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Sport Group Blasts Oregon Commission
Over Spring Chinook

by Staff
The Columbian, January 15, 2004

PORTLAND -- The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association has ripped the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission over its preference for splitting the Columbia River spring chinook allocation between sport and commercial fishermen.

Last week, the Oregon commission agreed the harvest of spring salmon from the huge run expected to enter the Columbia in 2004 should be shared slightly in favor of sportsmen over gillnetters.

By NSIA's calculation, the commission reduced the spring chinook sport fishery by up to 27 percent.

"A full fishery would generate nearly 200,000 angler trips within about five weeks starting in late March,'' said Liz Hamilton, NSIA executive director. "This curtailed fishery will probably match up with last year, and be reduced to 150,000 trips. We could see a loss of 50,000 trips, or $5 million in economic opportunity.''

A survey of sport fishing in Oregon calculates that anglers generate on average slightly more than $100 per day in economic activity.

"This ruling is a joke in a time when Oregon desperately needs jobs and the state agency needs license dollars,'' said Dan Grogan, president of Fishermen's Marine and Outdoors, an Oregon sport-goodings retailer.

Biologists are forecasting a spring chinook run of 360,700 to enter the Columbia headed for upstream of Bonneville Dam. That would be the second largest since counting at Bonneville Dam began in the 1930s.

Also predicted is a large run of 109,400 spring chinook to Oregon's Willamette River and 26,900 to Washington's Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis rivers.

Wild spring chinook headed for the upper Columbia and Snake rivers are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. An agreement between the states, federal government and treaty Indian tribes limits non-Indians to killing no more than 2 percent of the wild fish.

Sport and commercial seasons in the lower Columbia target on the plentiful hatchery-origin chinook. Both groups release wild fish. Still, some wild fish die despite being released. Those dead fish are called "impacts.''

State biologists calculate and monitor during the season how fast those impacts are being used to ensure the 2 percent ceiling is not exceeded.

How those impacts are shared between sport and commercial fishermen drives the overall catch.

What Oregon's commission did Friday was allocate 50 percent to 60 percent of those impacts to the sport fishery. A majority of the commission wanted 55 percent to go the sportsmen and 45 percent to the commercials.

About 10 percent of the wild spring chinook released by sport fishermen die, while 18 percent released from commercial nets die. That means the actual catch favors sportsmen at a higher percentage than the impact sharing.

Steve King, Oregon's salmon manager, said at a 55-45 sport-commercial split, the catches in the main Columbia would be 18,000 to 19,000 for the commercials and 31,000 to 32,000 for the sportsmen, assuming normal timing of fish.

Anglers also should catch another 20,000 or so spring chinook in the Willamette, Cowlitz, Lewis and Kalama rivers, he added. Commercial fishermen should net between 6,000 and 10,000 spring chinook in off-channel areas such as Youngs Bay at Astoria.

NSIA asked the commission for 70 percent of the impacts for the sport fishery. That would be enough to allow a seven-day-a-week sport season on the Columbia through April.

In 2003, fishing closed between Interstate 5 and Bonneville Dam effective April 6 and was limited to Thursdays through Sundays downstream of I-5 to keep sportsmen from exceeding their impacts. A year ago, the sport share was intended to be 65 percent of the impacts, but ended up at 51 percent.

Sheila Cannon of The Fishery, a boat launch, campground and tackle shop on the Oregon side of the river west of Bonneville Dam, said the closure above I-5 hurt in 2003.

"Combined with sturgeon fishing cutbacks, 30 miles of river will be dead to sportfishing in the spring,'' Cannon said.

Washington's Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet at 10 a.m. Saturday in Olympia to decide on its spring chinook allocation preference.

The final sport and commercial seasons will be determined when officials from Oregon and Washington meet Feb. 5 in Oregon City, Ore.

Sport Group Blasts Oregon Commission Over Spring Chinook
The Columbian, January 15, 2004

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