NOAA 2002-R139
Contact: Brian Gorman
9 /5/02
NOAA News Releases 2002
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Salmon fishery managers at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are asking for comments on a draft environmental impact statement released this week that aims at improving how salmon harvests will be carried out in the United States from Alaska to the Mexican border.

The 225-page draft document integrates management of virtually all salmon harvests on the West Coast. This includes the southeast coast of Alaska, the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California and the Columbia River basin. It encompasses sport, commercial and Indian tribal harvests, as well as those salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act and those not listed.

“This is a comprehensive draft plan that looks at a wide range of alternatives for managing salmon harvests in one of the most complex and highly regulated fisheries in the U.S.,” said Peter Dygert, a biologist with the region’s sustainable fisheries division in Seattle. “It’s an enormous undertaking.”

The draft plan had to take into consideration more than two dozen declining populations of salmon or steelhead listened under the Endangered Species Act protection as well as more than 20 that are considered relatively healthy.

Dygert said the causes for the decline of Pacific salmon stocks go beyond harvest, and an understanding of all the effects of harvesting and fisheries management is critical to designing effective, successful programs that will get the populations back to healthy levels.

Generally salmon fishery management plans are developed annually to meet the needs of commercial, sport and tribal fishermen and to reflect the year-to-year fluctuations in stock abundance. Annual management plans for West Coast ocean fisheries are drawn up by regional fishery management councils and submitted to NOAA Fisheries for its approval. NOAA Fisheries, in turn, has to balance fishermen’s needs, its legal obligation to protect the stocks and to maximize the long-term benefits of the resource, and its trust obligations to treaty Indian tribes.

The new draft examines a variety of ways to balance these sometimes conflicting interests and obligations in ways that could improve how salmon harvests are managed. Any changes that are finally developed would be programmatic in nature and thus would not vary from year to year.

Copies of the draft can be obtained by writing to Bill Robinson, NMFS/Sustainable Fisheries Division, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle WA 98115. The draft can also be found at Comments on the draft must be received by October 22 and can be sent to the same address.

NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation’s living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat.

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