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Limited Salmon Season Worries Fishers

by Associated Press and Staff
The Daily Astorian, April 9, 2007

Fish council sets lowest levels in a decade for North Coast;
south of Cape Falcon limits are higher

A severely limited salmon season on Oregon's North Coast and off the coast of Washington has fishermen worried about declining Columbia River runs and the future of fishing in the region.

At its meeting last week, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council set the lowest levels for salmon harvest in more than a decade for the coastal area north of Cape Falcon to Canada. The decision to protect endangered runs of chinook salmon returning to the Columbia River and its tributaries means fewer of the river's fish will be caught.

Commercial fishermen Kent Martin of Skamokowa, Wash., and charter boat operator Butch Smith of Ilwaco, Wash., were among many fishing industry representatives who traveled to the Seattle meeting to voice concerns about declining Columbia River salmon runs and press for corrective action.

Joel Kawahara, a salmon troller based in Quilcene, Wash., and a spokesman for the Washington Trollers' Association said the situation is "extremely grim" for commercial trollers. He cited pressures from development and the impacts of the lower Snake River dams as contributors to the decline, as well as a lack of funding for hatchery programs.

"Last year was a mediocre season but doable," he said. "This year, with even fewer fish it will be pretty much impossible to serve my family and make any money."

After nearly shutting down salmon fishing off the central Oregon and California coasts last year, the council decided Friday to allow as much fishing as possible in those improved fisheries.

This year's restrictions fall to the north, said Chuck Tracy, salmon staff officer for the council.

"Last year, the area of central Oregon and the California fishers were very constrained. This year, the Klamath Falls chinook has made a turnaround. They have basically as much fishing time as possible," Tracy said.

He said the length of the Oregon and California season and the quotas set for commercial and recreational fishermen will be close to those of a traditional season.

The season for the North Coast of Oregon and Washington, however, has significant cuts in quotas for commercial fishing and curtailments for recreational fishing as well, said Tracy.

The commercial trolling season in the northern region is limited to May 1 to June 30 and capped at 16,250 chinook salmon. A limited season might be allowed later in the summer depending on the catch in May and June.

The council set an overall non-Indian quota for the Washington fisheries of 32,500 chinook and 140,000 coho for 2007.

"Commercial fisheries catch primarily chinook, so they're going to face a much tougher time this year," said Tracy, who said the quotas for Washington fishing were among the lowest since 1994.

The salmon season extending south from Cape Falcon, about 30 miles south of the mouth of the Columbia River, to the Mexican border will open on a series of dates between April and October this year - with different dates and quotas for each of eight geographic areas. Next year, the season will open on March 15 for all salmon except coho.

The quota for the Klamath River recreational fishery was set at 10,400. The Klamath Tribe was given a quota of 40,800 chinook. Commercial fishermen were given per vessel quotas of 100 chinook per week in April, and 75 per week per vessel in September and October. Some areas have more specific restrictions, such as which ports are open on which days.

Tracy said the council had some difficult negotiations during its meeting in Seattle last week, particularly over the salmon season within Puget Sound.

A commercial fisherman from California expressed anger concerning the negotiation process after the meeting ended in suburban SeaTac, even though the restrictions set by the council would not affect his salmon catch near Eureka, Calif.

Dave Bitts called the restrictions placed on Washington commercial fishing "totally politically motivated" and said government officials did not show scientific proof to support the quotas.

"I was amazed that people weren't running around looking for pitchforks," said Bitts who has been a commercial fisherman for about 30 years. "I thought they were way too civil about it."

Staff & Associated Press
Limited Salmon Season Worries Fishers
The Daily Astorian, April 9, 2007

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