Coho salmon count at locks in Ballard, September 2015. Graphic: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

By Alison Morrow
11 March 2016

(KING 5 News) – The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission is asking wildlife officials to consider canceling the coho fishery across Puget Sound this year.

Warmer water in the oceans has made it tough for all salmon returning to Puget Sound. Wild coho return forecasts are at historic lows. In some areas, less than 1% are expected to spawn.

In a statement released Friday, NWIFC Chairwoman Lorraine Loomis said:

“We need to at least discuss closing all coho fishing in the ocean this year because of historically low predicted runs. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but we must consider it as an option...We don't know how many we'll see, we don't know how healthy they'll be and we don't know how many eggs they'll have. That means we need to be careful, because if we don't know how healthy these fish are when they come back, a lot of damage could be done."

The call to cancel coho is a controversial one among sports fishing advocates.

"Salmon is what keeps us going. It's our bread and butter," Steve Kesling said. "Fishing can be like a roller coaster. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not." [more]

Tribes propose canceling coho season


Coho salmon. Photo: King 5 News

1 March 2016 (KING5) – Salmon forecasts are out, and the news isn't good. The Department of Fish and Wildlife held the first of many meetings on their models in Olympia on Tuesday.

"If we put last year's fisheries in place on this year's abundance we'd catch every single Stillaguamish coho returning to the river. That can't happen," said WDFW Fish Program Co-Director Ron Warren. "We know we'll have fishery reductions across the state that have impacts on Stillaguamish fish."

The meeting Tuesday was filled with sports anglers, many who make their livelihood on salmon returns.

The forecast of about 256,000 Puget Sound coho is about one-third the size of the run predicted in 2015. WDFW blames warm waters and historic drought last year. Despite increased snow levels this year, the ocean is still higher than healthy temperatures for fish.

"I think with so little on the table everybody's going to be standing to lose so much, they're going to be wounded injured bears, fighting for their livelihood, just like I am," said Dan Stauffer of Ed's Surplus and Marine.  "It's a downward slide. We're very, very worried - very worried."

Last year, Stauffer's company lost thousands of dollars after WDFW canceled the chinook season in Area 10. It was a controversial move, one that the sports fishing industry called "political", criticizing WDFW for bending to tribal co-manager pressure. [more]

Coho return forecasts 'critical' in most areas

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