PORTLAND, Ore.—The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission today amended a proposed catch-sharing plan for allocating spring chinook in the lower Columbia River between commercial and sport fishing interests. The decision is expected to lead to additional negotiations with the state of Washington before an allocation is finalized.
The commission debated a plan developed by the Columbia River Working Group, a special committee created by the Oregon and Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissions specifically to tackle the perennially contentious issue of dividing available spring chinook between sport and commercial interests. The Group is comprised of three members from each state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission and citizen advisors from both states representing sport and commercial fishing and local governments.
The plan originally proposed a base allocation of available impacts of 65 percent for the sport fishery with 35 percent for the commercial fishery. Several commissioners pushed for a greater allocation for the commercial fishery.
The commission directed ODFW to develop a 55-45 percent catch-sharing plan with the flexibility to adjust the allocation if necessary to reach agreement with Washington fishery managers.
While the commission made a change to the proposed 65-35 allocation split, it did agree on several key management objectives outlined in the original plan:
- Likelihood of a 45-day sport fishery in the lower Columbia in March and April.
- Provide stability to the commercial fishery in the select areas – off channel fisheries in places like Youngs Bay and Blind Slough. Most of the fish entering these areas are hatchery fish and potential impacts on wild, threatened spring chinook are minimal.
- If the run size permits, allow some commercial fishing in the mainstem of the lower Columbia during March and April.
- Provide a predictable sport fishery above Bonneville Dam allocating it 25 percent of available impacts.
In addition, the plan established a 35 percent conservation buffer that will minimize the risk of exceeding federal Endangered Species Act limits on the harvest of wild chinook.
The spring chinook run on the Columbia River is comprised of both hatchery and wild fish. Wild spring chinook are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and must be released if caught. Harvest quotas are based on federal rules designed to limit the impact of incidental mortality associated with the catch and release of wild fish. The total number of “impacts” allowed in both sport and commercial fisheries ranges from .05 to 2.7 percent of the total run.
To manage the available impacts, state fishery managers will use a sharing formula (matrix) based on strength of the spring chinook runs in both the upper Columbia and Willamette fisheries.
Under the plan, the base allocation could vary depending on the forecasts for the upper Columbia and Willamette.
In related decisions, the commission decided to continue the current sport/commercial allocation (50 percent each) for summer chinook downstream from Priest Rapids, and to extend the current 2006-08 sturgeon management plan for an additional year.