Columbia River Reforms (March 2022)

Date: 
Saturday, March 12, 2022

By rule, Oregon and Washington Department's of Fish and Wildlife must agree on Columbia River issues since both states has jurisdication on the river.  CCA Washington and CCA Oregon work closely with each Fish and Wildife Commission.

The following are the recent developments in Washington Legislature, but not yet approved by Governor Inslee:

Voluntary Buyback of Columbia River Gill Net Licenses

$14,400,000 of the general fund—state appropriation for fiscal year 2023 is provided solely for the department to reduce the number of nontribal commercial gillnet fishing licenses on the Columbia river through a voluntary buy-back program.

(a) Until November 30, 2022, the department may pay up to $25,000 each for licenses that have been inactive since 2019 and up to $120,000 each for licenses that have been active since 2019. After November 30, 2022, the department may pay up to $20,000 each for licenses that have been inactive since 2019 and up to $96,000 each for licenses that have been active since 2019. It is the intent of the legislature that this will be the last appropriation made to buy back licenses for the Columbia river gillnet fishery.

(b) For all licenses purchased, the department shall calculate the reduced impacts to wild and endangered stocks based on the most recent five-year average of harvest and reserve those impacts for  conservation through increased wild salmonid escapement or mark selective fisheries capable of harvesting surplus hatchery-reared salmon where needed to meet federal genetic protection requirements for wild salmon populations in a manner consistent with state-tribal fishery management agreements.

(c) The department must make recommendations to the legislature for any necessary changes in statute, regulations, or program funding levels to transition lower Columbia river mainstem gillnet fisheries to alternative, selective fishing gears, including pound nets or other gears capable of benefitting wild salmon conservation through mark-selective harvest practices. The recommendation must be submitted to the appropriate committees of the legislature by December 1, 2022.

Independent Scientific Review of Commercial Gear Mortality Data

$175,000 of the general fund—state appropriation for fiscal year 2023 is provided solely for the Washington state academy of sciences for a review of department of fish and wildlife fishery related mortality estimates for wild salmonid stocks from conventional and alternative commercial fishing gears authorized for use within lower Columbia river nontribal salmon fisheries, specifically gill net, tangle net, beach seine, purse seine, and pound net, and the ability of each fishing gear to selectively harvest hatchery-reared salmon.

(b) The review must:

(i) Determine the extent to which wild salmonid stocks are harvested in a gear-specific fishery, including a review of current stock composition estimates;

(ii) Identify and synthesize stock-specific data and peer reviewed scientific literature that exists for immediate and long term post-release mortality rates and annual wild salmonid stock encounters for each gear within specific fishing seasons in the lower Columbia river; and

(iii) Determine the origins and scientific bases of stock specific bycatch mortality rate estimates currently used by the department of fish and wildlife for management of endangered species act listed fish stocks impacted by each nontribal commercial fishing gear and evaluate the precision and accuracy of these estimates relative to the data and peer-reviewed scientific literature that exists.

(c) By June 30, 2023, the Washington academy of sciences must submit a report to the appropriate committees of the legislature pursuant to RCW 43.01.036 of its findings and recommendations related to gear-specific data gaps and the need to potentially reassess approved bycatch mortality and encounter rates used by the department of fish and wildlife for fishery management. It is intended that the report will inform development of an investment plan and management strategy to continue the transition of lower Columbia river nontribal commercial fisheries toward science-based selective fishing regimes that create the least harm to wild salmonids and are most beneficial to Columbia river basin salmon recovery efforts.

Increased Accountability and Transparency in Puget Sound Fisheries

$121,000 of the general fund—state appropriation for fiscal year 2022 and $515,000 of the general fund—state appropriation for fiscal year 2023 are provided solely for the department to improve salmon population data analysis, improve salmon abundance modeling, better manage salmon fisheries policy, and collaborate with tribal comanagers on fisheries allocations. The department must make all state-generated documents and notes that were part of the north of falcon process available for public review once the process is completed.

$50,000 of the general fund—state appropriation for fiscal year 2023 is provided solely for the department to prepare a report on estimates of the annual fishery harvest impact for the years 2010 through 2020. The report must include an analysis of catch and incidental fishery-related mortalities for each wild Puget Sound chinook population or management unit aggregate for which co-management fishery conservation objectives have been defined. The report must also include estimates of the annual number of spawning adults, natural and hatchery, for the same period. Consistent with ensuring that tribal treaty obligations are being achieved, the report must also include annual estimates of the state-tribal allocation of Puget Sound chinook and coho salmon harvests, natural and hatchery, made for each allocation unit as required by the Puget Sound salmon management plan for the same period. The report shall be submitted to the appropriate committees of the legislature by December 15, 2022.