Treaty tribes in western Washington are calling on the Pacific Fisheries Management Council to consider a “zero option” for ocean coho salmon fisheries this year.

“We need to at least discuss closing all coho fishing in the ocean this year because of historically low predicted runs,” said Lorraine Loomis, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “I hope it doesn’t come to that, but we must consider it as an option.

“In some places we’re seeing forecasts below the minimum needed to propagate the next generation of salmon,” Loomis said.

This will be the second straight year that coho returning to western Washington have been well below historic levels. Poor ocean conditions caused by the warm water Pacific blob and El Niño are blamed for the low coho returns.

“We don’t know how many we’ll see, we don’t know how healthy they’ll be and we don’t know how many eggs they’ll have,” Loomis said. “That means we need to be careful, because if we don’t know how healthy these fish are when they come back, a lot of damage could be done.

“We have never seen runs this low, so we don’t know how well they might bounce back,” Loomis said. “Zero must be the starting place for fisheries management planning this year.”

On Sunday the PFMC will announce a range of three harvest options to establish parameters for tribal and state fisheries co-managers to negotiate this year’s fishing seasons. The PFMC will approve its final harvest guidelines for ocean fisheries in mid-April.

Contact: Tony Meyer, NWIFC, 360.438.1180; cell 360.951.9341
tmeyer@nwifc.org

Emmett O’Connell, NWIFC, 360.438.1180; cell 360.561.9116
eoconnell@nwifc.org