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Harvest Managers Approve More Tribal Fishing, Concerns Expressed Over Low Sockeye, Summer Steelhead
Posted on Friday, July 14, 2017 (PST)

After saying last week they would likely not continue gillnetting this week, Treaty commercial gillnetters added another 3.5 days of fishing this week – Wednesday, July 12, through Friday, July 14 – in the reservoir upstream of Bonneville Dam.

 

“The harvest numbers projection (of summer chinook) are much more solid this week,” Jon Hess, fishery scientist in the Fisheries Management division of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, explained at a two-state Columbia River Compact meeting Tuesday. He added that once the most recent fishing period ends today, the Tribal allocation of summer chinook remaining would still be nearly 6,000 fish. The sockeye salmon allocation would be 1,484 fish.

 

However, in approving the additional fishing days, Oregon and Washington leaders of the Compact, which oversees recreational and commercial fishing in the mainstem Columbia River from the river’s mouth to the Oregon-Washington border, worried about the impacts continued fishing – both Tribal and recreational – may have on sockeye salmon and wild steelhead, both arriving in the river in dramatically low numbers.

 

“I’m highly concerned about the Snake River sockeye and summer steelhead returns,” Tucker Jones, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife manager of Ocean Salmon and Columbia River fisheries and representing Oregon at this week’s Compact meeting, Tuesday, July 11. “The significant downgrade for sockeye, by my calculations, leaves just 638 Snake River sockeye at the river’s mouth. And the Skamania stock of steelhead was just 31 percent of the forecast.”

 

Some 51,036 adult summer chinook had passed Bonneville Dam as of July 10, according to the Compact’s Summer Fact Sheet #4 -- http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/FS/17/17_07_11sf4.pdf

That number is somewhat above expectations based on the pre-season forecast, which was 63,100 fish. An in-season forecast raised that number of summer chinook to 74,100 fish.

 

Through July 12, some 83,824 sockeye had been counted at the dam and that is well below expectations based on the pre-season forecast of 198,500 fish (that initial forecast included 1,400 Snake River fish). The U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee, which forecasts run sizes for fisheries managers, cut that forecast by more than 50 percent in recent weeks to 90,400 fish. Just 135 sockeye have crossed Lower Granite Dam, the upstream dam of the four lower Snake River dams. Last year on July 12, 555 sockeye had passed the dam and the 10-year average is 526 fish.

 

TAC met Monday, July 10, maintaining its current in-season projections for upper Columbia summer chinook and sockeye but said it will meet again July 17 to review run sizes for both stocks.

 

The sockeye run is coming in even lower this week (a little more than 1,200 per day and just 695 passed on July 12) than the latest updated run size of 90,400 fish would warrant. The 83,824 fish over the dam by July 12 this year is just 28 percent of the 10-year average of 301,226. Last year the count was 331,073, according to the Fish Passage Center (www.fpc.org).

 

As a result of the poor numbers of sockeye returning to the river, the Tribes adjusted for an expectation that the sockeye run size may be downgraded again when TAC meets next week. Rather than base the Treaty allocation for sockeye on the current forecast of 90,400 fish, the tribes chose to use a lower management run size of 89,000 to be conservative, according to the Fact Sheet.

 

“Based on the updated run sizes according to the U.S. v. Oregon Management Agreement, treaty Indian fisheries are allocated 21,225 adult summer Chinook and 6,230 sockeye (based on the conservative run size estimate of 89,000 sockeye),” the Fact Sheet says. “There is no specific harvest rate limit for steelhead in summer season fisheries, but harvest of steelhead is low in the summer and is expected to remain within recent average rates. Actual allowed fishery impacts are based on actual not forecast run sizes.”

 

Tribes project that by this evening, Friday, July 14, the total catch by both gillnetters and platform and hook and line fishers would be 15,231 summer chinook, 4,746 sockeye and 419 steelhead (the Tribes don’t track whether a steelhead is wild or hatchery).

 

The final Skamania steelhead run size (April 1 to June 30) at Bonneville Dam was just 3,491 including 1,236 unclipped fish. This is the lowest total run since at least 1970 and the lowest unclipped run since 1999, the Fact Sheet said.

 

As of July 12, some 7,519 summer steelhead had passed the dam. Of those, 3,082 were wild fish. The 10-year average on July 12 is 32,684, with 14,175 wild fish, while last year’s count on July 12 was 26,634 with 11,140 of those wild. The 50 percent passage date is June 16.

 

According to the June 28 Summer Fact Sheet Number 2b (http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/FS/17/17_06_28sf2b.pdf), upriver stocks of summer steelhead migrate past Bonneville Dam April 1 through October 31, and those that pass prior to July 1 are considered Skamania stock, while steelhead passing July 1 through October 31 are classified by length as either A-run or B-run fish. Summer steelhead handled in Columbia River fisheries downstream of Bonneville are considered lower river stock in May and June and upriver stock July through October.

 

The preseason forecast for upriver summer steelhead over Bonneville Dam was 119,400, July through October. That is 38 percent of the 2007-2016 average of 315,100 fish. TAC has not adjusted that forecast.

 

July 11 Compact Action Notice is at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/CAN/17/17711_notice.pdf.

 

Also see:

 

--CBB, July 7, 2017, “Summer Chinook Fishing Resumes Below Bonneville, Wild Summer Steelhead Passage To Date Very Low,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439220.aspx

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