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March 29, 2013

Columbia River Salmon Conservation

Salmon and steelhead get much-needed protection on Columbia River in Pacific Northwest.

The desire is to have consistent and concurrent policies by both states. While there are some differences in how each state is approaching its plans, it is expected that those will be resolved by the respective fisheries directors, and then finalized by the two state ­commissions. The general concept of this plan is to move the commercial-fishing effort into areas that have a high concentration of hatchery fish, and in doing so, allow more of the wild fish to access the upriver spawning grounds. 

The initial phase of the plan is the Transition Period 2013 to 2016. It is during this time that new types of alternative fishing gears will be developed, implemented and monitored. Development and implementation of these innovations will come from the commercial industry, incentivized by public funding. A gill-net license buyback will also be initiated during this time, which should lower the commercial effort. There will also be an effort to expand the hatchery programs for some of the off-channel areas, which will benefit both ­recreational and commercial users.

During the transition period, there will be a target-percentage allocation of each species by location on the river. As the program moves from ­transition phase to long-term phase, these percentage allocations increase for the recreational-user groups. If the program is successful at rebuilding the wild stocks, and the hatchery program maintains or enhances its funding and subsequent ­production, this plan will be very beneficial to the ­recreational-fishing industry. While the main thrust of this effort is directed at salmon and steelhead, the same kind of program could work for sturgeon, and that option will be explored in 2013.

It is possible that managers will require that logbooks be kept and ­submitted by licensed fishing guides and charters. They also might look at voluntary trip reports by private anglers. This will impose a new requirement on some in the recreational industry, but if implemented properly, it will provide a valuable source of information on catch-and-harvest data.

This program is the culmination of many years of work, and is a great ­example of how industry and government can work together to produce benefits for all users of public resources. Replicating this effort around the coastline would be a real boost to both the resources and the recreational users.