Salmon decline bad for economy
Editorial: Salmon decline bad for economy
Posted: 03/12/2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Our view: Expect more salmon fishing restrictions this fall, but anglers aren't the big problem, just an easy scapegoat.
Like a temporary tax that has its way of becoming permanent, the temporary closure of salmon fishing on the Feather and Sacramento rivers looks like it might stick around awhile.
That would be another devastating blow to an already reeling local economy.
A state agency last year banned salmon fishing on the Feather River and allowed a token two-month season on the Sacramento River in November and December, when fish are relatively scarce.
Local fishing guides and tackle shop owners, accustomed to a season that runs from July 15 until Dec. 31, said such a closure would be economically devastating, and it was. But the damage stretches far behind guides losing most of their annual income (they can fetch $1,000 or so per day for a boatload during salmon season) and tackle shop owners losing one-third or more of theirs. The closures also hurt tourism in Oroville and Chico. Without anglers coming from all over Northern California to pursue salmon, restaurants and hotels took a hit.
Ecotourism in our area — that is, visitors coming to enjoy our natural resources, such as Lake Oroville, birdwatching or salmon fishing — lost one of its best drawing cards.
It hard to fault the state Fish and Game Commission for last year's decision and this year's inevitable one. Even with the ocean season and most of the river season closed, a mere 66,200 salmon spawned in the Sacramento River system, according to Department of Fish and Game estimates. That's the lowest recorded return ever. As recently as six years ago, more than three-quarters of a million salmon returned. The DFG said at least 122,000 adults are needed to keep the river system healthy.
Fish regulators, often at the insistence of fishermen themselves, have been setting the stage for another closure. They met in Santa Rosa last week, and the Pacific Fishery Management Council is in Seattle this week. A final decision on ocean and river salmon fishing should come next month.
We're expecting another closure. People who make a living off the fish expect it, too. Last year an emergency declaration allowed some guides to receive federal disaster assistance. That may be harder to find this year. One year could be considered a disaster. Two years is the beginning of a trend, and disaster money won't be on hand for fishing guides forever. Most of them will either find other species to target (like striped bass, sturgeon, steelhead and trout), will move to other states where the regulations aren't as restrictive or will find another line of work.
Though it's unfortunate, you'll hear very few anglers complain. Even though the anglers aren't the biggest part of the problem, they want the species to thrive and will give up fishing to make that happen.
In the meantime, let's hope the state pursues answers to what is causing the salmon decline rather than just picking off the easy targets — the anglers.
Jim's Fishing Charters