Sports

Salmon numbers low

The Pacific Fishery Management Council has adopted the most restrictive salmon fisheries in the history for the West Coast, in response to the exceptionally poor status of coho salmon from Oregon and Washington. The recommendation will be forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries Service for approval by May 1.

With low returns of coho and wild chinook salmon expected back to several rivers in Washington, increased restrictions will be in effect this year for anglers in the ocean, Puget Sound, and the Columbia River.

“Many salmon runs on the West Coast are alarmingly low this year,” said Jeff Koenings, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Salmon returns to California and Oregon this year have diminished to the point they can’t support fisheries, and chinook harvest quotas in southeast Alaska are half what they were last year, Koenings said.

The most severe constraints will be in Washington’s ocean fisheries, which are limited this year because of a significantly reduced return of Columbia River coho and tighter restrictions needed to protect salmon populations listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

This year’s Columbia River coho run — a major contributor to the ocean fishery — is expected to total about 196,000 fish, nearly 266,000 fewer salmon than last year’s return.

As a result of the low Columbia River coho return and tighter federal restrictions, the Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted a recreational ocean quota this year of 20,350 coho. This is about 97,000 fewer fish than last year’s ocean coho quota and the lowest in about a decade.

Salmon fisheries are scheduled earlier this year in Marine Areas 1-4. Those fisheries, which will begin June 1, will give anglers an opportunity to harvest hatchery chinook while protecting Columbia River coho.

In Puget Sound, where chinook salmon returns are expected to total about 245,000 — about the same forecast as last year — two fisheries were converted to mark-selective fisheries to preserve opportunity and protect wild salmon. Anglers fishing Marine Area 7 from March 1 to April 15 and Marine Area 9 during the month of November will be allowed to catch and keep hatchery salmon but are required to release wild salmon.

Other changes in Puget Sound and on the coast this year are:

• Almost a month reduction in the Skokomish River chinook fishery, which will run this year from Aug. 1 through Sept. 5.

• Closing the Stillaguamish River coho fishery in September and October.

• No opportunity for chinook in Grays Harbor.

More information may be obtained on the WDFW’s North of Falcon Web site at wdfw.wa.gov/fish/northfalcon/.

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