Oregon, Washington Fishermen Brace for
by Pacific Northwest Commercial Fisherman
Participants at PFMC Meeting Assail Continued Failure of Federal Salmon Recovery Efforts
SEATTLE, -- West Coast fishermen, already reeling from consecutive years of cutbacks, closures and shortened seasons forced by declining Northwest salmon runs, will gather this week at the Pacific Fisheries Management Council meeting in Seattle to share deep concern and anger over the direction of failed federal salmon recovery efforts on the Snake and Columbia rivers.
Another year of poor returns of fall Chinook to the Columbia and Snake river basin threatens to shorten fishing seasons for Washington and northern Oregon fishermen this year, increasing economic hardship for Pacific Northwest communities still reeling from last year's fisheries disaster on the Klamath River, and raising the level of urgency and insecurity throughout the region.
"Without healthy fish runs in the Columbia and Snake rivers, we're gone -- along with thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity," said Irene Martin, an Episcopal minister from a fishing family in Skamokawa, Wash. "Failed federal policies keep leading to fisheries disasters along the entire West Coast, causing widespread economic hardship and social problems. Shortened seasons have already cost fishing families a lot. We need to develop real salmon solutions that don't put the full burden of recovery on the backs of fishing families."
During public sessions, commercial fishermen hope to send a message to regional leaders and elected officials that continually declining fishing seasons are not an option for the thousands of families, tribal members, and fishing communities on the West Coast who depend on salmon for their livelihoods.
"Sport, commercial and tribal fishermen have all made the sacrifices in order to maintain our livelihoods and family businesses, because we know this is part of the solution. We've done more than our part. But the federal government has repeatedly failed to deliver an effective salmon recovery plan, and our elected leaders have failed to step in to fill the void," Ron Richards, a commercial fisherman from Port Angeles. "Together, we must demand that our elected leaders follow the law and follow the science and do what is required to restore and recover wild salmon in the Columbia and Snake Rivers."
"It is time for all options to be put on the table and past time for all parties to do their share," said David Bitts, a salmon troller from Eureka, California. "Last year's virtual closure of Oregon and California's coastal commercial salmon season and the increasingly restricted season off the coast of Washington means that we must get serious about the health of both the Columbia and Klamath basins. This year, Washington fishermen face a disaster like last year's in Oregon and California. How many years in a row can we be expected to survive on 20% of our normal income?"
In late 2004, NOAA Fisheries released a salmon plan for the Columbia River basin that largely ignored the detrimental impacts of the federal hydrosystem on wild salmon and steelhead, and failed to ensure healthy populations of wild fish as required under the Endangered Species Act. This flawed federal plan, which has been widely criticized by scientists, fishermen, businesses and conservation groups for the ongoing harm it causes to fish and fishing communities while wasting millions in taxpayer dollars, was ruled illegal in federal district court and is currently being redrafted.
"With the federal government in charge of producing the plan to recover Columbia and Snake River salmon, we're on the fast track to 'crisis mode,' which means zero fishing, unless we have a plan that acknowledges that salmon recovery depends on more factors than controlling harvests," said Joel Kawahara of the Washington Trollers Association. "We've seen nothing but denial to do what it takes to save the region's salmon. There are solutions that recover Columbia and Snake River salmon, including removing the four dams on the lower Snake River and operating all other dams to allow safe passage of up and down stream migrating salmon and steelhead."
Sport and commercial fishermen will present these concerns at the week- long PFMC meeting in SeaTac this week.
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