OLYMPIA — A proposed plan to restructure salmon and sturgeon fisheries on the lower Columbia River is now available for review on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) website.
The recommendations, available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/lower_columbia/, were developed by a work group made up of representatives from Washington and Oregon. The group finalized the recommendations Nov. 15 during a meeting in Seaside, Ore.
The work group – assembled at the request of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber – worked since early September on the recommendations, which will now be considered by both states’ fish and wildlife commissions.
Key provisions of the proposed plan, “Management Strategies for Columbia River Recreational and Commercial Fisheries: 2013 and Beyond,” include:
- Prioritizing the recreational fisheries in the mainstem Columbia River and commercial fisheries in off-channel areas.
- Transitioning commercial fisheries remaining in the mainstem to alternative gear, such as beach and purse seines.
- Phasing out the use of gillnets by non-tribal fishers in the mainstem by 2017, while maintaining the economic viability of the commercial fishery during and after the transition.
- Shifting a greater portion of current hatchery salmon releases to off-channel areas, and exploring options for expanding those areas for commercial fisheries.
- Gradually increasing the catch share of salmon for the sport fishery in the mainstem over the next four years and by 2017 providing 100 percent of the summer and mainstream spring chinook harvest to the sport fishery, while increasing spring chinook opportunity for the commercial fishery in the off-channel areas.
- Requiring sport anglers fishing for salmon and steelhead in the mainstem Columbia River and its tributaries to use barbless hooks beginning 2013.
- Considering catch-and-release only recreational fisheries for white sturgeon in the lower river, Washington’s coast and Puget Sound, to protect lower Columbia River-origin white sturgeon. Closing non-tribal commercial fisheries for white sturgeon in the lower river and coast also would be considered as part of this effort.
- Reviewing the plan during the transition to ensure objectives are being met. If necessary, changes will be made to meet the established objectives.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, a nine-member citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for WDFW, is scheduled to accept public comments on the recommendations during its Dec. 14-15 meeting in Olympia.
An agenda for that meeting will be posted on WDFW’s website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings.html) when it becomes available.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife commission also is scheduled to consider the proposal at its Dec. 7 meeting.