Commercial By-Catch Rate for ESA listed Wild Steelhead! [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Commercial By-Catch Rate for ESA listed Wild Steelhead!

02-03-2005, 11:41 PM
If you can't make the hearing please send a email to the Commission and tell them that raising the commerical by catch rate is the wrong way to go to wild steelhead recovery on the Lower Columbia River-

This saturday Starting at 8:30 AM in Olympia is a
chance to testify on the Columbia River Tanglenet
fishery after the departments "presentation" saying
how wonderful it is to cause extinction, I mean
increase the impact on ESA listed wild steelhead.

Details are at

Send email if you can't make it to with your comments on this


Just make it simple, for example:

I am writing this letter as a concerned citizen
requesting that you do not raise the percentage
impacts to ESA listed wild steelhead on the Columbia
River Commercial Tangle net fishery.

I strongly urge you not to accept the proposal by WDFW and NOAA
Fisheries to raise the commericial by catch limit,
this is the wrong direction for wild steelhead
recovery in our state and the Northwest.


Rich Simms

Brian Simonseth
02-04-2005, 10:27 PM
The Columbia Basin Fish & Wildlife Bulletin


Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 (PST)


Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 (PST)

Letters, e-mails and phone calls are flooding in to Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissions to, in large part, protest a proposal to relax limits on the incidental take of protected wild winter steelhead during the commercial harvest of hatchery-produced spring chinook salmon in the lower Columbia River.

The state fish and wildlife agencies that produced the proposal say it allows them the necessary flexibility to provide sustainable salmon-fishing opportunities while remaining consistent with recovery goals for wild winter steelhead.

The state agencies last year asked that allowable impacts on winter steelhead be increased from 2 to 6 percent. The request was approved for 2005 season via a NOAA Fisheries supplemental biological opinion. It judged that the higher impacts would not jeopardize the survival of three steelhead stocks listed under the Endangered Species Act -- parts of the Lower Columbia River, Upper Willamette River and Middle Columbia River "evolutionary significant units" or ESUs. The Upper Willamette River ESU includes only winter-run steelhead populations.

State officials say that they will continue to manage fisheries to minimize steelhead mortality and that impacts would rarely reach or exceed 2 percent despite the increased flexibility.

The state commissions will soon consider adopting a new joint policy regarding steelhead impacts. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will take up the issue tomorrow (Feb. 5) and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission meets Feb. 11. Their policy guidance would be heeded by the Columbia River Compact as it manages the Columbia mainstem commercial fisheries that will likely begin in late February or early March. The Compact is made up of representatives of the ODFW and WDFW directors.

"The commission is getting a lot of feedback," said Cindy LeFleur, the WDFW's Columbia River policy coordinator. Likewise, is the Oregon commission, according to the ODFW's Compact representative, Steve Williams. Most of the early feedback is in opposition to the change, he said.

Sport anglers, who take an estimated 4 percent toll on the winter steelhead in tributary fisheries, have generally been opposed to a boosting of the impact limit for the commercial fishery. It is estimated that about 10 percent of wild fish hooked and released by recreational fishers do not survive.

Commercial fishers cite state and NOAA Fisheries data in saying that an average annual steelhead harvest mortality of as much as 10 percent is consistent with goals set out in a recently released Lower Columbia draft recovery plan. They also say increase impact flexibility increases the chance they can harvest their share of spring chinook. It is estimated that about 18.5 percent of steelhead released from small-mesh tangle nets die. The steelhead mortality associated with larger mesh nets is 30 percent.

Mainstem sport and commercial harvest are limited in springtime by impacts on fish listed under the Endangered Species Act. In recent years impacts to listed Upper Columbia and Snake River spring chinook caused fishery closures while the impact to steelhead from the commercial fisheries totaled only 1 percent and 0.8 percent respectively. The steelhead impact limits for non-tribal sport and commercial fisheries combined has been 2 percent since 1998. Sport impacts are minimal on the Columbia mainstem.

"This is one of the most ill-conceived ideas I've ever seen come out of either agency," said Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. Steelhead have been exclusively a game fish for non-tribal fishers since 1975 and have been placed "near the right hand of God" by anglers, she said. They have been heavily involved in efforts to restore habitat, protect the sanctuaries of spawning wild fish, implement mass marking so hatchery steelhead fish can be weeded out through harvest and fine-tune regulations.

"We didn't do this so they can become bycatch in nets. We did this so they would get back to the spawning grounds," Hamilton said of the wild fish. Sport fishers must release all unmarked steelhead.

The Northwest regional director of the West Coast's largest trade association of commercial fishers says the impact limits are a harvest allocation issue, not a recovery issue. The harvests are among the smallest of human factors in the decline of salmon and steelhead populations from historical levels, said Glen Spain, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association. He cited habitat degradation and hydropower development as the biggest culprits.

"We fight over the last 5 percent of the fish. We need to work together to make sure the pie gets bigger," Spain said of habitat problems that continue to limit recovery of many of the winter steelhead populations. He said there are some harvestable surpluses of the steelhead because of the habitat's limited carrying capacity.

The proposal has been well studied to assure it won't harm listed steelhead, and fisheries will be well monitored.

"All of these things are well analyzed to minimize bycatch and minimize incidental take," Spain said.

"This is a lid that was scientifically put on there and it says it won't jeopardize the recovery of the run," said Les Clark of the Northwest Gillnetters Association. And even though it allows the flexibility, new selective fishing methods and management strategies would prevent fishers from ever coming close to a 6 percent impact, he said.

Terry Turner of the Washington Council of Trout Unlimited said recently that his organization is opposed to any increase in the allowable take of wild winter steelhead until those populations are recovered. He said that, despite characterizations of the winter steelhead stocks as much improved, there remains many weak runs within those stocks.

He said information contained in NOAA's supplemental biological opinion released recently shows weak runs and poor rebuilding trends in five of the 11 tributaries where the listed fish spawn.

He also said the overall upward trend is buoyed by recent favorable ocean conditions. Instead of increasing the allowable freshwater impacts on the fish, the agencies should maintain protections to gird for times of less favorable ocean survival conditions, he said.

Commercial fishers who have gone through years of economic hard times want to have access to abundant hatchery chinook bound for Columbia River tributaries.

"The spring season is our most valuable season," Jack Marinkovich of the Columbia River Fishermen's Protective Union said during a recent Compact meeting. The fish last year brought fisherman $4 to $5 per pound.

"We just cannot harvest a large enough amount to hold down the surplus escapement to the hatcheries, especially to the Willamette," Marinkovich said. With carefully orchestrated fisheries, the commercial fishers would not necessarily exact a greater toll on steelhead, he added.

Sport fisher Bruce Hunter, testifying during the same Compact, said the emphasis is wrongly placed on economics.

"You should maximize the effort to recovery the salmon, not harvest them," he said.

Angler Gary Kish said increasing the impacts would be "a very significant political mistake." Those who oppose funding for conservation efforts, and those who have worked and sacrificed to try rebuild fish stocks, would question such a decision.

"In this instance, I think it's a fair question," Kish said.

02-05-2005, 12:42 PM
Thanks to all who send their letters in, despite the unfortunate outcome.

Wild steelhead forever.

Todd Ripley
02-05-2005, 08:03 PM
The WDFW Commission voted to go with a 4% impact rate on Lower Columbia River wild steelhead during the upcoming 2005 spring chinook gillnet fishery. This is double the previous allowable impact rate.

It was pretty disappointing, and while I was more optomistic than usual in controversial issues, I was not too surprised.

The Commission really focused on the duration of the new policy guidance...they asked staff several times "this is for just one year, right?", and staff responded "well, uhhh...uhhh", then they asked "one year, right? Expires on 12/31/05, right?", and staff responded "Well, kind of, but, uh..."...

And then the Commission stated, on the record several times, that they are talking about one year, and one year only, and not a day more...then voted on the increase.

Tuck was the lone holdout to the bitter end, vote eventually becoming 8-1 for the increase to 4%. Schroeder and Hunter were quite critical of the increase, as was McBrayer. Hunter tried to sneak in an amendment to make the increase to 2%, rather than 4%, which would have amounted to the status quo...but it was voted down. Schroeder got the amendment changing it to 0-4% to keep lower mortality rates on the table.

Ozment and Roehl were predictable, and vociferously defended Reg. 5, the commercial fishers, and the staff for putting up this proposal.

Ledgerwood did her usual, which is say nothing, not participate in the debates or discussions at all, and then vote along with Roehl and Ozment. Shiosaki was no different...praised the staff and went with the increase, his usual.

Ken Chew was a disappointment, frankly...he's obviously really, really smart, but it's obvious that he really didn't read up and educate himself on the issue...since he didn't have a firm grasp on what was going on and the ramifications of his vote, he just said that it was hard and he'd have to go with the experts (WDFW Reg. 5 staff).

So...there we were.

The press was there...reporters from the Olympian and the Tacoma News Tribune.

Todd Ripley

02-05-2005, 08:16 PM

Disappointing, but no unexpected outcome. At least they have it expiring on 12-31, although I suspect it will be back again next year.

Was there anything brought up in the open discussion period about the Makah's exceeding their winter chinook quota by the huge amount the did? And if so, what did the commision say on it, if anything?

Brian Simonseth
02-05-2005, 09:28 PM
Several people talk about the Makah's

Me for one and about five others

02-06-2005, 10:59 PM

Thanks for the reply to my question about the Makah overharvest.