Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
staff completed a draft evaluation of the Columbia River Basin Salmon
Management Policy that was enacted to assure recreational anglers would receive
a larger portion of the non-tribal harvest allocation of salmon and steelhead
and that removed commercial gillnetters from the mainstem of the river.
The evaluation determined that the large
economic benefits expected from the policy, also known as Columbia River
harvest reform, have not been realized. It says that alternative gear and
select areas for commercial fishermen have not materialized to the extent
planned and that there have been only marginal benefits from changes to the
catch allocation for anglers.
In its evaluation, WDFW staff concludes that
the expectations the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission had when it
adopted the policy in 2013 have not been met, according to the evaluation
summary. The Commission hopes to finalize the evaluation at the continuation of
its meeting Saturday.
The Executive Summary of the Comprehensive
Evaluation of the Columbia River Basin Salmon Management Policy is at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings/2018/11/nov0118_02_executive_summary.pdf
Bill Tweit, WDFW special assistant, and Ryan
Lothrop, WDFW Columbia River Fishery Manager, laid out the findings of the
agency’s evaluation at a Commission meeting in Vancouver yesterday, Nov.
1. The one-day meeting brought together
both the host Washington Commission and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife
Joining Tweit and Lothrop to talk about how
the two states’ policies differ (concurrency) were Tucker Jones, Oregon
Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Ocean Salmon/Columbia River Program Manager,
and Chris Kern, Fish Division Deputy Administrator at ODFW.
Initially the two state policies were
identical, but that changed in 2017 when Oregon realized the economic benefits
of the policy and some of the policy promises to expand off-channel gillnetting
and move to alternative fishing gear had not come to pass. Oregon continued to
allow some fall fishing for commercial gillnetters in the mainstem of the river
below Bonneville Dam.
While the two state policies are very similar,
here is how they differ:
Spring: The two states have more in common for
spring fishing (targeting spring chinook) than not, Jones said. Both allocate
fish 80 percent to recreational anglers and 20 percent to commercial fishermen.
Where they differ is that Oregon allows the use of tangle nets in the mainstem
river, but only after a run size update that would forecast a higher run than
the preseason forecast. Washington does not allow mainstem gillnetting. An
unused allocation from commercial fishers goes to escapement, whereas
Washington doesn’t speak to it.
Summer: Fishing for summer chinook, both
states allocate 80/20. They differ in that Oregon allows any unused commercial
allocation to go to escapement, whereas Washington transfers unused commercial
catch to upriver (above Bonneville Dam) anglers.
Fall: Fishing for fall chinook, which is
generally a larger run, Oregon splits the allocation 70 percent for anglers and
30 percent for gillnetters and gillnets are allowed upstream of the Lewis River
on the mainstem. The Washington allocation was 75/30 in 2018, but that changes
to 80/20 next year. In 2018, gillnets were allowed upstream of the Lewis River
in Washington, but they will not be allowed next year.
Coho: The two states are concurrent when it
comes to coho salmon regulations under the policies.
According to Lothrop, the three most important
objectives of the policy are orderly fisheries, conservation and recovery, and
the economic well-being and stability of sport and commercial fisheries.
So what’s working and what’s not? Lothrop said
the policy has a built-in conservation component as it operates within the
guidelines already in place through US v Oregon. However, it still did not meet
its conservation objectives largely because the targeted mark-selective
commercial fisheries designed to protect tule and fall chinook salmon operated
at a low level, leaving more hatchery fish on spawning grounds than had been planned.
During the evaluation period, the proportion
of hatchery chinook on spawning grounds (pHOS) declined, but that was mostly
due to the use of weirs near hatcheries that sorted and removed hatchery fish,
Nonconcurrent rules between the two states can
also make enforcement difficult. Both states agreed at the joint Commission
meeting yesterday that concurrence between state policies is ideal, but they
didn’t readily commit to achieving it in 2019.
Making recreational fisheries a priority and
requiring the use of barbless hooks in the fishery were successful, the
evaluation says, but the Commission is still working towards getting licensed
guides to keep and report their catch in logbooks. Washington could decide to
make barbless hooks optional in 2019.
The commercial sector is where most of the
failure has been. Oregon has explored expanding select areas in the lower
Columbia River, but Washington has identified just one area and then failed to
develop it, and a select area at Cathlamet was abandoned due to poor smolt
survival. In addition, a commercial license buy-back program was initiated, but
then abandoned. A new approach for the buy-back has recently begun, the summary
In addition, while implementation of
alternative gear for commercial fishers was a key component to the policy’s
success, no alternative gear has been fully adopted. So far issues with
alternative gear that have been tried – tangle nets, seines – include high
handle of non-target species (steelhead), high release mortality rates, ESA
impact limitations and high cost of the gear.
“Some commercial licensees have made notable
investments to use alternate gears; to date, there has been no return from
those investments,” the summary says.
Part of the Washington policy includes an
allocation for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and a
Wanapum Tribe subsistence catch. Those existed prior to the policy and have
The economics of the policy endeavored to
“enhance the overall economic well-being and stability of Columbia River
fisheries,” the summary says. That was supposed to come from the higher
re-allocation to anglers, which were expected to have increased trips and days
on the water, but the benefits were lower than expected.
For gillnetters, additional hatchery fish
production in the off-channel select areas and the development of alternative
gear was to boost the commercial catch while keeping gillnetters out of the
main river channel.
It says that the annual number of angler trips
downstream of Bonneville Dam dropped, while there were lower than expected
commercial landings of spring and summer chinook (some was offset by high
prices for the fish). Most of the commercial value came from mainstem
fisheries, while the ex-vessel value from off-channel fisheries had not
An economic analysis is complicated, the
evaluation concludes: “it remains apparent that the goal of enhancing the
overall economic well-being and stability of Columbia River fisheries was not
achieved as expected.
See Washington agenda items at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings/2018/11/agenda_nov0118.html
-- CBB, February 17, 2017, “ODFW Reopens
Harvest Rules Focused On Phasing Out Mainstem Gillnets Below Bonneville,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438356.aspx
--CBB, January 27, 2017, “Oregon Harvest
Reforms Differ From Washington In How Much Gillnetting Allowed,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438251.aspx
--CBB, January 19, 2017, “Washington Votes To
Move Forward With Columbia River Harvest Changes, Oregon To Consider Similar
--CBB, December 9, 2016, “Washington, Oregon
Fish/Wildlife Commissions On Parallel Course With Columbia River Harvest
--CBB, December 2, 2016, “Washington, Oregon
Fish/Wildlife Commissions Considering Next Moves On Lower River Gillnetting,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438043.aspx
--CBB, November 4, 2016, “Oregon Commission To
Review Columbia River Harvest Reforms, May Consider Extending Mainstem
--CBB, April 22, 2016, “Oregon Commission
Hears Review Of Fishing Reforms Banning Lower Columbia Gillnetters From
--CBB, June 7, 2013, “Oregon ‘Re-Adopts’ Lower
Columbia Commercial Gill-Net Ban; Slew Of Uncertainties Remain,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/426937.aspx