[env-trinity] Eureka Times Standard 3 1 10

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Mon Mar 1 11:09:13 PST 2010

Salmon season to undergo scrutiny

Eureka Times-Standard-3/1/10

John Driscoll


There is hope for a decent salmon season after several years of crushing
closures driven by troubling returns of spawning chinook salmon to the
Sacramento and Klamath rivers. 


That hope is tempered, in part, because federal fisheries managers
substantially overestimated the number of fish that returned to the vital
Sacramento River in 2009. After three years of falling far short of the
number of spawning salmon believed necessary to sustain the Sacramento
stocks -- in two years even without fishing -- officials may take a more
precautionary approach in allowing angling. 


Even with that tighter management, it appears that there will be fish to
harvest in 2010. 


"There are fish, on paper at least, that could support some fisheries," said
Chuck Tracy with the Pacific Fishery Management Council. 


The length, timing and geography of the seasons will also have to be
determined based on whether commercial fishermen opt to participate in the
fishery or stay out yet another year because there aren't enough fish to
make it worth their while. 


That would make 2010 the fourth out of five years in which commercial
fishing has cratered. 


The PFMC has been managing chinook salmon stocks in the Sacramento River so
that 122,000 adults return to spawn. The complicated model used to generate
estimates for abundance of salmon in the ocean rests heavily on the number
of jacks, or two-year-old salmon, that return early and act as an indicator
of the following year's abundance. 


In 2009, the PFMC estimated that just over 122,000 salmon would return to
the Sacramento, based on about 4,000 jacks returning the year before. That
allowed a tiny sport fishery off Eureka and Crescent City in the fall, but
closed the rest of the coast to commercial and sport fishing. But even
without impacts from fishing, only 39,500 chinook actually returned to the
Sacramento in fall of 2009. 


The low returns came during a three-year drought, and biologists and
fishermen point at increased agricultural pumping from the Sacramento River
Delta killing young salmon and leading to the downturn. Poor ocean
conditions, namely a lack of food, may also factor in. 


Fisheries managers say that more than 9,200 jacks swam up the Sacramento in
2009, which produces an estimate of 245,000 salmon in the ocean when run
through the model. Based on the "floor" of 122,000 spawners, that would mean
some 123,000 fish are available to catch this year. 


But last year's experience with overestimating the number of returning
adults is prompting regulators to err on the side of precaution. The
National Marine Fisheries Service -- which must approve seasons and quotas
-- is recommending managing for a higher number of returning adults, perhaps
as many as 180,000. That would leave 65,000 salmon to catch. 


"It's appropriate to proceed with precaution for setting any fishing
levels," said NMFS fishery biologist Peter Dygart. 


For comparison, 770,000 salmon returned to the Sacramento in 2002, and
523,000 returned in 2003. 


Klamath River chinook numbers, which have for years suppressed fishing and
resulted in large-scale closures in 2006, were better predicted for 2009.
The PFMC's report says that if 2009 regulations -- which offered only the
token fall fishery -- were repeated for 2010, there would be enough fish
left to spawn in the Klamath to meet management objectives. 


Sport fishermen are hoping for a better season than last year's. Humboldt
Area Saltwater Anglers representative Ben Doane said that the anglers intend
to submit three options to the PFMC for consideration. The first would be a
season roughly from mid-June to Sept. 1, which Doane expected would be
turned down. The second would be July 4 to Aug. 15, roughly. The third would
be mid-July to mid-August. All options would be for two fish a day, seven
days a week. 


"We're cautiously optimistic for a season," Doane said. "What that may be
remains to be seen." 


The PFMC is scheduled to meet March 5 to March 11 in Sacramento to begin
discussions on the salmon season.#



Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land/fax (call first to fax)

415 519 4810 mobile

 <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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