[env-trinity] Salmon Closures

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Fri Mar 27 16:35:28 PDT 2009

Salmon Fishing Ban to Continue Off California, Oregon 


by Dan Bacher 


Commercial and recreational salmon fishermen face another year of fishing
closures in ocean waters off California and most of Oregon, due to the
collapse of the Central Valley Fall Chinook salmon population. 


The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), a federal body that sets
fishing regulations for ocean fisheries, on March 12 adopted three public
review options for the 2009 salmon season off the West Coast. The Council
will consult with scientists, hear public comment, and revise preliminary
decisions until it chooses a final option at its meeting during the week of
April 5 in Millbrae, California. 


While fisheries in the north improved as Chinook and coho stocks rebounded,
fisheries in the south will be closed or very limited because of the
dramatic decline of Sacramento River Chinooks. 


"California ocean sport fishing options range from entirely closed to 10
open days in August and September in the Eureka/Crescent City area,"
according to Dr. Donald McIsaac, executive director of the PMFC. "Options
for Oregon ocean Chinook fishing in the Brookings area range from closed to
open for 10 days in August and September, while Season options for the
Tillamook, Newport, and Coos Bay areas range from closed to open in


The 10 open day option does not require an "emergency rule" from the U.S.
Commerce Department and there is a "real good chance" it will be approved,
said Jim Martin, West Coast Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.
This very limited option would target only Klamath River fall Chinook


Oregon ocean recreational options also include mark-selective coho fishing
seasons starting in June or July and running into September. One of those
options includes a three fish daily bag limit to take advantage of a large
abundance of hatchery coho. 


Commercial ocean salmon fishing will be closed in California in 2009,
according to McIsaac. Oregon commercial season options in the Brookings area
range from closed to a season with a 1,000 Chinook quota in September.
Season options in the Tillamook, Newport, and Coos Bay area range from
closed to open for Chinook and coho in September, with quotas on coho catch.


In 2008, an unprecedented low return of 66,264 adult Fall Chinooks on the
Sacramento River led to the closure of both recreational and salmon fishing
off the California and Oregon coast for the first time in 150 years. While
this year's returns are better than last year's, the season options are
still limited. 


Even without any fishing, only 122,196 fish are expected to return to the
Sacramento River this year. The minimum conservation goal for the once
robust run is 122,000-180,000 spawning adult salmon. The Sacramento River
Fall Chinook is the driver of West Coast salmon fisheries. 


Recreational and commercial fishermen support the ocean salmon closure this
year to protect the imperiled population of fall Chinooks, although they are
quick to point out that fishing didn't cause the unprecedented decline. 


"I would be surprised that anybody who has looked at the Sacramento River
returns believes that a season could be sustained," said Dick Pool,
administrator of water4fish.org. "We're still crossing our figures on the
possibility of having a 2010 season because of the massive trucking program
and acclimation of over 23 million hatchery salmon in pens in San Pablo Bay
that took place last year. However, without solving the problems that salmon
encounter on the Delta and Central Valley rivers, we won't be able to
rebuild the natural stocks." 


Although last year officials with the Bush and Schwarzenegger
administrations claimed that "ocean conditions" spurred the collapse, a
coalition of recreational, commercial fishermen, Indian Tribes,
conservationists and independent scientists pointed to increased water
exports from the California Delta, declining water quality and other
freshwater habitat problems as the key factors in the collapse. 


A report released by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on March
18 said the salmon collapse is the result of a combination of both poor
ocean and river conditions. To read the report, "What caused the Sacramento
River fall Chinook stock collapse?" go to:


The collapse of salmon fisheries has led to economic devastation to coastal
and inland communities dependent upon recreational and commercial salmon
fishing. Fish advocates charge that fishing jobs have been sacrificed to
provide massive amounts of water to subsidized, junior water rights holders
in the Westlands Water District and Kern County that irrigate toxic,
drainage-impaired land. 


"The collapse of salmonid fisheries has led to a corresponding depression in
the recreational fishing industry," said California Sportfishing Protection
Alliance (CSPA) Executive Director Bill Jennings. "The number of anglers
declined from 2.7 million in 1996 to 1.7 million in 2006." 


The economic consequences of last year's closure of the salmon fishing
season amounted to $255 million, along with the loss of 2,263 jobs. 


"It makes no sense to sacrifice California's historic fishing industry in
order to supply subsidized water to grow subsidized non-food crops on
impaired desert lands that by design discharge toxic wastes back to Central
Valley waterways," emphasized Jennings. "While farmers now face a drought
brought on by Mother Nature, fishermen are facing a disaster brought on by
water agency greed." 


California's freshwater recreational fishery generates $1.5 billion in
retail sales, $2.5 billion in trip related expenses and almost 27,000 jobs,
according to economic data from the American Sportfishing Association. The
marine recreational fishery generates $3.7 billion in retail sales, $1.9
billion in value-added impacts and almost 23,000 jobs. 


The results of a rewritten "biological opinion" by the National Marine
Fisheries Services agree largely with Jennings, Pool and other fishery


The court-mandated report concludes that increases in freshwater exports out
of the California Delta amd the operation of Shasta Dam and other reservoirs
have led to the collapse of Central Valley spring run and winter run salmon,
Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and the southern resident orca
population. The killer whales, now estimated to number less than 90
individuals, feed heavily upon Sacramento Chinooks and other runs of salmon.


Scientists and representatives of recreational angling, commercial fishing,
tribal and environmental groups spoke about the urgent need to restore
salmon fisheries before the California State Assembly's Committee on Water,
Parks & Wildlife, convened by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, at an informational
hearing on the salmon crisis Tuesday, March 10 at the State Capitol. 


"The fish don't lie," said Peter Moyle, PhD, author of a January 2008 report
commissioned by California Trout on the status of California's native
salmon, steelhead and trout populations. "The story they tell is that
California's environment is unraveling. Their demise is symptomatic of a
much larger water crisis that, unless addressed, will severely impact every


They urged immediate and long term actions to deal with degraded water
quality, dysfunctional management of the Delta, insufficient instream flow,
and degraded inland habitat. 


"There are a myriad of problems facing salmon, but what has to be done
before anything else, and above all else - is restoring water flows in the
Delta and our coastal streams," said Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast
Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA), which represents commercial
fishing men and women. "It's critical the state not get lost in the weeds
trying to restore salmon; water flow and water quality are at the foundation
of rebuilding our salmon fishery. Fish gotta swim." 


In addition to dramatic improvements in Delta flows, water quality and
habitat, environmental and fishing groups believe that improvements in
California's water management and aggressive development of locally based
water supplies are an important way to curb pressure on our imperiled


"We can save our California salmon by being more reasonable and innovative
with our water use," said Mindy McIntyre of the Planning and Conservation
League. "Certainly salmon are more integrally a part of California than our
lawns, and we shouldn't be sacrificing California's salmon legacy when we
can be smarter about water use." 


She said the salmon decline is a call to action to "quickly develop recycled
water, increase water use efficiency and clean up streams and waterways." 


On a more positive note, the PFMC forecasts that the Klamath River Fall
Chinook run will meet the minimum natural spawning goal of 35,000 and the
2009 management objective of 40,700. This will mean good recreational and
fishing opportunities for salmon on the Klamath and Trinity rivers again
this season. 


Also, Oregon coastal coho had much better returns in 2008 than forecast,
with a total of 165,700 natural spawners ascending the streams, according to
PFMC data. This was the best return in four years and the fifth best since
at least 1970. 


Public hearings to receive input on the options (as dismal as they are) are
scheduled for March 30 in Westport, Washington and Coos Bay, Oregon; and for
March 31 in Eureka, California. 


At its April 5-9 meeting in Millbrae, the Council will narrow these options
to a single season recommendation to be forwarded to the National Marine
Fisheries Service (NMFS) for their final approval before May 1. All Council
meetings are open to the public. For more information, go to:
<http://www.pcouncil.org/> http://www.pcouncil.org 


Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 cell

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 




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