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Feedback: ESA Impacts And Columbia River Salmon Harvest
Posted on Friday, February 03, 2017 (PST)

Re: CBB, Jan. 27, 2017, “Oregon Harvest Reforms Differ From Washington In How Much Gillnetting Allowed”


-- From Bill Bakke:


I have a few comments regarding the recent article on the Bi-State harvest plan for the lower Columbia River.  I read through the recent article (1-27-17) and the 1-19-17 article but was unable to find a description that explains the harvest allocation is limited to the allowed kill of ESA listed salmon and steelhead. In future articles this should be included as boiler plate, including the ESA impact percentage that non-Indian harvesters are allowed.  Otherwise your readers may conclude that the harvest impact is on the whole run rather than limited to ESA impacts. 


In your 1-27-17 article it is quoted in the adopted policy of 2013 that the “policy was designed to promote conservation of salmon and steelhead…”  In your 1-19-16 article it states: “At today’s meeting, the Commission will consider a long-term staff proposal that would prioritize the conservation benefits of fisheries reform…”


Even though a conservation policy is mentioned repeatedly, I have been unable to read just what that policy would do to protect ESA-listed species.  Since wild and ESA listed species return to their natal streams to spawn, it would be reasonable to establish an escapement goal by species for each natal area (mainstem and tributaries) in the Columbia River.  Harvest should be regulated to provide such escapement goals.  The plan and resulting policies by the states of Oregon and Washington, however, treat harvest as allocation among user groups but provide no allocation to spawning escapement.  When this plan was being developed I testified that the first allocation should be for spawning escapement and the allocation among user groups would be managed to achieve that spawner escapement.  Otherwise harvest has little relationship or consequences relative to conservation.  The states and NMFS have created a management plan that is constructed of boxes that are not interconnected, allowing consequences to be overlooked.  That suggests, at least to me, that management is not organized to address harvest and hatchery impacts on an integrated salmonid ecosystem.  


Commissioner Holly Akenson provided the Commission with her perspective on finalizing the Columbia River Fisheries Reform Policy on January 20, 2017.  She gets it.  She said, “The number of endangered fish incidentally killed by the combination of fisheries does not change with changing allocations. A dead fish is a dead fish, whether it is killed by a gill net, alternative gears, or hook and line recreational fishers. In other words, an allocation change itself does not provide additional conservation benefits to ESA listed fish survival.


“We need to focus more on conservation of ESA listed species and other wild stocks and less on allocation changes. The sooner listed species can be recovered, the sooner all fisheries will experience less limitations on harvest opportunities.”


Unfortunately, her perspective may be ignored by ODFW staff and the Commission.  We will see.  However, discussing the conservation issues related to this harvest plan would be an important contribution to the Columbia Basin Bulletin.


- Bill Bakke, Portland, Oregon.


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