Oregon-Washington Continue Policy Talks On Jointly Managed Columbia River Fishery

The Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissions will meet together Aug. 1 to continue their discussions of the joint state Columbia River salmon management policy. Although the public is invited to attend the nearly all day meeting in Salem, public testimony will not be taken.

The two states adopted their salmon policies in 2013, but there have been some differences, although for the most part they are in concurrence for 2019, with some nuances, according to Ryan Lothrop, Columbia River Policy Coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Joint-State Columbia River Fishery Policy Review Committee, made up of members from each state’s commission, is working to find common ground for jointly managed fisheries, and emphasizes having concurrent regulations in these jointly managed waters.

The PRC group began meeting in January, and three additional meetings have been held. Materials from previous meetings can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/commission/joint-policy-review-committee. Information specific to the January meeting is at https://wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/about/commission/prc/prc-jan1719-packet.pdf

“Since the first meeting of this group, department staff from both Oregon and Washington have provided informational material and analysis for review,” Lothrop said.

The Aug. 1 meeting will include an overview of Columbia River fishery management, progress to date from the past PRC meetings, and discussions on ways to improve policy and regulatory concurrence between the two states in 2020 and beyond.

The salmon management policies are designed to achieve conservation goals for salmon and steelhead, promote orderly fisheries in concurrent waters, and maintain and enhance economic stability in sport and commercial fisheries, according to WDFW.

A WDFW draft evaluation of the two-state Columbia River Basin Salmon Management Policy 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.

In January, 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,” he said earlier. “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 https://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/02029/

The Washington Commission’s action at its March meeting to extend the use of gillnets was one of a number of recommendations for Columbia River fisheries developed by a joint committee with members of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, a WDFW news release said in March.

The joint meeting is scheduled for Aug. 1 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Room located at 4034 Fairview Industrial Dr. S.E. in Salem. At the meeting, the two states will provide a significant amount of background material. The meeting will also be streamed online.

The meeting will include an overview of Columbia River fishery management, progress to date from the past PRC meetings, and discussions on ways to improve policy and regulatory concurrence between the two states in 2020 and beyond.

The committee is also expected to discuss a schedule for future meetings.

For background, see:

— CBB, March 8, 2019, “Washington Fish/Wildlife Commission Allows Lower Columbia Fall Chinook Gillnet Fishing This Year,” https://www.www.www.cbbulletin.com/washington-fish-wildlife-commission-allows-lower-columbia-fall-chinook-gillnet-fishing-this-year/

— CBB, February 1, 2019, “Oregon, Washington Commissions Continue Joint Discussions On Columbia River Salmon Management,” https://www.www.www.cbbulletin.com/442079.aspx

— CBB, November 2, 2018, “Evaluation Of Columbia River Harvest Reforms Shows Expected Economic Benefits Have Not Materialized,” https://www.www.www.cbbulletin.com/441755.aspx

—CBB, February 17, 2017, “ODFW Reopens Harvest Rules Focused On Phasing Out Mainstem Gillnets Below Bonneville,” https://www.www.www.cbbulletin.com/438356.aspx

–CBB, January 27, 2017, “Oregon Harvest Reforms Differ From Washington In How Much Gillnetting Allowed,” https://www.www.www.cbbulletin.com/438251.aspx

–CBB, January 19, 2017, “Washington Votes To Move Forward With Columbia River Harvest Changes, Oregon To Consider Similar Plan,” https://www.www.www.cbbulletin.com/438209.aspx

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