hobe Kytr, Administrator,Salmon For All

 

Re: CBB, July 15, 2011, “Feedback: Sockeye Escapement During Fishery,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/410789.aspx

 

Perhaps Bryan Irwin, Regional Executive Director for the Pacific Northwest Region Coastal Conservation Association should have taken a closer look at the numbers and double-checked his arithmetic before casting aspersions on the lower Columbia River non-Indian commercial fishery for summer Chinook and the Treaty Tribal fishery for summer Chinook, sockeye, and steelhead.

 

Irwin remarked that, “Reviewing the harvest statistics from the lower Columbia River, where only large mesh is used, one sockeye is captured for every 10 chinook, despite a size difference of 3.6 lbs for the sockeye and about 18 lbs for the chinook.” However, the actual harvest statistics show that the lower Columbia River gillnet fleet landed 5,076 summer Chinook and only 52 sockeye this year. That’s a ratio much closer to 1 sockeye for every 100 summer Chinook than it is 1 sockeye for every 10 Chinook. Considering that sockeye this summer outnumber summer Chinook by almost 3 to 1, the gillnet fleet’s harvest statistics are a testament to how selective the commercial fleet can be.

 

On the other hand, examination of the harvest statistics for the sport fleet as compiled in Joint Management Staff Summer Fact Sheet #11, Friday, July 15, 2011 shows that the recreational fishery below Priest Rapids Dam had already harvested at least 5,805 summer Chinook and 1,828 sockeye. That is a ratio of almost 1 sockeye for every 3 summer Chinook. Even taking into account the fact that those figures are incomplete, the numbers reveal that the recreational fishery is anything but selective. The sport fishery below Bonneville Dam closed to retention of summer Chinook and sockeye, and the fishery between Bonneville and Priest Rapids Dam closed to retention of sockeye at 12:01 a.m. Monday, July 18 due to the fact the recreational fleet had already exceeded its allocation for both species.

 

One of the largely unaddressed issues of the mark-selective recreational fishery for summer Chinook is that the estimated release mortality in summer fisheries is exactly that: an estimate only. No long term hooking mortality studies have ever been conducted on the Columbia River. Until and unless such studies have been completed, especially during the summer and fall management seasons when the water temperature can approach the range known to be lethal to salmonids, calculating the mortalities for fish released from catch-and-release recreational fisheries is going to be guesswork at best.

 

Sockeye bound for the Snake River and the Stanley Lake basin have been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 1991. For many years the Snake River sockeye essentially were on life support in a maintenance hatchery program. However, this year is expected to continue the recent trend of improved abundance. Last year and the year before, some returning sockeye were allowed to spawn in Redfish Lake. The Snake River component of the sockeye run was expected to be a little over 1 percent of the total run, or about 11 out of every 1,000 fish. Statistically, that means the gill-net fleet may have killed no Snake River sockeye at all, and the recreational fleet may have killed up to 20. Mr. Irwin’s concerns are a bit overstated.

 

Hobe Kytr, Administrator

Salmon For All

Astoria, Oregon

 

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