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Oregon, Washington Commissions Continue Joint Discussions On Columbia River Salmon Management
Posted on Friday, February 01, 2019 (PST)

Two state fish and wildlife commissions will continue their discussions looking for next steps in reforming salmon management on the Columbia River.


The Joint-State Columbia River Salmon Fishery Policy Review Committee, which has been formed by the Washington and Oregon Fish and Wildlife commissions, is working to find common ground on ways to achieve policy goals adopted in 2013 for jointly managed fisheries, according to a January 29 Washington news release.


The committee includes three commissioners from Washington and three from Oregon. They held one public meeting in mid-January and will meet three more times – two in February and one in March – before each Commission will meet separately to discuss state policy changes.


The meetings are designed to give representatives from the two commissions a chance to share their ideas, according to Ryan Lothrop, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Columbia River Policy Coordinator. The public will have an opportunity to voice opinions about joint proposals when they are discussed by the full commissions in each state.


The three meetings are:

* Feb. 6, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's (WDFW) regional office at 5525 S. 11th St. in Ridgefield, Wash.

* Feb. 26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at main office of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at 4034 Fairview Industrial Dr. S.E. in Salem, Ore.

* March 14, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at WDFW's regional office at 5525 S. 11th St. in Ridgefield, Wash.


The first public meeting held in mid-January was set up to schedule the next meetings and the process for the workgroup, Lothrop said. Commissioners requested several assignments based on various options to move towards concurrency and will discuss this at the Feb. 6 meeting in Ridgefield.


WDFW staff presented at a joint-public meeting Nov. 1, 2018, a draft evaluation of the two-state 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 said 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 concluded 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.


That five-year performance review of the policy of 2013 is recently finalized. It called for management changes ranging from mandatory use of barbless hooks to a phase-out of commercial gillnets in the main channel of the Columbia River.


Lothrop said the review found that the states had made progress in implementing some of aspects of the policy, but that progress in other areas had not met expectations.


"The intent of the joint working group is to improve the management of the Columbia River," Lothrop said. "Having differences in policies in joint waters presents real challenges in managing, implementing and enforcing fisheries."


Washington's Comprehensive Evaluation of the Columbia River Basin Salmon Management Policy is available on WDFW's website at


The intent of these meetings is to discuss what each state has learned since 2013, review a variety of scenarios to improve concurrency between the two states and determine what potential changes could occur for both short and long-term. To take effect, any new proposals endorsed by the committee would require approval by the full fish and wildlife commissions in each state, Lothrop said.


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.


"These initial meetings will work within a short timeframe for possible 2019 changes in order to give policy direction to the fishery managers as the salmon season-setting process begins this spring," Lothrop said.


“These meetings are to improve concurrency in joint waters that the two states manage as that will provide more assurances on what is to come for anglers and commercial fishers, help with enforcement resources, and make management more streamlined,” he said.


He added that attendees should contact their commissioners and pay attention to the Commission agenda starting in March as that is the timeline for the first step that any changes would occur.


“This process is likely to take longer to work on longer term issues (i.e., sport allocation of spring chinook for upriver and down river, barbless hooks, alternative gear development),” Lothrop said.


Also see:


-- CBB, November 2, 2018, “Evaluation Of Columbia River Harvest Reforms Shows Expected Economic Benefits Have Not Materialized,”


-- CBB, February 17, 2017, “ODFW Reopens Harvest Rules Focused On Phasing Out Mainstem Gillnets Below Bonneville,”


--CBB, January 27, 2017, “Oregon Harvest Reforms Differ From Washington In How Much Gillnetting Allowed,”


--CBB, January 19, 2017, “Washington Votes To Move Forward With Columbia River Harvest Changes, Oregon To Consider Similar Plan,”


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