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NW Fishletter #371, July 3, 2017

[8] Draft EIS Published on a New Columbia River Harvest Plan

NOAA Fisheries posted a draft EIS June 14 that analyzes options for a new U.S. v. Oregon Columbia River harvest-management plan to replace the management agreement that expires at the end of 2017.

Depending on the outcome of negotiations between the U.S. v. Oregon parties and the comments made by the public, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) will select one of several alternatives considered in the DEIS.

The selected alternative will provide a framework for harvest management while adhering to incidental-take requirements under the Endangered Species Act and meeting other statutory and legal responsibilities related to resource conservation, economic and cultural benefits, and treaty trust obligations.

The term of the new harvest framework or agreement is set to be 2018-2027.

U.S. v. Oregon is the ongoing federal court proceeding that enforces tribal treaty fishing rights of the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Yakama and Shoshone-Bannock.

The states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and BIA are the other signatories of the management agreement.

The wild and hatchery fish populations involved are upriver salmon and steelhead stocks harvested by treaty Indian fisheries and non-Indian commercial and sport fisheries.

The DEIS discusses the pluses and minuses of six alternatives.

The first option is to extend the current framework that blends abundance-based management, escapement-based management, and harvest-rate management.

"This alternative recognizes that the stocks have varying conservation requirements, with some providing abundant opportunity for harvest, and others requiring more protection from harvest encounters at this time," according to the draft executive summary.

The second, third and fourth alternatives are each of the separate management policies that are blended in the first option: the abundance-based, escapement-based and harvest-rate management structures.

The fifth alternative is voluntary curtailment, with the sovereign parties terminating fishing--with the exception of very limited tribal ceremonial harvest--for an extended time.

The sixth option is no action, under which the current agreement would expire without a replacement.

Since hatchery-produced fish are a big part of Columbia Basin fisheries, NMFS will use the analyses in the 2014 Mitchell Act EIS to define the interplay between hatchery production and the various harvest-management alternatives.

The DEIS also assesses the various potential harvest options on non-salmonid listed and non-listed species, such as southern resident killer whales, sea lions and birds that prey on adult salmonids.

Written comments, due Aug. 7, 2017, may be emailed to usvornepa@noaa.gov. More information is available in the DEIS. -Laura Berg

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Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: Laura Berg
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