World Photo by
Susan Chambers Charleston salmon troller Jeff
Reeves, right, holds a cracker for his
grandson, Preston, 1, on Friday, in Coos Bay.
Reeves said he was babysitting Preston,
something he usually wouldn’t be doing this
time of year — normally he’d be fishing. This
year, though, there is no season on the South
Coast and he is preparing to go to Newport to
fish in June.
Many salmon fishermen feel as if they're getting
the cold shoulder - and it's not because of the
imminent ice plant closure in Charleston (see
Commercial fisherman Scott Cook simplifies it:
“Frustration,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has yet to declare
the fishery a failure and Oregon Gov. Ted
Kulongoski hasn't yet sent a letter to President
Bush requesting that he, too, declare the fishery
Kulongoski's office said the letter is in the
works and that it will be revealed at the next
salmon summit, scheduled June 2 in Newport.
But in the meantime, fishermen are worried.
Charleston troller Jeff Reeves, also a member of
the Oregon Salmon Commission, said he's received
letters and questions from fellow fishermen
asking, “Do I declare bankruptcy?”
Still other fishermen are getting late notices
from utility companies and the Oregon
International Port of Coos Bay in the mail.
Gear stores such as Englund Marine Supply have
spools of trolling wire on the floor, waiting to
be sold. Walls of lures, spoons and flashers, all
used during normal commercial fishing seasons to
attract Chinook, fill the pegs on the wall. During
any other season, the floor would be clear and
most of the lures would be gone.
Consumers, too, are feeling the pinch.
Many seafood counters don't have fresh wild
Chinook or what is available is frozen steaks and
filets from the 2005 season, selling at higher
prices than they have in the past.
there is some good news on the horizon.
Chuck's Seafood in Charleston said it will take
advantage of the opening of a limited salmon
season in June. Trollers will be able to fish,
north of Florence, four 4-day openings in June;
three 3-day openings in July; one 3-day opening in
August, and about two weeks each in September and
October. Salmon will be trucked down.
At the same time, some local boats will travel
north to take advantage of the openers. Reeves
already is getting his boat ready to go, though he
was spending time Friday babysitting his
1-year-old grandson, Preston - instead of working
on his boat.
“Everybody's going to Newport,” Cook said.
Due to last year's short season, when three months
in the summer were closed to fishing, he put off
some maintenance on his boat, the Dina Maria, Cook
said. He's had to forgo most maintenance this
year, too, an annual cost that usually runs about
Next year, he said, it will probably cost him
closer to $40,000 to $50,000.
State agencies are working on ways to help
fishermen at Kulongoski's request in March to
determine ways to support the fishery.
But the effort is going very slowly, fishermen
One of the options is to hire fishermen for work
in the woods on habitat enhancement.
The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board on Friday
filed a $2.2 million request with the emergency
board, a 17-member joint House and Senate
Committee with the authority to release money from
the state's emergency fund when the Legislature
isn't in session.
The money, if approved at the E-board's June 22-23
meeting, would employ displaced fishermen to
enhance habitat and also to do ocean research,
OWEB Executive Director Tom Byler said Friday.
The ocean work would provide fishermen
participating in the limited season more money,
Byler said. The project would coordinate Oregon
State University researchers with salmon trollers
to collect data to monitor salmon movements in the
“It would give us a better understanding of what's
happening out in the water with the fish,” Byler
The ocean work could benefit long-term management,
Byler said, and the income would benefit fishermen
in the short term.
Both projects hinge on two things: Will the money
be available and will fishermen want to do it?
There already is some interest, even though the
jobs require a few qualifications.
About a dozen fishermen have expressed interest,
said Coos Watershed Association Executive Director
“Our intent, at least, is to get a program
available to people this summer so they can start
paying their bills,” Souder said. “We know they
can do good work. We've had them before.”
Bills piling up
Several fishermen, including Cook, received bills
from the port indicating overdue moorage -
something that's concerned Cook since he's always
been able to pay his annual moorage in June.
But this year, it's tough.
So the port is stepping up.
“We're deferring annual moorage payments for the
salmon fleet,” Charleston Harbormaster Don Yost
said, noting that about 100 fishermen could be
The requirements are simple, he said: The troller
must have fished for salmon in the last two years
and be current with the annual moorage payments
An average annual moorage rate for a 40-foot
commercial boat runs about $1,000, Yost said.
Applications for deferred payment are available in
the port office in Charleston.
“There are probably about 10 guys already that are
signed up, Yost said.
Boat moorage isn't the only concern, though. Sure,
the boat is a fisherman's home away from home, but
rent and mortgage payments also are coming due for
In partnership with the Oregon Housing and
Community Services, Southwestern Oregon Community
Action is trying to help out.
Robert More, the director of Housing and Emergency
Services for Southwestern Oregon Community Action,
is putting together a proposal in preparation for
the June 2 salmon summit.
“That's what we're working on,” More said, but the
agency still is gathering information.
“It would be helpful if we'd have had a chance to
find out from the fishing community before this
... a little more information about the target
population, the size of it, what their needs are,”
More said. “We're in the preparatory stages of
what we can do to help.”
from the farmers
Outside of official channels, Klamath Basin
farmers, too, are helping out.
The Klamath Relief Fund, a fund started a few
years ago to help farmers, has been reactivated -
but this time to help fishermen.
“These hard-working individuals have much in
common with the farmers and ranchers of the
Klamath Basin. It is clear that they would much
rather work than receive financial assistance,” a
flyer from the fund reads.
Family Farm Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen
said the FFA board authorized him to do what he
could to help fishermen, after a joint
fishermen-farmers meeting in Coos Bay in early
The fund most likely would help fishermen with
what needs to be paid the most, not direct
payments to the fishermen, Keppen said in an
e-mail. A liferaft re-pack or a mortgage payment,
It's more than two months into what would normally
be a salmon season.
E-board money may be available for watershed work
and South Coast representatives, Sen. Joanne
Verger, D-Coos Bay, and Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold
Beach, also are working on ideas, Reeves and Cook
But no resolution from the federal government is
having a bigger effect.
Without a Commerce Department declaration of a
fishery failure under Magnuson-Stevens Fishery
Conservation and Management Act, little or no
federal funding will be available. With no
declaration from the president, no emergency
unemployment funds can be released, nor can
Federal Emergency Management Administration help
be made available.
“It's good and bad,” Cook said.
The fishermen who take advantage of the jobs on
land won't be able to keep up with their boat
work. And if there is retraining available to
trollers, that just takes fishermen out of the
fleet at a time when the fleet is looking for
young fishermen to carry on the tradition.
“That's just kind of alarming,” Cook said.