Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Oregon Coastal Fishermen Scott Cook from Bandon and former Merrill farmer James L. Moore from Charleston met with Klamath Water Users and the Klamath Courier last week in Klamath Falls. They discussed Klamath salmon, coastal fisheries management and solutions.
Spain is a Eugene attorney with Pacific Coast
Federation of Fishermen Association who claims he
represents Oregon salmon trollers. Moore said Oregon
salmon trollers don’t belong to PCFFA.
Spain supports curtailed fishing seasons for coastal fishermen, blames the Klamath Project irrigators for the curtailed fishing seasons on the entire West Coast, and proposes Klamath dams should be removed along with Project Irrigators. "Fishermen are fighting to decommission dams that kill fish," states Spain, a statement that is not factual according to these fishermen. And PCFFA, tribes and eco-groups are part of lawsuits against resource workers; these suits harm the people trying to feed America.
This is the law and the promise
Cook explained that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 was designed to protect the fishermen and their fleets, yet the government is decimating commercial fishing.
The Act states: "The Congress declares that the fish, shellfish, and wildlife resources of the Nation make a material contribution to our national economy and food supply." "Trained seafaring citizenry and action-ready fleets of seaworthy vessels" are important for our country’s defense. The Act acknowledges the right of every U.S. citizen and resident to be able to fish for pleasure, betterment, recreation, and stimulate "the development of a strong, prosperous, and thriving fishery and fish processing industry."
Cook said that in the 1970’s there was a push to build up fishing boat fleets, so tax dollars paid for hatcheries to build up this renewable, sustainable resource; "They built us up and created a whole society and culture of fishermen. They created the Magnus Stevenson Act which says if something happens to the fish, the government will help us." The NAVY had the fishermen sign over title to their vessels to be used by the Coast Guard if needed for coastal security.
"Now they’re hanging us out to dry" said Cook. "The fishermen believed their government would take care of them. Now we’re treated like a plague."
"In 1976 there were 10,000 active trawlers. There are 590 today."
National Marine Fishery Service has created a no-win situation for salmon, fishermen and farmers
The problem, Cook told the irrigators, was "in 1987, when they stopped raising fish in the Klamath to the levels they had in past history"
National Marine Fishery Service demanded that hatchery fish be counted separately from "wild" fish.
"There are no ‘wild’ salmon left in the Klamath River," said Cook. Judge Hogan ruled that all anadromous fish are genetically equal and should be counted as such. Thereafter, NMFS created an illusion that salmon are superior if they spawn in the river rather than in a hatchery.
NMFS demands a minimum of 35,000 natural spawners in the Klamath River and 17,500 hatchery spawners. Their goal is 98,000 "natural spawners", even though natural spawners have the same genetic make-up as hatchery spawners. "We want the government to go back and raise fish from hatcheries. We want NMFS to just adhere to the law," said Moore.
Moore said that in Alaska, the commercial fishermen sit on the board of Alaska Fish and Game.
"We need a major role; nobody knows ocean conditions of fishing like we do, said Cook. "This is only place NMFS has taken over management."
Despite Spain’s gloomy fish projections, Cook said it was reported that in 2005 there was a record run of ocean fish. However, NMFS cut the Oregon season down to two and a half months rather than the normal March 15th through October season.
Moore and Cook explained that the fishing season was shut down in California and Washington, so those boats came to Oregon. 300 boats came to one run instead of 30 or 40 guys. That forced people to fish out the runs. And fishermen were forced to fish in fog and turbulent weather because of the reduced season.
What’s good for a coho isn’t good for a Chinook
NMFS bases the entire Pacific Coast fishing season on Klamath River Chinook salmon runs. However they manage the Klamath River and Klamath Irrigation Project according how much water and when to release it for coho salmon.
Dave Solem, Klamath Irrigation District Manager, told the fishermen, "they’re saving water and putting more in (Klamath River) early spring for coho, which is detriment for fall Chinook. They don’t take conditions of Klamath River below Iron Gate; only Klamath. They’re trying to create mainstem coho and spawning habitat. This ruins fall Chinook habitat."
Cook said, "100 years ago the California Department of Fish and Game, in a ten year period, took 110 million Chinook out of the Lower Klamath system then introduced 60 million into the Upper Klamath. They took the other 50 million and sent them to the Sacramento system. Our ocean fishery is being regulated on a run of fish on the Upper Klamath that was man made." He said that fall Chinook could not have been in the Upper Klamath River before the dams because there was only a trickle of water, if any, coming down in the fall.
The fishermen feel that the answer to more fish is simple: allow fishermen to raise fish to support the need, and manage their fisheries. Allow them to revive the hatcheries. Allow them to fish again, reviving tribal catches, commercial fishermen’s catches, processing plants and communities. And let the irrigators irrigate without posing unattainable restrictions on water use.
To be continued
There will be future Courier articles delving into the Klamath fish and irrigation myths, NMFS mismanagement of fisheries, NMFS-funded 20-mile fish farms, restrictions, the fate of $20 million intended to restore hatcheries, predators, and historical data.
In the minds of real fishermen, it is absurd to base the entire Pacific Coast’s fishing season on how many Chinook are in the mismanaged Klamath River and curtail irrigation water because of the coho, and at the same time reduce hatchery propagation.
Page Updated: Saturday August 24, 2013 01:51 AM Pacific
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