An all-inclusive region-wide effort to connect various
salmon recovery efforts was set in motion by NOAA Fisheries this week as it
held its first Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force meeting.
The first meeting was a long-time in the making with NOAA
having first announced its intentions to convene the Partnership in October
2015. Finally, Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday this week, January 24 and 25, a
diverse group of “stakeholders” filled a room at the Port of Portland offices
to get to work to find common ground in salmon recovery goals and efforts.
Multiple, sometimes overlapping, recovery plans are present
across the region, Barry Thom, regional administrator of NOAA Fisheries West
Coast Region, told the group of more than 35 people.
He said the meeting of diverse interests is a “new forum
unlike anything that has come before.”
The idea of a Partnership actually took form out of NOAA’s
2012 Columbia Basin Assessment. Thoms said at the Partnership meeting this week
that the Assessment effort pointed out an absence of long-term integrated
salmon recovery goals in the region, although there are many different plans
for recovery, and that those plans are not all working in the same direction.
The Assessment also highlighted NOAA’s leadership role and that the region
needed to have a broad conversation about recovery, he concluded.
“Can we integrate these responsibilities and use the
stakeholders in this room to plan that integration?” he questioned, asking the
group to work together to “define our salmon future. Without goals and a common
purpose, we will continue to spin our wheels.”
Thom fashioned his introductory remarks at the Partnership
meeting after a guest editorial he wrote and that appeared in The Oregonian
“All of us who call the Columbia Basin home have high hopes
for the salmon and steelhead that define our landscape and culture,” Thom
wrote. “Now it’s time to weave those hopes together into a shared set of goals
for the legendary fish: A vision of what we want for our salmon and what we
want from them.”
Among the diverse stakeholder groups present were familiar
names, such as three members of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s
Fish and Wildlife Committee (Jennifer Anders - Montana, Bill Bradbury – Oregon,
and Guy Norman – Washington). Also Jim Yost – Idaho - of the Council’s Power
Committee was there.
Also at the meeting were representatives from environmental
groups (Oceana and Coastal Conservation Association among them), Northwest
tribes and port districts, water districts and irrigators, the commercial
fishing and fish packing industries, the Northwest Sport Fishing Industry
Association (Liz Hamilton) and recreational anglers, and research organizations
such as the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership.
Many of these stakeholders either have their own salmon
recovery goals and plans, or they have ideas about what they want with salmon
recovery. Many are impacted by actions taken to recover the fish.
“You may feel that you have heard some of this before,”
Thom wrote in his guest editorial. “There are overlapping plans and strategies
for salmon recovery already.”
Those include federal biological opinions and recovery
plans, fisheries management plans with conservation and harvest goals, hatchery
production goals, harvest and production agreements, such as US v Oregon, as
well as Tribes’ resource management plans, lower Columbia River tribes’
Wy-Kan-Ush-Mi Wa-Kish-Wit, the Spirit of the Salmon plan. The Council has its
Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. At the same time, states and
community groups have drawn up recovery strategies at the local level.
Without common, shared goals, it is harder to achieve any of
them, Thom said.
“All are important, and all are shaping salmon and steelhead
recovery,” he wrote. “All the efforts measure success through their own
yardstick, leaving open the questions: Where are we, and our salmon, headed as
a whole? Are we using our collective resources strategically and efficiently to
The Partnership Task Force provides the states and tribes
the opportunity to engage with a broader stakeholder community and will serve
as the forum for members to begin to understand and discuss others’ viewpoints,
to discuss efforts across habitat, hatchery, harvest and hydroelectric
activities, according to a rough draft of the Partnership’s operating
principles. It also encourages discussion and will develop relationships among
Looking ahead to what the Columbia Basin Partnership could
accomplish, Thoms listed four potential outcomes:
--Goals that address both conservation and harvest/fishing
--Goals that are understandable and that have considered
various users of Columbia Basin resources;
--Better coordination, more effective use of resources and
alignment of strategic priorities;
--Quantitative adult abundance goals at the species, stock,
major population group, and population levels for both listed and non-listed
“These goals will guide us and our decisions for decades to
come,” Thom concluded in the editorial. He did say that goals from the Task
Force will also be reviewed by others and may see some changes before
NOAA sought nominations to the Partnership Task Force July
22, 2016, and accepted nominations through September 6, 2016. The Partnership
is a subset of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee. In that notice, MAFAC
“This Task Force will assist MAFAC in developing
recommendations on quantitative goals for all salmon and steelhead in the
Columbia Basin – listed and non-listed species – in order to address long term
conservation needs, harvest goals, and Tribal/treaty responsibilities for NOAA
Fisheries consideration. Shared goals will enhance engagement and understanding
by providing a concise, common definition of success; consistent means to
measure progress; and improved public support for work across the Columbia
MAFAC members represent a wide spectrum of fisheries,
protected resources, marine habitat, environmental, academic, tribal, seafood,
consumer, and other related national interests, it said.
More on MAFAC is at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ocs/mafac.
More on the Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force is at
A background and discussion paper on the Columbia Basin
Partnership can be found at
NOAA plans to host four more Partnership meetings this year.
Those are tentatively set for April 4 – 5, June 27 - 28, September 26 – 27, and
December 5 – 6.
--CBB, July 22, 2016, “Feds Seeking Nominations For New
Salmon/Steelhead ‘Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force’”
-- CBB, Oct. 30, 2015, “NOAA Fisheries Forms ‘Columbia Basin
Partnership’ To Provide Collaborative Forum On Salmon/Steelhead”
-- CBB, Dec. 14, 2012, “NOAA Launches ‘Situation Assessment’
Of Columbia River Basin Salmon, Steelhead Recovery”
-- CBB, Dec. 20, 2013, “Salmon Recovery Assessment: Who
Leads The Long-Term Way? A Re-Defined NW Power/Conservation Council?”