State and tribal salmon comanagers have posted a new 10-year management plan to guide harvest and conservation of ESA-listed Puget Sound Chinook and which could reduce the risk of North of Falcon-related delays, but also may mean less fish to catch in bad years.
It updates a plan that expired in 2014 but also must be approved by federal overseers before it goes into effect for the 2019-20 to 2028-29 fishing seasons.
Written by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and 17 tribes under a confidential, court-mediated negotiation process this year, the plan is meant to “refine the management of state and tribal fisheries to better support efforts to conserve and recover wild Puget Sound Chinook salmon stocks, whose numbers have continued to significantly decline since they were listed for protection in 1999,” according to a summary posted by the state agency.
WDFW also warns of “reductions to state and tribal fisheries in Washington, especially in years with expected low salmon returns. For example, increased protections for wild Chinook salmon returning to the Stillaguamish and Snohomish Rivers will likely further restrict numerous fisheries because those fish are caught in many areas of Puget Sound.”
The 338-page plan includes data on where and who catches kings bound for the inland sea’s rivers — some of those Stilly fish are actually landed in Alaska — as well as exploitation rates, low abundance thresholds and points of instability for each stock.
It says the abundance of the region’s Chinook is “constrained by habitat conditions,” and their recovery is “primarily dependent on restoration of” functioning habitat.
It only makes the briefest mention of marine mammal predation, which may be masking recovery as pinniped populations increase, according to a recent paper. And as for increasing hatchery production of Chinook, that’s not specifically addressed, but it should be noted the plan is subheaded “Harvest Management Component.” More on that front may be ahead in the near future.
Along with WDFW, the coauthors include the Lummi, Nooksack, Swinomish, Upper Skagit, Sauk-Suiattle, Tulalip, Stillaguamish, Muckleshoot, Suquamish, Puyallup, Nisqually, Squaxin Island, Skokomish, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Jamestown S’Klallam, Lower Elwha Klallam, and Makah Tribes.
The plan will be reviewed by the National Marine Fisheries Service through April 2019, but according to WDFW, state and tribal comanagers will use its framework during next year’s North of Falcon negotiations.
The agency says having it in place “would reduce the risk of having to cancel or delay state salmon fisheries in Puget Sound due to the uncertainty of an annual federal review” like we saw in spring 2015 and which led to a late start to sport seasons in the salt and rivers and even affected bass fisheries on Lakes Washington and Sammamish.