Fishing groups saw it coming: the counts were looking low for this year’s runs of chinook - and abysmal for coho. And now commercial and recreational fishermen are coming to terms with lower ocean salmon catch limits set Thursday by fishery managers.
The new recommended catch limits put forth by the Pacific Fishery Management Council cut the non-tribal quotas by more than half in most areas.
Bob Rees is with Northwest Steelheaders, a sport fishing group. He says low number of fish make anglers less excited to spend the money and effort to get out on the ocean.
“I don’t anticipate that it’s going to be an overly productive and high-effort season,” he says.
Rees doesn’t criticize fishery managers for keeping the quotas low.
“Sport anglers are not new to sitting on the sidelines in order to protect sensitive stocks of salmon,” he says.
Both recreational and commercial fishermen will see their limits lowered this year.
“It’s going to be very, very thin season,” says Glen Spain, regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations.
Spain represents commercial fishermen’s groups along the West Coast.
“There are going to be major closures and some of those closures will be much longer than we anticipated, but that’s the way we’re going to have to deal with it,” he says.
Scientists blame this year’s salmon decline on the recent drought and unusually warm ocean temperatures, which are depleting salmon food supplies.
Spain also connects it back to problems in specific river systems – like the Klamath. He says water allocation issues and dams there are degrading the fishery. Under a recent deal, four of those dams appear likely to come down within the next decade.
Spain says the fishery council did what they could to compromise, given the ecologic and economic pressures in play.
“They’re doing what they can to minimize the impact on any particular area. And that is sound science and sound sociology,” he says.