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Chinook season: Salmon restorations fuel large tribal industry


FISHERS Jordan Wheeler (right) and Jordyn Brigham (left) harvest fall chinook from nets along the Columbia River.

Submitted photo
FISHERS Jordan Wheeler (right) and Jordyn Brigham (left) harvest fall chinook from nets along the Columbia River.

Fishers from the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Yakama tribes took to the Columbia River this week for the opening of the 2016 fall fishery, the largest tribal fishery of the year.

With an estimated 778,000 upriver chinook returning during the fall run, tribal fishers could harvest over 200,000 fall chinook throughout the season, representing roughly 3.4 million pounds of salmon in the marketplace.

The growth of the fall fishery over the years is the direct result of tribal restoration efforts that have steadily increased the number of adult salmon returning to the Columbia River system, according to a press release from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC).

The public will be able to enjoy this harvest through a number of different avenues. The majority of tribal commercial harvest will be sold to wholesale fish dealers, which ends up in stores and restaurants throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Individuals will also be able to purchase salmon, steelhead, and coho directly from Indian fishers at locations along the river and at select farmers’ markets in larger metro areas. Sales should last into October with peak abundance from just before Labor Day through mid-September.

In addition to the 778,000 fall chinook that are destined for areas upstream of Bonneville Dam, fishery managers are also predicting over 149,000 summer steelhead, 19,700 natural-origin Snake River fall chinook, and nearly 200,000 coho.

“The fall harvest represents many things to the tribal fishers along the Columbia River,” said Patrick Luke, CRITFC chairman.

“The fall fishery is the economic backbone for our fishing communities, is the continuation of knowledge and tradition that has been passed down through generations, and represents decades of hard work and dedication to rebuilding salmon runs. The unique relationship between the tribes and salmon is one that can be traced back to time immemorial. That relationship is why the tribes will always fight for healthy salmon runs and to ensure that sustainable fish returns will continue to bless the Columbia River basin and its residents.”

The tribal fishery offers a supply of fish for the public through over-the-bank sales. Sale locations include Marine Park in Cascade Locks; North Bonneville, one mile east of Bonneville Dam on the Washington shore; Koberg, just east of Hood River; and Celilo Village.

Visit CRITFC’s salmon marketing website www. critfc.org/harvest or call 1-888- 289-1855 before heading up the Columbia River.

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