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Washington, Oregon Fish/Wildlife Commissions on
Parallel Course with Columbia River Harvest Reform

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, December 2, 2016

(Michelle Campobasso, Colville Tribes photo) Purse Seine fishing boat equipped with Selective Fishing gear The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will review three options on how to continue or modify the two-state harvest reform policy for Columbia River salmon and steelhead at its meeting this weekend, December 9 and 10, in Olympia.

The primary purpose of the reform is to remove commercial gillnetters from the mainstem of the Lower Columbia River.

Oregon is on a parallel course. At its January 20 meeting in Salem, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider rulemaking, also aimed at continuing or modifying the harvest reform policy.

The Columbia River Harvest Reform, also known as the Kitzhaber Plan because it was initiated by former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, is in its final year of transition for both states and was to become fully effective January 1 when all Columbia River mainstem fishing would be allocated to recreational anglers. Commercial gillnetters would fish in off-channel select areas, mostly in the lower river and mostly for hatchery chinook and coho salmon.

The Columbia River Fish Management and Reform was a joint Oregon and Washington Policy initially adopted in 2012 and readopted in 2013.

One of the sticking points for both state commissions and their fish and wildlife staffs is that the reform also promised to keep gillnetters economically whole, yet 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 Oregon Commission is allowing itself a little longer, if it needs the time, to determine its future course through this controversial ban on gillnetting in the Columbia River mainstem. At its December 2 meeting in Salem, instead of extending the rulemaking deadline to its next meeting, January 20, 2017, as the Commission had intended (according to its agenda), it gave itself up to one year to complete the task, extending the deadline out to December 2017.

"The Commission is still considering acting on the policy at its January meeting," Chris Kern, Deputy Fisheries Chief at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, explained. "However, the extension could take some of the pressure off."

Still, he expects an economic analysis being developed by ODFW staff will be ready for the meeting, that the two Fish and Wildlife staffs and Commissions will have had at least one more meeting (they've met twice so far, he said) to coordinate changes to the reform policy and that NOAA Fisheries will have completed its analysis of Mitchell Act Hatcheries, currently a topic of litigation in U.S. District Court, and an issue that could impact the number of hatchery salmon provided for off-channel fishing. Of the 10 Mitchell Act hatcheries, seven provide juvenile salmon for off-channel select area fisheries.

NOAA and the Conservancy stipulated in September that the agency will not disburse Mitchell Act funds to the hatcheries until the federal agency has completed its hatchery biological opinion and incidental take statements for the disbursements. Kern expects NOAA to complete that BiOp by January 15.

(See CBB, September 9, 2016, NOAA Fisheries Stipulates No Mitchell Act Funds For 10 Hatcheries Until Hatchery BiOp Completed)

However, some of these issues may not be resolved by that time and so the Oregon Commission, at the urging of Commissioner Laura Anderson of Newport, Oregon, extended the timing out to as much as one year, to December 2017. Of the seven Commission members, two opposed the time extension.

Extending the timing of a decision by Oregon is a similar option proposed by Washington – one of the three – that the Washington Commission will consider this Saturday, December 10.

Washington's three options include:

Changes to the harvest policy are allowed under an adaptive management provision in the original policy for both states. In its outline of options, the Washington Commission broke out regulations and share of the mainstem catch by listed chinook salmon species. The public can comment on these options online and during a public comment period at the upcoming Washington Commission meeting 10:15 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10 in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building at 1111 Washington St. S.E. in Olympia.

At the meeting, WDFW staff will brief the Commission on performance of fisheries managed under the Policy through the transition period, including preliminary results for 2016 fisheries, and seek preliminary guidance on potential adaptive management measures for the future, according to the Commission agenda.

A complete agenda is available.

Related Pages:
Washington, Oregon Fish/Wildlife Commissions Considering Next Moves on Lower River Gillnetting by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin, 12/2/16
Oregon Commission To Review Columbia River Harvest Reforms, May Consider Extending Mainstem Gillnets, by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 12/4/16
Oregon β€˜Re-Adopts' Lower Columbia Commercial Gill-Net Ban; Slew Of Uncertainties Remain by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 12/4/16

Related Sites:
Oregon Commission Hears Review Of Fishing Reforms Banning Lower Columbia Gillnetters From Mainstem by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin 6/7/13

Washington, Oregon Fish/Wildlife Commissions on Parallel Course with Columbia River Harvest Reform
Columbia Basin Bulletin, December 2, 2016

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