Recent Public Testimony

Testimony to ODFW Commission • January 10, 2014 • Salem, OR

Chair Levy, Members of the Commission,

For the record my name is Bruce Polley from Sherwood Oregon and I am speaking on behalf of the Coastal Conservation Association of Oregon.

While a number of the issues I plan to discuss today will be addressed at  the February meeting, we would like the opportunity to begin the discussion with you between now and then.

Last year Governor Kitzhaber, this commission, and the WDFW Commission took a bold step in reforming the management of Lower Columbia Fisheries to benefit both commercial and recreational fisheries and to focus on sustainable policies to improve fisheries and better protect our vital fish resources.  We thank you again for your vision and courage in making these needed reforms.

We believe it is apparent that sport fishers have "paid forward" in many different aspects of this policy to show our commitment to the future of our fisheries.  Many sport fishers feel like they are bearing the brunt of the reforms thus far, with uncertain future benefits.  However, CCA believes that along with ODFW we share the same goal of showing the positive benefits of these policies to recreational anglers who are critical to the success of these reforms.

Doing a better job talking about the positive changes coming for recreational fisheries and providing  some common sense relief and consideration to sport fishers will help accomplish this goal.  Here are a few aspects we ask the commission to consider.

Barbless hooks on the Willamette:  During the bi-state work group process it was apparent that WDFW wanted barbless hooks on the Columbia River.  CCA's position was that "if a mortality benefit exists by switching to barbless, show the benefit and apply it to the release mortality rates assigned to sport catch and release". 

Unfortunately, we have seen no reduction in the release mortality rates assigned to recreational fisheries as ODFW study results from spring Chinook do not show a mortality benefit.  ODFW's records show that on the Willamette River anglers spend as much as 30-35 angler hours to land a Spring Chinook.  A run of fish that is around 85% hatchery origin.

We would ask the Commission to consider removing the barbless hook requirement on the Willamette River only, which can be accomplished irrespective of any decision related to the Columbia.

The Young's Bay Closure Zone:  We see this closure zone as another "pay forward" of loss of fishing opportunity before any benefit is realized to sport anglers.

ODFW staff has had widely varied estimates of how many additional Select Area Brights (SABs) will pass into the terminal fishing areas if this closure were to be made.  From a low of 9% to a high of 35%.  It is a fact that that those SABs are currently caught by both sport and commercial fishers all over the lower Columbia Estuary.  No one can tell you definitively how many more will be passed through by imposing this closure.

Recreational anglers are now being required to pay a fee that pays for increased production of these very fish they are being restricted from fishing for. 

We understand that the Young's Bay Closure was inserted into SB-830 at the end of legislative session to foster commercial support of the new policies.  But that support has never come.

We ask the Commission to consider adopting the closed area, but not "implementing" it until 2016.   Further into the transition period when the commercial harvest of these fish becomes more necessary in the transition plan.

Another option would be to make an additional small increase (7-9%) of these SABs so that the real goal of the reforms can be realized.  Increased sport AND commercial harvest.  Under "adaptive management" the Commission can remove the closed area once the increased production is realized. (2017)

Sport fishing enhancement:  The sport fishing side has transferred smolts to the terminal areas, are paying additional fees, took on gear changes with no mortality rate adjustment, and now are being asked to not fish in a popular area of the Columbia River.

Most of the considerations thus far have been focused on improving fisheries for the commercial fishing sector.

We have begun conversations with staff and would ask the commission to support some projects that are designed to specifically benefit sport fishers.  New production for sport terminal fisheries similar to what we have had before, and have been successful in other states.

Some projects that would create an opportunity for public/private cooperation to produce more fish designated for sport harvest.  Similar to the terminal fisheries for the commercial sector, in areas not sensitive to wild fish impacts where sport fishers can clearly see fishery enhancement benefits  as well.

This may require some work during the next budget and would be a great opportunity to work together to provide more fishing opportunity and the resulting increases in tag and license sales to fund the agency and the future of our state's fisheries.

We ask the Commission to encourage staff to begin exploring some sport fishing enhancement opportunities.

White Sturgeon:  CCA has been front and center in front of both Commissions regarding the alarming decline of White Sturgeon in the Columbia River system.  We were there in Seaside when both states agreed it was time to stop harvesting these fish until populations increase across all age classes.  We were there in Portland a year ago December when the Commission allowed "one last year" of transition to no harvest.  We have submitted written testimony from our counterparts in Washington  that reinforce it is time to let these fish recover and increase in a meaningful way before limited take is considered again.

We ask the Commission to not reverse itself by allowing harvest of White Sturgeon in the Lower Columbia River system in 2014.

We would be happy to provide more detail and supporting information between now and the February 7th meeting for your review and consideration.

Kind Regards,

Bruce Polley

Chair/Government Relations/CCA-OR