Recreational Fishermen Support Reduced Salmon Season in Light of On-going California Drought

On Wednesday, April 15, 2015 the Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted commercial and recreational salmon regulations for the coastal areas of Washington, Oregon, and California. The regulatory package achieves the conservation measures necessary to ensure the fish stocks are managed in a sustainable manner, while ensuring there are fish for commercial markets, restaurants, and recreational fishermen.

In California, these deliberations were more difficult than usual as a result of the ongoing drought that severely impacts salmon spawning habitat. There are abundant fish in the ocean for harvest this year, since these mature fish entered the ocean two to four years ago – before the drought impacts were particularly severe. However in 2014 there was a near complete failure of the ESA-listed winter-run Chinook spawning in the Sacramento River. The 95% mortality was a direct consequence of loss of sufficient quantity and quality of water flowing into the Sacramento River from Shasta Dam. This loss played a significant role in shaping the regulatory package that was adopted.
During the development of the regulatory package, the National Marine Fisheries Service placed a maximum cap on the allowable impact rate on these fish, based on Endangered Species Act criteria. However, both the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and California fishermen went beyond those criteria to adopt measures that will keep the impact rate significantly below that standard. Recreational fishermen, who have the largest impact rate on these fish, went the extra mile to ensure that more adult fish are returned to the river this year, and put forth restrictions beyond what even the CDFW expected. According to Dan Wolford, President of the Coastside Fishing Club, “Throughout this process we have been concerned about the impacts of the drought, and in particular the effects the drought is having on our salmon stocks. With the loss of the 2014 winter-run brood year it was apparent that we had to take extraordinary measures to help recover these fish.” He went on to say, “But curtailing fishing opportunities this year to provide for the return of more adult spawners, will be a meaningless gesture unless the federal and state water managers take immediate and dramatic action to provide suitable spawning habitat when they return, and to enable the resulting brood year to successfully out-migrate to the ocean. We want our actions to be noted and acted on.”

You can find the exact wording for the recreational sector on pages 8 and 9 of D5a_Supp_STT_Rpt_tent_measures-additonal_Guidancefinal_APR2015BB.pdf. Please note that there are changes in the regulation package in Oregon and Washington, so only the CA regulations are precisely captured