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 Klamath Courier May 3, 2006

Politics, agendas cloud SF fishermanís rally

"Weíre going to kick some ass" Ė Zeke Grader, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen

By Pat Ratliff, Klamath Courier staff writer

SAN FRANCISCO Ė Northern California Democrats held a rally Monday, April 24 to Protest the Bush Administrationís Salmon Policy. The Monday morning rally on Fishermanís Wharf drew a lot of press, but only about 100 fishermen. At times, the rally appeared to be more about national politics and working against the Bush Administration than trying to advocate for the fish or fishermen.

Leading the speakers at the rally was California Congressman Mike Thompson, along with Representative Lynn Woolsey, commercial fishermen from Berkeley and Fort Bragg and representatives from the Karuk and Yurok tribes.

A number of fishing boats maneuvered on the bay behind the speakers, displaying signs, mostly calling for the removal of dams on the Klamath River.

"We understand the plight of our friends inland," Thompson told the crowd, "Itís not their fault, itís the fault of the Bush Administration."

Congressman Thompson also announced the introduction of federal disaster assistance legislation calling for 81 million dollars in assistance and 45 million dollars for in-river monitoring of Ceratomyxa Shasta and Parvicapsula minibicornus, and implementation of any immediate protective measures against such pathogens, additional ocean and in-river monitoring, completion of a recovery plan for Coho salmon on the Klamath River, operation and maintenance of stream gauges for flow monitoring on the Klamath River and itís tributaries, including the Shasta, Scott, Salmon and Trinity Rivers, fish passage in the Klamath National Forest and Six Rivers National Forest and restoration of aquatic habitats in the Klamath River Basin with emphasis on the Klamath and itís tributaries below Iron Gate Dam.

The rally, with the exception of the introduction of the legislation, was mostly a chance to rail against the Bush Administration and call for removal of four dams on the Klamath River.

Playing to the media, Congressman Thompson held up a small bottle of blackish looking water.

"Iím told if a healthy man drank this water he would die." Thompson told the myriad of television cameras. He did not elaborate on what scientist told him this fact, or give any information on the number of deaths yearly from drinking water from the Klamath River.

The Klamath River fish die-off of 2002 was mentioned often as the tie in between river management and small runs this year, but the fact that nearly 100,000 fish DID NOT die that year was never mentioned.

Ben Platt, a second generation fisherman from Fort Bragg, California was more honest in his speech, talking from the heart.

"By and large we are honest, hard working people, pursuing the American dream." Platt said quietly, "This is our life; we didnít come to the sea to get rich. How can we afford to fix the Klamath River if we canít even afford to fix our boats? Many of us will take risks to catch the few fish available, and some of us will not survive. What will they call Fishermanís Wharf when there are no more fishermen?

Troy Fletcher, biologist for the Yurok Tribe, spoke of the needs and feelings of the Yuroks.

"Our world wonít be right until the river is fixed," He told the crowd, "but thereís no silver bullet or quick fixes, if you think there is going to be more fish next year, youíre wrong. We need a blue collar panel of stakeholders to work on this problem. If the people lead, the leaders will follow. Fish arenít republicans or democrats; theyíre just trying to live."

Ron Reed, tribal biologist for the Karuk Nation echoed his sentiments. "What affects my people affects your people," Reed said, "If we donít get together, weíre all going to lose."

"Itís a real shame; the Klamath used to carry 1 million salmon, now this year, even if we donít fish at all, we will not get 30,000 spawners," Mike Hudson, a commercial salmon fisherman from Berkeley, told the Klamath Courier, "Thatís a crying shame. If we canít fish we canít supply the markets, and if we lose the markets, we canít get them back."

Curiously, about 200 yards away from the rally on Pier 39 were a few hundred seals and sea lions, a stark reminder of the 300-700 sea lions near the mouth of the Klamath River which eat an incredible number of those salmon who are lucky enough to make it almost all the way back to their spawning habitat. No mention was made of this or other problems with salmon predation during the rally.

As usual, the PCFFA was there, finger pointing and stretching facts and science.

"A federal judge in 2002 said the fish could not have water, we warned them and they blew us off." Zeke Grader, president of the PCFFA told the crowd, "We need to work with the farmers in the Klamath Basin and others, but Iíll tell you this, if they donít work with us, weíre going to kick some ass."

 

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