State fishery managers on the West Coast are releasing ocean salmon forecasts this week. And things aren’t looking good – especially for fishermen off the coasts of Oregon and Northern California.
“I would generally characterize it as a very poor season for both coho and chinook," said Eric Schindler of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
He said things are looking especially bad for salmon returning to the Klamath River and its tributaries. The Klamath is the most important river for Oregon’s ocean chinook fishery.
“We’re looking at essentially an all-time low in the forecast for the Klamath this year,” Schindler said.
Population forecasts for ocean-run salmon returning to Oregon coastal streams and the Columbia River appear to be healthier, according the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Columbia forecast bodes better for ocean fishing this year off the coast of Washington.
Washington's 2017 fall chinook and coho salmon forecast for Columbia River populations calls for returning numbers that are below average but considered good and fair, respectively. It's calling for neutral to good returns for Puget Sound salmon and for most of its coastal rivers.
West Coast salmon runs in the southern part of the range have been hit hard in recent years. El Nino conditions in the Pacific ocean have contributed to poor productivity, meaning salmon have not had robust food sources.
The rivers, where the salmon spawn and rear, have posed problems as well - some natural and other human caused.
"It's probably indicative of the environment and the drought and the poor conditions in the river," said Mike Orcutt, Fisheries Department Director for Northern California's Hoopa Tribe, of the low returns expected.
These conditions can be exacerbated by dams and the demands of agriculture and other water users.
Orcutt says the Hoopa Tribe have treaty rights to about 10 percent of the allowed catch Klamath River chinook.
Salmon return forecasting helps officials set dates and catch limits for both commercial and recreational salmon fishing. Federal managers will begin the process of setting this year’s limits next week at a meeting in Vancouver, Washington.