[env-trinity] Klamath NY Times Story
tstokely at trinityalps.net
Wed Jun 29 09:22:24 PDT 2005
----- Original Message -----
From: Tim McKay
To: nec at northcoast.com
Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2005 2:41 PM
Subject: Klamath NYT Story
Reduced Salmon Season Is Felt at Wharf and Table
By DEAN E. MURPHY
Published: June 28, 2005
SAN FRANCISCO, June 26 - The Pavo Grande was built in 1947 and has the sea-worn look of a boat admired for its utility, not its polish. Even so, the salmon troller has been getting some fresh paint and overdue carpentry repairs; before too long, a new stove top will be coming.
Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
Restrictions on the Klamath River have left Barbara Emley and Larry Collins with little to do but fix up their salmon boat, the Pavo Grande, in San Francisco. "God's feedlot is out there, and we can't go near it," he said.
Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
A sign on the Pavo Grande protests the management of the Klamath.
It is not that Larry Collins and Barbara Emley, the boat's husband-and-wife owners, have money to burn. What they have is time.
"God's feedlot is out there, and we can't go near it," said Mr. Collins, nodding toward the ocean from their slip at Fisherman's Wharf. "It's death by a thousand cuts."
The couple are among the hundreds of commercial fishermen in California and Oregon who have been forced to sit out much of the salmon season because of chronic problems with the fish on the Klamath River, one of the country's most politicized and litigated waterways, about 270 miles north of here.
Allen Grover, a fisheries biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game, said large springtime kills of juvenile fish on the river in 2001 and 2002 have resulted in a paltry number of adult king salmon returning from the Pacific to spawn in the river. The poor showing has so worried fish and game officials that the salmon season has been sharply curtailed to ensure enough fish survive to lay eggs and sustain the Klamath's population.
"Everybody loses when you have low abundance," said Mr. Grover, an adviser to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which oversees fishing off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington and imposed the restrictions.
The Klamath, once one of the mightiest salmon rivers in the West, in recent years has become a constant point of friction among farmers, fishermen, environmentalists and Indian tribes over where its water should go. The disputes have ensnared officials from both the Bush and Clinton administrations.
Though the new restrictions came about after public hearings and with cooperation from fishing groups, they have nonetheless put the Klamath back in the political hot seat.
Indian tribes along the river are unhappy because their harvest has been cut. Commercial fishing operations say they are losing as much as $100 million. Consumers are alarmed at the loss of one of the summer's most popular entrees. And seafood wholesalers say restaurants and stores are paying record prices for the small amount on the market, comparing the absence of the local fish to Maine going without lobsters.
"For many of our customers, it's like a bear going into hibernation, and they have to have that fish," said Ted Iijima, the manager of the fish department at the Berkeley Bowl, a market in Berkeley where there has been no local salmon for three weeks. "They'll try sea bass or rock cod, but they come back and say, 'I've got to have my salmon!' "
Andy Brown, a buyer at Hapuku Fish Shop in the Rockridge Market Hall in Oakland, was wrapping trays of fresh salmon on Friday that had just arrived from Oregon. So-called bubbles of trolling are allowed on certain days in certain places, and when the bubble catch hits the market, it is treated like gold.
Mr. Brown was selling the Oregon salmon for $20 a pound; farm salmon typically sells for half that amount. He said his customers ask about the high prices, but do not hesitate to pay them.
"Even if you are able to sell it at $80 a pound, our suppliers said they can't supply it," Mr. Brown said. "So it doesn't matter if it is flying off the shelf; we can't get it on the shelf."
The Pacific Fishery Management Council has imposed a variety of restrictions, but the one stinging the most involves the coast between Point Sur in central California and Cape Falcon in northern Oregon, where the Klamath fish tend to concentrate. The commercial fishing season there has been called off from June 1 through July 3, traditionally one of the peak periods for king salmon, known locally as chinook.
"We go through a complex, intricate process of closures and openings that gives you the best fisheries with the least impacts," said John C. Coon, deputy director of the council, which is based in Portland.
Though the Pacific Ocean is chock-full of king salmon from healthier rivers like the Sacramento, all salmon fishing is off limits because it is impossible to troll selectively and avoid snagging the fish that instinctively return to the Klamath.
"They're all intermixing," said Glen H. Spain, the northwest regional director in Eugene, Ore., for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "So now most of the coast is closed down as those fish pass through."
In a letter last month to Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, Representative Mike Thompson of California, a Democrat in the Klamath area, requested federal disaster assistance for the fishermen, suggesting the hardship was on par with the fishing losses after El Niño of 1982 and 1983.
The problems on the Klamath have once again become a favorite topic of conversation among fishermen stranded at the docks. Mr. Collins and Ms. Emley have hoisted a hand-painted placard high above the Pavo Grande for tourists at Fisherman's Wharf to feel their pain.
It says, "Mismanaged Klamath Water Means I Don't Work." The couple have also distributed a two-page flier - "Key facts behind this year's trolling restrictions" - to people strolling along the docks.
"Hopefully, they'll read it and realize how screwed up everything is and write their congressmen," Mr. Collins said.
Not only did tens of thousands of juvenile salmon die upstream in the Klamath in the spring of 2001 and 2002, but at least 32,000 adult fish - even as many as 80,000, according to some projections - were also killed near its mouth in the fall of 2002, the largest salmon die-off recorded in California.
An analysis by the California Department of Fish and Game found that the primary cause for the kills was disease, which was facilitated by crowding and warm water temperatures from low water flows.
The region has been plagued by drought for many years, but fishermen, the Indian tribes and environmentalists have blamed a decision by the Bush administration to allow much of the water to be diverted to farmers for irrigation. The decision reversed a policy by the Clinton administration to leave more water in the river for the fish, but Bush administration officials have rejected claims that the farm water was responsible for the die-off.
"We've got a situation here where we feel we are sacrificing to return more fish to a river that is going to kill them," Ms. Emley said.
Though this year's restrictions were more severe than those in recent years, Mr. Grover, the state fisheries biologist, said the prospect for next year was also bleak because water flows on the Klamath have largely remained unimproved.
Disagreement remains over where the blame lies, but Mr. Grover said there was no dispute that salmon from rivers in California's Central Valley, like the Sacramento, were generally getting healthier, while those from the Klamath were not. As scientists worry about meeting a target of 35,000 salmon returning to the Klamath this fall, he said, about 1.7 million are projected to return to the Sacramento and its tributaries.
Tim McKay, executive director, (707) 822-6918 (w), 677-3172 (h)
Northcoast Environmental Center
575 H Street
Arcata CA 95521
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