If a draft plan in Oregon for six species of salmon and
trout is accepted as is, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will begin
to regulate in June 2014 some Oregon coastal streams as wild salmon and
steelhead watersheds, while others will see increased hatchery activity,
providing more fishing opportunities for anglers.
ODFW is seeking comments on its Coastal Multi-Species
Conservation and Management Plan (http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/CRP/coastal_multispecies.asp)
at five public open houses in January in Western Oregon,
including Tillamook, Salem, Roseburg, North Bend and Reedsport. Comments are
taken until Feb. 10.
The coastal species are the spring and fall chinook, chum
salmon, winter and summer steelhead, and coastal cutthroat trout from the Elk
River near Cape Blanco in Southern Oregon to the Necanicum River near Seaside.
None of the 20 watersheds under this plan are inhabited by listed species under
the federal Endangered Species Act. Nineteen of the watersheds have steelhead
“The Coastal Multi-Species Plan is the agency’s first
attempt to create a management plan for multiple species that are not listed
under the Federal Endangered Species Act and for which the State of Oregon has
a fair amount of management flexibility due to the relative good health of the
populations,” said Tom Stahl, ODFW’s Conservation and Recovery Program Manager.
The plan includes a variety of management actions throughout
the Oregon Coast and “is trying to balance conservation and opportunity and, in
the process, improve both,” he added.
For example, the elimination of a hatchery program in one
stream, creating a “wild fish emphasis area” that would protect wild fish from
the corresponding crowding and competition caused by the presence of hatchery
juveniles, could be balanced by more hatchery fish in a nearby stream.
Even though some streams would be protected from the
presence of hatchery fish, if implemented, the overall plan would result in
about five percent more hatchery juveniles released into rivers and that would
increase fishing opportunities.
Some areas already are set aside for wild fish, such as the
North and South Umpqua rivers and the Smith River in the Umpqua River system.
Under the new plan, the Kilchis River near Tillamook and Big Elk Creek in the
Yaquina River system would be among two added to this wild designation.
The draft plan has been in development since 2012, with input
from four stakeholder teams located along the Oregon coast. Each team included
people from local watershed councils, anglers and commercial fishermen,
conservation groups, resource managers, local government and Native American
One of the hottest topics was which rivers should be
reserved for wild salmon and trout enhancement and which rivers should have
more hatchery presence to provide more fishing opportunities.
Among the elements of the plan are a proposal to provide
more harvest opportunities for wild steelhead and a proposal adding two new
hatchery programs for spring chinook, one in Yaquina Bay and one in Coos Bay.
Other elements of the plan would give ODFW the ability to manage harvests of
wild coho, chinook and spring chinook based upon expected returns to each river
basin; provide actions to address natural predators; and provide a guiding hand
for local habitat improvement projects.
There is some demographic basis for making coastal fish
management decisions based on the health of the fish stocks.
As part of the input to the management plan, ODFW had the
Survey Research Center at Oregon State University conduct an opinion survey of
anglers and non-anglers about fishing in Oregon and wild fish conservation.
1,500 surveys were mailed to the general public with a 28.5 percent return, and
6,000 surveys were mailed to licensed anglers west of the Cascades with a 36
percent response rate. The results are a mixed bag.
A good portion of those surveyed either agree or somewhat
agree that management of coastal wild salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout
should aim for healthy populations of fish. 94 percent of the general
population and 91 percent of anglers believe this.
Yet, a similar percentage of respondents also believe that
management should also provide opportunities for harvest, with the caveat that
harvest would not risk wild populations (86 percent of the general population
and 85 percent of the angler population).
Only 21 percent of the general population and 14 percent of
anglers believe that the coastal management plan should prevent harvest of wild
fish, but that by a much larger margin the plan should also try to prevent
Endangered Species Act listings (56 percent of the general population and 65
percent of anglers).
About a third of respondents thought the plan should not
limit agriculture, forestry or development (31 percent of the general
population and 34 percent of the anglers).
Stahl said the survey identified a higher desire to see more
harvest of wild winter steelhead. That was in contrast to the stakeholder
process that called for lower harvests of this species. The plan under review
calls for harvest on just three coastal rivers, he said: the Salmon River, Big
Elk Creek in the Yaquina River watershed and the East Fork of the Coquille
River. The only area now on the Oregon coast where wild winter steelhead
harvest is allowed is the Sixes River on the southern Oregon Coast.
This will be the last round of public input before the ODFW
Commission looks at the plan. Stahl said comments by the public during the five
open houses will likely lead to revisions and the next draft plan will be
presented to the Commission at its April 2014 meeting. The Commission will take
more public comments and the ODFW staff will go back to the Commission for
final approval in June.