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Ocean Salmon Fisheries Set: Low California Chinook, Puget Sound Coho Forecasts Constrain Harvest
Posted on Friday, April 14, 2017 (PST)

Recreational, commercial and tribal fisheries along the Pacific coast north of Cape Falcon will see similar quotas of chinook and coho salmon this year as was available in 2016, but those fisheries south of Cape Falcon will be limited to protect Klamath and Sacramento river chinook stocks.

 

The Pacific Fishery Management Council this week adopted ocean salmon season recommendations that provide recreational and commercial opportunities for most of the Pacific coast. The recommendation will be forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries Service for approval by May 1, 2017.

 

However, due to low forecasts of both chinook and coho salmon, several areas will be closed this year and some open areas will be significantly constrained, according to a PFMC news release (http://www.pcouncil.org/2017/04/47565/west-coast-salmon-season-dates-set-for-2017/).

 

“It has been another challenging year for the Council, its advisors, fishery stakeholders and the public as we strive to balance fishing opportunities on harvestable stocks of chinook and coho with the severe conservation needs we are facing on salmon stocks, both north and south of Cape Falcon,” said Council Executive Director Chuck Tracy. “The Council has recommended commercial and recreational ocean salmon seasons in Washington, Oregon, and California this year that provide important protections for stocks of concern including Klamath River fall chinook, Washington coastal coho, and Puget Sound chinook.”

 

The adopted salmon fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington achieve conservation goals for the numerous individual salmon stocks on the West Coast, said the PFMC.

 

“We have made the tough decisions and implemented fishery restrictions to protect salmon stocks while providing at least some opportunity for commercial recreational, and tribal ocean salmon fishing along much of the west coast,” said Council Chair Herb Pollard.

 

The PFMC said that fisheries north of Cape Falcon (near Nehalem in northern Oregon) depend largely on Columbia River chinook and coho stocks. Columbia River fall chinook returns are expected to be healthy in 2017, and Columbia River coho are expected to return at reduced but moderate levels in 2017, the PFMC said.

 

However, some coastal Washington and Puget Sound coho abundance this year will be down from recent years, and some wild coho stocks are expected to return at very low levels. In response, the Council has been challenged with shaping fisheries to provide access to relatively abundant chinook stocks while protecting natural coho populations, the PFMC said.

 

North of Cape Falcon

 

North of Cape Falcon, there is an overall non-Indian total allowable catch of 90,000 chinook (compared to 70,000 last year) and 42,000 marked hatchery coho (compared to 18,900 last year).

 

That catch will be split among recreational, commercial and tribal fisheries.

 

The recreational fishery north of Cape Falcon opens to all salmon June 24 in most areas (July 1 in Westport) and ends September 4 or when chinook or coho quotas are reached. Recreational fisheries in all port areas are allocated 45,000 chinook (compared to 35,000 last year), and a marked coho quota of 42,000 (compared to 18,900 last year). For details on all fisheries identified by the PFMC, go to http://www.pcouncil.org/2017/04/47516/draft-council-adopted-salmon-management-measures-for-may-2017-april-30-2018-ocean-salmon-fisheries-tables-including-press-release/.

 

Tribal and non-Indian ocean commercial fisheries are designed to provide harvest opportunity on strong chinook returns primarily destined for the Columbia River while avoiding coho stocks of concern, the PFMC said. Coho retention is allowed in commercial fisheries north of Cape Falcon this year, which is an improvement over the non-retention regulations from last year; however, the coho quotas are very low in 2017.

 

Non-Indian ocean commercial fisheries north of Cape Falcon include traditional, but reduced, chinook seasons in the spring (May-June) and summer (intermittent openings during July through September). The chinook quota of 27,000 in the spring is greater than the 2016 quota of 19,100. The summer season quotas include 18,000 chinook and 5,600 coho.

 

Tribal ocean fisheries north of Cape Falcon are similar in structure to past years, with quotas that include 40,000 chinook and 12,500 coho.

 

South of Cape Falcon

 

South of Cape Falcon fisheries are the hardest hit this year due to the need to protect Klamath River fall chinook, and, south of Point Arena (in northern California), the need to protect Sacramento River winter chinook.

 

The Klamath River fall chinook run is projected to be the lowest on record due to drought, disease, poor ocean conditions, and other issues, the PFMC said. At the same time, the Council must protect Sacramento River winter chinook, which are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Because both of these fish intermix with other stocks in the ocean, fisheries targeting more abundant stocks must be constrained.

 

Recreational fisheries off the central Oregon coast will allow chinook retention from March 15 through October 31. Coho fisheries consist of a mark-selective quota fishery of 18,000 in mid-summer (compared to 26,000 last year) and a non-mark-selective quota fishery of 6,000 in September (compared to 7,500 last year), both open from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain.

 

Further south, the recreational fishing outlook is more limited. The Brookings/Crescent City/Eureka areas are closed for the entire season to conserve Klamath River fall chinook, which are most abundant in these areas. Fisheries further south all opened on April 1. Near Fort Bragg the season will close during June, July, and half of August, then reopen through November 12. Near San Francisco the season will close during the first half of May and reopen through October 31. Salmon fishing will remain open through July 15 in the Monterey Bay area and through May 31 for areas south of Monterey Bay.

 

Commercial fisheries from Cape Falcon to the Florence, Oregon South Jetty is open April 15 through July 31 with intermittent closures to reduce impacts on Klamath fall chinook. This area will also be open in September and October. Commercial fisheries from the Florence South Jetty to Horse Mountain, California will be closed for the entire season to reduce impacts on Klamath River fall chinook.

 

Between Horse Mountain and Point Arena (Fort Bragg) there will be a 3,000 chinook quota ocean fishery in September, after 2017 Klamath River fall chinook have entered the Klamath River.

 

From Point Arena to Pigeon Point (San Francisco), the season will be open for most of August and all of September. From Pigeon Point to the Mexico border (Monterey), the chinook season will be open in May and June. There will also be a season from Point Reyes to Point San Pedro that will be open October 2 to 6 and October 9 to 13.

 

In arriving at the ocean fishing regulations, the PFMC reviewed three season alternatives. The review process included input by federal, state and tribal 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 at its April Council meeting before taking final action, April 11.

 

In addition, the coastal states will decide on compatible state waters fishery regulations at their respective Fish and Wildlife commission hearings. Washington has already completed its review of the fishery regulations in conjunction with treaty tribal co-managers. Hardest hit will be fisheries in Puget Sound.

 

In recent years, unfavorable environmental conditions, such as warm ocean water and drought, have reduced the number of salmon returning to Washington's waters, said Kyle Adicks, salmon policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in a news release. See http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/apr1117b/.

 

"We're in the third year of a multi-year downturn in salmon returns," Adicks said. "Similar to last year, we faced significant challenges in crafting fisheries."

 

With low returns of coho and wild chinook expected back to several rivers, fishery managers are limiting opportunities in some areas to protect those fish, with the most severe restrictions in Puget Sound where fisheries managers are forecasting extremely low returns of "key stocks," such as Skagit River coho and Nooksack River chinook.

 

Coho angling in Puget Sound will include improved opportunities in areas 9-13 while those fishing in areas 5-8 will see closures or will be limited to openings that align with chinook seasons, an improvement over last year. The Skagit and Stillaguamish will be closed to coho fishing.

 

Opportunities for chinook fishing in Puget Sound marine areas will be similar to last year with a few more closures in the winter.

 

Anglers will have limited opportunities to fish for pink salmon in Puget Sound due to projected low returns.

 

Anglers fishing Washington's ocean waters will be able to retain chinook, as well as coho salmon in all marine areas, as compared to 2016 when coho retention was limited only to Marine Area 1. Salmon fisheries get underway daily in Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay on June 24 and on July 1 in Westport.

 

Information on recreational salmon fisheries in Washington's ocean waters and the lower Columbia River is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/. Information on tribal fisheries is at Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (http://nwifc.org/).

 

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 3-200 miles offshore of the United States of America coastline. The Pacific Council recommends management measures for fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

 

Description of 2017 salmon management process: http://www.pcouncil.org/salmon/current-season-management

 

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