Salmon rule gets preliminary OK
The council decided that in years when expected wild fall chinook returns to the Klamath River fall below 35,000, it would allow fishermen to take up to 10 percent of the four-year-old Klamath fall chinook in the ocean while fishing for other stocks.
The council was trying to strike a balance between allowing enough fishing to keep the salmon fleet alive until times improve and protecting the resources, Chuck Tracy, salmon staff for the council, said from California.
The action by the Pacific Fishery Management council, meeting in Del Mar, Calif., was prompted by the bureaucratic difficulties of having to adopt an emergency rule this year to avoid shutting down commercial and recreational ocean salmon fishing off the West Coast to protect wild fall chinook returning to the Klamath River in Northern California.
Final approval of an amendment to the council’s salmon management plan is expected before the start of the 2007 salmon season.
Commercial salmon fishermen were disappointed that the council did not choose an amendment allowing even greater flexibility, but felt that this course will allow at least some fishing next year.
‘‘Pressure remains to find solutions in the Klamath River,’’ Gold Beach salmon fisherman Scott Boley, a former member of the council, said from the meeting. ‘‘This is certainly not acceptable to ocean commercial fishermen. It does not provide us with a means to access very many healthy hatchery stocks at all.’’
The governors of Oregon and California are holding a summit the second week of December to find solutions to continuing environmental problems on the Klamath that are blamed for poor salmon returns.
Klamath salmon have been struggling for decades from low water, poor water quality, parasites and the loss of spawning habitat to logging, gold mining, agriculture and hydroelectric dams.
When it appeared likely this year that wild fall chinook would fail to meet the 35,000 minimum for returning to the river for the third year in a row, the council was faced with having to shut down all recreational and commercial salmon fishing in the ocean off 700 miles of California and Oregon under terms of its management plan.
Some fishing approved
After adopting an emergency rule, the council approved some fishing, estimating that 11.5 percent of Klamath chinook would be taken while fishing for other healthy stocks.
The total West Coast catch was 12 percent of a typical year, representing direct losses to fishermen of $16 million.
That led U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez to declare the West Coast salmon fishery a failure, opening the way for federal aid to fishermen and related businesses.