Pacific Fishery Management Council releases alternatives for 2021 West Coast ocean salmon fisheries

  • Thu Mar 25th, 2021 10:32am
  • News

The Pacific Fishery Management Council has adopted three alternatives for 2021 ocean salmon fisheries off Washington, Oregon, and California for public review. The Council will make a final decision on salmon seasons at its meeting on April 6-9 and 12-15. Detailed information about season starting dates, areas open, and catch limits for the three alternatives are available on the Council’s website at www.pcouncil.org.

Forecasts for many Chinook and coho stocks have improved over last year; however, the Council is constrained by requirements to conserve Fraser River (Canada) Washington coastal and Puget Sound natural coho runs, lower Columbia River natural tule[1] fall Chinook, and Klamath River fall Chinook.

“Meeting our conservation and management objectives continues to be the highest priority for the Council,” said Council Executive Director Chuck Tracy. “Balancing those objectives while providing meaningful commercial and recreational seasons remains a challenge in 2021.”

Council Chair Marc Gorelnik said, “the Council is considering the needs of Southern Resident killer whales as part of its deliberations. We are also considering the need to rebuild some Chinook and coho stocks that have been designated as overfished.”

Washington and Northern Oregon (north of Cape Falcon)

Fisheries north of Cape Falcon (in northern Oregon) are limited by the need to constrain catch of lower Columbia River natural tule Chinook and Washington coast coho stocks of concern. Additionally, three coho salmon stocks remain categorized as “overfished” (Queets River, Strait of Juan de Fuca) or “not overfished/rebuilding” (Snohomish), which is also a concern when structuring 2021 fisheries.

Tribal ocean fisheries north of Cape Falcon

Tribal negotiations are underway, but at this time the Chinook and coho quotas for tribal ocean fishery alternatives range from 0 to 50,000 for Chinook salmon (compared to 35,000 in 2020), and from 0 to 35,000 coho (compared to 16,500 coho in 2020). Under the range of alternatives, seasons open May 1 and continue through September 15.

Commercial season alternatives

For the non-Indian ocean commercial fishery North of Cape Falcon, there are two alternatives with traditional seasons between May and September. Chinook quotas for all areas and times range from 25,000 to 32,000, compared to 27,460 in 2020. Coho quotas range from 4,800 to 14,400 marked coho, compared to 2,000 in 2020. The third alternative has the season closed in this area.

Sport season alternatives

For the ocean sport fishery north of Cape Falcon, there are two alternatives with Chinook recreational quotas ranging from 25,000 to 28,000, compared to 26,360 in 2020. For coho, recreational quotas range from 75,200 to 95,600 marked coho, compared to 26,500 in 2020. Starting dates range from June 14 to June 19, and in both alternatives recreational fisheries are scheduled to run through September. Chinook retention is allowed throughout the proposed seasons, but coho retention is limited in some of the alternatives. The third alternative has the season closed in this area.

Oregon (south of Cape Falcon) and California

Fisheries south of Cape Falcon are limited mainly by the low abundance forecast for Klamath River fall Chinook. Klamath River and Sacramento River fall Chinook contribute significantly to ocean harvest, and Klamath River fall Chinook are categorized as overfished. This year’s management alternatives are designed to provide fishing opportunity for the more abundant Sacramento River fall Chinook while reducing fishing impacts on Klamath River fall Chinook.

Commercial season alternatives

Commercial season alternatives south of Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain are open either beginning in late March or May through October, with closed periods in most months. A limited incidental hatchery coho season is also being considered.

The commercial alternatives in the Oregon Klamath Management Zone provide a range of Chinook only season alternatives opening from late March through May, and include quotas in June and July in two alternatives. All alternatives have the California Klamath Management Zone closed for the season.

Commercial seasons south of the California Klamath Management Zone vary considerably between the alternatives and management areas (Fort Bragg, San Francisco, and Monterey), but in general provide similar or reduced levels of opportunity compared to last year.

Sport season alternatives

Chinook fishing in the Tillamook, Newport, and Coos Bay areas all open March 15, with alternative 1 running continuously through October 31, similar to the 2020 season. Alternative 2 and 3 have varied closures to Chinook retention during August.

Oregon ocean recreational alternatives include mark-selective coho fishing seasons starting in early to late June and running through most of August south of Cape Falcon, with intermittent Chinook non-retention periods in specific areas. Quotas range from 110,000 to 120,000 marked coho (compared to 22,000 in 2020). In addition, non-mark-selective fisheries are proposed in all alternatives for the area between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain starting in September, with quotas ranging from 11,000 to 14,000 coho (compared to 3,000 in 2020).

The range of alternatives include proposed fisheries for the Klamath Management Zone in both California and Oregon with the majority of the fishing opportunity occurring June through August in Oregon and during July in California.

California ocean recreational alternatives for the Fort Bragg and San Francisco areas have reduced opportunity compared to 2020, whereas alternatives for the Monterey area have similar or increased opportunity. Seasons vary between management areas.

Management Objectives for Southern Resident Killer Whales

The Council has worked collaboratively with National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to understand the effects of Council-area fisheries on Southern Resident killer whales, which are listed as endangered. Based in part on information provided by the Council’s ad-hoc Southern Resident Killer Whale Workgroup, NMFS provided guidance on the structure of the 2021 salmon fisheries to address the needs of the whales while providing salmon harvest opportunities. Chinook abundance is well above the level that would require additional fishery restrictions.

Management Process

The Council has scheduled one public hearing for each coastal state to hear comments on the alternatives. The hearings will occur online and are scheduled for Tuesday, March 23 (Washington and California) and Wednesday, March 24 (Oregon). The public will also be able to comment on the alternatives during the April Council meeting. Materials and instructions for joining online Council meetings and hearings will be posted to the Council website.

The Council will consult with scientists, hear public comment, revise preliminary decisions, and choose a final alternative at its meeting via webinar April 6-9, and 12-15.

The Council will forward its final season recommendations to NMFS for its approval and implementation no later than May 16.

All Council meetings are open to the public.

Council Role

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 for the purpose of managing fisheries 3-200 miles offshore of the U.S. coastline. The Pacific Council recommends management measures for fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

[1] Tule Chinook generally spawn lower in the Columbia River than salmon that continue to migrate up the mainstem.