Permit holders -- $1.27 million

Active salmon fishermen -- $15.7 million

Active fish buyers -- $6 million

Commercial charter boats -- $1 million

River businesses -- $2 million

Associated businesses -- $3 million

Fisheries research -- $1.5 million

Reserve funds -- $1.7 million

Department of Fish and Game -- $400,000

California Salmon Council -- $500,000

Source: California Salmon Council

Salmon relief funds to flow

$33 million in federal money to be dispersed by state

The state is putting out millions of dollars in federal relief this week to fishermen and fishing businesses scarred by the disastrous 2006 salmon season.

The season was all but eliminated for North Coast commercial fishermen -- and sharply reduced for central coast and Oregon fishermen -- due to an anticipated poor run on the Klamath River. Fishing guides and businesses in the Klamath region also saw a tough year, as fishermen weren't able to keep any fish in the fall.

In all, some $60.4 million in aid is coming down from the federal government to be split by fishermen, fish buyers, processors, tribes and other fishing businesses in California and Oregon. California secured $33 million of that, in what is only the second fishery disaster every declared by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

”For some people, it's starting to get pretty urgent,” said Eureka commercial fisherman Dave Bitts.

Bitts said rectifying problems with the state's database on salmon landings held up the process, but he credited Rep. Mike Thompson for pressing for the aid package.

The St. Helena Democrat managed to get the money passed as part of a war spending bill in May. The money is being dispersed by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Council, and the commercial fishing part of that equation is being coordinated by the California Salmon Council. The North Coast Small Business Development Center is helping with river fishing businesses.

David Goldenberg with the California Salmon Council said some money has already been handed out. Any commercial salmon fisherman with a 2006 permit should have already received $1,000. Funding based on recent years' catches should begin going out this week, Goldenberg said.

Nearly half of the funds will go to commercial salmon fishermen who fished in 2005 or 2006. The amount they receive will vary based on landings during their best year between 2002 and 2006.

Thompson spokesman Jonathan Birdsong said that the process for distributing aid has been complex, and that he's happy the funds are ready to go out.

”The congressman is hopeful that this funding will help the commercial salmon fishing industry and related businesses get back on their feet,” Birdsong said.

The Klamath's salmon runs often limit fishing seasons and quotas, and in 2006 the cutbacks affected 800 miles of coast in California and Oregon. Dams, water diversions, algae blooms and water quality problems all affect salmon in the Klamath.

After a huge fish kill in 2002, in which 68,000 salmon died from diseases in a hot, shallow river, regulators began to consider how to protect the poor runs expected two and three years later.

The only other disaster declaration for a fishery was in the 1990s, when the East Coast's groundfish fleet and processors suffered severe setbacks due to crashing fish stocks. The federal government provided $55 million in disaster relief to the area in 1994.

Fishing guide Ken Cunningham, whose guide service works on the Klamath, said he'll be putting together his paperwork for relief money this week. While his clients were able to catch young salmon -- called jacks -- in 2006, they were not able to keep any adult fish, he said, a rule that dampened enthusiasm for fishing on the river.

”There are a lot of people that would be happy if they could just keep one fish,” Cunningham said.


John Driscoll can be reached at 441-0504 or