The Pacific Fishery Management Council on Thursday adopted a set of ocean salmon seasons for this coming summer that provides both recreational and commercial opportunities up and down the Oregon, Washington and California coasts.
California and Oregon fishermen, in particular, will be benefit from higher-than-usual salmon returns in the Sacramento and Klamath Rivers this year. The recommendation will be forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries Service for approval by May 1.
The PFMC helps establish fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the U.S. West Coast. The Pacific Fishery Management Council is made up of 14 voting representatives from Oregon, Washington, California, and Idaho; many advisory bodies; and 16 staff members located in Portland, Oregon.
Some Council members represent state or tribal fish and wildlife agencies, and some are private citizens who are knowledgeable about recreational or commercial fishing or marine conservation. Apart from state and tribal representatives, Council members are chosen by the governors of the four states within the Council region, in conjunction with the Secretary of Commerce.
“Everyone is pleased to see such a strong abundance of the major Sacramento River and Klamath River work-horse stocks,” Council Chairman Dan Wolford said of an expected huge rebound from just 3-4 years ago when low return expectations forced fishery closures. “After achieving all the conservation goals for weak stocks in 2012, both recreational and commercial ocean salmon fishermen should enjoy a good season this summer.”
California and Oregon South of Cape Falcon, Oregon
The largest number of returning Sacramento River fall chinook since 2005 are expected to fuel ocean salmon fisheries off California and Oregon. Fisheries south of Cape Falcon, which is located near Manzanita in northern Oregon, are supported by Sacramento River fall chinook.
In 2008 and 2009, poor Sacramento returns led to the largest ocean salmon fishery closure on record. The abundance forecast of Sacramento River fall chinook in 2012 is 819,400 adult fish, far above the number needed for optimum spawning this fall (122,000-180,000 fish).
The Klamath River fall chinook forecast for 2012 is about four times greater than average and the highest forecast on record since 1985.
The Oregon Coast natural coho forecast in 2012 is about 290,000, the largest forecast since at least 1996.
Recreational fisheries in southern Oregon and California are for chinook only and run from May 1 through Sept. 9 in the Brookings/Eureka/Crescent City area, and from April 7 to at least Oct.7 in areas further south. The minimum size limit will be 24 inches in the San Francisco and Monterey areas from April 7 to July 5, but otherwise 20 inches in California.
Recreational fisheries off the central Oregon coast will allow chinook retention and run from March 15 through Oct. 31. Coho fisheries consist of a mark-selective coho quota fishery in July (open from Cape Falcon to the Oregon/California border), and a non-mark selective coho quota fishery in September, open from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain, located just south of Port Orford on the southern Oregon coast.
Commercial fisheries from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain, Oregon will be open from April 1 through Aug. 29 and Sept. 5 through Oct. 31. Fisheries in the Humbug Mountain to California border area will be open in May, June, July, August, and September, with chinook quotas in June (2,000), July (1,500), August (1,000), and September (1,000).
Fisheries from the California border to Humboldt South Jetty will be open Sept. 15-30 with a 6,000 chinook quota.
Between Horse Mountain and Point Arena (in the Fort Bragg area), commercial chinook salmon fisheries will be open July 11 through Aug. 29 and Sept. 1 to 30, seven days per week.
In the area from Point Arena to Point Sur (San Francisco), the season will be open May 1 to June 4, June 27 to Aug. 29, and Sept. 1 to 30. From Point Sur to the Mexico border, the chinook season will be open May 1 to Aug. 29 and Sept. 1 to 30. There will also be a season from Point Reyes to Point San Pedro, open Oct. 1 to 5 and 8 to 12.
Fisheries north of Cape Falcon depend largely on Columbia River stocks. Columbia River fall chinook returns in 2011 were above average, and 2012 forecasts are similar.
Columbia River hatchery coho returns are expected to be below average and less than 2011 returns, but Washington coastal and Puget Sound stocks are mostly above average. For “North of Cape Falcon,” the PFMC recommendations are for an overall non-Indian total allowable catch of 99,000 chinook and 83,000 marked hatchery coho.
A mark-selective chinook season north of Cape Falcon would begin June 9 off the Columbia River and Westport, Wash., and June 16 off Washington’s La Push and Neah Bay. This fishery ends June 22 off the Columbia River, June 23 off Westport, and June 30 off La Push and Neah Bay, or when 8,000 marked chinook are caught in all port-areas combined.
The chinook season will be open seven days per week, two fish per day, with a 24-inch total length minimum size limit.
All salmon seasons are divided into four port areas. Seasons begin June 23 off the Columbia River, June 23 off Westport and July 1 off La Push and Neah Bay. These fisheries end Sept. 30 off the Columbia River and Sept. 23 off Westport, La Push, and Neah Bay, or when chinook or coho quotas are reached. The preseason coho quota for all port areas combined is 69,720. For details, please see the season descriptions on the Council website at www.pcouncil.org.
Non-Indian ocean commercial fisheries north of Cape Falcon include traditional chinook seasons in the May-June timeframe and all-salmon seasons in the July-to-September timeframe. The Chinook quotas of 31,700 in May-June and 15,800 in the all-species fisheries are about 50 percent higher than the 2011 quotas. The coho quota of 13,280 is similar to 2011’s quota of 12,800. Tribal ocean fisheries north of Cape Falcon are similar to recent years, although chinook quotas are higher than in 2011.
The Council developed the management measures after several weeks spent reviewing three season alternatives. The review process included input by federal and state fishery scientists and fishing industry members, public testimony, and three public hearings in coastal communities.
The Council received additional scientific information and took public testimony before taking final action. The decision will be forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries Service for approval and implementation. In addition, the coastal states will decide on compatible freshwater fishery regulations at their respective state commission hearings.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 for the purpose of managing fisheries miles offshore of the U.S. coastline. The Pacific Council recommends management measures for fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.