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The $20.6 million allocated for federal relief to California’s Chinook salmon closure is just two-thirds of the state’s aid request, and threatens the survival of fishing businesses, California commercial anglers and for-hire recreational groups said Monday.

In a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the Golden Gate Fisherman’s Association, and the Northern California Guides and Sportsmen’s Association called for “immediate full funding of salmon disaster funding assistance” in the $30.7 million figure sought by state officials.

 “The State’s economic analysis already falls short of expected needs, and the federal disaster assistance package add insult to injury,” leaders of the fishing groups wrote in their joint letter. “Additionally, nearly a year after the declaration of the complete season closure, not one dollar of relief funds have been made available to affected businesses or their employees.”

 The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s annual pre-season salmon briefing in March 2023 forecast “some of the worst fisheries numbers in the history of the state. These numbers follow years of drought, poor water management decisions by Federal and State managers, occasional failure to meet hatchery egg mitigation goals, inaccurate season modeling, and the inability of fisheries managers to meet their own mandated escapement goals,” the letter recounts. “Subsequently, the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the California Fish and Game Commission closed all commercial and recreational salmon fishing in the State of California.”

NOAA Fisheries determined Nov. 21 the California salmon fisheries were subjected to disaster, opening the path for federal assistance.

But California’s share of $20.6 million out of a $42 million package for fisheries disasters is “a reduction of more than 33 percent of the already minimal amount of funding requested,” the California fishing groups say. “This reduction of funding is unacceptable and a slap in the face of a salmon industry that supported the decision to close the 2023 for the protection and preservation of the species, with a specific promise that their industries would be made whole through Federal disaster funding.”

The 2023 collapse threatens survival of already long-distressed fishing businesses, the groups say.

“The economic value of this industry during the last disaster declaration, in 2008-2009, was $170 million. Today we sit with an industry with a calculated economic loss of $30 million (and only $20 million), not even 15 percent of the economic output it was 17 years ago.”

“Most industries grow over time. This one is declining at such a rapid pace that it might not even exist 17 years from now. If that is out intent, we are doing a pretty darn good job at extirpating not only the species but the industries and the men and women who work alongside it.”

 

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