West Coast salmon fishery in state of disaster

  • Published on May 26th, 2017

California Governor Jerry Brown and Oregon Governor Kate Brown have sent a letter  to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross salmon dead endrequesting declaration of a catastrophic regional fishery disaster and commercial fishery failure for salmon in their states.

By Dan Bacher

The declaration begins the process for requesting federal aid to assist commercial salmon trollers and salmon-dependent business that continue to suffer from declining salmon populations, spurred by a combination of poor ocean conditions, water diversions and questionable state and federal water management during the historic drought

“Last month, the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s projections for salmon in these states were dire. In the 2017 season, many miles of coastline will be closed to commercial salmon fishing and allowable catch will be greatly reduced, compounding the already significantly lower economic returns seen in 2016,” the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reported.

Commercial fishermen applauded the request by the two governors.

“Commercial salmon fishermen in California and Oregon applaud this critical step in the federal fishery disaster relief process,” said Noah Oppenheim, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA). “Salmon season restrictions and closures have been simply devastating to hard working fishing families coast-wide.”

“Boats have been scrapped, livelihoods have been ruined, and one of the oldest ways of life on the West Coast teeters on the brink. Now is the time for the Federal government and Congress to step up and do their part to assist working fishing families by providing federal fisheries disaster assistance,” stated Oppenheim.

The commercial non-tribal salmon fishery in the Klamath Management Zone (KMZ), a 200 mile stretch of coast from Humbug Mountain in Oregon to Horse Mountain in California, is completely closed this year, since the lowest return of Klamath River fall-run Chinook salmon is forecasted this season.

There will be a limited fishery  — up to 3,000 fish, with a limit of 60 fish per week per boat) — in the Fort Bragg area in September. The area surrounding San Francisco will open for a limited time in August, September, and parts of October. The salmon fishery has been open in May and will be open in June solely in areas south of Pigeon Point; fishing has been very poor for commercial fishermen to date.

Due to the salmon closures, State Senator Mike McGuire, who convened yesterday’s hearing, and Assemblymember Jim Wood had called on Governor Brown to request a federal fishery disaster.

“The 2017 salmon season is anticipated to be one of the worst on record including predictions of the lowest return of Klamath River salmon in history,” said McGuire. “This collapse has had disastrous impacts on our fisheries, our commercial and recreational fishing industries and on tribes, whose commercial fisheries will be closed and subsistence and ceremonial fishing severely curtailed.”

The entire Klamath River and Trinity River will be closed to recreational salmon fishing including catch and release, although both rivers will remain open for steelhead fishing.

The Yurok Tribe’s commercial fishery will be closed and subsistence and ceremonial fishing by the Yurok, Hoopa Valley and Karuk Tribe will be curtailed. This will result in less than a fish per every 10 Yurok Tribal members, potentially triggering a health crisis, according to McGuire.

For more information about declared West Coast disasters, please see The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration list here:www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/management/disaster/determinations/wcro.html


Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s news release

About the Author

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento who focuses on California's water issues, a healthy environment for the salmon fishery of the Northwest, and the attempts by big agriculture and big oil to hog all the water.