Recreational salmon anglers will see higher quotas of Chinook and coho salmon this season and a July 1 salmon opener for Westport if the Pacific Fishery Management Council ocean salmon recommendations are approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service in May.
In recent years, unfavorable environmental conditions, such as warm ocean water and drought, have reduced the number of salmon returning to Washington’s waters, said Kyle Adicks, salmon policy lead for the State Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“We’re in the third year of a multi-year downturn in salmon returns,” Adicks said. “Similar to last year, we faced significant challenges in crafting fisheries.”
The recommendations were published Tuesday. While they provide commercial and recreational salmon fishing opportunities along most of the west coast, several areas will be closed this year and open areas will be limited due to low forecast returns.
“We have made the tough decisions and implemented fishery restrictions to protect salmon stocks while providing at least some opportunity for commercial, recreational and tribal ocean salmon fishing along much of the west coast,” said Council Chair Herb Pollard. The adopted salmon fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington do achieve conservation goals for the numerous individual salmon stocks on the west coast.
Fisheries managers expect healthy 2017 Columbia River fall Chinook returns, and Columbia River coho returns to be “reduced but moderate.” However, some coastal Washington and Puget Sound coho abundance is reduced from recent years, and some wild coho stocks are expected to return at very low levels. In response, the council has been challenged with shaping fisheries to provide access to relatively abundant Chinook stocks while protecting natural coho populations.
North of Cape Falcon, there is an overall non-Indian total allowable catch of 90,000 Chinook coastwide compared to 70,000 last year, and 42,000 marked hatchery coho compared to 18,900 last year.
The recreational fishery north of Cape Falcon does not include a mark-selective Chinook season this year, but opens to all salmon on June 24 in most areas except Westport, which opens July 1, and ends September 4 or when Chinook or coho quotas are reached. Recreational fisheries in all port areas will have access to 45,000 Chinook — compared to 35,000 Chinook last year — and a marked coho quota of 42,000, compared to 18,900 last year.
From the Queets River south to Leadbetter Point, the ocean salmon season will run from July 1 to September 4, or until the marked coho quota of 15,540 is reached. The season will run seven days a week with a limit of two salmon per day; no more than one can be a Chinook, and all coho must be marked with a healed adipose fin clip. The Grays Harbor control zone — the area at the entrance to Grays Harbor — is scheduled to close August 1.
Tribal and non-Indian ocean commercial fisheries are designed to provide harvest opportunity on strong Chinook returns primarily destined for the Columbia River while avoiding coho stocks of concern. Coho retention is allowed in commercial fisheries north of Cape Falcon this year, which is an improvement over the non-retention regulations from last year; however, the coho quotas are very low in 2017.
Non-Indian ocean commercial fisheries north of Cape Falcon include traditional, but reduced, Chinook seasons May through June and intermittent openings July through September. The Chinook quota of 27,000 in the spring is greater than the 2016 quota of 19,100. The summer season quotas include 18,000 Chinook and 5,600 coho.
Tribal ocean fisheries north of Cape Falcon are similar in structure to past years, with quotas that include 40,000 Chinook and 12,500 coho.