The Paradigm Shift to Selective Fisheries for Pacific Salmon in the Pacific Northwest

Wednesday, September 11, 2013: 8:20 AM
Marriott Ballroom A (The Marriott Little Rock)
Lee Blankenship , NW Marine Technology, Tumwater, WA
There are over 200 state, federal and tribal salmon and steelhead hatcheries in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The vast majority of the Chinook, coho and steelhead harvest on the west coast of the United States is from hatchery production.  One negative consequence of their success has been the over-harvesting of wild fish.  Another negative consequence has been the reduced productivity of wild fish caused by hatchery adults spawning with wild fish. 

 Managers are generally faced with two alternative options to counter these negative consequences of successful hatchery production.  Either greatly reduce hatchery production or selectively harvest hatchery production.  While reducing the output from hatcheries is an attractive alternative from strictly the conservation view point, the economic and social value derived from sustainable commercial, tribal and recreational harvest is very important.

 With nineteen stocks being listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), selective fishing strategies have become increasingly important in the Pacific Northwest. Historically, selective fisheries employed time and area closures to protect certain stocks of fish. However, these methods have proven to be less effective than desired because ESA listed and other weak stocks are co-mingled with healthy hatchery stocks in most fisheries.

 In the mid-1980s managers started looking for methods to increase selective fishing opportunities. Washington State passed legislation in 1995 to mass mark hatchery coho and Chinook released from state operated facilities.  Federal legislation followed which called for implementation of mass marking all federally funded, hatchery released coho, Chinook and steelhead intended for harvest.  The adipose clip was the marking method chosen to identify harvestable hatchery fish which set the stage for a new era of selective fisheries.

 Today mark-selective regulations are the standard for most Chinook, coho and steelhead recreational fisheries.  The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Colville Tribe have made great progress in developing, testing, and implementing new commercial gear for mark-selective fisheries.