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Farmers, fishermen pursue alliance

Salmon fishermen seek help from Basin farmers, ranchers
By STEVE KADEL H&N  June 2, 2006
    Commercial salmon fishermen, hit by a virtual shutdown of their season because of low salmon numbers on the Klamath River, reached out Thursday for help from Basin ranchers and farmers. 

    Four fishermen spoke during the Klamath County Natural Resources Advisory Council meeting, describing the economic vise squeezing them, just as the 2001 water shutoff did to Basin residents. 

    One of the fishermen, Rick Goche of Charleston, proposed the industries form an alliance to fight federal intervention. He suggested tribes and sport fishermen be included, too. 

    The alliance should have its own biologist to count fish numbers and manage the Klamath River system on a watershed basis, Goche said. 

    Oregon Sen. Doug Whitsett, who attended the meeting to listen, supported the idea “to do our own science and do our own counting.” 

    Coos County commissioner John Griffith also spoke during the meeting, saying coastal residents “were very proud to stand beside you” in 2001. 

    The evening was a reversal of roles from two weeks ago when Klamath County commissioner Bill Brown and other Basin officials visited Coos Bay to explain the Klamath Reclamation Project’s contribution toward boosting the salmon population — and to offer support for fishermen. 

    There was plenty of criticism Thursday for the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which recommended the fishery reduction along 700 miles of Oregon and California coast. Fishermen are restricted to a total of 75 salmon per week during the abbreviated fishery. Oregon has about 600 active commercial salmon fishermen. 

    Dams, parasitic disease and sea lions also came under fire as contributing to the salmon’s decline. 

    Allen Foreman, tribal chairman for the Klamath, said removal of Klamath River dams must be considered. 

    “Dams block access to over 200 miles of habitat that was traditionally here,” he said. 

    “I don’t disagree with you,” replied fisherman Scott Boley of Gold Beach. But he said electrical power produced by the dams would have to be replaced somehow. 

    Charleston fisherman Paul Merz suggested moving one-fourth of juvenile Iron Gate Hatchery fish downstream to imprint before they go to the ocean. He noted a parasitic disease seems particularly common in the water around the hatchery. 

    “The big benefit is those adults would not be going back to Iron Gate and reseeding the disease,” he said. “It might break the disease cycle.” 

    Between 300 and 500 sea lions at the mouth of the Klamath River do extensive salmon predation, Merz added, estimating each lion eats about 40 pounds per day. 

    Goche drove to the meeting from Astoria, where he has been fishing because of the closure farther south. He said federal disaster relief is the only way fishermen will survive the year. 

    Meanwhile, Brown and others have established a local relief fund. Those who want to contribute may send checks payable to “The Klamath Relief Fund for Family Commercial Fishermen” to PO Box 2525, Klamath Falls, OR 97601. Money also can be deposited in the fund at any branch of U.S. Bank.

    Rancher Bill Kennedy said it’s encouraging the industries are not pointing fingers at one another. 

    “We’re past blame,” he said. “We’re headed toward solutions. The perception has been that we are at odds with one another, but the truth is we are not.”



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