THE FOLLOWING ARE PRESS RELEASES FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE (TOP) AND THE NORTHWEST INDIAN FISHERIES COMMISSION (BOTTOM)
Continued low returns of some key Chinook salmon stocks are expected to limit numerous Washington salmon fisheries in the upcoming season, state fishery managers announced today.
The state’s 2020-21 salmon fishing seasons, developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty tribal co-managers, were tentatively set today during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s (PFMC) meeting, which was held via webinar due to concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“These seasons were determined with the goal of meeting conservation objectives while offering opportunities whenever possible, but we had some tough decisions to make this year,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “We appreciate the hard work of co-managers and everyone else who sat through long teleconferences and webinars to determine these seasons.”
“This was another difficult year with so many depressed stocks as a result of lost and damaged habitat,” said Lorraine Loomis, Chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “I am especially encouraged by efforts this year to include habitat recovery in fisheries planning. Salmon continue to decline because their habitat is being lost faster than it can be restored and protected. Working together to change that trend is the most important thing we can do for salmon recovery.”
Season recommendations now move forward for approval by the National Marine Fisheries Service and final rulemaking, including additional opportunity for public comment and consideration of those comments.
Low returns of Stillaguamish and mid-Hood Canal Chinook, as well as Snohomish coho limited a number of Puget Sound fisheries in 2019, and created even greater constraints in 2020. That includes closing fishing for winter Chinook in East Juan De Fuca Strait (Marine Area 6), the San Juan Islands (Marine Area 7), Deception Pass and Port Gardner (areas 8-1 and 8-2), Admiralty Inlet (Marine Area 9), Tacoma-Vashon Island (Marine Area 11) and Hood Canal (Marine Area 12), with some exceptions for Chinook non-retention in Hood Canal in November and December. Summer seasons in Deception Pass and Port Gardner are also closed to protect coho.
Susewind said the department recognizes that many of these fisheries have seen continued declines in opportunity in recent years.
“This is never the outcome we hope for, but until these stocks rebound, this is an unfortunate reality,” Susewind said. “We continue working alongside the public and tribal, state, and federal partners to address all the factors impacting these critical runs.”
This summer, Chinook fisheries are expected to be largely similar to last year, with most Puget Sound marine areas opening for Chinook retention beginning in July or August. Summer Chinook fisheries are expected to begin July 1 in marine areas 5, 6, 7, and 11.
The summer salmon fishery will again be closed to summer Chinook retention (including jacks), though stronger forecasts allow for sockeye retention in 2020, a change from last year. That fishery will need to be closely monitored in-season if returns come in lower than expected, said Kyle Adicks, salmon fisheries policy lead for WDFW.
Fall Chinook fisheries will be open under various regulations. Waters from Buoy 10 upstream to the Puget Island will be open Aug. 16-27 for Chinook, and will remain open for coho afterwards. Most of the waters upstream will open Aug. 1, but Warrior Rock to Bonneville Dam will open Fri., Sat., and Sun. from Aug. 7 through Sept. 6.
Steelhead fisheries in the Columbia and Snake rivers this season will again be very limited and additional protective measures will be in place due to continued low returns of steelhead.
Washington’s ocean waters
Initial ocean fisheries reflect a reduced coho quota due to significantly lower projected returns in 2020. All four of Washington’s marine areas are scheduled to open June 20 for a Chinook-only fishery, then transition to a Chinook and coho fishery beginning June 29. Daily limits and days of the week open to salmon fishing vary between areas.
COVID-19 remains a factor going into the upcoming summer and fall fishing seasons, with the potential to continue impacting fisheries as the year continues, said WDFW Director Susewind. Many of the conversations during this week’s PFMC meeting included consideration of ongoing coronavirus impacts.
“The coronavirus remains the biggest unknown as we move ahead in the 2020 and 2021 fishing seasons,” Susewind said. As with every aspect of life these days, we’ll have to be flexible to respond to any public health concerns.”
Additional information about this year’s sport salmon fisheries and the North of Falcon process can be found on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/nof.
For information on tribal fisheries, contact the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (http://nwifc.org).
THE FOLLOWING IS THE NWIFC PRESS RELEASE
Treaty tribal and state fisheries co-managers today reached agreement through the North of Falcon process on a fisheries package for 2020-21 that will provide limited harvest opportunity while contributing to ongoing salmon recovery efforts.
“This was another difficult year with so many depressed stocks as a result of lost and damaged habitat,” said Lorraine Loomis, Chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.
Weak returns of chinook to the Stillaguamish River and mid-Hood Canal required extensive closures to protect the dwindling populations. Coho returning to the Queets and Snohomish rivers were also stocks of concern.
“Accounting for increasing predation by seals and sea lions and the needs of endangered southern resident killer whales further complicates salmon management. Meanwhile, all of this is taking place in the face of climate change that is also impacting salmon and their habitat.”
Precautions to stem the COVID-19 pandemic made the process even more difficult by requiring all meetings to be conducted by phone or tele-video, Loomis said. “Despite delays caused by the virus, we were able to complete the process in the usual timeframe.”
“Many of the reductions we had to make in certain fisheries this year are painful for Indian and non-Indian fishermen and communities,” Loomis said. She noted that the state substantially reduced its popular winter blackmouth chinook recreational fishery in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands and Hood Canal areas.
Tribal fisheries have been steadily reduced over time in response to declining salmon runs, she said. Depressed chinook stocks mean there will be no fishing on river systems in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, such as the Hoko, Elwha and Dungeness. Reduced ocean fisheries will be enacted to rebuild coastal coho stocks such as Queets River.
“With the seafood industry in turmoil in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, tribes are increasingly relying on ceremonial and subsistence fisheries to feed our families and preserve our cultural traditions,” Loomis said.
Despite the challenges, tribal and state co-managers remain committed to salmon recovery, Loomis said. Habitat protection and restoration are key to that effort, Loomis said.
This year the tribal and state co-managers worked to integrate habitat recovery in fisheries management planning.
On the Stillaguamish River, where the Stillaguamish Tribe hopes to harvest about 30 chinook this year, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind says his agency is committed to working with the tribe to address habitat issues in the watershed. Part of that effort will include a science-based in-stream flow assessment from a salmon point of view.
“We face many challenges, but the main reason for the decline of salmon is that their habitat is being lost faster than it can be restored and protected. Working together to change that trend is the most important thing we can do for salmon recovery,” Loomis said.