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For Immediate Release Friday, November 7, 2003

*Commission hears options for 2004 Columbia River spring chinook fisheries
*Rules adopted for marine commercial fisheries, agricultural damage pilot

SALEM - Fishery managers in Washington and Oregon will analyze five different options to allocate the Columbia River spring chinook run between sport anglers and commercial fishermen, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission heard Friday.

Additional public testimony and Commission direction to ODFW staff will be provided at the Jan. 9 meeting in Salem. Final 2004 regulations will be set in late January at the joint state Columbia River Compact meeting.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in the state. The seven-member panel meets monthly.

The Columbia River spring chinook allocation decision generated considerable discussion Friday among commissioners, staff and members of the public because the fish is highly prized for its flavor. Commercially-caught fish garner top dollar in the early season and the sport season provides a large economic boost to urban and rural communities along the lower Columbia River.

The options under consideration split the allocation of allowable impacts to wild upper Columbia River spring chinook listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. The options include:
1) 50-50 sharing of impacts between sport and commercial;
2) 40 percent sport and 60 percent commercial sharing;
3) 60 percent sport and 40 percent commercial sharing;
4) 70 percent sport and 30 percent commercial sharing; or
5) Use of a decision matrix used in the 2002 and 2003 fisheries which would likely result in a 65 percent sport and 35 percent commercial sharing of impacts.

Fishermen target hatchery-bred adipose fin-clipped spring chinook destined for the Willamette River and other Columbia River tributaries. During harvest seasons, some wild fish inadvertently die. The total allowable impact by non-tribal harvesters is limited to 2 percent of the total run of listed upriver spring chinook. The options under consideration split the allowable 2 percent impact among sport and commercial fisheries.

Pre-season run size estimates have not yet been completed for 2004, but biologists expect another strong year with good fishing opportunities.

Biologists for the Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife departments are analyzing each of the options using computer models and the results of a Washington study on release mortality. Oregon staff will present preliminary findings to the Oregon Commission Dec. 12 in Salem.

Several draft management objectives are under consideration to guide development of the spring chinook fisheries:
· Fisheries should be set annually based on current information;
· Allow for in-season flexibility to meet objectives of both sport and commercial fisheries;
· Adjust sport fishery in season as necessary to continue fishery through April;
· Reduce sport release mortality rate with a new regulation to prohibit the removal of wild fish from the water when releasing;
· Recognize the economic benefits of sport and commercial fisheries; and
· Provide for sport fisheries throughout the Columbia River downstream of McNary Dam and sport/tribal fisheries above McNary Dam.

The Commission welcomes written comments on the proposals and the draft management objectives. Comments may be submitted to Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, ODFW Director's Office, 3406 Cherry Ave. N.E., Salem, OR 97303.

*Rules adopted to address agricultural damage in southwest Oregon

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Thursday adopted rules to implement a pilot project in southwest Oregon to allow landowners to better address agricultural damage from elk through the more flexible use of landowner preference harvest tags.

The Oregon Legislature adopted a bill during the 2003 session that directed the Commission to implement the pilot project.

The pilot project will occur on private lands in Jackson, Josephine, Coos, Curry and Douglas counties July 1, 2004 - June 30, 2008. The new rules:
· Provide landowner preference tags to landowners where elk are currently causing damage, where there has been a history of damage coupled with actions to alleviate elk damage or where elk are located in an "elk de-emphasis zone;"
· Limits the use of tags to taking antlerless elk;
· Requires recipients of extra landowner preference tags to be an individual, partnership, corporation, unincorporated association or other non-governmental entity;
· Allows qualifying landowners to exchange unused general season elk tags or controlled hunt tags for landowner preference tags;
· Allows no more than five pilot program tags to be valid at any time on a particular property;
· Allows landowners to receive pilot program tags regardless of the size of the property;
· Allows landowners to register and participate in the program at any time;
· Allows the ODFW district biologist and the landowner to negotiate the valid time period for the pilot program tags;
· Requires landowners to submit a harvest report within 10 days of the end of the valid hunt period;
· Allows ODFW district biologists to issue and exchange tags; and
· Directs ODFW to establish an advisory committee to meet annually and review the pilot program.

The existing landowner preference program was established in 1981 to allow landowners to obtain harvest tags to hunt on their own land for a period of no more than 30 days. Landowners with 40 or more acres may be allocated landowner preference tags. The more acreage owned, the more tags may be allocated up to a maximum of 10 tags. The existing program does not allow some landowners to effectively address agricultural damage, especially in areas characterized by small plots of land.

Pete Test, ODFW's deer and elk program coordinator, said the pilot project is intended to be less time consuming for landowners, reduce staff workload, allow landowners to address damage situations with hunters they know, demonstrate ODFW's commitment to solving private land damage, increase public access to elk through landowner preference tags and redistribution of animals, and reduce or eliminate some damage hunts.

The Commission requested ODFW staff report back on the results of the program.

*Commission amends rules for private hunting preserves

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Thursday adopted permanent rules to reduce the required distance between private hunting preserves to one-half mile from the previous three miles.

The change was made as a result of an amendment to state statutes earlier this year. Previously, the statutorily-required distance was three miles.

*Options for Upper Deschutes Basin Fish Management Plan Presented

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission heard options Friday for future fish management in the upper Deschutes Basin that promote restoration of historic anadromous runs of summer steelhead, spring chinook, sockeye, Pacific lamprey and bull trout. A decision on the options that will amend existing basin plans will occur Dec. 12.

Restoration of anadromous fish runs is based on the assumption that fish passage will be provided at Pelton and Round Butte dams as a result of requirements associated with federal relicensing of the hydroelectric project.

The desired result is to restore sustainable populations of anadromous fish in their historic range consistent with Oregon's Native Fish Conservation Policy and the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds. Construction of dams in the Deschutes Basin reduced the ability of juvenile fish to migrate downstream and led to the loss of anadromous runs in the upper Deschutes Basin.

The following alternatives are being considered:
· For summer steelhead and spring chinook, either pass naturally-produced adults of any origin above Round Butte Dam, or pass only those that are identified as Deschutes Basin stock. The selective passage option reduces risk of two diseases present in other Columbia River tributaries.
· For sockeye salmon, options include selective adult passage and hatchery supplementation into the Metolius River headwaters of Suttle Lake and Link Creek, selective adult passage with hatchery supplementation into the Metolius River, or non-selective adult passage with no hatchery program.
· For bull trout, selectively pass Deschutes River-origin stock to reconnect the upper and lower Deschutes River populations.
· For Pacific lamprey, pass stock to upper basin only when lower basin populations meet conservation objectives.

ODFW staff recommends selective passage for summer steelhead and spring chinook, selective passage into the Metolius for sockeye salmon, selective passage for bull trout and non-selective passage for Pacific lamprey.

The draft alternatives are available on ODFW's Web site at: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/ODFWhtml/InfoCntrFish/PDFs/des_plan.pdf .

*Commission Amends Rules Governing Marine Commercial Fisheries

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Friday amended rules governing commercial herring fisheries and the Developmental Fishery Program.

The adopted rules for the Yaquina Bay herring roe - or egg - fishery establish a yearly harvest quota process, clarify fishing gear descriptions, revise the season start date, clarify permit eligibility, clarify the permit lottery and establish a method to quantify the harvest of eggs from kelp beds. The new rules also provide for an incidental catch of juvenile shad during the herring baitfish fishery.
The newly adopted rules for the Developmental Fishery Program eliminate the need for a permit for commercial marine harvest of saury, smelt, slender sole, sandfish, pomfret, ocean cockles, fragile urchins, sea cucumbers and squid; adjust commercial harvest requirements for permit renewals for hagfish and sardine; require submission of a harvest logbook for permit renewal under the Developmental Fishery Program; move brine shrimp from the developmental fishery list to a limited entry fishery; remove nearshore groundfish species from the developmental fisheries list and establish a permit lottery; and remove krill from the developmental fisheries list.

*In addition, the Commission, permanently repealed fish disease rules consistent with the new fish health rules and approved $534,554 in expenditures for seven projects under the fish Restoration and Enhancement Program.

In other action, the Commission received informational briefings on:
· ODFW regional fish and wildlife programs and events in October;
· Mountain quail restoration program;
· Results of two meetings by an advisory committee to recommend trap check requirements for predatory animals;
· 2004 black tailed deer seasons;
· Draft management plan for bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goat in preparation for adoption in December; and
· Received a briefing on ongoing negotiations for a settlement agreement for the relicensing of Portland General Electric's hydropower facility at Willamette Falls.

Information and Education Division
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
(503) 947-6002
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