State and Federal fisheries managers imposed an emergency closure today on seven salmon fishing zones in California and Oregon to protect Sacramento River chinook salmon, now in a state of unprecedented collapse.
Dan Bacher, editor of the Fish Sniffer filed this report (check the forums on their website for more info):
This closure would apply to zones that were open or scheduled to open before May 1. The emergency closure was issued as the state and federal governments were reviewing options for salmon fishing seasons after May 1 during the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting in Sacramento this week. For the first time in history, salmon season may be closed in ocean waters south of Cape Falcon, Oregon in 2008, with the exception of an area around the mouth of the Klamath River (Klamath Management Zone).
“Considering the record low numbers of Central Valley stocks we are expecting to see this year, we decided it would be wise to prevent any impacts upon Sacramento salmon that would take place in the early season,” said Eric Chavez, natural resources management specialist for the National Marine Fisheries Service. “This way the fish would be preserved for any potential fishing opportunity later in the season.”
The National Marine Fisheries Service will have to grant an emergency rule to allow any salmon fishing in ocean waters in California and Southern Oregon this year. Based on the latest statistical modeling, only 59,100 salmon are expected to return to Central Valley rivers even if no fishing is allowed. A spawning escapement floor of 122,000 to 180,000 fish has been set for decades – and this would be way below it.
In 2007, a total of only 87,966 natural and hatchery fall chinook adults were estimated to have returned to the Sacramento River for spawning. This was the second lowest escapement estimate on record and was 33 percent of the preseason expectation of 265,500 fish.
“Our forecast indicates that we won’t meet the escapement floor even with all fishing for Sacramento River salmon stocks closed,” said Peter Dygert, fisheries biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service. “If any fishing is allowed, the federal government would have to grant an emergency rule.”
“We’re in uncharted waters,” Craig Stone of the Emeryville Sportfishing Center told me at the meeting yesterday afternoon. “We have never been in a situation where the Sacramento River chinook salmon stocks are in collapse. Who would ever imagine that a run that was over 800,000 fish in 2002 would collapse to almost nothing this year.”
Four recreational fishing zones and three commercial fishing zones were slated for the emergency closure. The only area open to fishing now, the section from Horse Mountain to Point Arena including the Fort Bragg and Shelter Cove areas, would close effective April 1. However, virtually no salmon have been caught in this area to date.
The other three recreational fishing areas whose opening will be delayed are from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain, Oregon, scheduled to open on March 15; Point Arena to Pigeon Point, CA. (San Francisco) scheduled to open April 7; and Pigeon Point to the U.S.-Mexico Border (Monterey South), scheduled to open on April 7.
In more bad news, the PFMC got their first look at the impacts of the season options that were developed by the Council’s advisory teams. “The results were not encouraging – even with all fisheries closed (both commercial and recreational) throughout the state, the projected returns to the Sacramento River achieve only half of the minimum conservation objective,” said Dan Wolford, PFMC member and Coastside Fishing Club science director.
“The other two options essentially achieve seasons that represent 2/3 of the 2007 season and 1/3 of the 2007 season,” he said. “They, of course, drive the projected returns even further below the conservation objective.”
The closures will have a huge impact upon the California economy, considering that recreational angling is worth $4 billion per year in California, according to the American Sportfishing Association. Salmon fishing is traditionally a very popular activity for recreational anglers along the California and Oregon coast.
The closures will also result in a sharp increase in the price of wild king salmon and cause economic devastation to the commercial fishing industry, an industry already hit hard in recent years by Bush administration fishing closures.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) continues to pinpoint “unusual environmental conditions” in the Pacific as the “likely culprit” behind the salmon collapse, while fishing and environmental groups say other factors, including massive increases in water exports out of the California Delta, water diversions and the destruction of habitat, should be addressed.
“The salmon collapse is a combination of a number of things all going wrong at once,” said Roger Thomas, president of the Golden Gate Fisherman’s Association (GGFA) and former PFMC member. “The problems resulting from water exports on the Delta, the lack of net pens to acclimate hatchery salmon when released into San Pablo Bay for two years, and adverse ocean conditions are fell into place at the same time. All of us need to work together to bring back the salmon to our rivers and the ocean.”
Fishing and environmental groups contend that the massive increases of federal and state water exports in recent years play a huge role in the collapse of the Central Valley fall chinook run. The salmon that would have run up the Sacramento River as adults in 2008 and 2007 migrated as juveniles through the California Delta at the same time that record water exports to subsidized agribusiness and southern California were taking place. The fish may have starved from lack of forage as they migrated through the Delta or were killed in the massive state and federal pumping facilities.
At the same time, four species of pelagic (open water) Delta fish – delta smelt, longfin shad, juvenile striped bass and threadfin shad – have declined to record low levels. Water exports have been pinpointed by federal and state fishery scientists as the number one cause of the Pelagic Organism Decline (POD), followed by invasive species and toxics.
To date, the federal and state governments have failed to explore the relationship between increases in export pumping and the salmon collapse. They have also refused to consider the impact of increased water exports and the decline of the Bay-Delta Estuary food chain upon ocean forage and water conditions. In addition, they have not considered the impact of unregulated agricultural waste discharges into the Delta and ocean ecosystems upon Central Valley salmon.
While the PFMC meets on Friday, March 14, a panel of fishing, tribal and environmental groups will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. to discuss proposed solutions to the current crisis in California Delta fisheries and the unprecedented collapse of the Central Valley chinook salmon runs. The event will take place at the Del Paso Room in the Double Tree Hotel, 2001 Point West Way, in Sacramento, (916) 929-8855.
The group is proposing immediate, practical and necessary measures that will begin to rebuild the stocks of salmon. They believe these solutions could help prevent future fishery disasters for California.
Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), Caleen Sisk-Franco, spiritual leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, and Dick Pool, owner of Pro-Troll Fishing Products, will speak at the event.
David Nesmith, Environmental Water Caucus facilitator, will be the moderator. “Fish need water,” Nesmith said. “We must leave more clean, cool water in the Delta and our rivers so salmon can live.”
For more information, call David Nesmith (510) 893-1330 or cell (510) 693-4979 or Dick Pool (925) 825-8560.
These are the draft recreational draft ocean salmon fishing options for California waters proposed yesterday, according to Jim Martin, West Coast Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. April will be closed for the entire state. The PFMC will propose three options on Friday and will finalize the seasons and/or closures in mid-April.
KMZ (Klamath Management Zone): May 24-September 1
Ft. Bragg: Feb 16-March 31, May 1-Sept 7
SF: May 1- Sept 21
Monterey & South: May 1- Aug 2
Option 2: KMZ: May 24- May 31 (all days) + June 4-Sept 1 (Wednesdays thru Sundays)
Ft. Bragg: Feb 16-March 31, May 17- July 12
SF: May 24-26; May 29 – August 24 (Thursdays thru Sundays)
Monterey & South: May 1- June 8
No directed fishery for ocean salmon