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Tribes Start Commercial Chinook, Steelhead Fishery And Direct Sales To Public

Columbia Basin Bulletin Fish and Wildlife News 6/20/08

It's a new season and fresh salmon caught by tribal fishermen in the Columbia River and tributaries is again available for purchase.

"This summer tribal fishery couldn't come at a better time since the public has been inundated with the unfortunate news of salmon fishery closures in other parts of the west," said Olney Patt Jr., executive director for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. CRITFC is the technical support and coordinating agency for fishery management policies of four treaty tribes: the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the Nez Perce Tribe.

"But the Columbia's summer run is in good shape and our tribes are committed to providing public access to this unique resource," Patt said

Tribal fishers are taking to the river Monday morning for the first of three anticipated commercial fishing seasons targeting summer chinook salmon and steelhead. The initial summer gill-net fishery runs from 6 a.m. June 23 through 6 p.m. June 25 in the Columbia's Zone 6 - reservoirs above Bonneville Dam.

The tribes' scaffold and hook and line fishery began this past Monday. Sales are planned on a daily basis until further notice.

Chinook, coho, steelhead, walleye, carp, and shad caught in the fisheries may be sold or retained for subsistence by tribal members.

As of Saturday, tribal fishers will also be able to catch and sell sockeye salmon. The Columbia River Compact on Thursday added sockeye to the list, based on a run-size forecast update that indicates escapement goals will likely be surpassed. That leaves sockeye available for harvest. The Compact sets Columbia mainstem fisheries.

Sturgeon may not be sold but may be retained for subsistence.

Additionally, Yakama Nation fishers can sell fish caught in the Wind, White Salmon and Klickitat rivers when the tributary openings overlap with either commercial openings for gillnet or platform gear in Zone 6.

Commercial sales of platform/ hook and line caught fish landed in the Yakama Nation subsistence fishery immediately below Bonneville Dam will also be allowed. That fishery is located on the Washington shoreline from 600 feet below the fish ladder at the Bonneville Dam North shore powerhouse downstream to Beacon Rock. Sales of fish there also coincide with Zone 6 sales with the exception of sturgeon, which may not be retained for sale or subsistence purposes,

Biologists forecast this year's summer chinook run will total 52,000 upriver fish. CRITFC's Salmon Marketing Program anticipates 9,000 fish will be harvested with peak availability over the next two weeks.

An estimated 326,400 upriver summer steelhead are expected to pass Bonneville Dam in 2008, which is similar to the 2007 passage of 319,400 fish.

The sockeye forecast was updated this week from a preseason estimate of 75,600 to the mouth of the Columbia to a return of at least 100,000. By Wednesday more than 50,000 of the spawning sockeye had passed Bonneville Dam. A management goal is to allow the escapement 75,000 over the dam.

Steelhead passage at Bonneville is minor during June, but increases significantly during July. A total of 8,000 had been counted at the dam through Wednesday.

The Indian salmon harvest reflects age-old traditions that were preserved by an 1855 treaty between the four Columbia Basin tribes and the U.S. government. Nutrient-rich salmon, flush with heart-healthful omega-3 fatty acids, figure prominently in native culture. Tribal members have long honored its importance for food, religion and livelihood.

Tribal fishers may be found selling fish at a number of locations along the river: Marine Park at Cascade Locks, The Dalles' bridge and the boat launch near Roosevelt, Washington. Commercial sales will not occur on Corps of Engineers property at Bonneville Dam.

The public is urged to call the salmon marketing program at (888) 289-1855 before heading up the river to find out where the day's catch is being sold.

More information is available on the salmon marketing website at www.indiansalmonharvest.com

Price is determined at the point of sale and sales are cash only.


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