By Kelly Susewind
The annual season setting process of the Pacific Fishery Management Council wrapped up April 10 with recommended seasons for West Coast fisheries. Season recommendations now move forward for approval by the National Marine Fisheries Service and final rulemaking.
The entire process was held via webinar this year due to concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The agency appreciates the hard work of co-managers, fishing industry representatives and our advisors who sat through long teleconferences and webinars to determine these seasons. It was a challenging new wrinkle in the process, but everyone rose to the task and adapted to this new way of negotiating fisheries.
Unfortunately, it was another challenging year with many depressed stocks limiting harvest opportunities throughout the state. State and tribal co-managers conversations spanned limiting stocks, forced closures due to COVID-19, increasing variability in returns due to ocean conditions and lost ground in protecting and restoring salmon habitat.
Low returns of Stillaguamish and mid-Hood Canal Chinook, as well as Snohomish coho limited a number of Puget Sound fisheries in 2019 and created even greater constraints in 2020. A similar theme was observed with the stocks of most importance to non-tribal Puget Sound commercial salmon fisheries, including natural chum stocks throughout Puget Sound and sockeye returning to the Fraser River in British Columbia. These stocks had low returns in 2019 and low forecasted returns in 2020. WDFW is committed to working with our many stakeholders, tribal co-managers and federal partners to address all the factors impacting critical runs so we can reverse the downward trend in local fisheries in the years ahead. We recognize that while this may take some time, failure is not an option.
For additional information about this year’s sport salmon fisheries and the North of Falcon process please visit WDFW’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/nof. Information for this year’s commercial seasons is being updated and will be available at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/commercial. For information on tribal fisheries, contact the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission nwifc.org. For information on COVID-19 and fishing season impacts, please visit wdfw.wa.gov/about/covid-19-updates.
I want to extend a huge thanks to the fishing industry for the continued engagement and patience as we adapted our process this year. Your perspectives are valuable and your participation is a critical part of the season setting process.