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Coastal salmon forecast looks positive

March 4, 2014

Salmon fishing in the ocean this summer could be great thanks to an abundant run of hatchery coho and a potentially historic return of chinook, according to state fishery managers.

The forecasts – developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty Indian tribes – for chinook, coho, sockeye and chum salmon were released at a public meeting in Olympia, marking the starting point for developing 2014 salmon-fishing seasons.

Ron Warren, fisheries policy lead for WDFW, said protecting and restoring weak wild salmon populations will continue to be the top priority as fishery managers develop salmon seasons.

“It’s early in the process, but these forecasts point to an exciting summer of salmon fishing,” Warren said. “We look forward to working with our tribal co-managers and constituents to establish fishing opportunities on abundant runs of hatchery salmon while ensuring we meet our conservation goals for wild fish populations.”

This year’s forecasts include a return of more than 1.6 million Columbia River fall chinook salmon – which would be the largest since record-keeping began in 1938. A return of nearly 1 million Columbia River coho salmon is expected back this summer as well.

“This certainly could be a banner year for summer salmon fisheries, particularly off the Washington coast and in the Columbia River,” Warren said.

The strong return of Columbia River salmon should boost fisheries in the ocean this year.

About 225,000 lower river hatchery chinook are expected back this season, 35,000 more fish than last year’s return. Those salmon, known as “tules,” are the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.

The abundant coho salmon return projected for the Columbia River will contribute to fisheries off the coast of Washington as well, said Doug Milward, ocean salmon fishery manager for WDFW.

“This is the first time in more than a decade we have had exceptionally strong forecasts for chinook and coho in the same year,” Milward said. “That’s good news for anglers because those abundant runs could result in higher catch quotas for both species this summer in the ocean.”

State, tribal and federal fishery managers will meet March 8-13 in Sacramento with the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) to develop options for this year’s commercial and recreational ocean chinook and coho salmon fisheries. The PFMC establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.

Additional public meetings have been scheduled through March to discuss regional fishery issues. Input from these regional discussions will be considered as the season-setting process moves into the “North of Falcon” and PFMC meetings, which will determine the final 2014 salmon seasons.

The PFMC is expected to adopt the final ocean fishing seasons and harvest levels at its April 5-10 meeting in Vancouver.

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