Washington Salmon Run Called ‘Disastrous’

     SEATTLE (CN) — Fisheries managers on Friday approved limited ocean salmon fishing off the Washington coast, but are still discussing plans for Puget Sound, including closing all fishing in the region due to disastrous runs.
     The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which includes state and tribal officials, met last week in Vancouver, Wash. to set commercial and recreational fishing guidelines.
     The president of the Puget Sound Anglers called predictions for this year’s salmon run “the worst we probably have ever seen.”
     The council set an ocean-salmon sport catch at 35,000 Chinook and 18,900 hatchery coho salmon.
     Debate continues this week on what, if any catch, will be allowed in Puget Sound.
     The council called expectations for wild coho runs off Puget Sound “disastrous,” due to climate change and El Niño-related warm ocean water.
     A return of only 8,900 wild coho are predicted to return to Washington’s Skagit River, well below the 16,000 needed to sustain the run, according to tribal managers.
     The Queets, a wild river on the Olympic Peninsula, is predicted to see only 3,500 coho this year, with 5,800 needed to sustain a fishery.
     Salmon are anadromous: They are born in fresh water, live in salt water, and return to fresh water to spawn.
     Ron Garner, president of Puget Sound Anglers, said that “some sort of fishing” will be split between tribes and sport and commercial fishers, but they will start with a zero salmon fishery model.
     “If you have access to the Coho numbers (which I pray are not accurate) they are the worst we probably have ever seen. Being that the projections are the only thing we have to work with, we will model with what we have to work with,” Garner said in a statement.
     Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said talks to hammer out a Puget Sound management plan will continue, but tribal fisheries submitted their own plan to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries for approval on Friday.
     “Treaty tribes in western Washington will greatly restrict their fisheries this year to minimize impacts on record low returns of natural and hatchery coho. These fisheries restrictions will reflect closing all directed fisheries on returning coho salmon except in a few terminal areas where there are identified harvestable hatchery fish,” the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission said in a statement.
     If state and tribal managers can’t come up with a compromise proposal this week, state officials may submit their own proposal to NOAA.
     NOAA will have the final say on both plans.

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