For the second year in a
row, the Pacific Fishery Management Council has decided to
close commercial and most recreational salmon fisheries off
the coast of California and southern Oregon in response to the
continued feeble status of the Sacramento River fall chinook
The recommendation adopted Wednesday at the Council's
meeting in Millbrae, Calif., will be forwarded to the National
Marine Fisheries Service for approval by May 1.
In contrast, fisheries north of Cape Falcon, Oregon (near
Nehalem Bay) will have bigger quotas than last year, with much
greater to catch coho salmon and similar chinook options.
A very limited 10-day recreational season will be permitted
off the coast of California north of Cape Mendocino. Oregon
chinook seasons are also very restrictive, with a similar
10-day recreational season around Brookings.
However, coho fishing will be allowed beginning in June and
ending in August or September for the Oregon coast between
Cape Falcon and the Oregon/California border. Commercial
chinook fishing is prohibited in Oregon south of Cape Falcon,
but a limited coho fishery will occur in September for the
central Oregon coast between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain.
The closures south of Cape Falcon, Oregon, are due to a
continued decline in the number of Sacramento River fall
chinook returning to the river this year. The stock is the
driver of commercial and recreational salmon fisheries off
California and most Oregon. The minimum conservation goal for
Sacramento fall chinook is an escapement – a return to
freshwater – of from 122,000 to 180,000 spawning adult salmon.
The PFMC feels that is the number of salmon needed to return
to the river to maintain the health of the run.
As recently as 2002, 775,000 adults returned to spawn. But
last year only 66,200 fall run chinook returned to the
Sacramento. This year, about 122,100 fish are forecast to
return. That is twice last year's return but still not enough
to support commercial and recreational chinook fisheries.
The PFMC says a second year of ocean fishery closures off
California and southern Oregon will be devastating to many
small fishing communities. Fisheries off California and
southern Oregon have been poor since 2005.
In California and Oregon south of Cape Falcon, where
Sacramento fish stocks have the biggest impact, the commercial
and recreational salmon fishery had an average economic value
of $103 million per year between 1979 and 2004. From 2001 to
2005, average economic impact to communities was $61 million
($40 million in the commercial fishery and $21 million in the
In March, the National Marine Fisheries Service released a
draft report, developed by more 20 scientists, that discusses
potential causes of the collapse of Sacramento River fall
chinook run in 2007 and 2008. The report says poor ocean
conditions, habitat degradation and water withdrawals, and
changes in hatchery operations, are potential causes.
The report concluded that while unfavorable ocean
conditions likely led to poor survival of juvenile salmon as
they entered the ocean environment in 2005 and 2006, the stock
was more susceptible to those conditions because decades of
freshwater habitat degradation and hatchery production have
reduced the stock's fitness and resiliency.
The report also noted that the hatchery net-pen acclimation
program was suspended in 2006, which contributed to poor
survival of fish returning in 2008. In addition, while ocean
conditions off central California improved somewhat in 2007
the drought that year resulted in low numbers of juvenile
salmon leaving the freshwater environment, and expectations
for 2009 returns were not optimistic.
Seasons north of Cape Falcon are generally similar in
structure to recent years, although coho quotas are
substantially higher than in 2008, reflecting the anticipated
increased abundance of both hatchery and natural coho stocks.
Chinook quotas are similar to 2008.
The Council reached its decision after several weeks spent
reviewing three season options. The review process included
input by federal and state fishery scientists, fishing
industry members, public testimony, and three public hearings
in coastal communities. The Council received additional
scientific information and took public testimony before taking
The coastal states will now decide on compatible freshwater
fishery regulations at their respective fishery commission
The Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight
regional fishery management councils established by the
Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 for
the purpose of managing fisheries from 3 to 200 miles offshore
of the United States coastline. The Pacific Council recommends
management measures for fisheries off the coasts of
California, Oregon, and Washington.
For more information:
To see the Council-adopted 2009 ocean salmon management