As of Aug. 24, Oregon will open the river from the Oregon and Washington border up to the Idaho Power dam for a fall chinook run that is anticipated to be 349,700 fish at the Columbia River mouth, which is 47 percent of the 10-year average (2009-2018) of 737,720 adult fall chinook. Still, the forecast is higher than the 2018 actual return of 293,424.
With an anticipated low return of upriver steelhead – those that will cross Bonneville Dam – in the Columbia River this year, Oregon and Washington have taken steps to protect the listed fish.
With less than half of the 10-year average of fall chinook salmon expected to return to the Columbia River this year, the two-state Columbia River Compact opened commercial gillnetting in the lower river and in pools upstream of Bonneville Dam for treaty commercial gillnetting.
Three runs of Pacific Northwest coho salmon and two runs of fall chinook have been added to the overfished list in NOAA Fisheries 2018 Report to Congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries.
Fall seasons and regulations were set for some treaty fishing and non-treaty commercial fishing in the lower Columbia River Basin, with the Oregon-Washington Columbia River Compact’s approval on Tuesday.
Some five to 16 million salmon and steelhead had historically returned to the Columbia River basin, but just an average of two million fish return today and only 40 percent of those are naturally produced stocks. If goals in a new Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force report can be met in the next 50 to 100 years, the number of naturally produced fish could increase by eight-fold.
Idaho recently launched a collaborative effort aimed at guiding salmon-steelhead conservation policy, with the Republican Gov. Brad Little urging a diverse, appointed workgroup to consider practical goals rather than getting bogged down in complex and controversial measures such as breaching lower Snake River dams.
Oregon has overestimated the historical number of coho salmon that ultimately spawned in coastal streams, according to the conclusions of a recent study, and it is likely that the number of coho spawning in Columbia River basin streams has also been overestimated.
Treaty platform fishing and commercial treaty gillnetting will begin this month for summer chinook and sockeye salmon. Tribes had not had a commercial gillnet fishery during the spring chinook run.