Salmon fishing season in the lower Columbia River was closed a week ago, prompting people to demand more action to save the fish.
Bob Rees, Executive Director of the Northwest Association of Guides and Fishermensaid the April 6 shutdown directly impacts rural communities in Washington and Oregon.
“The industry that sustains us and our families truly represents one of the greatest transfers of wealth from urban communities to rural communities,” he said. “Most of our clientele are from the city. They want to get out and enjoy those beautiful rural landscapes along the lower Columbia River and have a chance at finding one of those precious salmon.”
Many rural communities are still recovering from the pandemic. Rees noted that at this time of year, sport fishing typically represents the only source of tourism for communities along the Columbia.
As salmon travel up the Columbia to Idaho to spawn, Rees said, four lower dams on the Snake River in southeastern Washington state turn the river into a series of warm water reservoirs that have reduces the number of wild salmon to a few hundred in some years. This, in turn, reduces the number of meaningful fishing days people get.
“Even though we’re only targeting hatchery fish,” he said, “the number of wild fish returning to those spawning grounds directly dictates what our opportunity is to catch those hatchery fish.”
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said they will have an action plan to replace the four lower Snake River dams by July. Rees said it was the most encouraging movement he’s seen working on this issue in the past two decades, but he warned that solutions will have to come quickly if salmon species are to survive in the region.
“These fish aren’t two decades old yet,” he said, “so it has to be something meaningful, and it has to have the support of other elected delegates in the Pacific Northwest. ”
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