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Off the hook: Salmon fishing ban OK’d

SACRAMENTO April 10, 2008

• State of emergency declared in California

• Salmon population in deep dive

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) is recommending to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce that the commercial and recreational salmon fisheries in California be closed for the 2008 season.

A state of emergency declaration was issued immediately by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who says many commercial fishing operations will be driven out of business by the ban.

He says he will also sign a bill by Sen. Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, which appropriates approximately $5.3 million of the $45 million in Proposition 84 funds to begin coastal salmon and steelhead fishery restoration projects.

“Today’s decision by the Pacific Fishery Management Council underscores our responsibility to quickly free up state and federal resources to help the fishing industry cope with the devastating economic impacts closing the season will have,” Mr. Schwarzenegger says.

The federal Management Council says this fall’s spawning run of Chinook salmon from the Pacific Ocean to breeding grounds in the fresh water of the Sacramento River in the Central Valley is expected to be just 58,200 fish.

As recently as 2002, an estimated 775,000 adult salmon made the same trip.

Why there has been a sudden collapse of the Sacramento fall Chinook stock is not readily apparent, the council says.

“The National Marine Fisheries Service has suggested ocean temperature changes, and a resulting lack of upwelling, as a possible cause of the sudden decline. Many biologists believe a combination of human?caused and natural factors are to blame including freshwater in?stream water withdrawals, habitat alterations, dam operations, construction, pollution, and changes in hatchery operations,” the council says.

The Wiggins legislation will pay for coastal salmon and steelhead fishery restoration projects to address long-term environmental challenges resulting from poor ocean conditions and other factors.

The council’s recommendations will now go to the California Fish and Game Commission for a final decision via a process beginning April 15.

The California Department of Fish and Game estimates the potential damage from the closure of the salmon season to be $255 million and 2,263 California jobs.

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