Tag Archives: pfmc

NOAA Sharpening Its Eye On West Coast Chinook Fisheries

Federal overseers could press for new Chinook fishing restrictions for select stocks at sea in the coming years to provide more salmon for orcas.

In a guidance letter earlier this week to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which manages fisheries off the West Coast, NOAA made known that it wants to reengage with the panel on season setting.

AN ANGLER SHOWS OFF A 28-POUND FALL CHINOOK CAUGHT OFF WESTPORT ABOARD THE CHARTER BOAT SLAMMER IN A RECENT SEASON. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The agency last did that in 2009 and found that the council’s commercial and recreational fisheries in Washington’s, Oregon’s and California’s ocean waters, didn’t jeopardize southern resident killer whales at the time, but the salmon-eating J, K and L Pods have declined since then and last year an analysis identified important king stocks for the hungry marine mammals.

“Several of the high priority Chinook salmon stocks currently identified in the framework contribute substantially to Council fisheries, including lower Columbia River, Sacramento River, and Klamath River fall-run Chinook salmon stocks [bolding in the original]. Identifying high priority Chinook salmon stocks for SRKW is an important step to assess impacts and prioritize management and recovery actions that will benefit the whales,” the March 6 letter from NOAA Regional Administrator Barry Thom to PFMC Chair Phil Anderson states.


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Lower Columbia stocks are key to Washington Coast salmon fisheries, while the other two runs are important off Oregon and California.

Puget Sound fall Chinook were found to be even more important to orcas, according to NOAA’s and WDFW’s joint review last year, but are not mentioned in the letter. Still, the state agency is developing seasons with an eye towards the species’ “dietary needs.”

The letter does say that the feds are developing a “risk assessment” for analyzing salmon fisheries past, present and future in terms of overlap with SRKWs, and how they impact orca prey availability.

“If adjustments are needed, this framework could guide fisheries actions to limit impacts to prey availability in specific areas and times that are believed to create the greatest benefit to the whales. We believe adaptive frameworks like this, or other equally protective tools, provide confidence that fisheries can respond to the highest risk conditions and help improve conditions for SRKW in the future,” the letter states.

While it says that the new tool won’t likely be available to apply to 2019 fisheries, NOAA still wants to get with PFMC about this year’s proposed seasons and their impacts on the aforementioned stocks.

Lurking in the background is the threat of a lawsuit against NOAA to look into fishery effects on orcas.

According to The Seattle Times, which broke the story yesterday afternoon, fishing interests involved in the process say fisheries aren’t to blame for the downfall of the “blackfish,” but seasons are an easy “knob” to try and turn, and that habitat issues in the spawning and rearing waters are the real problem for low Chinook numbers.

The letter goes on to say that efforts are also being made to reduce disturbance from boats in orca foraging areas.

A bill passed out of Washington’s House yesterday on a 78-20 vote expands the don’t-go distance around orcas from 200 to 300 yards, prohibits approaching closer than 400 yards from behind, and requires vessels to slow to 7 knots within a half-mile bubble around them. It now goes over the Senate.

North Of Falcon Salmon Season Setting Begins Feb. 27; Meetings Scheduled

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

State fishery managers have scheduled a variety of opportunities for the public to participate in setting salmon fishing seasons for 2019, starting with the annual statewide salmon forecast meeting Wednesday, Feb. 27.

WDFW STAFFERS PREPARE TO OUTLINE 2018’S POTENTIAL SALMON FISHERIES TO THE PUBLIC AT THE LYNNWOOD EMBASSY SUITES. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will present initial forecasts compiled by state and tribal biologists of the 2019 salmon returns at the meeting scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Lacey Community Center, 6729 Pacific Ave. S.E., Olympia.

That meeting is one of more than a dozen sessions scheduled at various locations around the state as part of this year’s salmon season-setting process. A list of the scheduled meetings can be found online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

State fishery managers rely on input from anglers, commercial fishers, and others interested in salmon as they work to develop this year’s fisheries, said Ron Warren, head of WDFW’s fish program.

“It’s important for us to hear what the public has to say about salmon fisheries,” Warren said. “We’re trying to make that easier this year by making video of some of the major public meetings available online. And we’ll again take public input electronically on our fishery proposals.”

Additionally at the upcoming meetings, fishery managers will discuss steps to protect southern resident orcas from disruptions from fishing vessel traffic and ways to consider the whales’ dietary needs in the fishing season-setting process.


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The declining availability of salmon – southern resident orcas’ primary prey – and disruptions from boating traffic have been linked to a downturn in the region’s orca population over the past 30 years.

“We’re working with the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop tools to assess the effects of fisheries on available prey for orcas,” Warren said. “These upcoming meetings provide opportunities for the public to understand the steps we’re taking to protect orcas this year.”

In addition to attending meetings, other ways the public can participate include:

  • Plenary session: State and tribal co-managers plan to hold an informal discussion during the public meeting, Wednesday, April 3, in Lynnwood. Details will be available on the webpage listed above. 
  • Meetings on video: The department intends to provide video of several public meetings. More information will be available online soon.

The annual process of setting salmon fishing seasons is called “North of Falcon” and is held in conjunction with public meetings conducted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). The council is responsible for establishing fishing seasons in ocean water three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

The PFMC is expected to adopt final ocean fishing seasons and harvest levels at its April 11-15 meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif. The 2019 salmon fisheries package for Washington’s inside waters is also expected to be completed by the state and tribal co-managers during the PFMC’s April meeting.

Ocean Salmon Options Out For Washington Coastal Fisheries

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Salmon managers have developed options for ocean salmon fisheries that reflect concerns over poor projected returns of coho and chinook salmon this year.

Three alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries were approved Wednesday for public review by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters 3 to 200 miles off the Pacific coast. A public hearing on the three alternatives is scheduled for March 26 in Westport. More details are available online at https://www.pcouncil.org/2017/12/51357/salmon-hearings/.

OCEAN SALMON MANAGERS SAY THAT OPTIONS FOR 2018 FISHERIES REFLECT CONCERN OVER LOW FORECASTED RETURNS OF WILD CHINOOK AND COHO. THIS 30-POUNDER WAS CAUGHT OFF WESTPORT IN JUNE 2014 ABOARD THE TEQUILA TOO ON A TRIP KELLY CORCORAN TOOK. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

The three options are designed to protect the low numbers of wild coho and chinook expected to return to the Columbia River and other Washington rivers this year while still providing some fishing opportunities, said Kyle Adicks, salmon fisheries policy lead for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“We’ll use this range of options to work with stakeholders to develop a final fishing package for 2018 that meets our conservation objectives for wild salmon,” Adicks said. “We know that ocean salmon quotas for chinook will be the lowest in several years and that coho quotas will be limited again this year due to weak forecasted returns to several rivers.”

This year’s forecast of Columbia River fall chinook is down more than 50 percent from the 10-year average. About 112,500 hatchery chinook are expected to return to the lower Columbia River. Those fish, known as “tules” are the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.

Meanwhile, fishery managers expect 286,200 Columbia River hatchery coho to return to the Washington coast, down about 100,000 fish from last year’s forecast. Only 279,300 coho actually returned last year to the Columbia River, where some coho stocks are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Unfavorable environmental conditions, such as warm ocean water and flooding in rivers, have reduced the number of salmon returning to Washington’s waters, Adicks said.

The alternatives include the following quotas for recreational fisheries off the Washington coast:

  • Alternative 1: 32,500 chinook and 42,000 coho. Marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) would open June 23, while Marine Area 2 (Westport) would open July 1. All four areas would be open daily through Sept. 3. This option would have a fishery scheduled from Sept. 29-Oct. 14 in the La Push late-season area.
  • Alternative 2: 27,500 chinook and 29,400 coho. Marine areas 1, 3 and 4 would be open daily June 30-Sept. 3, while Marine Area 2 would be open five days per week (Sunday throughThursdayJune 24-Sept. 3. This option would also have a fishery scheduled from Sept. 29-Oct. 14 in the La Push late-season area.
  • Alternative 3: 22,500 chinook and 16,800 coho. All four marine areas would be open July 1-Sept. 3. Marine Area 2 would be open Sundays through Thursdays while the other areas would be open daily. This option does not include a late fishery in the La Push area.

Each of the alternatives allows for varying levels of chinook and hatchery coho retention. Fisheries may close early if quotas have been met. For more details about the options, visit PFMC’s webpage at  https://www.pcouncil.org/blog/.

The first alternative most closely resembles ocean fisheries last summer, when PFMC adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 45,000 chinook and 42,000 coho salmon.

Chinook and coho quotas approved by the PFMC will be part of a comprehensive 2018 salmon-fishing package, which includes marine and freshwater fisheries throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s coastal areas. State and tribal co-managers are currently developing those other fisheries.

State and tribal co-managers will complete the final 2018 salmon fisheries package in conjunction with PFMC during its April meeting in Portland, Ore.

Meanwhile, several public meetings are scheduled in March and April to discuss regional fisheries issues. The public can comment on the proposed ocean alternatives and provide their thoughts on other salmon fisheries through WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/. A schedule of public meetings, as well as salmon run-size forecasts and more information about the salmon-season setting process can also be found on the webpage.