Ban on salmon fishing a blow to California, Oregon
SAN FRANCISCO, April 8 |
SAN FRANCISCO, April 8 (Reuters) - The commercial salmon fishing season has been canceled in California for a second year in a row and scaled back in Oregon due to poor ocean and river conditions, a fishery management council said on Wednesday.
The ban, announced by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, is a blow to coastal communities along the Pacific Coast, where commercial and recreational fishing contribute up to hundreds of millions of dollars to local economies each year.
"A second year of fishery closures in California and southern Oregon will be devastating to many small fishing communities," the council said after voting for the restrictions on fishing of California king, or chinook, salmon.
It said recreational fishing of the pink-colored species would also be severely curtailed off the California coast. A limited commercial and sportfishing season will go forward in northern Oregon, where chinook and coho salmon stocks are healthier.
The commercial salmon season in California and Oregon typically runs from May 1 to Oct. 31.
The recommended restrictions will be forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries Service for approval by May 1, 2009, said the council, which is responsible for fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington State.
All three states have been hurt by climate change. California is in the third year of a drought that has severely stressed its river system.
Only 66,200 adult king salmon returned last fall to the Sacramento River system, which once teemed with millions of chinook. About 122,100 fish are estimated to return this year, far short of the 180,000 needed to maintain the health of the stock.
Doug Obegi, a lawyer with the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, said the poor state of oceans and rivers in the region had provided a "one-two" punch for the fall king salmon run, which was as high as 775,000 in 2002.
"While the ocean conditions are out of our control, it is clear we need to do more to restore the Delta," he said, referring to the river-fed area that is the single largest source of water in California.
The area is under immense stress due to the combination of drought and demand from agriculture and cities. Water planners say climate change is making the system even less predictable.
Most of the fish that return each year are from hatcheries, Obegi added. (For more environmental news see our Environment blog at blogs.reuters.com/environment) (Reporting by Peter Henderson, Editing Paul Simao)
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