[env-trinity] North Coast Salmon Cutbacks Result Of 2002 Fish Kill
danielbacher at hotmail.com
Wed Mar 23 09:41:04 PST 2005
Cutbacks On North Coast Salmon Seasons Result From 2002 Fish Kill
by Dan Bacher
While the ocean abundance estimate for Sacramento River chinook salmon is
the highest on record, recreational anglers on the Klamath River and
commercial fishermen on Californias North Coast will be subject to severe
cutbacks. The reason for the low abundance is the juvenile fish kill in the
spring of 2002 that preceded the adult fish kill that September on the
The fall run ocean abundance estimate is 239,700 fish, based on jack returns
last year. The river and ocean fishing seasons are based on achieving a goal
of 35,000 natural spawners on the Klamath. The fish are divided between the
river recreational, tribal, recreational ocean and commercial ocean
fisheries. The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) will adopt its
final salmon management measures at its April 3-8 meeting in Tacoma,
The California Fish & Game Commission, at its meeting in Oakland on March
18, chose a 15% allotment for the fall salmon harvest for in river anglers.
This means that we will have to divide 1262 salmon as follows: 631 salmon
to the Lower Klamath, 210 salmon to Upper Klamath, 210 to Lower Trinity and
210 fish to Upper Trinity, said Ed Duggan, fishing guide. This fall looks
like a very short salmon season on the river.
Because of this, the in-river recreational fishery will be mainly a catch
and release fishery for adult salmon. Although anglers will have to release
adult chinooks after the quota are reached on the river, they can keep jack
salmon and hatchery steelhead.
The Yurok Tribe on the Lower Klamath will also be constrained by the low
abundance of Klamath River salmon. It is highly unlikely that we will have
a commercial season at the mouth like we have had in the past, said Dave
Hillemeier, Yurok Tribe fishery biologist. We will not even have enough for
our subsistence fishery probably 6800 to 7000 fish at best.
North Coast ocean recreational anglers will also feel the impacts. In the
Klamath Management Zone from Humbug Mountain to Horse Mountain, the Pacific
Fishery Management Council (PFMC) is proposing a season of May 21 through
July 4 and August 14 through September 11. Oregon anglers will be able to
fish in a selective coho fishery, whereas anglers fishing California waters
have to release all coho.
Commercial fishermen along the coast will face the surreal dilemma of being
prevented from fishing the healthy stocks of Central Valley ocean salmon to
protect Klamath fish. Commercial salmon troll seasons in California and
Oregon are structured to protect the coasts weakest salmon runs, which are
those from the Klamath River this year. Because the Klamath fish intermingle
in the ocean with healthy stocks, 50 or more fish from the Central Valley
must be excluded from harvest this year in order to prevent the accidental
capture of each Klamath-origin fall chinook.
We dont have a lot of choice, said Zeke Grader, executive director of the
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens Associations (PCFFA). We warned
people about this after the fish kill happened and we wrote to the President
last July to do something about it. Any one of the options proposed by the
PFMC is a killer to our industry.
The commercial fishing season will be particularly grim along the North
Coast. From the OR/CA Border to the Humboldt south Jetty, the PFMC is
proposing a limited salmon season of September 1 through the earlier of
September 30 or 6,000 fish. The other option provides for the complete
closure of the fishery.
Along the coast from Horse Mountain to Point Arena, traditionally one of the
most heavily fished commercial areas, the options are a limited salmon
season from September 1 to 30 or a complete closure.
A variety of closure options are proposed in the three commercial fishing
zones from Point Arena to Pigeon Point and Pigeon Point to Pt. Sur. The most
liberal season, from May 1 through September 30, is proposed for commercial
fishermen from Point Sur to the U.S./Mexican Border.
How will this closure impact the economy? We could be looking at a $100
million loss to Californias economy this year, said Zeke Grader, executive
director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens Associations
(PCFFA). This is ironic when were looking at a record number of Sacramento
River chinooks on the ocean.
The impact upon commercial fishermen and recreational anglers as well
will all depend upon where the fish go in response to ocean water and forage
conditions. If the salmon go south from Point Arena to Point Sur and Point
Sur south, we could have a good year, said Grader. If the fish go north
into the closed or restricted zones, we could miss nearly everything.
The constraints on commercial harvest could result in the bizarre situation
of the too many Sacramento system fish returning for the available habitat.
We could end up with a virtual train wreck, with too many fish for the
available spawning gravel on the Central Valley rivers, said Craig Stone,
owner of the Emeryville Sportfishing Center. An overabundance of fish can
be detrimental to the fishery.
Regardless of whether the salmon go north or south, it is obvious that the
Klamath River stocks are in great crisis. According to Glen Spain, northwest
regional director of the PCFFA, flows in the spring of 2002 were kept so low
that the water warmed up too much and the conditions either didnt allow the
fish to grow properly or killed them outright.
This fish kill is different from the widely publicized fish kill that
killed up to 70,000 adult salmon in 2002, but both were caused by the same
thing low river flows, said Spain. The spring 2002 juvenile fish kill is
hitting the industry this year. The fall 2002 adult fish kill will hit us
Spain emphasizes that a deliberate act of the federal government appears
to be primarily responsible for killing the young king salmon in 2002. In
order for the Bush administration to curry the favor of agribusiness for the
reelection of an Oregon Senator, the Department of Interior ordered a change
in water policy that favored subsidized agribusiness over Klamath salmon and
Even in a dry year like this one, many scientists have called for Iron Gate
Dam flows of between 1450 and 1600 cfs in March to have healthy salmon
populations. At press time, releases to the Klamath River below Iron Gate
were only 800 cfs.
The dilemma the recreational, tribal and commercial fishermen are in this
year will only be resolved when we succeed in convincing the federal
government to restore the Klamath. Among the solutions are forcing the
federal government to leave more water in the Klamath, stopping cheap
electricity subsidies to Klamath Basin farmers and removing the six Klamath
hydroelectric dams up for relicensing in 2006.
All users of the river, including the Indian tribes, commercial fishermen,
recreational fishermen and farmers, should get together and work things out
or well continue to face this crisis on an ongoing basis every year, said
Roger Thomas, president of the Golden Gate Fishermens Association and a
member of the PFMC.
A march and rally held at the State Capitol on March 14 on the International
Day of Action for Rivers points to the growing movement among diverse groups
in tackling the complex problems of the Klamath. The four Klamath River
Tribes the Yurok, Hoopa, Karuk and Klamath united with commercial
fishermen, recreational anglers, environmental groups and farmers over the
common goal of getting the Governor to use his power to pressure for the
removal of the Klamath River dams.
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