Oregon, Washington fishery officials: no smelt season

Longview, Washington (AP) November 2010

Oregon and Washington fishery officials have agreed no commercial or sport fishing will be allowed this season for the once-plentiful smelt, now under federal protection.

Fishery managers set the rule during a conference call last week, saying sport dipping for smelt is unlikely for several more years.

Smelt historically returned to the Cowlitz River every winter in abundance, with smaller runs in several other area rivers. Runs started to falter in the 1980s. The Daily News of Longview, Washington, says the last decent run on the Cowlitz was in 2003.

The Cowlitz Indian Tribe petitioned to have the small, silvery fish listed under the Endangered Species Act, and NOAA Fisheries Service listed them as threatened last March.

The Fisheries Service cited climate change, declining river flows, shrimp fishing bycatch and seal and sea lion predation as reasons for the decline.