A Columbia River Chinook run is among several species added to NOAA Fisheries’ “subject to overfishing” and “overfished” lists, according to the agency’s annual report to Congress on the status of U.S. fisheries.
In 2018, upper Columbia summer Chinook were deemed subject to overfishing based on the 2015 run, the most recent data available. NOAA estimates that actual harvest exceeded the expected harvest rate by 14 percent—or 89 percent harvested compared to the allowable harvest of 75 percent, according to its numbers.
The report describes 43 overfished stocks, for which escapement over three years falls below sustainable levels; and 28 stocks subject to overfishing, which occurs when fishing rates exceed sustainable levels, a status which could lead to an overfished determination.
Fishery management councils must develop a rebuilding plan for overfished stocks. The plan allows fishing to continue at reduced levels so the stock can rebuild. The majority of fish on both lists are off the coast of New England and the south Atlantic states.
In addition, several Pacific fish were added to the overfished list, including Sacramento and Klamath River fall Chinook and coho runs in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Queets and Snohomish rivers.
In the Pacific, the salmon species added to both lists were at least partly the result of an ocean heat wave known as the Blob.
“Fisheries management occurs in a shared ocean environment amid increasingly changing ocean conditions such as temperature and acidity,” the report said. “During the past 5 years, several of the fisheries for these salmon stocks have been declared fishery disasters under the [Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act] by the Secretary of Commerce due to factors beyond the control of fishery managers.”
Some overfished stocks—including the Columbia River summer Chinook—are also impacted by international harvest or by inland fisheries managed by states and tribes over which NOAA Fisheries has less control.
The lists are developed from the 479 stocks that NOAA Fisheries tracks through fishery management plans.
According to the report, 91 percent of these stocks are not subject to overfishing, and 82 percent are not overfished. One species—the smooth skate in the Gulf of Maine—was added to NOAA’s list of rebuilt runs, which now numbers 45 stocks.