[env-trinity] LA Times 4 9 09

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Thu Apr 9 11:27:49 PDT 2009

Federal officials ban salmon fishing off California coast


Dwindling populations of Chinook salmon force fishery managers to severely
limit commercial salmon fishing in California and Oregon for the second year
in a row. Future of the industry is dubious.


The Los Angeles Times - 4/9/09

By Maria L. La Ganga

Reporting from Millbrae, Calif. - Federal fishery managers voted unanimously
Wednesday to ban commercial salmon fishing off the coast of California for
the second year in a row, a move some fishermen fear could imperil the
industry's future in the name of saving it.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council also severely limited commercial
fishing off the coast of Oregon for the second year and took a deep bite out
of recreational salmon fishing in California, restricting that popular
pastime to a 10-day window and a 130-mile stretch from the Oregon border

Canceling the commercial season was the only tack to take "when your
bread-and-butter stock is not producing," said David Bitts, president of the
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Assns. 

"But if we don't go fishing next year," warned Bitts, a fisherman from
Eureka, Calif., "we have to start thinking that salmon fishing in California
is over."

Only about 122,000 of the prized Chinook -- also known as wild king salmon
-- are expected to journey up the Sacramento River to spawn this fall.
Although that's nearly twice as many as in last year's dismal season, it is
barely enough to sustain the salmon population.

"It's terrible, to say the least," said David Goldenberg, chief executive of
the California Salmon Council. "But we're going to have to deal with it, if
the numbers of returning salmon are so low fishermen don't want to fish it."

But "dealing with it" could be easier said than done, and fishermen are not
the only ones affected by the shutdown. The whole salmon infrastructure will
take yet another hit, from gear stores and ice houses to fuel docks and
processing plants. State officials estimated that the 2008 fishing ban
resulted in a loss of $255 million and 2,263 jobs. 

"Things are very fragile as far as the infrastructure is concerned," said
Duncan MacLean, a Half Moon Bay, Calif., commercial fisherman and salmon
advisor to the management council. "There's a lot of support businesses that
will either relocate or go under."

The salmon industry received a miniature federal bailout after the 2008
season was canceled -- $170 million in emergency aid, of which about $120
million was disbursed to everyone from fishermen to charter boat owners.

"It's been a godsend for the entire industry," said MacLean, who traveled
with others in the industry to Washington last year to lobby Congress for
assistance. "We wouldn't be considering ourselves still fishermen right now
if it wasn't for that."

It is unclear whether more aid will be available to help assuage a second
year of pain. At the very least, the industry hopes last year's leftovers
will be distributed to keep fishermen and others afloat.

There is no single reason for California and Oregon's flagging Chinook
fishery, but rather a plethora of unfortunate circumstances.

Recent ocean conditions have been too warm and there has not been enough
food for so-called juvenile fall-run Chinook salmon, according to a National
Marine Fisheries Service report. 

MacLean also points to record water deliveries to Southern California,
habitat destruction caused by urbanization, pollution from agricultural
chemicals and mismanagement of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. 

"There's no one smoking gun," MacLean said, "but there are a lot of spent
shell casings all over the place." 

Washington's fisheries are healthy enough this season for commercial and
recreational fishing of both Chinook and coho salmon, although there are
quotas in place.

The big question is whether the salmon population will rebound enough in
2010 for salmon fishing to resume in California and Oregon.

Peter Moyle, a professor of fish biology at UC Davis, is dubious. "Ocean
conditions are pretty good right now, and salmon numbers are creeping up
again," he wrote in an e-mail, "but there is no guarantee such trends will
lead to fishable populations in the next 2-3 years, or beyond."

Just before the unanimous vote, the council's California representative said
she hoped 2010 would be a better year.

"It's very unfortunate we have no real ocean fisheries in California," said
Marija Vojkovich of the California Department of Fish and Game, ruing what
she called the state's "commercial nonseason."

"I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this is not what we deal with next





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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