The Pacific Fishery Management Council has adopted ocean salmon season recommendations for 2021. The seasons provide recreational and commercial opportunities for most of the Pacific coast and achieve conservation goals for the numerous salmon stocks on the West Coast.
The recommendations will be forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries Service for approval by May 16.
“There will be some restrictive commercial and recreational seasons this year along much of the coast,” said Council Chair Marc Gorelnik. “Forecasts for some Chinook and coho stocks are quite low, which made our job more challenging this year.”
The council heard reports from commercial, recreational, and tribal representatives on the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as ways the council could provide meaningful fishing opportunities and economic support for coastal communities.
Washington and Northern Oregon (north of Cape Falcon)
Fisheries north of Cape Falcon (in northern Oregon) are limited by the need to constrain catch of lower Columbia River natural tule Chinook and specific Washington coast coho salmon stocks. Three Washington coho stocks are either overfished (Queets River, Strait of Juan de Fuca) or are rebuilding (Snohomish), which was a concern when structuring fishing seasons.
North of Cape Falcon, the overall non-Indian total allowable catch is 58,000 Chinook coastwide (compared to 54,000 last year) and 75,000 marked hatchery coho (compared to 28,500 last year).
Tribal ocean fisheries north of Cape Falcon
Tribal ocean fisheries north of Cape Falcon are similar in structure to past years, with a spring season targeting Chinook and a summer fishery for all species. Quotas include 40,000 Chinook and 26,500 coho (compared to 35,000 Chinook and 16,500 coho last year).
Non-Indian ocean commercial fisheries north of Cape Falcon include traditional seasons in the spring (May-June) for Chinook and in the summer (July-September) for Chinook and coho. These fisheries will have a 30,750 Chinook quota (compared to 27,640 last year), and a marked coho quota of 5,000 (compared to 2,000 last year).
The recreational fishery north of Cape Falcon opens with an all-salmon-except-coho fishery on June 19, then transitions to an all-species fishery in late June or early July, depending on the subarea. Days open per week, size and bag limits also vary among subareas. The fishery will continue until September 15, or whenever Chinook or coho quotas are reached. Recreational fisheries in this area will have access to a 27,250 Chinook quota (compared to 26,360 last year), and a marked coho quota of 70,000 (compared to 26,500 last year).
Oregon (south of Cape Falcon) and California
Fisheries south of Cape Falcon are limited mainly by the low abundance forecast for Klamath River fall Chinook. Klamath River. This year’s management measures are designed to provide fishing opportunity for the more abundant Sacramento River fall Chinook while reducing impacts on Klamath River fall Chinook.
Commercial fisheries in the area from Cape Falcon to the Heceta Bank line are open now through April 30 for all salmon except coho. Starting May 1, Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain will open through June with intermittent closures, and will be open continuously in September and October with weekly limits. The area will be open for all salmon (with a 10,000 marked coho quota) intermittently during July and August.
In the area from Humbug Mountain, Oregon to the Oregon/California border (also known as the Oregon Klamath Management Zone, the Chinook season opened in late March and continues in April and most of early May. It is also open in June and July with monthly catch quotas and weekly limits in place.
The area from the Oregon/California border to the southern KMZ boundary (also known as the California KMZ) will be closed to conserve Klamath River fall Chinook.
Elsewhere in California, Chinook seasons in the Fort Bragg area (southern KMZ boundary to Point Arena) will be open August 1-17 and all of September. The San Francisco area (Point Arena to Pigeon Point) will be open intermittently mid-June through mid-August, and all of September. The Monterey area (Pigeon Point to the Mexico border) will be open intermittently from May to mid-August. There will also be a season from Point Reyes to Point San Pedro (a subset of the San Francisco area) consisting of three openings in early October ranging from one to five days each.
Recreational Chinook fisheries from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. are open now through October. Coho fisheries in this area consist of a mark-selective quota fishery of 120,000 in mid-summer (compared to 22,000 last year) and a non-mark-selective quota fishery of 14,000 in September (compared to 3,000 last year). The Oregon KMZ shares the mark-selective coho quota and season dates with the Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt. area. Chinook retention in the Oregon KMZ is limited to June 19-August 15.
The California KMZ fishery will be open for Chinook only June 29 through August 1.
Chinook seasons in the Fort Bragg (southern KMZ boundary to Point Arena) and San Francisco (Point Arena to Pigeon Point) areas will open in late June and will continue through October. The Monterey area (Pigeon Point to Mexico Border) is open now through September.
For details on all seasons, see the season description tables.
“This has been another challenging year for the Council, its advisors, fishery stakeholders, and the public as we strive to balance fishing opportunities with conservation needs for Chinook and coho stocks,” said Council Executive Director Chuck Tracy.
The Council developed three management alternatives in early March for public review and further analysis. The review process included input from Federal, state, and tribal fishery scientists and fishing industry members; public testimony; and three public hearings held by webinar.
The decision must be approved by NMFS. Coastal states will adopt fishery regulations for state-managed waters that are compatible with the Council’s actions.
Southern Resident Killer Whales
The Council is working with NMFS to understand the effects of Council-area fisheries on Southern Resident killer whales, which are listed as endangered. Based in part on information provided by the Council’s ad-hoc Southern Resident Killer Whale Workgroup, NMFS provided guidance on the structure of the 2021 salmon fisheries to address the needs of the whales while providing salmon harvest opportunities. Chinook abundance is well above the level that would require additional fishery restrictions.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 for the purpose of managing fisheries 3-200 miles off the U.S. coastline. The Pacific Council recommends management measures for fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.