If a draft plan in
Oregon for six species of salmon and trout is accepted
as is, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will
begin to regulate in June 2014 some Oregon coastal
streams as wild salmon and steelhead watersheds, while
others will see increased hatchery activity, providing
more fishing opportunities for anglers.
ODFW is seeking
comments on its Coastal Multi-Species Conservation and
Management Plan (http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/CRP/coastal_multispecies.asp)
at five public
open houses in January in Western Oregon, including
Tillamook, Salem, Roseburg, North Bend and Reedsport.
Comments are taken until Feb. 10.
species are the spring and fall chinook, chum salmon,
winter and summer steelhead, and coastal cutthroat trout
from the Elk River near Cape Blanco in Southern Oregon
to the Necanicum River near Seaside. None of the 20
watersheds under this plan are inhabited by listed
species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Nineteen of the watersheds have steelhead present.
Multi-Species Plan is the agency’s first attempt to
create a management plan for multiple species that are
not listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act and
for which the State of Oregon has a fair amount of
management flexibility due to the relative good health
of the populations,” said Tom Stahl, ODFW’s Conservation
and Recovery Program Manager.
The plan includes
a variety of management actions throughout the Oregon
Coast and “is trying to balance conservation and
opportunity and, in the process, improve both,” he
For example, the
elimination of a hatchery program in one stream,
creating a “wild fish emphasis area” that would protect
wild fish from the corresponding crowding and
competition caused by the presence of hatchery
juveniles, could be balanced by more hatchery fish in a
Even though some
streams would be protected from the presence of hatchery
fish, if implemented, the overall plan would result in
about five percent more hatchery juveniles released into
rivers and that would increase fishing opportunities.
Some areas already
are set aside for wild fish, such as the North and South
Umpqua rivers and the Smith River in the Umpqua River
system. Under the new plan, the Kilchis River near
Tillamook and Big Elk Creek in the Yaquina River system
would be among two added to this wild designation.
The draft plan has
been in development since 2012, with input from four
stakeholder teams located along the Oregon coast. Each
team included people from local watershed councils,
anglers and commercial fishermen, conservation groups,
resource managers, local government and Native American
One of the hottest
topics was which rivers should be reserved for wild
salmon and trout enhancement and which rivers should
have more hatchery presence to provide more fishing
Among the elements
of the plan are a proposal to provide more harvest
opportunities for wild steelhead and a proposal adding
two new hatchery programs for spring chinook, one in
Yaquina Bay and one in Coos Bay. Other elements of the
plan would give ODFW the ability to manage harvests of
wild coho, chinook and spring chinook based upon
expected returns to each river basin; provide actions to
address natural predators; and provide a guiding hand
for local habitat improvement projects.
There is some
demographic basis for making coastal fish management
decisions based on the health of the fish stocks.
As part of the
input to the management plan, ODFW had the Survey
Research Center at Oregon State University conduct an
opinion survey of anglers and non-anglers about fishing
in Oregon and wild fish conservation. 1,500 surveys were
mailed to the general public with a 28.5 percent return,
and 6,000 surveys were mailed to licensed anglers west
of the Cascades with a 36 percent response rate. The
results are a mixed bag.
A good portion of
those surveyed either agree or somewhat agree that
management of coastal wild salmon, steelhead and
cutthroat trout should aim for healthy populations of
fish. 94 percent of the general population and 91
percent of anglers believe this.
Yet, a similar
percentage of respondents also believe that management
should also provide opportunities for harvest, with the
caveat that harvest would not risk wild populations (86
percent of the general population and 85 percent of the
Only 21 percent of
the general population and 14 percent of anglers believe
that the coastal management plan should prevent harvest
of wild fish, but that by a much larger margin the plan
should also try to prevent Endangered Species Act
listings (56 percent of the general population and 65
percent of anglers).
About a third of
respondents thought the plan should not limit
agriculture, forestry or development (31 percent of the
general population and 34 percent of the anglers).
Stahl said the
survey identified a higher desire to see more harvest of
wild winter steelhead. That was in contrast to the
stakeholder process that called for lower harvests of
this species. The plan under review calls for harvest on
just three coastal rivers, he said: the Salmon River,
Big Elk Creek in the Yaquina River watershed and the
East Fork of the Coquille River. The only area now on
the Oregon coast where wild winter steelhead harvest is
allowed is the Sixes River on the southern Oregon Coast.
This will be the
last round of public input before the ODFW Commission
looks at the plan. Stahl said comments by the public
during the five open houses will likely lead to
revisions and the next draft plan will be presented to
the Commission at its April 2014 meeting. The Commission
will take more public comments and the ODFW staff will
go back to the Commission for final approval in June.