[env-trinity] Mercury News 4 07 09
bwl3 at comcast.net
Tue Apr 7 10:40:30 PDT 2009
California salmon fishing season likely shut down for second straight year
The San Jose Mercury News - 4/7/09
By Julia Scott
MILLBRAE - The California Chinook salmon fishery will be shut down for the
second year in a row because of near-record salmon population losses in the
Sacramento River basin system, fishery regulators decided on Monday.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council tentatively voted to close all waters
south of Eureka to salmon fishermen for the second consecutive year to
protect the dwindling population of Sacramento River Chinook projected to
spawn upriver this fall. The council will take a final vote on Wednesday but
is expected to uphold Monday's decision.
Historically low salmon returns prompted fishery officials to shut down all
forms of salmon fishing off nearly the entire West Coast for the first time
last year. That action led Congress to appropriate $170 million in federal
disaster funds to compensate salmon fishermen and fishery-reliant coastal
industries for their losses. Roughly $120 million of that was directed to
Scientists predict that only 122,000 salmon will return to the Sacramento
this autumn to spawn, twice as many as last year's record-low 66,000 but
still a fraction of the 800,000 that have returned in healthier years.
Maria Vojkovich, who represents California on the council, acknowledged the
pain the restrictions will cause but said they were necessary to preserve
the long-term survival of the species in the Sacramento River system, the
San Francisco-San Joaquin Delta and the Bay.
"This is less emotional than last year, but it's not better at all. I'm
keeping my fingers crossed that I have something else to say next year. It's
the best we could do," Vojkovich said.
Half Moon Bay fisherman and salmon advisory council member Duncan MacLean
said the closure was necessary given the numbers, but he is worried about
the survival of the industry and his livelihood.
"I fear for my future in fishing," MacLean said. "I just hope I get to do it
again in my lifetime."
MacLean is leading an effort to get another round of federal subsidies for
small fishermen hard-hit by the closure. About $48 million may be left over
in last year's fund.
Monday's decision allows for very limited commercial and recreational salmon
fishing between Eureka and northern Oregon. The season remains normal in
Washington state, where adult salmon are more plentiful.
Scientists testified that Sacramento Chinook salmon runs were likely to
rebound slightly in 2010 and 2011, at least enough to allow for some
fishing. The current Central Valley salmon crisis is blamed on a combination
of factors, including natural ocean variations and a host of problems in the
Sacramento River Basin, such as dams, loss of natural ecosystems and
damaging fish hatchery practices.
Fishermen and biologists advising the council lined up to criticize a report
presented at Monday's meeting that mainly attributed the 2008 and 2009
Chinook mortality rate to unexplained ocean conditions that did not provide
enough food for juvenile salmon and other species in 2005 and 2006. As a
result, few salmon survived to adulthood to spawn upstream three years
Critics of the report said it discounted evidence of young salmon smolts
dying in the Sacramento River system before they reach the Golden Gate.
Ninety-five percent of tidal wetlands, a key salmon habitat, have
disappeared from the system over time, according to one salmon biologist at
the meeting. Delta levees and dikes also can impede fish rearing. Natural
predators like striped bass take their toll, as does water being pumped out
of the Delta to Southern California.
Fish hatcheries on the Sacramento, originally conceived as a solution to the
problem of dams blocking salmon from spawning upstream, have created a new
kind of problem, according to the report submitted by the National Marine
Fisheries Service. The juvenile fish are raised in pens and trucked around
the dams, but grow up with a depleted natural immunity to changes in
temperature and forms of disease.
The real question of the day was how to craft a salmon management policy
that takes all these problems into account and highlights the
interconnectedness of rivers, the Bay and the ocean for a species that
spends parts of its life in each environment. The Pacific Fishery Management
Council only has the power to regulate fishing, and only out at sea.
Everyone acknowledged that banning salmon fishing in California wasn't
going to solve the long-term problem.
"We could do a lot more if we thought in a more holistic fashion," said
Churchill Grimes, director of the Fisheries Ecology Division of the National
Marine Fisheries Service. "The PFMC doesn't have control over what the
Department of Water Resources and others do, and they have authority over
the areas in which their other life stages occur."
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
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