From: Jackson Holtz, Associated Press
Published March 10, 2006 12:00 AM

NOAA Fisheries Recommend Closing Salmon Fishing from California to Oregon

SEATTLE — Federal fish managers are recommending not allowing salmon fishing from California to Oregon this season, after concerns that fewer mature chinook salmon are spawning to replace the fish that are dying off.

The suggestion, made this week to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, would shut down fishing along 700 miles of coastline, from Oregon's Cape Falcon to California's Point Sur, just south of San Francisco.

Fisherman Dave Bitts, vice president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman Associations, a California fishing lobby, said closing the salmon season will be disastrous. One closed season will ruin the fleet, Bitts said, and all the businesses that service fishing boats. He estimated the value of the California salmon business at $150 million.

"If we can't fish, we're broke," he said.

The National Marine Fisheries Service recommendation is only one the council must consider as it meets in Seattle this week, but it carries great weight. The council is an advisory body to NMFS, which ultimately sets harvest limits. A final recommendation for NMFS is expected when the council meets again in April in Sacramento, Calif.

Klamath River chinook populations have fallen well below required limits for the last several years, said NMFS spokesman Peter Dygert. Dygert encouraged the council to consider other recommendations, but cautioned that NMFS is unlikely to approve a proposal without an emergency closure.

Dell Simmons, a NMFS biologist, gave the council a bleak picture of salmon populations for the season. For the third year in a row, he said, the number of mature chinook salmon leaving the ocean to spawn in the Klamath River is expected to fall below the 35,000 minimum.

Fishermen said the problem in the Klamath isn't fishing harvests, it's a sick river.

Jim Anderson, spokesman for the California Salmon Council, said lower river levels and warmer river temperatures cause parasites that kill the fish. He pointed to river dams as a major contributor to the problems.

If approved, this would be the largest closure of a salmon fishery, said Frank Lockhart, director of NMFS' northwest sustainable fisheries division. If the season is closed, the government would work to expedite federal disaster relief for fishermen, Lockhart said.

"It's getting harder and harder to make a living doing this," said fisherman Matthew O'Donnell of Crescent City, Calif. "It's a shame."

Source: Associated Press

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