Ooops, I didn't mean to catch that one! NOAA permits Washington State anglers to take listed salmon species.
In June 2008, NOAA issued an incidental take permit to the State of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). By its terms, the permit "authorized incidental take of endangered Upper Columbia River (UCR) spring Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), endangered UCR steelhead (0. mykiss), threatened Middle Columbia River (MCR) steelhead, and threatened Snake River fall Chinook salmon while implementing the State of Washington's recreational fisheries programs as cited in the permit application with addendum."
Photo of salmon smolts from NOAA.
Valid for 10 years, and with specific numeric limitations of the numbers of each listed species that can be taken, the permit allows the take of endangered and threatened species through recreational fishing, but requires salmon run monitoring, catch limits, gear restrictions, seasonal limitations, law enforcement, public education, and annual reports.
KEITHINKING: The permit resolves one of the tensions created by the ESA's rigid prohibitions. In theory, a fisherman who accidently catches an endangered salmon species just violated the ESA. Rather than try to enforce such absurdities, the permit eliminates any potential concerns over legal wrongdoing, while also ensuring, as a practical matter, that NOAA and Washington State coordinate their efforts to improve recreational fishery management in the Pacific Northwest to the benefit of salmonid species. Seems like common sense to me.
NOAA's Issuance of the permit also required NOAA to complete a biological opinion, in which the agency assessed the consequences, and benefits, of the permit. Acknowledging the potential adverse impacts to species, the BiOp explains that: "The vast majority (90%) of the listed fish encountered in any of the fisheries would be captured-and-released and are expected to survive with no long-term effects. Additionally, in most cases, the take would occur in locations that would not target a single population within an (Evoluntarily Significant Unit) or Distinct Population Segment (DPS). Approximately six Upper Columbia River spring Chinook salmon, 37 natural-origin (186 total) Upper Columbia River steelhead, eight Snake River fall Chinook salmon, and five Middle Columbia River steelhead would be killed annually during the implementation of ten recreational fisheries in the middle and upper Columbia River basin. Thus, all the fisheries impacts taken together would have some negative impacts to the ESUs/DPS affected and some may in a small way impact critical habitat." On the other hand, the BiOp also discussed the potential benefits of the permit and accompanying programs, especially the efforts by Washington State to control hatchery fish, and found that these benefits were . The WDFW has a great deal of experience implementing these fisheries (the Entiat River fishery is an exception) and there is a high level of confidence in analyzing the effects of those fisheries. Additionally, as is the case with at least two of the proposed fisheries (those associated with the Leavenworth and Entiat NFH programs) potential benefits to the population’s diversity may be derived from the decrease in stray Carson-stock hatchery origin fish. Reduction in the number of non-listed species competing for similar limited resources would also be a benefit to listed fish. The amount of benefit would vary by ESU or DPS, but it could be significant over time." Ultimately, the BiOp concluded that "issuance of the permit 1554, as proposed, is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of endangered UCR spring Chinook salmon, endangered UCR steelhead, threatened MCR steelhead, or threatened SR fall Chinook salmon, nor destroy nor adversely modify any critical habitat."
FOR ADDITIONAL RESOURCES on salmonid species in the Pacific Northwest, visit the NOAA Northwest Regional Office