The four Columbia River treaty tribes reminded Washington and Oregon this week on how much they disagree with the way the states manage sport and commercial fall salmon fisheries downstream of Bonneville Dam.
Bruce Jim, chairman of the fish and wildlife committee of the Warm Springs tribe and a commissioner with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, listed the follow disgruntlements with states:
o Too much gillnetting is focused between the mouth of the Lewis River and Beacon Rock.
Washington and Oregon adopted nine nights of netting in that stretch of the Columbia in the coming three weeks, with more expected in late August and September.
“We think that spreading out fishing over a larger area of the river will have less impact on stocks passing Bonneville Dam that we depend on for our fisheries and livelihoods,” Jim told the Columbia River Compact in Vancouver.
o Releasing fin-clipped coho and chinook at Buoy 10 at the Columbia River estuary never has been supported by the tribes.
“Even though the states use a 19 percent release mortality rate, we believe the fish may be highly susceptible to handling mortality in the estuary as they make their transition from salt to fresh water,” Jim said. “August temperatures peak at just over 70 degrees in August in the Buoy 10 area. This year, temperatures measured at the Desdemona Sands Light have already reached 67 degrees and are increasing.”
o The hatchery-only chinook sport fishery scheduled between Warrior Rock and Tongue Point from Sept. 7 to 14 is a bad idea.
“The group of fish with the highest clip rate are hatchery tules (a less desirable stock of chinook in fresh water),” Jim said. “Many recreational fishers claim they do not even want to catch the clipped hatchery tules in the river. These fisheries complicate the in-river fishery modeling and are difficult to monitor and evaluate.”
Last year, the Columbia was more than 72 degrees in early September, he said.
The National Marine Fisheries Services ceases sampling fish for research at Bonneville Dam because of the handling mortality in such warm water, yet allows sportsmen to continue to handle and release fish at these temperatures, Jim said.
o Washington and Oregon’s new tangle net fishery for hatchery coho in October downstream of Woodland also was criticized.
The states plan to allow the commercials again in 2014 to use gillnets in early October with 3.75-inch-mesh, keeping fin-clipped hatchery coho and releasing wild fish. Currently, a 13.6 percent handling mortality is applied to coho released.
“This rate is based on little more than guesswork,” Jim said.
The early October commercial fishing may be catching a lot of fin-clipped coho headed for the Klickitat River, he said.
“The Klickitat River is a very important late-season fishery for the Yakama Nation,” Jim added.
o The tribes think the limited number of commercial beach seines and purse seines that are going to be tried in the lower Columbia this fall is “terribly inefficient and wasteful.”
A handful of seines will be allowed as part of the Columbia River commercial-sport reallocation program, also known as the Kitzhaber Plan, after Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who jump-started the process two years ago.
State, federal and tribal scientists recommend mortality rates for fish released from beach seines be calculated at 34.3 percent for chinook, 38.4 percent for coho and 8.3 percent for steelhead.
Mortality rates for fish released from purse seines are recommended at 28.9 percent for coho, 22.5 percent for chinook and 3.3 percent for steelhead.
“The seine fishery appears to be a terribly inefficient and wasteful way to try to harvest clipped chinook and coho,” Jim said.
“We do not understand why the states bow to pressure to various special interest groups to needlessly implement this fishery.”
Wilbur Slockish of the Yakama tribe said fishing seasons where fin-clipped hatchery fish are kept and wild fish are released are just another way of increasing the catch by sport fishermen.
The tribes are upset with the political victories the sportsmen have achieved in recent years over non-Indian commercial fishermen, he said.
“They’re looking at us, too,” Slockish said.
Jim said there is too little monitoring of the sports catch and the sport harvest is larger than the states claim.
With huge salmon runs anticipated, releasing catch makes little sense in 2014, Jim said.
“This year, it simply makes more sense to keep what you catch,” he said.