NMFS Issues Final Rule on Ocean Salmon Fisheries Off Washington, Oregon, California

Image via NOAA Fisheries

The National Marine Fisheries Service has issued a final rule establishing fishery management measures for the 2022 ocean salmon fisheries off Washington, Oregon and California and the 2023 salmon seasons opening earlier than May 16, 2023.

Measures in the final rule vary by fishery and by area and establish fishing areas, seasons, quotas, legal gear, recreational fishing days and catch limits, possession and landing restrictions, and minimum lengths for salmon taken in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone off Washington, Oregon and California.

The management measures are intended to prevent overfishing and to apportion the ocean harvest equitably among treaty Indians, non-Indian commercial, and recreational fisheries. They’re also intended to allow a portion of salmon runs to escape the ocean fisheries in order to provide for spawning escapement, comply with applicable law, and to provide fishing opportunity in state waters.

The fisheries management plan requires that the fisheries are managed to meet escapement-based annual catch limits, Endangered Species Act consultation requirements, obligations of the Pacific Salmon Treaty and other conservation objectives detailed in the fishery management plan. Also under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, all regulations must be consistent with other applicable laws.

Because the ocean salmon fisheries are mixed-stock fisheries, this requires “weak stock” management to avoid exceeding limits for the stocks with the most constraining limits. Stocks that constrain the fishery in one year may differ from those that constrain the fishery in the next.  NOAA officials said that for 2022, several stocks will constrain fisheries.

Fisheries south of Cape Falcon, Oregon are limited in 2022 primarily by conservation concerns for Klamath River Fall Chinook Salmon (KRFC) and the Endangered Species Act-listed California Coastal Chinook salmon. The Fisheries Service determined in 2018 that the KRFC stock was overfished, as defined under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and fishery management plan, and it is being managed under a rebuilding plan.

In addition to KRFC, three coho salmon stocks—Queets River natural coho salmon, Strait of Juan de Fuca natural coho salmon and Snohomish River natural coho salmon—were determined in 2018 to be overfished and are being managed under rebuilding plans.

NOAA officials said that meeting conservation objectives for these three coho salmon stocks would not constrain fisheries in 2022.