In Mixed Catch, NF Senior Editor Linc Bedrosian spotlights a wide range of commercial fishing-related news items from coast to coast.
Friday, 01 February 2008
On Wednesday came the news that a Pacific Fishery Management memo circulated last week revealed that the number of returning fish in fall 2007 totaled just 90,000, thus jeopardizing the spring commercial and recreational fisheries; the council's minimum conservation target is 122,000 fish.
Initially, it seems shocking a freefall in the number of adult spawners making their way back to the Sacramento could happen so quickly. According to a report in the Sacramento Bee this week, some 200,000 chinook annually have returned to the river and its tributaries for approximately 15 years.
But West Coast fishermen have known that things haven't been looking good with the Sacramento run. In 2002, 800,000 fish were counted. By 2006, the total had dropped to some 250,000 spawners.
Now, already reeling from the woes that have bedeviled the Klamath River salmon stocks the past couple of years, the fleet now faces another fishery disaster.
What's causing the decline? Is it poor ocean conditions that are depriving salmon and other marine species of the food they need to survive? Federal policies that dam up rivers and divert water away from migrating salmon? Ocean interception of returning spawners by foreign fleets? Or is it D) All of the above? Somehow, my money's on "D."
Fortunately, for the immediate future of the West Coast salmon fleet, there's already talk of disaster relief legislation being drawn up. Let's hope the final dollar amount will be enough to help the West Coast fleet remain afloat until the salmon stocks rebuild. Boat and mortgage payments and other bills don't stop coming due just because fishing is curtailed.
In the meantime, maybe it's finally time for our elected leaders to focus on doing something besides "rationalizing" fisheries, and get serious about doing the work necessary to rebuild these troubled fish stocks.
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