Salmon and Steelhead Fisheries on the West Coast
Pacific salmon and steelhead fisheries provide for commercial, recreational, and tribal harvest in ocean and inland waters of the West Coast.
Pacific salmon and steelhead fisheries provide for commercial, recreational, and tribal harvest in ocean and inland waters of the West Coast. The broad geographic range and migration route of salmon and steelhead, from the inland tributaries of Idaho to offshore areas of Alaska and Canada, requires comprehensive management by several entities.
NOAA Fisheries works in cooperation with federal, state, tribal, and Canadian officials to manage these fisheries through several forums.
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Pacific Salmon Commission
Salmon migrate through a broad geographic range along the Pacific coast of North America from Alaska to California. Therefore, the United States and Canadian governments work with tribes, states, and sport and commercial fishing groups to provide for shared conservation and harvest objectives. These proceedings are guided by the 1985 Pacific Salmon Treaty and implemented through the Pacific Salmon Commission. Provisions of the Treaty, particularly those that describe fishing regimes, are modified periodically. The fishing regimes are described in detail in several chapters of Annex IV of the Treaty. The current agreement applies to fisheries from 2009 through 2018, except for the chapter that applies to Fraser River sockeye and pink salmon, which extends through 2013.
The Commission does not regulate salmon fisheries, but instead provides regulatory recommendations and a forum through which the two countries are able to reach mutually beneficial agreements. The U.S. and Canadian governments provide technical information to the Commission on the conduct of its fisheries, pre-season expectations, and enhancement activities. From here, the Commission analyzes the data through its bilateral technical committees which then report to panels that develop recommendations. The recommendations are transmitted to the U.S. and Canadian governments for final approval and regulatory implementation.
NOAA Fisheries is the U.S. agency that reviews the recommendations and approves them through its regulatory channels under the Endangered Species Act and Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. NOAA Fisheries reviewed and approved the current Treaty Agreement for compliance with the Endangered Species Act (see NOAA Fisheries' review). Provisions that apply to areas off Washington, Oregon, and California coasts are subject to terms of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and regulated by the Pacific Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries.
Pacific Fishery Management Council
The Pacific Fishery Management Council sets annual fisheries for Chinook, coho, and pink salmon in federal waters from three to 200 miles off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. The Council manages these fisheries subject to the terms of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Chinook and coho salmon are the primary species managed by the Council because sockeye salmon, chum salmon, and steelhead are rarely caught in ocean fisheries. The Council also manages certain pink salmon fisheries near the Canadian border.
The Council-managed salmon fisheries provide for commercial, recreational, and tribal harvest. The Council's Salmon Fishery Management Plan describes conservation and allocation objectives for the fishery, and procedures for developing and implementing annual fishing regimes. The plan seeks to allocate harvest among the different groups, providing for both ocean and inland harvest, and advances key conservation objectives to ensure spawners from each stock reach their natal streams to reproduce.
Each year, the Council develops recommendations for management of the ocean fisheries. Following the release of reports documenting the previous season and estimating salmon abundance for the upcoming season, the Council holds a series of public meetings and proposes season alternatives by March. Public hearings are held on these alternatives and the Council adopts recommendations in April. The recommendations are submitted to NOAA Fisheries, which then implements the actions through its regulatory channels under the Endangered Species Act and Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The regulations are in effect from May 1 through April 30 of the following year.
Learn more about Salmon Fisheries Management for:
- Coastal bay and tributary fisheries;
- Ocean fisheries north of Cape Falcon, Oregon; and
- Fisheries for lower Columbia River Chinook salmon tules
Columbia River Compact
In 1918, the U.S. Congress ratified a compact between Oregon and Washington covering concurrent jurisdiction of Columbia River fisheries. The Columbia River Compact comprises the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission (WFWC) and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission (OFWC). In recent years, the commissions have delegated decision-making authority to the state fish and wildlife agency’s director or designee. Periodic hearings to adopt or review seasonal commercial regulations are held just before major fishing seasons to consider current information and establish season dates and gear restrictions. Additional hearings are held in-season when updated information concerning run size, attainment of escapement goals, or catch guidelines indicates a need to adjust the season.
The Compact jurisdiction includes the Columbia River from the mouth to just upstream of McNary Dam. The Compact sets fishing seasons in the non-Indian commercial Zones 1-5 (Mouth to Bonneville Dam) and in the treaty Indian commercial area Zone 6 (Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam).
- Ocean Salmon Fisheries
- Puget Sound Salmon and Steelhead Fisheries
- Columbia River Basin Salmon and Steelhead Fisheries
- Saltwater Recreational Fisheries
- NEPA Reviews for Salmon and Steelhead Fisheries on the West Coast
- Federal Register Rules and Notices | prior to 2019
- Salmon & Steelhead Hatchery and Fishery Authorization Process
- FAQs on Salmon Overfishing Determinations
- Southern Resident Killer Whales & Salmon
- Viability Risk Assessment Procedure & Rebuilding Exploitation Rates
- Federal Register: Final Rule 2022 Annual Salmon Management Measures
- Prohibition on Directed Fishing for Unfished Forage Fish
- 2023 Salmon Fishing Regulations Booklet - September 2023