Moving Toward Resolution
by Allen Thomas
This much is clear: Both sport and commercial fishermen are unhappy with a proposed spring chinook catch-sharing recommendation for the lower Columbia River.
On Monday, the Columbia River Fish Working Group agreed on an approximately five-year scenario for dividing the harvest between the groups.
"We knew we weren't going to please," said Jerry Gutzwiler of Wenatchee, chairman of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission and a working group member. "We've got a finite resource and a big appetite for it."
The working group included three commission members from each state.
The six have been meeting monthly since September to develop a recommendation to their full commissions.
Arguably, their proposal is a small victory for sport-fishing interests, one that chips away at the commercial share under most circumstances.
The working group agreed on these four principles, in this order:
The base allocation is 65 percent sport/35 percent commercial. Sport allocation in 2007 was targeted to be 57 percent, and 61 percent in 2008.
Complicating the agreement is a 35 percent buffer early in the season. State, federal and tribal biologists predict the spring chinook run each December, but the forecast is often off as much as 20 percent to 60 percent, with 35 percent the average, said Steve Williams of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The sport and commercial combined fisheries would be permitted harvest to no more than 65 percent of the projected allowable catch, leaving the buffer until the spring chinook run can be updated by Bonneville Dam counts in late April or early May.
The full Washington and Oregon commissions will meet Dec. 11 in Portland to receive the working group's recommendations and accept public comment.
The Washington commission is scheduled to adopt a spring chinook allocation policy on Dec. 13 when the panel meets in Olympia.
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