[env-trinity] Managers to close salmon fisheries in Oregon and Northern California due to Klamath Stocks

Tom Stokely tstokely at trinityalps.net
Wed Mar 8 14:45:16 PST 2006


Managers to close salmon fisheries in Oregon and Northern California

Seattle Post-Intelligencer – 3/7/06

By Robert McClure, staff writer


Federal fisheries managers in Seattle on Tuesday declared their intention to close summer salmon fisheries off Oregon and Northern California to protect a stock battered by controversial water diversions to help farmers.


“It’s huge and unprecedented” to take such a sweeping action, said Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, whose officials briefed the Pacific Fishery Management Council. “It’s a big deal and it’s tough for fishermen.”


The closure to help the ailing Klamath River fall chinook run means that the much larger and healthier Sacramento River salmon stocks must also be left alone. It would affect waters off a 700-mile stretch of coastline from Northern Oregon to Big Sur, south of San Fransisco. 


“If (the closure) were only the Klamath stocks, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but they mix with other stocks on the West coast and they’re indistinguishable,” Gorman said. Virtually all the fish in question are landed and eaten in northern California and Oregon.


NMFS official Peter Dygert told the fishery council that the move still must be approved by the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, said Seattle fisherman Joel Kawahara.


Only a handful of fishing vessels from Seattle target the salmon stocks in question. But the proposed closure could have impacts in Washington as displaced fishermen from the south seek salmon here, Gorman said.


The Klamath, in southern Oregon and northern California, became a flashpoint in the battle between farmers and fish advocates early this decade, with the Bush administration siding with farmers. 


Later, a massive die-off of Klamath salmon was traced by scientists to a parasite in the river that fares well when river flows are low and temperatures warm – as when water was diverted to farm fields.


The Klamath River stock that spurred the closure has failed to reach a population goal for the third year running, NMFS scientists say. Fisheries managers targeted the Klamath stock to return to 36,000 fish. But current counts indicate the actual number will fall short of that by about 6,000 fish, Gorman said.


Karahawa, the Seattle fisherman, questioned why the White House should be involved in the decision. 


“I’m concerned about the Klamath River stocks and I’m concerned about the political interference by the administration in the recovery of the Klamath River stocks,” Karahawa said. “I’m angry about the diversion of the water. I’m angry about the fact that for conservation needs, they will shut down the fishery – however, there will be no adequate measures taken in (the) river to support fish.”


If the season is closed, the government would work to expedite federal disaster relief for fishermen, said Frank Lockhart, director of NMFS’ northwest sustainable fisheries division.


The council is expected to make its final recommendation to NMFS when it meets again in April in Sacramento. But NMFS officials have the final say, and they are the ones who announced their intentions on Tuesday.


The fish in question are not protected under the Endangered Species Act. #




Editorial: Klamath Basin salmon echoes

Seattle Times – 3/8/06


A sharply reduced salmon-fishing season may be the unhappy outcome of a meeting of policymakers in Seattle this week. They are dealing with poor decisions made by others five years ago in Oregon's Klamath Basin.


Dramatically reducing the season from Northern Oregon into California, a 700-mile stretch, is necessary to save chinook at sea as they commingle with other salmon. Protecting one means cutting back on the catch of all. The options for the Pacific Fishery Management Council range from bad to devastating, but the choices between levels of curtailment and outright ban are about saving a fishery. It's that fundamental.


Chinook runs on the Klamath River never rebounded from a historic fish kill in the basin in fall 2002, and from devastating and successive bouts of a parasite that claimed juvenile salmon.


In a region with complex water issues, a brutal political shorthand reduced the competition for water to one of fish vs. farmers. Agriculture had suffered through a terrible drought in 2001. Over the protests of federal agencies, the headgates were opened with a flourish in spring 2002 by two Bush administration Cabinet members to increase water for irrigation.


By fall, salmon died in numbers subsequently estimated at 70,000 because of low flows of warm water. An investigation by the California Department of Fish and Game laid the blame on the federal government for conditions that allowed disease to flourish and spread.


This fishery is dwarfed by the salmon harvest from Alaska and competition grows from farm-raised salmon, but the economic impact is still significant. The alternative, really not a choice at all, is to risk harm that jeopardizes incomes beyond recovery.


The council's final recommendation will come next month at a meeting in Sacramento. The hard choices driven by the Klamath experience come after a success story on the Sacramento River, which enjoyed a healthy rebound of salmon.


Poor choices five years ago in one basin haunt an entire industry. #


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