Commercial Fishery Cut Backby CBB Staff
The Columbia River Compact on Wednesday decided to call off a Thursday/Friday commercial fishery on the lower Columbia River mainstem after a review of the first three days' fishing showed "impacts" were climbing faster than anticipated.
Landings through the first three 12-hour fishing periods resulted in a catch of 3,996 chinook, of which 1,722 or 43.1 percent were upriver brights. Based on historical run-timing, the preseason expectations were that only 1,400 "URBs" would be caught during the first five days of fishing with an overall catch of 12,010.
The preseason expectation was that the first week's catch would be comprised of 48 percent tules -- so-called Bonneville Pool Hatchery chinook mostly from Spring Creek hatchery. But they represented only 9 percent of the catch during 12-hour fisheries starting on the evenings of Aug. 3, 5 and 8. The actual catch during those three days was 360 tules as compared to the 5,780-fish expectation.
Oregon and Washington department of fish and wildlife staff noted that the tules, on average begin arriving earlier than the upriver fall chinook, have not been as abundant as expected during the early part of the season.
The fall chinook runs have only just begun to forge their way upriver with daily chinook counts ranging from 587 to 842 for the week ending Aug. 10. Bonneville Dam counts for both the bright and tule runs normally peak from Sept. 4-9, according to Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The preseason forecast is for an overall fall chinook return of 634,900 adults to the mouth of the Columbia, which would be the fifth largest since 1948. That forecast includes an expected return of 287,000 upriver brights, the third largest since 1988, and 150,000 tules, the third largest since 1980.
Overall Columbia mainstem catches, both sport and commercial, are limited by the upriver bright catch. Non-Indian sport and commercial fishers share an allowable impact of the 8.25 percent on the upriver brights with the commercial portion being 3.96 percent. The limits are intended to protect the Snake River portion of the upriver bright run that is listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Those allowable non-tribal commercial impacts are meted out over August and the last half of September so an exceedance in any one week of fishing reduces the allowed impacts in future fisheries. Fishery managers had anticipated that the commercial fishers would incur 12 percent of their 3.96 impact limit during the first two weeks of August.
But after only three of the five planning fishing days, that level of impact had already been surpassed. The catch from a fourth night of fishing -- an Aug. 10/11 overnight fishery -- had not been tabulated by Wednesday but staff expected it to be about 950 fish, similar to the Aug. 8/9 fishery.
The composition of the fourth night's catch -- URBs vs tules and other stocks -- had not been calculated. The stock composition is extrapolated from the reading of coded-wire tags that had been affixed to a portion of the fish before they left the river system as juveniles.
That means the fisheries next week may have to be kept in closer check.
"We're not in any trouble" over the long term, LeFleur said. But she said the Compact chose to rescind the fifth fishing day to preserve impacts for future fisheries. The initial late summer/fall lower commercial fishery of 2004 was held on the night of Aug. 3/4. The non-tribal fishers have been able to fish from Bonneville Dam to the river's mouth.
A Compact hearing is scheduled at today (Aug. 13) to consider additional fishing periods for third week of August for of the non-Indian commercial gill-netters. The Compact, which sets mainstem commercial fisheries, is made up of representatives of the directors of the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife.
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