next big step down a “presumptive path” toward phasing out non-tribal
commercial gill-nets on the lower Columbia River will be the deployment late
this summer of 10 permit holders equipped with beach and purse seines,
equipment that had been outlawed on the river for more than 60 years.
late fall salmon fisheries stem from fishery management policies adopted in
2013 by the Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissions “intended to
promote the conservation and recovery of wild salmon and steelhead and provide
fishery-related benefits by maintaining orderly fisheries and by increasingly
focusing on the harvest of abundant hatchery fish,” according to a May 30 letter
from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Columbia River Policy Coordinator
Ron Roler to NOAA Fisheries’ Jeromy Jording, a fisheries biologist working on
lower Columbia harvest and hatchery issues.
policies adopted by the states include a transition period from 2013-2016 to
investigate and promote the development of “alternative selective gear” and to
expand select area gill-net opportunities in off-channel areas where hatchery
fish receive final rearing. Non-selective gill-nets are the primary commercial
gear used on the lower Columbia River mainstem.
2017 we’re supposed to be there,” Roler said of the policies’ directive to make
decisions on how alternative gear might be employed for a full-fleet fishery.
seine is a fishing net that hangs vertically in the water with its bottom edge
held down by weights and its top edge buoyed by floats. Seine nets can be
deployed from the shore as a beach seine or from a boat, as with a purse seine.
When the nets fill with fish, the ends are drawn together to encircle the fish.
That allows their “live capture,” and the selective release of certain fish.
development and implementation of alternative selective gear such as purse
seines and beach seines may provide area-specific opportunity to target
commercial harvest on abundant hatchery stocks, reduce the number of
hatchery-origin fish in natural spawning areas, limit mortalities of non-target
species and stocks, and provide commercial fishing opportunities,” Roler’s
state fish and wildlife departments in late May sent invitations Columbia River
commercial fishers to apply for permits to participate in commercial seine
research fisheries during the 2014 fall season.
you know, the states of Oregon and Washington have adopted policies that
provide for a transition in Columbia River commercial fisheries which, over
time, would favor gear types that facility mark-selective or live-capture
fisheries” the application letter said. “To inform this transition and continue
research into selective gear types, commercial fisheries using beach and purse
seines are expected to occur during the 2014 fall season.”
state plans to issue 10 permits – four for the use of purse seines and six for
beach seines. Fishing will take place in all five fishing “zones,” from Buoy 10
near the river mouth up to Beacon Rock at river mile 141.1.
applications were due June 20, and a drawing was held July 8 to select 10
potential permittees. They had 10 days to respond and accept the permit and pay
any fees due. Washington commercial license holders must pay a $290 “Emerging
Fishery license fee. Oregon license holders would play a $32 experimental gear
fee. The fishers must provide their own gear.
to the application letter each permit will allow the harvest of 750 adult
chinook for purse seine and about 500 for each beach seine permit. Average coho
landings are expected to be about 200 per permit.
in the lower river will be mark-selective for both chinook and coho, meaning
fish without a clipped fin must be released. A large percentage of hatchery
fish are fin clipped as juveniles so that they can be distinguished from
unmarked fish, which could be salmon or steelhead that are protected under the
Endangered Species Act.
fishing zones 4-5 (from the Lewis River mouth at Woodland, Wash., up to Beacon
Rock), some non-selective chinook retention opportunity is likely, the
application solicitation says. “In order to reduce risk of exceeding ESA
impacts, a maximum steelhead handle may be assigned to each permit.”
majority of the fishing time allowed is expected to be in early September. The
actual fishing periods will be set by the Columbia River Compact, a panel made
up of representatives of the ODFW and WDFW director.
commercial fishers are not allowed to keep steelhead, but a certain percentage
of fish – salmon and steelhead -- caught in the nets die after release in some
part because of trauma from the netting and handling.
from a 3-year mortality study conducted by WDFW showed quite high mortality
rates, particularly for salmon. Those mortality rates for purse seines are 22.5
percent for chinook, 28.9 percent for coho and 3.3 percent for steelhead.
Mortality rates for beach seines ae 34.3 percent for chinook, 38.4 percent for
coho and 8.3 percent for steelhead.
release mortality rates (based on TAC analysis of information from studies
conducted by WDFW in 2011, 2012, and 2013) for chinook and coho are higher than
managers expected based on low immediate mortality observed during initial
investigations observed in 2009-11, and higher than modeled when developing the
supporting documents for the current policy,” Roler’s letter says.
agreed that the salmon mortality rates seemed high, “but I’m not sure they are
shocking to us.” NOAA Fisheries has witnessed similar release mortality rate
estimates elsewhere, such as in Puget Sound fisheries both south and north of
the Canadian border that were vetted by both countries.
I think the states did a good job in developing a study that was robust,”
Jording said of the Columbia mortality study.
is the ability to assess the impact of particular fisheries on wild salmon and
steelhead that are protected under the ESA. Take limits for non-Indian sport
and commercial fisheries, tribal fisheries and for research-related activities
such as the planned seining fishery are expressed in NOAA Fisheries’ 2008 U.S.
v Oregon biological opinion and/or in the biological assessment on which the
BiOp was built.
bottom line is to avoid going over those prescribed impact limits. Wild Lower
Columbia coho, lower Columbia River chinook and Snake River fall chinook
salmon, and Lower Columbia,
Mid-Columbia, Upper Columbia and Snake River steelhead will likely all be present in the
river in late summer.
agencies see the fishery as a building block in the development of a
post-transition fishing plan.
want to get real fishermen out there in real fishing conditions,” Geoffrey
Whisler, ODFW project leader, Columbia River Commercial, Select Area and
Estuary Fisheries, said of the “pilot” or research seine fisheries.
said that the use of seines on the Columbia was prohibited by the state of
Washington as of 1935 and by Oregon in 1950.