[env-trinity] Glen Martin in SF Chron Sunday,
March 13 on Reduced Salmon Harvest
bwl3 at comcast.net
Mon Mar 14 16:32:45 PST 2005
Salmon prices expected to go up/Fishing season will probably be cut in half
to protect depleted Klamath River Chinook
San Francisco Chronicle - 3/12/05
By Glen Martin, staff writer
There are plenty of salmon in the sea this year, but commercial fishermen
won't be allowed to catch many of them -- and that's going to mean sky-high
prices for Bay Area seafood lovers.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council issued three alternatives for the
approaching 2005 California and Oregon salmon season in a meeting in
Sacramento on Friday, and all basically call for slashing the commercial
fishing season in half. The council will make a final decision by April.
Fishing industry representatives say any of the alternatives will mean a
$100 million loss in projected profit to California's salmon fleet, and
stratospheric prices for wild salmon at the retail fish counter.
Consumers should expect to pay well more than $15 a pound, said Zeke Grader,
the executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's
Associations. Last year, the cost ranged from $9 to $11 a pound.
The proposed restrictions are a result of exceptionally low returns of
mature chinook salmon to the Klamath River system. Government agencies
typically reduce salmon seasons if they determine there aren't enough fish
returning to ensure adequate spawning for future generations. Excluding the
rivers of Alaska and British Columbia, the Klamath and its major tributary,
the Trinity River, are second only to the Sacramento River as a producer of
West Coast salmon.
Fishery management council members could not be reached for comment Friday.
A voice-mail message at the federal agency's Portland headquarters said
officials would not be available for comment until Monday.
Fishermen are particularly frustrated by the proposals because the waters
off California are teeming with salmon. The Sacramento River will have
abundant returns this year, said Grader -- probably the highest since Shasta
Dam went up in 1945.
"Unfortunately, the Sacramento fish mingle with the Klamath fish out in the
ocean," Grader said. "Even though most of the salmon out there are
Sacramento fish, the council is concerned that too many Klamath fish could
be caught during a full season."
The consequences of an excessive catch of Klamath salmon would be an even
more drastic decline in the river's base population of fish.
Dave Bitts, a commercial salmon and crab fisherman from Eureka and vice
president of the federation of fishermen's associations, said fishermen will
get to fish only about half as many days and probably land fewer than half
as many salmon as last year.
Last year, he noted, California and Oregon fishermen landed around 500, 000
salmon. "This year, 225,000 fish would be a best-case scenario under the
shortened season," he said.
"The season usually runs from May 1 to September 30, but most of the fish
are caught by the end of August," Bitts said. "This year, we'll only get to
fish about 60 days from May through August from Point Arena to Point Sur,
the prime fishing grounds."
Fishermen may be able to troll around the Fort Bragg area north of Point
Arena in September, Bitts said, "but by then many of the fish are already
heading up the rivers." Fishermen should also have full-season access to
waters south of Point Sur, but "salmon only head there in numbers in maybe
one out of every five to 10 years," Bitts said.
Grader said the restrictions come at a particularly inopportune time for
commercial fishermen because wild salmon have made great inroads in the
seafood marketplace, and prices are high.
"People prefer wild salmon over farmed salmon because of health and flavor
issues," Grader said. "West Coast fishermen have finally started making a
profit catching wild chinook salmon. Last year they got $3 to $4 a pound,
which is very good."
Farmed salmon are Atlantic salmon, cousins of the five species of Pacific
salmon but not native to the West Coast. Health concerns have recently been
raised about farmed fish: Some tests have shown they have higher levels of
toxic chemicals, such as PCBs, than wild salmon.
Luis Zuniga, a worker at the Tides Fish Market in Bodega Bay, said the
restricted season would have a significant effect on the local seafood
"People really wait for the wild salmon," Zuniga said. "We sell very little
farmed fish here. The prices are going to be very high this year, but people
will pay them."
The best bet for salmon enthusiasts this year may be to take matters -- and
rods -- into their own hands. Sport anglers will face some restrictions in
the northern part of the state, but they should be able to fish freely from
charter boats based in Bay Area ports.
"The only trouble they could run into is if the fish migrate northward,"
said Bitts. "And that could happen. There's quite a bit of warm water out
there right now, and salmon like cold conditions."
Fishermen and environmentalists generally blame the meager Klamath salmon
returns on low downstream flows from federal dams. Much of the water from
the Klamath and Trinity rivers is diverted for agriculture.
In particular, they point to catastrophic incidents in 2002, when low flows
and consequent warm water were suspected in massive die-offs of both adult
and juvenile fish.
Chinook salmon typically follow four-year cycles. The fish returning this
year to the Klamath hatched in 2002.
But Jeff McCracken, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the
agency that controls the dams, said the dams are operated with healthy fish
populations in mind.
"All of our downstream releases adhere to biological opinions issued by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service," McCracken said.
Bitts said current flow schedules don't reflect biological realities.
"We also had big juvenile fish kills in 2003," he said. "We're not going to
fix this problem until we increase the flows down the Klamath."
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
Consultant, California Trout, Inc.
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 ph
415 383 9562 fx
bwl3 at comcast.net
bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org (secondary)
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