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Fishermen decimated, farmers help, enviros blame, and Kulongoski offers welfare list

6/2/06 by Jacqui Krizo for KBC

KLAMATH FALLS - There is an abundance of chinook salmon in the ocean, but that did not stop the U.S. Government from curtailing the 2006 coastal commercial fishing season. The same thing happened to farmers in spring 2001; Klamath River flooded over its edges and the government shut off water to 1400 family farms.

Last night more than 55 people met at the Klamath Government Center at the Klamath County Natural Resources Advisory Council meeting to hear the fishermen speak about their crisis. And the Klamath irrigators are taking measures to help them financially when the government and environmentalists sit and blame the farmers for salmon woes. At that meeting alone, nearly $900 was collected for fishermen when the hat was passed.

Coos County Commissioner John Griffith and Klamath County Commissioner Bill Brown have spearheaded efforts to bring together this group of stakeholders. Several fishermen came to Klamath Falls to share facts about their tragic situation and to discuss a possible alliance.

 The fact is, there is an abundance of Chinook salmon in the ocean and in most of the rivers running into the Pacific Coast. However the Pacific Coast Fisheries Management Council has recommended curtailing the fishing season to commercial coastal fishermen on 700 miles of coast. And there are tens of thousands of Chinook projected to return to the Klamath River. There are 600 commercial fishermen in Oregon.


Coos County Commissioner John Griffith

But since the Management Council cannot legally avoid counting non-wild salmon since wild salmon are a thing of the past, they made a new rule that they would not count "hatchery spawned" salmon. They only count salmon that spawn outside the hatchery. And their "projected" estimate of the fall run "natural spawners" is lower than their random goal.

Charleston fisherman Tommie Hockema said that, until the fishermen begin counting the fish, they would not be comfortable with the fish counts. They need to be counted when and where the fish are present; "We should take care of the counting of those fish. Are they wrong?"

Hockema told how thousands of salmon are being killed by sea lions, by "Baja California sea lions." He said these sea lions "...don't belong there, they ruin docks and eat the fish. They won't leave, they have babies and there are just more and more. That is a domesticated animal being protected on docks to eat endangered species." He said the government "...takes me off the ocean and takes your water away to protect a creature."


Charleston fisherman Tommie Hockema

According to Paul Merz of Charleston, Oregon, there are 300 sea lions living near the mouth of the Klamath River in late summer and early fall. With each lion eating more than one salmon per day from August 1-October 15, they kill more than 22,500 adult fish that should be part of the Klamath river harvest or out there spawning.

Rather than allow fishermen to discourage sea lion predation, the government has chosen to essentially shut down commercial fisheries, financially breaking an entire industry and their communities.


Rick Goche
Commercial fisherman Rick Goche said that this year he had to drive many miles to Astoria, which is the only place he is allowed to fish this past Memorial weekend from Saturday through Tuesday. So regardless of the weather, that's all the time they are given, forcing fishermen into often treacherous seas. That costs more in fuel and moorage. With a 4-day and 75 fish limit, even if they do catch 75 fish they may not break even.

He said that weak-stock management is not right. There are plenty of Chinook in the ocean and in several rivers, however the regulators take a river with a low projected run and they regulate the entire fishery based on that one river. He said the Pacific Fisheries Management Council, PFMC, told him that the only control they have is to regulate fishermen. "We're used to terrible seasons and conditions; we have no lives; we just survive. They give us an opening over a holiday, they don't let us fish when there are fish and don't let us fish where there are fish."

Goche proposed three solutions for a proposed alliance that all could agree on:

* We don't support weak-stock management
* We believe they should count ALL the fish
* They should look at the entire river to manage

He said the governmental management schemes are keeping fishermen and farmers fighting. "We need our own scientists making our own data."

"(Oregon Governor) Kulongoski's rolled up his sleeves and gave us a list of welfare agencies."  Goche said most of the fishermen aren't renters, they have loans, they own houses, and they are not eligible for welfare.

"We need the Whitehouse to declare a disaster."

Klamath Water Users Association and Family Farm Alliance have asked for a disaster declaration for the fishermen.

Throughout the meeting the farmers identified with the fishermen. They have been there, dealing with non-scientific regulations that only support the agenda of destroying their industry. Farmers related when one fisherman said how hard it was when his 7 and 9-yr old daughters read a sign that said, "30 days is not a season" and asked their dad if they he would be able to make any money this year.

It was discussed that the PFMC has only one commercial fisherman representative on the council of 14. The Dept of Commerce appoints the management council. It was the Dept of Commerce (along with the Dept of Justice and Bureau of Indian Affairs) that contracted Dr. Hardy to write the science for the biological opinion that shut down the Klamath Project in 2001. The same people, tribal biologists and environmentalists, collected the river data to shut down the fisheries..

It was discussed how senseless the 4-day/week fishing season is when the fishermen aren't allowed over 75 fish.

It was discussed how disorganized the PFMC is, and how they stuck in this 4-day season last minute with no sense and with only political motivation.

Klamath Project farmer Bill Kennedy supported the concept of an alliance with fishermen and farmers, based on the truth and avoiding blame. Several government agencies, environmental groups, tribes and green media have focused on pitting farmers and fishermen against each other, diverting attention from their own groups whose agenda it is to decimate the farming and fishing industries.


Senator and Gail Whitsett, center
Senator Doug Whitsett commented on how hard it is for farmers and fishermen to make a living when government agencies have regulated the resources workers so severely.  Resource users spend 50% of their time attending meetings to defend their rights and families and livelihoods.

Bill Ransom, president of the board of Klamath Bucket Brigade, complimented Klamath County Commissioner Bill Brown and Dan Keppen, Family Farm Alliance Executive Director, with the help of Lany Hicky, for setting up a relief account to collect funds for coastal fishermen suffering from this governmental regulatory attack. The Klamath Relief  Fund has been reactivated to collect funds for this great need.

Checks or money orders may be made out to Klamath Relief Fund for Commercial Fishermen at P.O. Box 5252, Klamath Falls, OR 97601. Or, funds can be brought to any U.S. National Bank. 

 

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