West Coast Salmon Stocks Show Improvement but Will Continue to Constrain Seasons
SeafoodNews.com by Susan Chambers - March 12, 2021
Salmon fishery managers have had a tough time developing seasons the past few years due to several stocks not meeting their escapement goals and low forecasts for some stocks. This year is no different.
Scientists, fishermen, managers and tribes spent hours working on proposals this week during the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting. Managers design three season alternatives for public review; the Council chooses a final alternative in April. Last year the meeting was held in person in Rohnert Park, Calif., immediately before states began closing down and limiting travel due to the coronavirus. This year, the meeting was held virtually.
Forecasts for many Chinook and coho stocks have improved over last year, the Council said in a press release. However, requirements to conserve natural coho runs in the Fraser River, Canada; Washington coastal and Puget Sound; and lower Columbia River natural tule fall Chinook and Klamath River fall Chinook mean constraining fisheries targeting more abundant stocks, since they may intercept the lower abundance stocks.
Some alternatives include, again, complete season closures in some areas.
“Meeting our conservation and management objectives continues to be the highest priority for the Council,” Council Executive Director Chuck Tracy said in the statement. “Balancing those objectives while providing meaningful commercial and recreational seasons remains a challenge in 2021.”
Washington and Northern Oregon (north of Cape Falcon)
Fisheries north of Cape Falcon in northern Oregon are limited by the need to constrain catch of lower Columbia River natural tule Chinook and Washington coast coho stocks of concern. Additionally, three coho salmon stocks remain categorized as “overfished,” Queets River and Strait of Juan de Fuca coho, or “not overfished/rebuilding,” the Snohomish, which is also a concern when structuring 2021 fisheries.
Tribal negotiations are under way, but at this time the Chinook and coho quotas for tribal ocean fishery alternatives range from 0 to 50,000 for Chinook salmon, compared to 35,000 in 2020, and from 0 to 35,000 coho, compared to 16,500 coho in 2020. Under the range of alternatives, seasons open May 1 and continue through September 15.
"We faced a different set of challenges [for] north of Falcon this week," Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Salmon Policy Lead Kyle Adicks said during the Council meeting, "including a season closed to salmon fishing."
Two alternatives for the non-Indian ocean commercial fishery North of Cape Falcon, include traditional seasons between May and September. Chinook quotas for all areas and times range from 25,000 to 32,000, compared to 27,460 in 2020. Coho quotas range from 4,800 to 14,400 marked coho, compared to 2,000 in 2020. The third alternative is a closed season.
Oregon (south of Cape Falcon) and California
Fisheries south of Cape Falcon are limited mainly by the low abundance forecast for Klamath River fall Chinook. Klamath River and Sacramento River fall Chinook contribute significantly to ocean harvest, and Klamath River fall Chinook are categorized as overfished. This year’s management alternatives are designed to provide fishing opportunity for the more abundant Sacramento River fall Chinook while reducing fishing impacts on Klamath River fall Chinook.
Commercial season alternatives south of Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain are open either beginning in late March or May through October, with closed periods in most months. A limited incidental hatchery coho season is also being considered.
The commercial alternatives in the Oregon Klamath Management Zone, from Humbug Mtn. near Port Orford to the California border, provide a range of Chinook-only season alternatives opening from late March through May, and include quotas in June and July in two alternatives.
All alternatives have the California Klamath Management Zone, from the Oregon border south to the south jetty at Humboldt Bay, closed for the season.
"It's been quite a challenging week," California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Brett Kormos said as he made a motion to approve the season alternatives for California sport and commercial fishermen Thursday. Low forecasts for some stocks, combined with an updated ocean harvest model resulted in some fairly restricted seasons this year, he said. Still, the alternatives approved for public review represent the best options to meet Endangered Species Act obligations and other objectives, yet still have some seasons.
Commercial seasons south of the California Klamath Management Zone vary considerably between the alternatives and management areas, Fort Bragg, San Francisco and Monterey, but in general provide similar or reduced levels of opportunity compared to last year.
Management objectives for Southern Resident killer whales
The Council has worked collaboratively with National Marine Fisheries Service to understand the effects of Council-area fisheries on Southern Resident killer whales, which are listed as endangered. Based in part on information provided by the Council’s ad-hoc Southern Resident Killer Whale Workgroup, NMFS provided guidance on the structure of the 2021 salmon fisheries to address the needs of the whales while providing salmon harvest opportunities. Chinook abundance is well above the level that would require additional fishery restrictions.
"The Council is considering the needs of Southern Resident killer whales as part of its deliberations," Council Chair Marc Gorelnik said in the press release. "We are also considering the need to rebuild some Chinook and coho stocks that have been designated as overfished.”
Complete season tables are listed on the Council website at: https://www.pcouncil.org/annual-salmon-management-process/#2021 .
The Council has scheduled one public hearing for each coastal state to hear comments on the alternatives. The hearings will occur online and are scheduled for Tuesday, March 23, for Washington and California, and Wednesday, March 24, for Oregon. The public will also be able to comment on the alternatives during the April Council meeting. Materials and instructions for joining online Council meetings and hearings will be posted to the Council website.
The Council will consult with scientists, hear public comment, revise preliminary decisions, and choose a final alternative at its meeting via webinar April 6-9, and 12-15. The Council will forward its final season recommendations to NMFS for its approval and implementation no later than May 16.
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PFMC: 2021 Public hearings on salmon management (via webinar only)
Pacific Fishery Management Council - March 11, 2021
The following was released by the Pacific Fishery Management Council:
Public hearings to review the Council’s proposed ocean salmon fishery management alternatives will be conducted via webinar only. The links below will take you to the specific hearing information:
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