[env-trinity] 'The fish aren't there'

Josh Allen jallen at trinitycounty.org
Wed Feb 22 13:15:24 PST 2006

'The fish aren't there'




John Driscoll 

The Times-Standard


EUREKA -- A group that advises federal fisheries managers has put off
what will likely be a painful recommendation to severely limit or
altogether restrict Klamath River and North Coast fishing. 

The Klamath Fisheries Management Council decided on Tuesday to make a
recommendation instead in March, just prior to the Pacific Fisheries
Management Council. It is faced with the fact that there are not enough
Klamath River salmon swimming in the ocean to meet the minimum needed
for spawning the next generation. 

The Pacific council will draw up regulations for this coming year for
sport and commercial fisheries in the ocean. The California Fish and
Game Commission will draft rules for fishing in the Klamath later. 

"They're just waiting to see how big that pie will be," said California
Department of Fish and Game Klamath council representative Neil Manji.
"If there's any pie at all." 

Some members of the council and the public said they still want the
council to explore what a reduced fishery would look like. Eureka
commercial fishing representative Dave Bitts said his goal is to figure
out how to have some kind of commercial salmon season. 

But Yurok Tribe biologist Dave Hillemeier said the tribe isn't ready to
make any recommendation on fishing before this year's "alarming"
projections are considered by the tribal government. 

Some 35,000 wild chinook must be allowed to get up the Klamath to spawn.
This year, there are only about 29,000. If fishing regulations like last
year's were used, only 18,700 would make it up the river to spawn. 

That follows two years in which too few wild fish made it up the river,
which will trigger an overfishing review by the Pacific council. 

But some, like fisher Marge Salo, said water quality, poor flows and
diseases in the river are the heart of the problem. 

"The fish aren't there to catch to begin with," she said. 

Others point to the 2002 fish kill, which wiped out a large portion of
the Klamath run, and whose offspring are returning. Ocean conditions
were also extremely poor, with no upwelling occurring -- upwelling
drives the ocean food chain -- until mid-summer. 

Still others believe there is a predatory element. Eureka fisherman Glen
Councilman outside the meeting showed off photos of giant masses of sea
lions at the mouth of the Klamath. 

"I'm not saying it's the only problem," he said. "But it's a problem and
nobody wants to talk about it." 

One of the key elements in the 2006 predictions is the small number of
2-year-old fish that came up the river in 2005. Only 2,300 of 65,579
chinook were jacks -- the second lowest since 1978, said Fish and Game
biologist Sarah Borok. That small percentage also applied to the
Klamath's important tributaries, the Trinity, Salmon and Scott rivers. 

Trinity River fishing guide E.B. Duggan asked the council to recommend a
restricted season similar to last year's, because a closure would hurt
tourist businesses that have had a hard time recently. But he agreed
that it is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario. 

Klamath council Chairman Curt Melcher said any recommendation must also
consider tribal trust responsibilities, market availability of salmon,
endangered species and other factors. Melcher said that no fishing would
likely be presented as the worst-case option in a range of options when
the issue is raised again in March. 

The Klamath council meeting continues today at 8:30 a.m. at the Red Lion

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