Misunderstanding Selectivity in Salmon Management

There has been much public dialog about "selective" fishing methods, and at least as much confusion. This is an attempt to clarify and define selectivity, and to relate it directly to the needs of salmon.

The key is to understand that selectivity does not exist in a vacuum, but that it is a part of assuring the health of wild salmon within the self-sustaining nature of the resource. For this to be possible, the focus needs to be on SELECTIVE RESULT rather than on the mechanics of any particular gear type.

Contents:

What is SELECTIVE RESULT?
How can a SELECTIVE RESULT be achieved with a gear type that kills fish? What contributes to SELECTIVE RESULT?
How will SELECTIVE RESULT help prevent endangered salmon from going extinct?
What interferes with SELECTIVE RESULT?
What are the saltwater Gear Types used for salmon in Washington State?
Can a SELECTIVE RESULT be achieved with hook and line?
Can a SELECTIVE RESULT be achieved with nets?
What is ALLOCATION?
What gear types have the most SELECTIVE RESULT?
How does hooking mortality affect SELECTIVE RESULT?

 

What is SELECTIVE RESULT?

With salmon, it is simply the arrival on the spawning beds of sufficient spawning fish to generate and sustain healthy runs. In other words, if all the fish that need to are getting the opportunity to produce plentiful offspring, the harvest of excess fish has achieved a SELECTIVE RESULT.

This is the primary goal of good harvest management. Hence, SELECTIVE RESULT, not whether an individual fish can survive a hook through an eye or capture in a net, needs to be the measure of selectivity.

 

How can a SELECTIVE RESULT be achieved with a gear type that kills fish?

Any harvest of fish kills them, regardless of the method. SELECTIVE RESULT therefore looks not at the fish that have been harvested, but at those that actually return to spawn for each run. In this way, management can focus on the real business of sustaining and rebuilding runs.

 

What contributes to SELECTIVE RESULT?

Factors contributing to the SELECTIVE RESULT of the various gear types include:

 

How will SELECTIVE RESULT help prevent endangered salmon from going extinct?

SELECTIVE RESULT is not a method, but a measure of the success of management strategies. When we count too few spawning Snake River sockeye or Nooksack spring chinook, which are threatened or endangered, we know that management measures designed to prevent any significant harvest of these fish must be utilized. The measures can include area closures or restrictions on fishing in areas of known interaction with these races of salmon, or during times when these fish might be present.

In the case of endangered sockeye, perhaps only net fisheries would be affected since sockeye are rarely caught by hook-and-line gear. And hook-and-line closures could be necessary when Nooksack kings are present.

 

What interferes with SELECTIVE RESULT?

Salmon management is not an exact science. Therefore, there is always a risk that management decisions will not be perfect. Among the risks that could negatively impact SELECTIVE RESULT are:

 

What are the saltwater Gear Types used for salmon in Washington State?

Recreational gear:

Commercial gear:

 

Can a SELECTIVE RESULT be achieved with hook and line?

Absolutely, as long as hook and line fisheries operate at times and places where stocks needing protection will not inadvertently be harvested along with targeted fish from healthy runs. Reliance on releasing fish needing protection can undermine SELECTIVE RESULT because of the high rate of mortality due to hooking damage, stress, and exhaustion.

 

Can a SELECTIVE RESULT be achieved with nets?

Absolutely, as long as the net fisheries operate at times and places where stocks needing protection will not inadvertently be harvested along with fish from healthy runs. Since live release from net gear is not always possible, it is important that time and area management be linked with specific gear requirements that further reduce the possibility of unwanted catch. For example, mandating specific mesh sizes for gillnets assures that fish smaller than those targeted will just swim through the net, and those too large will not become entangled.

 

What is ALLOCATION?

In Puget Sound, allocation is several things:

 1) Judge George Boldt's 1974 decision, based on old treaties, was vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1979. This same Supreme Court decision established a sharing formula that allocates up to 50% of harvestable salmon to Indians, and at least 50% to non-Indians.

 2) There is de facto allocation of the non-Indian share of harvestable salmon between recreational and commercial fishers. Except for some small hatchery runs, most coho and chinook salmon have been taken by sport anglers, and most sockeye, pink, and chum salmon by commercial fishermen;

 3) There are allocation agreements between commercial gear groups designed to assure that each takes close to its historic proportion of the commercial share each year.

Similar allocations exist in many other Washington waters, varying in their specifics pursuant to court decisions and other agreements. Though required, allocation sometimes undermines SELECTIVE RESULT by imposing legal rather than resource constraints on harvest managers.

 

What gear types have the most SELECTIVE RESULT?

Surprisingly to many, an event in 1997 demonstrated that drift gillnets and reefnet gear had the most SELECTIVE RESULT when an unusual abundance of Fraser River chinook showed up during the Strait of Georgia sockeye fishery. Non-Indian seine boats had the next most SELECTIVE RESULT, followed by Indian gillnets and seines and by sport anglers. Management actions could have reduced the chinook harvest had the State so desired.

 

How does hooking mortality affect SELECTIVE RESULT?

A salmon that has been injured by a hook, then handled and released, may die. Recent Canadian research suggests that the probability of mortality is near 25% for each encounter. Multiple encounters with the same fish were not studied. Other studies have come up with numbers that are both higher and lower. A salmon that dies in saltwater is not lost to the ecosystem -- it feeds micro-organisms, crabs, and other critters, nourishing them. But if it was a salmon from a depressed run, it's loss negatively impacts SELECTIVE RESULT.

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