In its continuing goal to recover salmon, the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association is pleased with the review released by the Independent Scientific Advisory Board of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. It reviewed the Proposed test of expanded spill supported by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), the Nez Perce Tribe (NPT), the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), NSIA, environmental and fishing groups, and individuals calling for a ten-year spill test to see the effect on salmon recovery.

“Today is a great day for salmon and all of the businesses that are dependent on them,” said Liz Hamilton, executive director of the NSIA. “We are convinced increasing spill has the potential to double salmon runs headed to Idaho, and are encouraged that the ISAB’s recommendations will strengthen the test and answer some of the most important questions surrounding salmon recovery in the basin.”

The ISAB’s review came after the state of Oregon recommended an experimental spill program be included in the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s 2014 Fish and Wildlife Program. The proposal was based on the findings of state, federal and tribal scientists that indicate an expansion of spill could dramatically increase salmon survival rates in the Columbia basin.

Hamilton expects the Council will instruct the ISAB to work with the scientists from the Comparative Survival Study (CSS) to more fully flesh out the experimental design to move quickly into implementation.

Last September NSIA filed comments that urged the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to do the spill test as well as conduct an economic impact study of salmon from the Columbia Basin on the regional economy.

NSIA has been deeply involved in Columbia River salmon recovery since the mid-1990s and with today’s report, Hamilton said she feels a robust spill test will help settle the long-standing debates surrounding the benefits of spill. She also expressed her optimism that an increase of spill to appropriate levels has the potential to recover fish runs to levels outlined in the Council’s Fish and Wildlife Plan, keep dams in place and not impact farmers.

“The bottom line is that we know that spill improves salmon runs. The fish have been talking to us, the question is, are we going to listen?” Hamilton said. “With the ISAB’s recommendations for a more robust spill test, we have a very good shot at having salmon management policy being set by facts instead of performance standards that do not measure smolt-to-adult ratios. By doing the spill test, conducting an economic study and continuing the coded-wire tag program, we can manage the Columbia system in a way where we can balance the needs of the Bonneville Power Administration and the fish. We are hopeful that this recommendation could lead to a win-win-win situation for all involved.”

Hamilton also noted that all of the assumptions and models used by BPA, the Corps, and NOAA would benefit from the same robust scientific review that has been applied to the CSS and spill test design.

Last September the NSIA filed with the council several concerns, which are listed below:

  • Adopt testing methods to test increased levels of spill in the spring to achieve better, more reliable survival of smolts passing through the hydro system.
  • Conduct an economic impact study on the benefits of fishing activities in the Columbia basin. This would help drive policy that balances the economics of the issue with the science.
  • Continue funding SAFE areas in the lower Columbia to benefit wild stocks when providing enhanced economic utilization of hatchery fish. • Continue supporting the coded-wire tag program to give data for run forecasting and harvest management.

“We feel that all of these issues are important to find common-ground solutions based in fact,” Hamilton said. “We expect that the Council will direct the ISAB to work with the CSS scientists on a spill test for their 2014 Fish and Wildlife Program. NSIA will continue to work hard to be a part of the solution to these very complex and difficult issues.”

Logo courtesy Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association

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