Monthly Archives: January 2011

Fishing closures on Elwha?

Yesterday’s news release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has at least four items of interest to SRKW conservation scheduled for discussion in their Feb 4-5 meeting.  A moratorium on fishing in the Elwha River system to facilitate recovery of its salmon populations, especially the historically large chinook, could mean more food faster for SRKWs.  Better management of summer chinook on the Columbia could affect the food sources SRKWs encounter, though those populations may be less important than fall-spring runs.  Any alteration of the North of Falcon process could influence salmon abundance in WA marine waters, as could changes to how bottomfish are caught by recreational and commercial fishers.

It might be worth a trek south to sit in on this one…

Here is an excerpt of the relevant sections:

Meanwhile, with two major dams on the Elwha River scheduled for removal starting later this year, the commission will consider adopting a moratorium on fishing designed to support restoration of native salmon and trout populations in that watershed. One proposal calls for closing all waters to fishing in the Elwha River Basin, while another alternative would maintain some fishing opportunity in Lake Sutherland.

State, federal and tribal fishery managers have proposed fishing closures in the watershed to protect fish during the dam-removal process and encourage their expansion into 70 miles of new spawning and rearing habitat.

In other action, the commission is scheduled to consider management alternatives for bottomfish in Catch Area 4B (western Strait of Juan de Fuca), which are available on the department’s website at .

The commission also is scheduled to consider updating its management policy for Columbia River summer chinook salmon to reflect new broodstock needs for the Chief Joseph Hatchery and conservation standards for naturally spawning fish, while providing guidance in allocating the catch between recreational and commercial fisheries.

The commission also is scheduled to consider:

* Changes in state fishing rules on a variety of issues, including closing fishing for Columbia River smelt (eulachon) statewide. The proposals are available on WDFW’s website at .
* Amendments to commercial bottomfish, forage fish and shellfish fisheries in Puget Sound designed to protect rockfish populations.
* Updates to the North of Falcon policy, which provides direction to fishery managers in defining annual salmon fishing seasons in Washington’s waters.

First spring chinook caught on Columbia

Mark Yuasa’s NW Fishing blog in the Seattle Times is a great way to keep tabs on where salmon are being caught in Washington.  Yesterday he pointed out that 2011 returns are expected to be moderate and that the spring chinook runs peak in March/April for the Lower Columbia.  Is L pod working these schools on the continental shelf?


The Upper Columbia spring chinook return forecast of 198,400 fish is the sixth largest since 1979. It is well under last year’s forecast of 470,000 (315,345 was actual return). The largest return was 437,900 in 2001, and the 10-year average is 219,000.

The good news for the 2011 return is quite a few larger-sized 5-year-old fish, about 40,000 of them, are expected. The bulk of the annual returns are comprised of 4-year-old fish.

Another popular spring chinook fishery on the Oregon side of the Columbia is the Willamette River, where a forecast of about 104,000 (62,400 are expected to be brawny five-year-olds) is expected, compared to a forecast last year of 63,000 (110,000 was the actual return).


The height of the spring chinook return is March and April. Sport angler trips in the Lower Columbia have averaged 129,000 since 2002.

Obama on salmon management

What great news for southern residents that President Obama clarifies in his 2011 State of the Union Address (at 43:59) that he understands that there is a deep flaw in how salmon are managed in the United States:

The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in salt water… I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked!

Can we do big things for Pacific salmon? Let’s hope Obama’s realization manifests as a concerted effort in the next two years by his administration to manage salmon of the Columbia, Snake, Sacramento, and other western rivers in an innovative manner that benefits both fish and killer whales. If we can’t do it with Jane Lubchenko (a marine biologist) heading NOAA and Gary Locke as Secretary of Commerce, then it’s unlikely we’ll pull it off in the first quarter of the 21st century. How can we work together to get more Chinook to the southern residents?

New whale watching rules due this spring

This Jan 16 story from Q13 Fox News has some valuable quotes, including this one from Brian Gorman of NOAA/NMFS:

“I expect it’s something that will have to go through a lot of hoops.  It could take as long as 90 days but by this spring we should have regulations in place,” says Gorman.
Gorman says the Department of Commerce is now reviewing the plan.  Then it goes to the Office of Management and Budget for approval before local fisheries officials get final word.
We’ve requested an interview with Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the committee which oversees this issue, to discuss her commitment to protecting the orcas.  We hope to have that for you when she returns to Washington later this month.

Orcas, Elliott Bay, and the Duwamish

A January 3 Seattle Times story entitled “EPA unveils options for Duwamish cleanup” makes me wonder whether southern residents would enter Elliott Bay more often if the salmon runs were restored to the Duwamish and Green Rivers.  In a few years of listening, we’ve not yet detected Southern Residents Killer Whales entering Elliott Bay enough to be heard at the Seattle Aquarium hydrophone.  They always seem to stay outside the Bay, beyond a line connecting West and Alki Points…

Is anyone aware of past times when orcas have spent time in Elliott Bay?