WDFW Posts Puget Sound Chinook Presentation For Today’s Commission Meeting

Ahead of this afternoon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission briefing, WDFW staffers have posted their presentation on the controversial proposed Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan.

The 52-page PDF is here and outlines the background on the salmon stock’s 1999 Endangered Species Act listing, its further declines, the reasoning behind the federal-court-mediated update of the previous plan, impacts the plan could potentially have on sport and tribal fisheries, and what’s next.

AN IMAGE FROM TODAY’S WDFW PRESENTATION TO THE FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION. )WDFW)

Just as retired WDFW biologists and others have focused their attention, the presentation takes a deep dive on Stillaguamish Chinook — the river system has two runs, summers and falls — because as the document notes, it’s “likely to be one of the most constraining stocks.”

For the state and Stillaguamish Tribe, “extirpation of this population is not an option.”

The presentation puts forth several scenarios about how different Stilly forecasts could impact fisheries under the proposed plan, acknowleding sharp reductions to sport and tribal commercial and ceremonial fisheries under low returns to them possibly not being needed to meet goals with higher abundances.

Tying in the plight of southern resident orcas, the presentation says that the National Marine Fisheries Service has updated its maximum impact rates for several key Chinook stocks, lowering them.

And it says that NMFS has concerns with the plan as is and whether it “represents an acceptable level of risk for Puget Sound Chinook.”

The presentation states:

“Additional constraints on fisheries are likely needed in the new plan given decline in abundances and lower RER [rebuilding explooitation rate] values. This is a hard message to accept given that majority of Puget Sound recreational fisheries are mark -selective for Chinook, and that many of the impacts on Puget Sound stocks occur in fisheries north of Washington.”

But it also says that accepting higher levels of risk should come with mitigation strategies — “an approach used in prior plans where harvest rates were higher than NOAA was comfortable with as a starting point” — and points to possible additional measures such as increased hatchery production, marking fish different and habitat work.

More details after today’s conference.

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