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Columbia River Pound Net Project

Pound Net 1Location

Lower Columbia River (Cathlamet, WA)

Project Type

Alternative Commercial Gear Evaluation

Status

Active

Start Date

August 2013

Completion Date

TBD

Description

Wild Fish Conservancy has undertaken a multi-year study in the lower Columbia River to evaluate an experimental pound net (or, “fish trap”) as an alternative, stock-selective fishing tool for use in commercial salmon fisheries. This project is a continuation of WFC’s efforts to assist veteran commercial fisherman Blair Peterson in the construction and testing of his 2013 prototype trap.


A pound net is a stationary fish trap that passively captures returning adult salmon, enabling selective harvest of targeted stocks (such as hatchery-origin fishes) and release of all non-targeted and ESA-listed stocks. Historically notorious for the decimation of the Columbia’s once robust salmon runs, WFC’s modified pound net trap is demonstrating substantial promise in reducing bycatch mortality of ESA-listed fishes in commercial salmon fisheries and interbreeding of hatchery and wild salmonids. Lacking existing performance data on this historically effective and popular commercial fishing gear (banned in 1935 along with all other fixed commercial gears), WFC’s evaluation of pound nets as stock-selective fishing tools may identify a sustainable means for fishermen to harvest hatchery-origin fish and other healthy fish stocks while enabling recovery of wild and ESA-listed stocks that may be mixed within commercial fisheries.

A feasibility study was conducted in 2016 to assess total catch and immediate survival of salmonids captured in an experimental trap in the lower Columbia River. Demonstrating commercially viable catch and high immediate survival (click to see the Year-1 Report), a long-term post-release survival study was conducted from a modified trap in 2017. Results of this study suggested that pound net traps can selectively harvest greater quantities of fish than conventional gillnets while releasing bycatch mostly unharmed (Table 1; click to see the Year-2 Report to NOAA Fisheries). Demonstrating substantial promise as a sustainable harvest tool, WA State authorized implementation of the first commercial trap fishery in 83 years in the fall of 2018. This test fishery is currently investigating the economic viability of the gear within the lower Columbia River fishery (view test fishery results at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/commercial/columbia_river_test.html). Research is now fully funded and scheduled for the spring and summer of 2019 to determine the feasibility of the gear under seasonally variable river conditions and to estimate post-release survival of spring Chinook, summer Chinook, and sockeye salmon.

Table 1. Lower Columbia River cumulative survival estimates from five different gear-types and associated 95% confidence intervals (if available) (WDFW 2014; IFSP 2014; WDFW and ODFW Joint Staff 2018).

Chinook Survival

Steelhead Survival

Gillnet

0.520

0.555

Tangle Net

0.791

0.764

Beach Seine

0.750 (0.710 – 0.790)

0.920 (0.820 – 1.000)

Purse Seine

0.780 (0.720 – 0.850)

0.980 (0.930 – 1.000)

Fish Trap

0.995 (0.925 – 1.000)

0.944 (0.880 – 1.000)

2016-2017 Goals & Objectives

To develop an innovative and effective fishing technology for the reduction of bycatch and hatchery impacts to ESA-listed salmonids and benefit of U.S fishermen and fisheries, WFC designed, constructed, and monitored the performance of a modified fish trap in the lower Columbia River from 2016-2017 with local commercial fisherman Jon Blair Peterson. Specifically, objectives were to determine the effectiveness of the gear in capturing hatchery-origin Chinook and coho salmon and reducing post-release and cumulative mortality of wild fall Chinook salmon and summer steelhead trout relative to the performance of previously tested commercial gears in the lower Columbia River. Environmental and biological covariates, CPUE, capture conditions, bycatch, immediate survival, and post-release survival of fish were assessed. Methods developed by Vander Haegen et al. (2004), Ashbrook (2008), and WDFW (2014) for experimental seine and tangle net operations were utilized to maintain consistency for comparison of results between studies, with minor alterations to improve precision and reduce bias of survival estimates. Similar to previous alternative gear tests, this study intended to achieve three major goals:

1) Test and refine deployment and operation of a pound net trap under modern conditions of the Columbia River;

2) Determine effectiveness of the harvest method in capturing salmon relative to previously tested alternative gears. Directly estimate species-specific catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) and CPUE covariates;

3) Evaluate the ability of a pound net trap to protect non-target species through identification of capture and release conditions, immediate survival, and post-release survival of fall Chinook salmon and summer steelhead trout.

Assessing CPUE from the experimental trap and employing the Cormack (1964)-Jolly (1965)-Seber (1965) method for estimation of survival through paired mark-release-recapture, this study investigated the effectiveness of the alternative gear in capturing targeted stocks with improved survivorship of released fishes relative to previously tested commercial gears. Providing precise and unbiased estimates of cumulative survival to fisheries managers may enable commercial implementation of viable stock-selective harvest tools for the rejuvenation of working waterfront economies and the reduction of bycatch and hatchery related impacts to wild salmonids across the region.

This project received funding under award #NA17NMF4720255 from NOAA Fisheries Service, in cooperation with the Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program. The project was also funded through the Washington Coastal Restoration Initiative and Patagonia Provisions. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of Wild Fish Conservancy and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funders.

2018 Goals & Objectives

Expanding upon recent research demonstrating the ability of pound net traps to improve post-release survival of bycatch in commercial salmon fisheries, WFC and partners investigated the economic performance of a modified fish trap operation under real-world fishing conditions and the feasibility of the technology in the context of full-scale Columbia River commercial fisheries. Specifically, a modified pound net trap was operated for selective harvest of hatchery-origin Chinook and coho salmon by WFC from mid-August through October of 2018 through a State sponsored test fishery in collaboration WDFW, local commercial fishermen, and local processors. This test fishery intended to achieve the following goals:

1) Evaluate the economic performance of the trap fishery - measure stock-specific CPUE, fish prices received, total revenue, total costs, and jobs supported from selective harvest of hatchery-origin Chinook and coho salmon;

2) Evaluate ecological impacts of the trap fishery and perform fisheries research - collect data on all encountered fish stocks, perform stock-composition monitoring, study salmonid migration patterns, gather steelhead genetic data, further assess immediate bycatch mortality, determine bycatch to target species catch ratios, investigate the feasibility of electronic monitoring devices for fisheries management, and identify means to improve gear efficiency/sustainability and meet conservation and management goals;

3) Investigate benefits of value-added practices in lower Columbia River fisheries – develop a working group including local fishermen, fish processors, non-profits, resource management agencies, and other related industries to ensure utilization of best business and value-added practices in harvesting, icing, processing, and marketing fish for increased seafood quality and prices;

4) Identify successes and failures of the fall 2018 test fishery and determine next steps.

With the completion of this economic and ecological evaluation, fisheries managers and commercial fishermen may gain a better understanding of the potential of fish traps to provide fishing opportunity and meet priority conservation, management, and research objectives.

2019 Goals & Objectives

To develop innovative and effective fishing technologies for the reduction of bycatch impacts to ESA-listed salmonids and benefit of U.S fishermen and fisheries, WFC and partners propose the next steps necessary for pound net testing in the lower Columbia River during March-June 2019. Specifically, objectives are to quantitatively evaluate the effectiveness of an experimental pound net trap in capturing spring/summer Chinook and shad and reducing bycatch impacts to ESA-listed wild fishes. As in all lower Columbia alternative gear evaluations, the performance of an experimental pound net trap will be examined relative to previously tested gears through test fishing and a paired mark-recapture study in which the following metrics are assessed: CPUE, capture conditions, bycatch, immediate survival, and post-release survival (WDFW 2014). Analyzing these performance measures, this study will achieve three major goals:

1) Test and refine deployment and operation of a modified pound net trap in currently untested spring and summer fisheries under a host of varying environmental and ecological conditions;

2) Determine effectiveness of the harvest method in capturing spring/summer Chinook and shad relative to previously tested alternative gears. Evaluate species-specific CPUE and bycatch;

3) Evaluate the ability of pound nets to protect non-target species through identification of capture/release conditions, immediate survival, and post-release survival of captured fishes.

Employing a Cormack-Jolly-Seber analysis, results of the experiment will answer the following research question: can pound nets effectively capture spring/summer Chinook and invasive shad resources with improved survivorship of ESA-listed bycatch relative to previously tested commercial gears? Achieving project objectives, results will be applied directly to regional fisheries management for potential commercial implementation. Ultimately, reduction of bycatch and hatchery impacts will benefit ESA-listed salmonids and commercial fisheries.

Project Contact

Adrian Tuohy

Managing Agency/Organization

Wild Fish Conservancy

WFC Budget

$202,000 (2016)

$158,769 (2017)

$77,500 (2018)

$199,689 (2019)

*The annual budgets listed above represent total costs for planning, project admin, all research activities, reporting, and dissemination of results; they should not be interpreted as the costs of constructing and installing fish traps. For more information on trap construction costs, see the attached reports and publications.

Funding Source/Partners

-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

-Washington Coastal Restoration Initiative

-Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

-Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

-Patagonia Provisions

-Horizons Foundation

-Wild Salmon Center

-University of Washington

-Flathead Lake Biological Station

-Idaho Department of Fish and Game

-Jon Blair Peterson

-C & H Classic Smoked Fish

 

Reports

Gayeski, Tuohy 2018 - Evaluation of Pound Nets as Stock Selective Fishing Tools in the Lower Columbia Sub - Basin

WFC 2016. Evaluation of Pound Nets as Stock-Selective Fishing Tools in the Lower Columbia Sub-Basin - Year-1 Report to the Washington Coastal Restoration Initiative. Duvall, WA

Tuohy, A. 2018. Post-release survival of Chinook salmon and steelhead trout from an experimental commercial fish trap in the lower Columbia River, WA. Master’s Thesis. University of Washington. Seattle, WA

Related Articles

Read the Columbia River Fish Trap Brochure

The Pound Net's official online field journal: thefishtrapjournal.org

Project update in Wild Fish Runs, Spring 2017, Wild Fish Runs, Fall 2018

Data

Data Sharing Plan

Unique Hall Data

Catch Data

*These data and related items of information have not been formally disseminated by NOAA, and do not represent any agency determination, view, or policy.

Videos

The Fish Trap from North Fork Studios on Vimeo.


 

Pictures

Pound Net 2 Pound Net 3 Pound Net 4 Pound Net 5 Pound Net 6 Pound Net 7 Pound Net 8 Pound Net 9

See the Entire Collection of Pound Net Photos

Document Actions