Partnerships for a Common Purpose: Cooperative Fisheries Research and Management

Making Cooperative Research Work: The Columbia River Fisheries Management Experience

Mike A. Matyelwich

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569858.ch22

Adult returns of salmon Oncorhynchus spp. and steelhead O. mykiss to the Columbia River basin in the predevelopment era are estimated at 11–16 million (NPPC 1986). In 1995, adult returns hit a low of 672,000 (ODFW and WDFW 2002). Recent returns are 2–3 million annually. Many factors contributed to the decline, including hydropower development, irrigation, agriculture, forestry, urbanization, and fishing. The challenge today is managing a resource subject to continued development pressures. In the last several decades, fisheries managers have incorporated advances in data gathering to provide policy makers with an improved basis for making decisions.

The fisheries management process in the Columbia River changed significantly in 1969 when a group of tribal members sued the state of Oregon in federal court over fishing regulations (SoHappy v. Smith 1969). The case, which was consolidated with United States v. Oregon 1969, established and quantified the treaty fishing right. The legal framework resulted in establishing the treaty tribes as comanagers of the resource. The first fish management plan under court jurisdiction was completed in 1977. The focus of the 1977 plan, also referred to as the Five-Year Plan, was allocation of in-river fishing. The 1977 plan also created the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) as a forum for the parties to develop and analyze biological information. The parties agreed to “diligently pursue and promote, through cooperative efforts, upriver maintenance of fish habitat and hatchery rearing programs,” but did not include specific actions. When the 1977 plan expired in 1982, the United States v. Oregon parties began negotiating a successor plan.

Significant new information on the ocean distribution of salmon became available with the implementation of the coast-wide coded-wire-tag (cwt) program in the late 1970s. The system required the cooperation of agencies all along the Pacific coast to provide release and recovery data. The information allowed fisheries managers to quantify the contribution of tagged groups to ocean fisheries. The allocation discussions expanded to include the effects of ocean fisheries. The tribes sued the Secretary of Commerce each year from 1979 to 1982 (Yakima v. Baldridge1985) over ocean fishing regulations that did not provide for adequate inside/outside allocation.