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Fishery council cuts Washington salmon catch
Commercial trollers say they had hoped for a higher limit than in 2003, as prices are expected to increase
The Pacific Fishery Management Council this week cut the salmon catch for Washington trollers, dashing hopes raised by rebounding salmon numbers.
The fleet, operating north of Cape Falcon, had been hoping to land up to 70,000 chinook this year. Instead, regulators allowed commercial and sport fishers each a total catch of 44,500 chinook, or about 15,000 fewer fish than commercial trollers caught last year in Washington.
"That hurts, especially since we were anticipating a doubling in price," said Joel Kawahara of the Washington Trollers Association, which represents about 150 commercial salmon fishing permit holders.
Commercial, tribal and sport fishers said regulators are indirectly forcing them to pay for the destructive effects of dams in the Columbia River. Fishing groups singled out the proposal this year by Bonneville Power Administration to reduce water releases over dam spillways, a measure typically used to improve salmon survival.
Council officials said the limits on ocean harvest closely follow rules spelled out in 2000 by the National Marine Fisheries Service as necessary to prevent overfishing of Snake River fall chinook, a stock listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Officials also said they had to take into account expectations of increased fishing by Canada's troll fleet to the maximum allowed by treaty.
Oregon's ocean salmon fleet, meanwhile, will operate under different limits set primarily by the need to avoid overfishing threatened Klamath River salmon. Though it's too early to predict the size of this year's catch, Oregon trollers are encouraged by strong demand and some of the highest prices in years, as high as $5.50 a pound.
-- Joe Rojas-Burke
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