PFMC Offers Alternatives for 2023 West Coast Ocean Salmon Fisheries

Image: Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council last week adopted three alternatives for 2023 ocean salmon fisheries off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California, all in advance of its plan to make a final decision on salmon seasons during its April 1-7 meeting.

Detailed information about season starting dates, areas open and catch limits for the three alternatives are on online at the council’s website:

The council noted that forecasts for West Coast Chinook and coho stocks in 2023 are a mixed bag, with some low and high points when compared to 2022 stocks. Federal requirements to conserve Canada’s Fraser River coho, lower Columbia River natural tule Chinook, Klamath River fall Chinook and Sacramento River fall Chinook are the main constraints for this year’s ocean salmon fisheries. 

Council Chair Marc Gorelnik said meeting conservation and management objectives continues to be the highest priority for the council.

“Balancing those objectives while providing meaningful commercial and recreational seasons remains a challenge in 2023,” he said.

Council Executive Director Merrick Burden noted that 2023 salmon season discussions have been dominated by the severely low forecasts for both the Klamath and Sacramento River fall Chinook stocks.

“The council will need to deliberate on the best path forward in setting 2023 seasons with considerations for economic implications to the coastal communities and the low abundances of key salmon stocks and the need to ensure future generations of healthy salmon returns,” he said.

Fisheries north of Cape Falcon, in northern Oregon are limited mainly by the need to constrain catch of lower Columbia River natural tule Chinook. Additionally, two natural coho stocks meet the criteria for either overfished, in Queets River, or not overfished/rebuilding in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which is also a concern when structuring 2023 fisheries.

Fisheries south of Cape Falcon are limited mainly by the low abundance forecast for both Klamath River and Sacramento River fall Chinook. This year’s management alternatives are significantly reduced or closed to fishing opportunity to keep fishing impacts minimal given the critically low abundance forecasts for key California Chinook stocks of concern.

The council worked with National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to understand the effects of council-area fisheries on Southern Resident killer whales, which are listed as endangered. Based partly on information provided by the council’s ad-hoc Southern Resident Killer Whale Workgroup, the council amended the Pacific Salmon Fishery Management Plan to address the needs of the whales while providing salmon harvest opportunities.

Based on updated modeling information, in November 2022 the council adopted a revised abundance threshold value of 623,000 for the North of Falcon area. Salmon abundance in 2023 is projected to be well above the threshold.

The Council has scheduled one public hearing for each coastal state to hear comments on the alternatives. The online hearings are scheduled for Monday, March 20 for Washington and Oregon and Tuesday, March 21 for California.

Materials and instructions for joining online council meetings and hearings are expected to be posted to the council’s website in the coming days.