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Salmon closure set to decimate

By Pat Ratliff
Klamath Courier staff writer
April 5, 2006

COOS BAY - Once again, federal agencies, through mismanagement, lack of action, driven agendas and selective reasoning have set the stage to
decimate yet another Pacific Northwest group of resource users, their families, businesses and futures.

The Department of Commerce will soon decide on fishing regulations for the 2006 salmon fishing season, which usually starts about May15.

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) held three meetings last week to hear comments from fishermen and affected parties about the
closure.  The PFMC promised to forward comments taken at the meetings to officials meeting in Sacramento next week to decide  the final decision on fishing restrictions. But with a minimum number of days left, it seems doubtful if the comments will be given much consideration, or even read at all.

The PFMC also outlined three options, of which they will choose one for  recommendation to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The recommendations are basically two different versions of extremely curtailed fishing seasons and one recommendation of complete closure.
If the PFMC wanted comments, they got them. 
Fishermen and supporters in Coos Bay filled the Red Lion conference hall to give the representatives their views on the three options offered, what compensation is needed for the industry, the reasons for low fish numbers, and sometimes just therapeutic venting.

Comments to the council were varied and included:  the need for unemployment payments for vessel owners and deckhands; waiver of troll license fees; money to the OSU fish health program to study fungus and parasites in lower Klamath River; immediate compensation for loss of season
to provide basic needs; additional compensation for government mandated boat accessories.

Sea Lions are a major part of the problem, with an estimated 300 sea lions at the mouth of the Klamath.

Estimates are that  Brookings will see a $4.5 million loss this year, with a $300-$400  million loss on the entire coast.

Brookings averages 15,000 trips over the bar for sport fishing, but no boats caught a Klamath tagged fish until August of last year.  Season could be adjusted for each location to prevent catching Klamath fish.

"I don't support any of the options. None of them allow me to make enough money to continue fishing" said one fisherman. Another fisherman suggested that NOAA should hire someone to harass and move the 300 plus sea lions at the mouth of the Klamath.  At one fish per sea lion per day of the season, that's  22,500 Klamath fish they are eating.

Other comments included: "there are no native fish anymore, use the stocks from other fisheries, which are plentiful, to bring up the numbers in the Klamath; "they don't care enough about us to come"; "NOAA is ruining the fishing industry, in 1995 there were 2900 boats, and in 2005 there are about 860;"; "I'd love for my grandkids to be able to fish, but now, I wouldn't
wish this on my worst enemy."

The Pacific Coast, from Monterey to Cape Falcon will surely suffer restrictions this year, if not outright closure.  The restrictions are reminiscent of 2001 in the Klamath Basin, when ESA restrictions caused a governmental mandated
"drought", with a 26 mile  long lake completely full.  The government then, late in the summer gave a small amount of water to crops too late to be saved. 
The inadequate fishing options given the commercial fishermen seem to portray this same governmental "give em a bone" theory. 

Whatever restrictions are forced upon commercial fishermen, it is evident that many will not make it past this year.  Still reeling from a severely reduced season last year, boats are not being repaired, loans are behind, and coastal fishing communities, like loggers and farmers are gasping from the noose of federal mismanagement.



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