Washington, Oregon Fish/Wildlife Commissions
In its meeting today, December 2, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is expected to approve rulemaking that would extend the transition period through January to implement the Columbia River Fisheries Reform aimed at removing gillnetters from the Lower Columbia River mainstem.
The commission could consider full implementation of the plan, often referred to as the Kitzhaber Plan, or it could consider an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff-recommended "rebalance" of the original plan, but that decision will wait until the Commission's January meeting.
The harvest reform is in its final year of transition and was to become fully effective January 1, 2017 when all Columbia River mainstem fishing would be allocated to recreational anglers and commercial gillnetters would fish in off-channel select areas, mostly in the lower river and mostly for hatchery chinook and coho salmon.
Commission action today could put off rulemaking one month to its January 20, 2017 meeting, with rules going into effect February 1.
This one-month extension would ensure post-transition rules do not go into effect until potential adaptive management is considered at the January 20, 2017 Commission meeting, according to the Commission. The change is a result of discussion at the Commission's November 9 meeting when it became apparent a deferral was needed to allow more time for additional staff analyses and more time for additional coordination with the State of Washington "to provide orderly and concurrent policies" according to Oregon Administrative Rules.
"At the November 9, 2016 Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting, current OARs in Division 500 specify that additional allocation shifts take place beginning in 2017," the Commission said. "In order to ensure that the Commission has adequate opportunity to consider adaptive management provisions, staff has prepared rule modifications that will move the shifts in allocation from January 1, 2017 to February 1, 2017.
See the Commission summary.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission met in a special teleconference yesterday afternoon, December 1, to discuss with WDFW staff Washington's next steps on the reform policies. The staff laid out options for each run of chinook – spring, summer and fall – ultimately getting the commissioners' approval to publish the options later today for public input. It will meet again December 9 and 10, and will take public input on the options through next week and again at its meeting December 10. The Washington Commission has yet to decide when rulemaking would occur.
Although recreational fisheries for spring chinook salmon are open in January downstream of the I-5 bridge as it crosses the Columbia River at Portland, the Oregon Commission said that angling effort and catch is so low as to be unaffected by the allocation differences. Recreational effort and catch increases will occur well after the conclusion of the January 2017 Commission meeting. Commercial fisheries will not begin until after the conclusion of the meeting.
One of the sticking points with both the Oregon and Washington commissions and their fish and wildlife staffs is that the reform also promised to keep gillnetters economically whole, but the actual plan implementation is lagging in hatchery production of smolts, identifying additional off-channel areas and developing alternative gear that would allow commercial fishers to better target hatchery fish, among other issues.
The Columbia River Fish Management and Reform was a joint Oregon and Washington Policy initially adopted in 2012 and readopted in 2013.
At the Oregon Commission's November meeting, with as many as 150 sport and commercial fishers looking on, ODFW staff proposed to "rebalance" the harvest reform rules by continuing to allow some gillnetting on the mainstem river and by targeting for harvest more adult hatchery salmon in the lower river below Bonneville Dam, a conservation move to rid the river of more hatchery fall chinook. As a concession, recreational anglers would gain access to Youngs Bay, near Astoria, an area that has been considered off-limits to them and would be allowed to use barbed hooks in the Willamette River.
For more information on ODFW staff proposals to modify harvest reform, as well as highlights of public testimony, see CBB, November 18, 2016, Are Lower Columbia River Harvest Reforms (The Kitzhaber Plan) Working? Oregon Considers Next Steps
At the same time, Oregon Governor Kate Brown nominated Jim Biddle, owner of Willie Boats, Inc. in Central Point, Oregon, to the Commission. Biddle, a supporter of recreational angling, would replace Commissioner Jason Atkinson of Jacksonville. Atkinson's term on the Commission ends in 2019, but he has asked to be replaced.
Last year, Bruce Buckmaster, a commercial fishing proponent from Astoria, was appointed to the Commission.
The Oregon Senate will consider Biddle's appointment December 12. That appointment could alter the final vote by the Commission when it considers adoption of the full fishery reform or a form of rebalance.
Oregon Commission To Review Columbia River Harvest Reforms, May Consider Extending Mainstem Gillnets, by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 12/4/16
Oregon ‘Re-Adopts' Lower Columbia Commercial Gill-Net Ban; Slew Of Uncertainties Remain by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 12/4/16
Oregon Commission Hears Review Of Fishing Reforms Banning Lower Columbia Gillnetters From Mainstem by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 6/7/13
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