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Columbia Basin Partnership Develops Preliminary Abundance Goals For Salmon, Steelhead
Posted on Friday, August 24, 2018 (PST)

At its meeting July 10 in Missoula, MT, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s Fish and Wildlife Committee reviewed draft vision statement, guiding principles and qualitative goals developed over the past year and a half by the Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force.


At last week’s meeting the Committee, along with the full Council, took an extra step and delved into the details of the Partnership’s work. It reviewed the provisional quantitative goals for natural production and escapement, harvest and hatchery production, with low, medium and high goals of listed and unlisted salmon and steelhead populations in the basin.


(See CBB, July 20, 2018, “Connecting Salmon Recovery Efforts: Columbia Basin Partnership Releases Vision Statement, Goals,”


According to the report, the low long-range escapement abundance goal “represents the best scientific knowledge for the abundance necessary to avoid extinction or avoid being listed” under the federal Endangered Species Act.


The mid-range escapement abundance goals are approximately half-way between the low-range goals and the high range goals.


The high range goals reflect “aspirational ‘healthy and harvestable’ levels that might potentially be achieved with aggressive improvements in habitat and other conditions currently limiting stocks,” according to a presentation by Council Fish and Wildlife staff member, Nancy Leonard.


“The CBP workgroups, comprised of the region’s tribal, state and federal fish managers, and NOAA staff have been instrumental in drafting provisional low, medium and high potential goal ranges for natural and wild components of these 24 stocks, leveraging the objectives compiled in the Council’s Fish Objective Mapping tool,” the Council’s August 7, 2018 Memorandum says (


The first qualitative goal for natural production fish, according to Leonard, is to have all salmon and steelhead delisted within 100 years.


One of the first tasks was to determine current and historical run sizes for the fish. Historical abundance of chinook salmon (spring, summer and fall runs combined) was between 3.75 million (2015 Independent Scientific Advisory Board estimate) to 9.2 million (the high end of a 1996 Council estimate). Current abundance based on a 10-year average (2008-17) is 1,120,300 with 58 percent of those of hatchery origin.


For sockeye historical abundance was 2.25 million (ISAB) to 2.6 million (Council). Current abundance is 328,500 (10 percent hatchery).


For coho, historical abundance was 560,000 fish (ISAB) to 1.8 million (Council) and current abundance is 409,000 (90 percent hatchery).


For chum salmon, historical abundance was 450,000 fish (ISAB) to 1 million, while current abundance is 14,300 (5 percent hatchery).


For steelhead (winter and summer combined), historical abundance was 450,000 (ISAB) to 1.4 million (Council). Current abundance is 412,700 (79 percent hatchery).


The total number of salmonids historically was 7.46 million fish (ISAB) to 16.3 million (Council) and the current abundance for all fish is 2,284,700 (60 percent hatchery).


The Task Force went on to list for each evolutionary significant unit the number it would take to meet the low, medium and high targets, and for most ESUs, current abundance and the low target are some distance apart. Some examples are:


Threatened Lower Columbia spring chinook: current abundance = 4,431; low = 9,800; medium = 21,550; high = 33,300, which is 33 percent of the historic high abundance. Harvest rate is 18 percent for both ocean and river. That rises to 27 percent for the medium and 35 percent if the high goal is met.


Threatened Upper Columbia spring chinook: current abundance = 1,090; low = 6,433; medium = 16,968; high = 25,452, which is 10 percent of the historic high abundance. Harvest rate is 11.6 percent. That rises to 24 percent for the medium and 35 percent if the high goal is met.


Threatened Snake River spring/summer chinook: current abundance = 10,000; low = 31,750; medium = 79,375; high = 127,000, which is 19 percent of the historic high abundance. Harvest rate is 11.6 percent. That rises to 24 percent for the medium and 35 percent if the high goal is met.


However, one chinook ESU, the threatened Lower Columbia River late brights, has already exceeded the medium goal. With a current abundance of 11,593, the low goal is 6,000 and the medium goal is 9,200. The high goal is 15,400, 47 percent of historical abundance.


Threatened chum salmon: current abundance =11,178; low = 16,050; medium = 24,075; high 32,100, just 4 percent of historical abundance.


Threatened Lower Columbia coho: current abundance = 31,401; low = 54,900; medium = 98,150; high = 140,400, 49 percent of the historic high abundance. Harvest rate is 16 percent. That rises to 18 percent for low, 24 percent for the medium and 30 percent if the high goal is met.


Endangered Snake River sockeye salmon: current abundance = 134; low = 2,500; medium = 5,750; high = 9,000, which is 6 percent of the historic high abundance. Harvest rate is 6.3 percent. That rises to 15 percent for the medium and 25 percent if the high goal is met.


Nearly all listed steelhead current abundance is lower than the low goal, with the exception of threatened upper Willamette River winter steelhead (5,150 average abundance over 10 years is higher than the low goal of 3,350; medium = 21,375; high = 39,400, 36 percent of historic abundance) and 30,500 current abundance for Snake River summer steelhead (low = 21,000; medium = 62,750; high = 104,500, 61 percent of historical abundance).


However, both of these stocks current abundance is under review. For example, the current annual abundance of Willamette River winter steelhead in 2017 was about 1,600 fish.


“The provisional harvest rate goal depicts harvest that can be sustained by natural-origin fish stocks when restored to higher levels of abundance of productivity (greater than under existing rates),” according to the Memo.


Little hatchery production is needed or planned. For listed chinook, just Upper Columbia River spring anticipate needing a hatchery boost, as does Upper Columbia River summer steelhead.


The Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force, convened by NOAA Fisheries, first met in Portland January 24, 2017 seeking an all-inclusive region-wide effort to connect various salmon recovery efforts. That first meeting was a long-time in the making with NOAA having first announced its intentions to convene the Partnership in October 2015.


The idea of a Partnership actually took form out of NOAA’s 2012 Columbia Basin Assessment, which 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, Barry Thoms, regional NOAA Fisheries administrator, said at the Partnership’s first meeting. The Assessment also highlighted NOAA’s leadership role and that the region needed to have a broad conversation about recovery, he concluded.


Today the Task Force has 28 members and one ex officio member, all organized under NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee representing tribes, states and diverse stakeholders.


“The CBP Task Force has met 5 times during 2017 (January, April, June, September, and December) and 3 times in 2018 (February, April, and June). Two more meetings are currently scheduled during 2018, an August 22, 2018 webinar and an October 2-3, 2018 meeting in Portland, Oregon. The CBP Task Force Recommendations Report is anticipated to be submitted to MAFAC by the end of January 2019.


Also see:


--CBB, January 27, 2017, “NOAA Kicks Off Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force: Can Salmon Recovery Efforts Be Integrated?”


--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?”


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