Our Specific Proposal
Spring Chinook salmon are highly prized by sport anglers. There is an extremely valuable commercial market for Spring Chinook. Nutritionally, they're valued for a full but delicate flavor and high levels of dietary Omega-3 fatty acids.
Although naturally spawning stocks of spring chinook are enhanced by hatcheries, there are few commercial spring chinook salmon enhancement projects in the United States. Our modest project does not conflict with government wild fish policies that focus on Coho salmon and Steelhead. Although this project has an extremely small ecological footprint, the potential returns are significant. The acclimation pen program enhances the sping chinook fishery, while taking pressure off the upper estuaries giving those systems plenty of room to continue to heal and redevelop the natural habitats and natural occurring stocks. Yet at the same time enhancing the lower bays and ocean fishery for the sportsmen and stimulating the economy for the local communities that have struggled in recent years.
The measure of success with this project can be weighed against other similar projects currently
underway with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, namely Young's Bay and Winchester Bay. Our proposed projects at Coos Bay and Yaquina Bay will emulate many of the aspects of those two projects. Also the Governor’s use of this same concept and technology on various parts of the Columbia River currently under planning stages serves as a counter balance to our projects on the central Oregon coast. The projects will be monitored both scientifically and economically.
Infant Spring Chinook, called smolts, will be nurtured at a hatchery off site until they reach to 50-to-the-pound. The smolts will be moved to acclimation pens in the Coos Bay & Yaquina Bay for a period of about 6 weeks until juvenile-sized at seven-to-the-pound. The smolts are released into the ocean and return to their home during their normal spawning cycle. The juvenile fish will be released at night to reduce mortality from shore and near-shore predators—thus avoiding to some degree one of the primary factors decimating salmon recovery efforts on the Columbia.
95 % of the smolts will be gone by the first tide, the other 5% will be gone by the second tide.
We suggest a modest start with 100,000 smolts. Some have observed that if our position is so clear, why not start with more smolts? Answer: Not yet. There are environmental variables far beyond the shores of Coos Bay & Yaquina Bay that cannot be accurately predicted. The process is repeated a second year. The cost of the first two years is minimal.
If a large number of Spring Chinook come back or are caught the third year, it would indicate that environmental elements are in place to successfully move to a larger scale. There are many economic, public, and environmental benefits of returning salmon in a "Terminal Fishery" setting.
The social and economic benefits from the project will bolster local communities in the near future, and increase as the projects are improved through learning and refinement over time. The projects will be conducted to limit or eliminate project salmon interaction with the natural salmon spawning in coastal streams, thereby simultaneously supporting and complementing all salmon restoration efforts. This is a pilot project administered by ODFW, with the input and help from Salmon for Oregon.
Spring Chinook salmon returning from the high seas are a public resource.
This new “spring salmon run” will provide a tremendous additional contribution to local coastal economies through the value of fish captured, fishing trips and related gear. Positive economic growth will result through increased tourism/lodging/guide services/charters, sport and commercial fishing, gear purchases, and their subsequent rollout dollar impacts. It has been said, “A springer in the bay brings salmon fishing in May.” With that, specific studies have concluded each springer caught represents from $200 to $400 dollars to the local economy. Increasing fishing opportunity days demonstrates an economic boost as each angler with a rod represents $87 dollars a day to the local economy.
The Columbia River has a large ten-year net pen program underway, and a new Spring Chinook net pen project in the planning stages. The difference in our program is that we suggest growing the smolts larger, believing a larger smolt has a better chance of survival.
Winchester Bay also has a similar, but smaller, net pen program. This is the reason our program focuses on the Central Oregon Coast, as it currently lacks acclimation pen programs. Funding for the Rogue and Columbia are from sources other than ODFW.
Coos Bay has a popular Fall Chinook program, releasing some 2.3 million smolts, and according to sources in that area, is going to have a great season.
A Spring Chinook acclimation pen program on the central Oregon coast will over time add many more fishing day oppertunities to the region and boost the economy significantly by starting the season in May instead of July.
"A Springer in the bay brings Salmon fishing in May." James F Wright