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Salmon Fishermen Face More Setbacks

by Susannah Kopecky, published

Heads of the Pacific Coast side of the Fishery Management Council decided on Wednesday, April 8 to basically call off this year's salmon fishing season, after fears that the King/Chinook salmon population may be undersized and may be threatened by the additional fishing season, after a smaller number of the Sacramento River and Klamath River Chinooks migrated to California and Oregon this year. (One way that Pacific Coast fishery authorities have tried to alleviate the situation in the past has involved actually transplanting fish from fisheries, to the ocean, in hopes of upping the "natural" salmon population.)

The National Marine Fisheries Service must approve this lower-level cancellation by or before May 1, only months before the start to the official salmon fishing season on the Pacific Coast. This marks the second year in a row that California and Oregon fisherman will newest recommendation would affect fishermen in California, Washingbe restricted from fully participating in their pastime of choice, not to mention careers. Theton, Oregon and Alaska (with its own new salmon and Pollock fishing regulations, limiting accidental salmon catches to 60,000 or less, though it is unclear exactly how accidental catches can be fully regulated, all the time). In related news, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also came to the conclusion that the Longfin smelt fish population around the Sacramento River does not need to be listed as an endangered species (and as an extension, the extra protection that label affords)... despite the fact that its numbers are also noticeably lower this year.

At the meeting of the Pacific Fishing Management Council, it was determined that South of Cape Falcon, there should be a "complete closure of commercial fisheries in ocean waters off California and a ten day ocean recreational Chinook only season Off Eureka and Crescent City." According to the council, NOAA member Jane Lubchenko is hoped to be a part of the future action to help "coordinate a comprehensive optimizing strategy for salmon produced in California rivers, including the Sacramento-San Joaquin and the Klamath-Trinity basins."

Some of the recommended future mitigating actions include hatchery reviews, "habitat protection measures... including water management practices, biological opinions for Endangered Species Act listed species, recommendations for monitoring and research studies, and alternatives for future fishery management."

Oregonian fishing companies were hit with a ban as well, albeit a slightly more relaxed one, with the ban mainly affecting Southern Oregon, for now. South of Cape Falcon Oregon ocean fisheries will face a quote of 117,000 cohos, while Oregon commercial fisheries would see a quota of about 11,000 cohos. North of Cape Falcon, "recreational fisheries" would be restricted to 176,400 cohos while "non-Indian commercial fisheries" would be limited to a "quota of 33,600 mark-selective coho, about five times the 2008 coho quotas," and Chinook quotes would be "slightly better than in 2008 at 20,500 each," with Indian fisheries in Oregon being allowed 39,000 Chinook and 60,000 coho, if the council's recommendations are approved.

Will this environmentally-friendly maneuver in fact turn out to do more harm than good? Some have estimated that the commercial fishing season reels in perhaps around $100 million for local economies; in a recession, is it really wise to put such drastic action to affect? Couldn't the heads of the Pacific fisheries have come to a more lenient conclusion, which would not be set up to drastically alter the expected income for certain fishing cities? There is still the question of whether the decreased salmon presence is entirely a function of commercial fishing, or if the smaller number can also be attributed to the ever-present population fluctuations in any dynamic population. There is still hope that the National Marine Fisheries Service will come to a solution, less harmful to communities relying heavily on fishing for industry.

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