Follow us:

Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

January 23, 2012 at 4:30 PM

Some plus and minus situations still exist for threatened Columbia River smelt

SMELT FISHING[1].JPG

It has been almost two years now (May 17, 2010 to be exact) since the National Marine Fisheries Service federally-listed Columbia River smelt as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

As a result of that ESA listing the states of Washington and Oregon have closed all smelt-directed fisheries in the Columbia River and the entire state of Washington.

While that dark cloud rises above smelt runs, the Joint Staff continues to look at various indicators of smelt abundance.

And there are some positive abundance indicators for this year including:

1: Modest improvements in adult smelt returns during 2008 (landings and Catch Per Unit Effort).

2: A moderate increase in the level of Age 1+ bycatch of eulachon during 2008-2009, and a slight increase of Age 2+ bycatch during 2009-2010 in the Canadian ocean shrimp fisheries.

3: Favorable ocean conditions during most of the ocean-phase for BY 2007-2009 fish starting in 2007, and continuing through 2011.

4: Lastly, anecdotal accounts of an increase in the numbers of older age class smelt bycatch in U.S. ocean shrimp fisheries in 2011.

Negative factors this year include:

1: Low mainstem Columbia River larval densities during the winters of 2007 through 2009.

2: A slight decline in estimates from the Fraser River along with decreasing adult smelt biomass tonnage in the 2010 and 2011 Canadian ocean shrimp fisheries.

3: Warm ocean conditions during the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010.

4: Weak adult landings and CPUE brood years 2007 through 2009.

By taking a weighted average of the positive and negative indicators for each age component of the run, the 2012 run forecast is favorable (possible better than the past couple of years but still weaker than the brief rebound years of 2001-2003).

Smelt Fishery Expectations:

Both commercial and recreational eulachon directed fisheries are expected to remain closed for 2012. The 2012 run is forecast to improve over 2011, but is still expected to be at a low level.

The states have been working with NMFS to develop and expand research activities to provide better information on adult and juvenile eulachon abundances and distribution.

In 2011, these activities included sampling the spatial and temporal distribution of eulachon larvae in coastal stream and Columbia River tributaries, and improving the monitoring of eulachon larvae densities.

(Photo taken by the Associated Press)

Comments

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►