Panel sets fishing seasons for West Coast salmon
For the first time since 2007, commercial and recreational fishermen will be able to cast their lines for ocean salmon from the Canadian border to Mexico.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council approved seasons and quotas for chinook and coho salmon off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California on Thursday, as it completed a weeklong session establishing policy and seasons for ocean fisheries. The coast off California and much of Oregon has been closed to commercial fishing the last two seasons because of declining salmon runs.
The council’s decision should bring some relief to an industry knocked down by the one-two punch of a dismal economy and dramatic losses in the once-healthy runs of Sacramento River Basin fall chinook - the large, flavor-rich salmon that is the cornerstone of Oregon and California coastal fisheries.
"This is nothing more than a token," said Zeke Grader, director of the San Francisco-based Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, which represents about 1,500 individual members.
Coastal communities rocked by two years of closures to commercial salmon fishing have received $170 million in federal disaster relief to help deal with the losses.
"Fishing is a gamble," said Jeff Reeves, a fisherman from Charleston, Ore., and a member of the Oregon Salmon Commission, speaking by cell phone as he pulled in crab pots. "But this is as bad as it’s gotten."
The most dramatic losses have been in the Sacramento River Basin, which has seen its numbers plummet from 769,868 returning chinook in 2002 to a record-low 39,500 fall chinook last year. The management council predicts 245,000 fall-run chinook will return this year.
Many in the fishing industry blame the diversion of the Sacramento River to irrigate the San Joaquin Valley.