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California Fisherman Give Salmon Away

By TOSHI MAEDA
Associated Press Writer
posted7/8/03

 

PRINCETON, Calif. (AP)--There was something fishy about this giveaway.

Enjoying what may be a record salmon haul, northern California fishermen celebrated Independence Day by giving fellow citizens free fish--a move also designed to draw attention on low prices they blame on a flooded market, competition and pressure from buyers.

Large salmon are bringing fishermen $1.25 a pound, down from $2.25 last year, and smaller ones are going for as little as 75 cents a pound wholesale, they said.

``At this price, I have no enthusiasm to go out and catch these fish,'' said Duncan MacLean, president of the Half Moon Bay Fishermen's Association. He said he came up with the idea of a giveaway as a way to ``stimulate the market and the public.''

Nearly 1,000 people lined up at Pillar Point Harbor to score handouts, more than 400 pieces of the pink meat, each weighing about four pounds, plenty to feed a family of four.

``It was incredible. I was blown away by the people who showed up,'' MacLean said after spending the morning cutting 200 king salmon into pieces.

The free fish ran out shortly before noon, an hour into the giveaway, leaving hundreds of people empty-handed, but fishermen had plenty to sell at a bargain retail price of $3.50 a pound.

``I waited an hour and half and I was next in line,'' said Art Peredia, who drove more than 40 miles from San Jose. ``I am going to buy one anyway.''

MacLean said fisherman face stiff competition from bigger salmon caught off the Alaska coast and from cheaper Atlantic salmon from fish farms.

West Coast salmon returns hit bottom in 1994, when the Pacific Fishery Management Council practically had to shut down sport and commercial salmon fishing to keep from wiping out threatened and endangered runs.

Over the past three years, salmon populations and catches have been steadily increasing. This year's harvest is expected to rival 1988, when California fishermen pulled up 1.3 million fish.

In an average year, California fishermen catch between 300,000 and 400,000 salmon at sea, according to Chuck Tracy of the fishery management council, which regulates sport and commercial fishing in the ocean.

Scientists credit this year's bounty to climatic conditions that enhance algae growth, a boon that bumps up the food chain to produce bigger and more abundant salmon.

 

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On the Net:

Pacific Fishery Management Council: http://pcouncil.org

 

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