Although treaties guarantee the Yakama, Nez
Perce, Umatilla and Warm Springs tribes the right to harvest
salmon, contentious negotiations over just how many fish will come
out of the river often end up in front of a judge (HCN, 12/20/99:
Tribes cast for tradition, catch controversy). That's about to
change. In February, tribes and states agreed to a new system under
which the annual tribal take is based on a sliding scale that
adjusts to predicted wild salmon returns.
tribes say they welcome the chance to base their harvest on hard
numbers rather than pay for expensive litigation. "We're being
responsive to the needs of the fish," says Charles Hudson of the
Columbia River Inter-Tribal Commission. "This abundance-based
approach was long overdue in the Columbia Basin."
This year, the tribal take will draw from the
largest run of spring chinook since the Bonneville Dam was built in
1938. This concerns Tom Karier of the Northwest Power Planning
Council, who says the agreement doesn't go far enough to encourage
the harvest of hatchery fish over wild populations. "You've got to
increase survival where you can," he says.
Nicole Cordan of Save Our Wild Salmon says, "You can't solve the
salmon crisis by cutting out harvest." According to the Oregon Fish
and Wildlife Service, salmon harvest accounts for less than 10
percent of salmon mortality. Many environmentalists say the number
of deaths that occur as salmon navigate the dams of the Columbia
River hydrosystem is more significant.
harvest system will remain in place until 2003, when the tribes and
states release a fisheries plan to replace the Columbia River Fish
Management Plan, which expired in 1999.