Columbia River Returns '09-'11

Discussion in 'Conservation, Fishery Politics and Management.' started by SerengetiGuide, Jan 28, 2009.

  1. SerengetiGuide

    SerengetiGuide Well-Known Member

    Just received this email, have heard this not only for the Columbia but all down the coast...'09 appears itwill be a great Coho year, and '10 and '11 are supposed to be amazing for Chinook and Coho.


    Columbia Basin Coho Run Strong

    Wednesday, 22 October 2008


    The stock markets may have tanked over the past few weeks, but coho salmon futures look brighter than ever. Columbia Basin harvest managers have doubled their estimate of this year's coho run after a strong showing of the late-season salmon in the lower river.

    On Oct. 2, managers bumped the early-run coho numbers to 250,000 from a preseason estimate of 96,000. They didn't upgrade the later running coho stocks at the time, but pointed out that the late run forecast would nearly have to double from the estimate of 86,000 to allow a 24-hour target coho fishery in the lower river. The run would have to be 160,000 or so to offset harvest of another 5,000 coho in the gillnets, to meet the legal limit of incidental take percentage of ESA-listed coho.

    "Indicators look positive for an upgrade," harvest managers said in the Oct. 7 joint staff report. So far, their predictions have significantly lowballed returns. But since the estimates are based on jack returns, they can be iffy at best, especially in the case of coho. The early run is generally one that migrates south of the Columbia; the later run migrates north.

    Well, by Oct. 14, they had upgraded the late-coho run to 200,000 and lower river gillnetters were given more fishing time.

    Coho jacks return to native streams or hatcheries in the same year as they migrate to sea, but most adults return the following year. Poor near-shore conditions that decimate jacks could easily lead to a significant underestimate of an adult run, which has left the region.

    So although harvest managers had gone on record saying that this year's Columbia coho run would only be 35 percent of the recent 10-year average of 476,000, others had already predicted that 2008 would likely be a good coho year--but in a more qualitative way.

    NOAA Fisheries' monitoring of ocean and biological indicators has tracked a huge increase in productive ocean conditions since 2006. The feds stay away from making numerical forecasts, but maintain a red, yellow and green system to assess overall conditions for fish as poor, intermediate, or good. For 2007, they gave the ocean intermediate marks. For 2008, it's all green.

    The University of Washington's Climate Impacts Group estimated a rosy 5-percent return for 2008 Oregon coho, which they acknowledged was at odds with state and tribal harvest managers' predictions.

    "Ocean conditions," the UW folks said last May, "as measured by our simple model, were better than average for OPI [Oregon Production Index] coho smolts that entered the ocean in 2007. The spring transition was near average and spring sea level was low (low sea level is indicative of good upwelling and strong north-south transport). January through March SST in 2008 was among the coldest on record and strongly favorable.

    "However, jack (2-year-old male) returns in the fall of 2007 to the Columbia River were at low levels typical of the 1990s, resulting in a projected return rate of 0.9 percent. It was also notable that upwelling in June, July and August 2007 were weak, and coastal ocean temperatures failed to cool as they typically do.

    "These summer conditions are not considered in our simple model, but may help to explain the discrepancies between our model forecast and the jack-based forecast that calls for much lower return rates," they said.

    Now, managers are getting a little worried that tributaries like the Cowlitz may be swamped with hatchery coho this year. WDFW's Joe Hymer said that based on early returns, 100,000 coho may return to the Cowlitz alone.

    Meanwhile, harvest managers opened the fishing season on Oct. 8 and 9 to non-Indian gillnetters in the lower Columbia. Between Sept. 18 and Oct. 9, they caught more than 8,400 coho and nearly 13,000 chinook. They were given even more time to fish between Oct. 15 and 16.

    Upriver, beyond Bonneville Dam, treaty Indian fishers were still mopping up, with a total of 177 tribal nets counted in Zone 6 pools. Nearly 700 nets were counted in a mid-September aerial survey. They were expected to have hauled in more than 107,000 chinook by Oct. 23 and had already caught nearly 19,000 chinook by Oct. 10. By the 23rd, they were expected to reach a harvest rate of 18.4 percent on B-Index steelhead, close to their impact limit of 20 percent.

    Last year, the Columbia's coho run totaled about 319,000 fish, 69 percent of the 10-year average. If this year's run finishes up in the 500,000-fish range, it would be the third- or fourth-best run since the 1.2-million coho return in 2001, when ocean conditions were highly productive.

    Once again, harvest managers may have to get used to managing big numbers.

    In its September update, NOAA Fisheries reported extremely good conditions for fish, including the most negative PDO [Pacific Decadal Oscillation] since 1999 (and the most negative in summer since the 1950s, should it remain negative through September); the coldest winter ocean temperatures in at least the past 11 years; cool surface temperatures during summer (although not the coldest) and deep-water temperatures in the continental shelf the coldest in at least 11 years; the earliest biological spring transition of the past 11 years; and one of the highest levels of Northern copepod biomass in a decade.

    "All signs to date indicate very high returns of coho in 2009," said the feds. "We are almost certain that the proportion of coho returning in 2009 will rival the 4 percent seen for fish that entered the sea in 2000 and 2002. We also expect spring chinook runs in 2010 and 2011 to rival the high returns of this species seen in 2001 and 2002." -Bill Rudolph

    The following links were mentioned in this story:

    Ocean Ecosystem Indicators of Salmon Marine Survival in the Northern California Current

    Forecast Return Rate For Adults Returning Fall 2008

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