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Fishery managers propose limited Chinook season


A crowd of about 100 recreational and commercial salmon fishermen and representatives from related industries packed the Umpqua Room at the Red Lion Hotel on Monday evening and told fishery managers: We don't like your options.

Representatives and staff of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the quasi-governmental body charged with developing fishery management plans, came to Coos Bay to gather input about a range of options for this summer's salmon fishery. The council will accept more public comment in Tacoma when it meets the first week of April, then make a final decision later that week.

For commercial fishermen on the South Coast, the range of options dwindle the closer the area is to the Klamath River, the river system responsible for most of this year's shortened seasons.

Though the options contain other management options such as sport and commercial allocations and sizes of harvestable fish, the main changes relate to seasons. In previous years, fishermen could fish most of the summer and into October, but in general:

 from Cape Falcon to the Florence South Jetty: There would be no fishing in July or August;

 from the Florence South Jetty to Humbug Mountain: There would be no fishing in June, July or August; and

 from Humbug Mountain to the California border: there would be no fishing in May, June, July or August.

In addition, the size of Chinook that fishermen would be allowed to keep would increase as the season wears on, from 27 inches to 28 inches.

The problem, managers say, is that low spring flows in 2002 - when water was diverted to California farms - created multiple problems for young and adult salmon, cutting down on the numbers of fish that survived that year. Now, three years later, that year class is too small to sustain a higher level of fishing. Enough fish must survive natural mortality and fishing to reproduce and keep the population strong.

Though many fishermen said the science on which managers base their decisions isn't accurate - "You're doing science on computers, not on fish," Port Orford troller Chris Aiello said - other fishermen were simply dismayed.

"There are none of these options that are acceptable," Oregon salmon troller Rayburn Guerin said at the meeting. "We've been held hostage by the Klamath system way too long. ... How many millions of dollars do you want the Klamath to extract from coastal communities?"

Recreational fishermen, too, didn't particularly care for their options.

The Chinook season, under all four options for sport fishing between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain, would run March 15-Oct. 31, with a shorter season for the selective coho fishery. The coho fishery would be restricted by a few weeks over what it was last year. Additionally, sport fishermen would be allowed to catch roughly half the number of fish they were allowed to catch in 2004.

Charleston Harbor Master Don Yost, noting that he was concerned about both recreational and commercial fishermen and revenues to coastal communities, challenged the council to find more options.

"Without options, they're out of business," Yost said. "Let's find them a few more days on the ocean."

The Pacific Fishery Management Council will determine final fishing seasons at its April 4-8 meeting in Tacoma. For more information, those interested can call the council at (503) 820-2280 or, toll-free, at (866) 806-7204. The council's Web site is http://www.pcouncil.org.






Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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