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200723000 - Selective Gear Demonstration Project: Reef Net Fishing Gear for Lower Columbia River Commercial Salmon Fishery

Sponsor: Washington Sea Grant Program

Budgets: FY07: $50,697 | FY08: $53,716 | FY09: $35,028

Short description: This project will demonstrate whether reefnet fishing gear, currently in use in Puget Sound, would be more selective of protected salmon species and prove practical and economical as commercial gear than currently used gillnet and tangle net gear.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $0 | FY08: $0 | FY09: $0

Comment:

ISRP final recommendation: Not fundable

Comment:

This proposal is not fundable in its present form. A strong aspect of the project design is that it involves the fishing industry; however, the scientific and the technical background information are not sufficient. The ISRP’s primary concern is that Puget Sound and the Lower Columbia River (LCR) are not comparable in terms of physical properties and resulting fish behavior with respect to reef nets (e.g., the technique requires clear water, fish migrating in one direction through a narrow passage, etc.). The potential for adverse effects of the gear on non-focal species and habitats in the LCR was not adequately addressed. The movement of the gear from Puget Sound to the LCR could result in movement of invasive species. No quantitative data analysis methods are provided for research, monitoring, and evaluation. Successful completion of the proposed work depends on active participation and cooperation of fishermen, agency personnel, and others who would not receive direct funding from this project. Detailed comments by are provided below. Technical and scientific background: The problem is clearly defined. It addresses the need to find selective harvest methods that better protect ESA-listed wild fish in the Columbia River. This proposal would test the performance of reef nets, a fishing gear used only in Puget Sound, in the lower Columbia River. More background information on reef net fishing methods, the number of fish caught in reef nets when deployed in Puget Sound, species composition, and other details to show how the reef nets would reduce the by catch problem in the LCR is necessary. Relationships to other projects: The project is related to two other by-catch reduction proposals. Possible collaboration is mentioned and the proponents anticipate that they "would utilize (WDFW) staff for data collection and analysis and permit requirements.” It is not clear what this means. Objectives: The objectives, which are really tasks, are clearly defined with specific timelines. The best aspect of this proposal, as compared to other proposals to test selective gear, is that it includes objectives to evaluate economic feasibility and acceptability by the fleets. Tasks (work elements) and methods: This is considered to be a pilot project; however, descriptions of methods are very brief and incomplete. The proposal would have benefited from some preliminary evaluation and description of potential fishing sites, database formats, data analysis techniques, etc. The work elements listed as "objectives" are reasonable tasks to test the gear. They are not described in detail. However, despite including testing economic and political feasibility under "goals," none of the tasks listed describe the collection of economic data. "Economic analysis at the end of the test period" is listed without description of data collection. The “Plan and timeline" section does describe the methods in more detail by performance period and does describe a reasonable approach. Again, though, methods on how this will be done are sparse. The proposal would be improved by more details on the net and where it is deployed (dimensions, water depth deployed, mesh size, etc.). It is difficult to evaluate if the gear can be used in the LCR without this information. The picture/sketch included in the proposal is not sufficient. Experienced and objective fishers from the LCR should be consulted for their views on whether this gear will work or not in their area. It would be important to canvass them before deciding to move the gear down the LCR. Monitoring and evaluation (M&E): M&E (evaluation of the performance of the reef net gear) is built into the steps of feasibility testing. But methods of M&E are not explained. Facilities, equipment, and personnel: The equipment is adequate as far as can be determined. Only one of the team members has an experience in the LCR, and he fished in the river quite a few years ago. The proposal would be more convincing if Columbia River people (including tribal fishers) were engaged. Information transfer is adequately described as providing information through coordination with managers and industry groups, in addition to routine reporting. Benefits to focal and non-focal species: The proponents should have included a detailed plan to evaluate bycatch/interaction with all species of marine mammals, birds, and fish, as well as habitat effects related to deployment of reef net fishing gear. A number of species could suffer mortalities, depending on mesh size, water temperature, etc. The movement of the gear from Puget Sound to LCRE could result in movement of invasive species if the nets and boats were not sufficiently cleaned before they were moved. Interactions with pinnipeds would be evaluated, although detailed methods are not provided.

State/province recommendation: MS: Recommended Action

Review group: MSRT

Recommended budgets: FY07: (n/a) | FY08: (n/a) | FY09: (n/a)

Comment: Tribal members of the MSRT expressed their concern about selective harvest. This may potentially be considered a conservation action in the 2006 Biological Opinion.