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Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
For immediate release
Monday, September 16, 2003
Kathy Shinn (503) 657-2000 x285 or
Hal Weeks (541) 867-0300 x279
Coastal Anglers May Find Fall Chinook with Tags, Transmitters
Beginning in September, anglers fishing in several coastal rivers may
see marked chinook salmon with a small hole in their gill covers and a
few with radio transmitters. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is
continuing a multi-year study on fall chinook salmon in several Oregon
coastal watersheds to meet the state’s obligation under the
U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty.
Anglers may harvest a fish having an external mark such as a finclip
or hole punched in the gill covering, but must release a fish
containing a radio tag. Fish with an antenna protruding from its mouth
or body identifies it as a radio-tagged fish.
“One of several field components of the fall chinook study is to
live-capture and mark incoming Chinook in the lower Nehalem, Siuslaw,
Umpqua and Coquille rivers at night, when fish are on the move,” said
Hal Weeks, field project leader overseeing the study. “We don’t want
people to be alarmed when they see us working with lights on these
rivers at night.” Marking allows researchers to more accurately
determine the numbers of spawning adults.
“We take particular care to handle each fish carefully," said Weeks.
"We use live wells and artificial slime to minimize the stress of
handling. In the Nehalem River, we use a recovery box that provides
the fish equivalent of CPR when waters are warm. Most importantly, we
handle the fish quickly and gently, and return them to the river as
rapidly as possible, often in less than a minute,” Weeks explained.
Species management units that are classified “at risk” will be given
priority status for development of a conservation plan under the
Native Fish Conservation Policy. “At risk” populations do not meet at
least three of the adopted interim criteria:
Upriver, information on marked and unmarked Chinook is recorded by
crews finding carcasses in standard and randomly selected survey
reaches after the fish have spawned in the rivers from September into
December. “In the Umpqua River, we’re also using radio telemetry to
track fish movement and get an idea of what fraction of the Chinook
use which portions of the river system," Weeks said. In the Nehalem
and Umpqua rivers, crews also conduct creel surveys to better estimate
recreational harvest levels.
“Our longer term goal is to identify a spawning survey index that will
reliably track spawner numbers in each river and to calibrate our
angler harvest-card information,” Weeks said. "Spawning ground surveys
are much less expensive than mark-recapture studies, and understanding
the reliability of angler harvest cards is less expensive than creel
surveys. However, stock sizes vary from year to year due to climate
and regional effects such as habitat alteration and floods. In
addition, weather conditions influence survey effectiveness, so we are
trying to get a handle on many variables all at once,” he added.
Most north-migrating Oregon fall Chinook of the north and middle coast
are harvested by commercial and sport fisheries off British Columbia
and Alaska that are managed by the Pacific Salmon Commission. This
project will help ODFW to meet its goals under the PST to accurately
report spawning abundance and recreational harvest information in an
economical and efficient way.
The project also helps ODFW contribute to the salmon restoration goals
of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds. Surveyors check each
fish for predator marks, and monitoring helps biologists understand if
the areas of a river used by Chinook are changing. "We’re working with
coastal watershed councils and local citizen groups who are actively
involved with the Oregon plan, and we encourage the public to ask
questions about the study," said Weeks.
Federal funding made available following Treaty amendments in 1999
makes it possible for ODFW to collect necessary information. So far,
the study has documented increasing numbers of fall Chinook in the
four basins under study. Progress reports from each of the several
basins are available at the ODFW Marine Resources Program Web site athttp://www.hmsc.oregonstate.edu/odfw/.
For more information about a particular marked fish or the research
project, contact Hal Weeks at ODFW’s Marine Resources Program office
in Newport at 541.867.0300 ext 279, or at
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