Oregon's north coast is seeing an excessive salmon die-off this year.
Chinook salmon fishermen in the Pacific Northwest have been understandably upset because of a recent die-off of fish this year. But things haven't improved and it has led to the closure of fall chinook fishing season to three new areas.
Effective immediately, the north coast is seeing a total closure of all chinook salmon fishing. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says the parasite cryptobia is having a more devastating effect on the fish than anticipated in the Wilson River and other areas.
ODFW district fish biologist Robert Bradley told the Statesman Journal dry conditions helped the parasite spread further than normal. The good news is, a small run of fall chinook did get upstream to spawn in October after rains brought high water levels.
But that's where Oregon's luck runs out. The parasite is a natural one. But longer periods of low water levels meant many fish became trapped in shallow pools. This shallow water only helped the spread of the parasite via leeches.
So, when many fish started turning up dead, many before they could even spawn, biologists began testing them and discovered the extent of the parasite's damage, which has now killed adult fish in the Kilchis Rivers, Nestucca River, Wilson River and Trask Rivers.
In a press release on the ODFW's website, the wildlife agency says more than half the carcasses they tested died via the cryptobia parasite.
"The observed pre-spawn mortality is on top of a reduced run of fall Chinook this year," Bradley said in an ODFW press release. "We need to protect the remaining spawners to help provide for future runs of fall Chinook on the North Coast."
He later elaborated further just how serious the fish death situation is to the Statesman Journal.
"This scale of die-off is really unheard of," Bradley said. "This parasite typically doesn't escalate to this level."
The parasite has killed enough fish that wildlife officials and biologists have decided the safest course of action is to shut down all fishing for them and to hope the remaining chinook spawn in time. This means salmon angling is now off-limits in Tillamook Bay and its associated rivers: the Trask River, and Miami River, the Necanicum River Basin and Nestucca River and Bay. Included in with the Nestucca River is the Little Nestucca River and Three Rivers rivers.
The ODFW will also allow no salmon harvests on the entire North Coast into 2020 either due to the widespread die-offs. Fortunately, the ODFW said in a press release on their website that the die-off seems to be isolated just to the North Oregon coast range. In another stroke of good luck, other species of fish aren't affected. This means steelhead fishing season will not be affected by the closures.
Still, we will keep our eye on this situation here at Wide Open Spaces and will bring you news of any additional bans or other news to come from this unfortunate and unusual outbreak.