California Salmon Season Likely Canceled for 2023
By Kiley Russell Bay City News
Both the commercial and recreational salmon fleets in California will likely remain stuck in port this year following the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s decision Thursday to cancel the 2023 fishing season.
Three years of drought, low river levels and hot, dry conditions have had punishing effects on the Klamath and Sacramento river’s fall-run Chinook salmon populations, according to state wildlife officials.
What Will Happen to the Price of Salmon?
According to SF Gate, this cancellation will mean there will be no local wild salmon in California grocery stores or on restaurant menus this year, as well as higher prices for nonlocal salmon.
In response to drastic fish population declines, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) — which regulates fisheries in California, Oregon and Washington — canceled the salmon season from the Oregon border to Mexico.
“The forecasts for Chinook returning to California rivers this year are near record lows,” said PFMC chair Marc Gorelnik.
“The poor conditions in the freshwater environment that contributed to these low forecasted returns are unfortunately not something that the council can, or has authority to, control,” Gorelnik said.
According to KQED this widespread of a shutdown hasn’t been seen in 14 years.
The decision to close the season must still be approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is expected to do so in May.
Also on Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state is asking U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to issue a Federal Fishery Disaster Declaration in order to provide assistance to fishing boat operators, coastal communities and others that rely on the salmon season for income.
An industry group, the Golden State Salmon Association, said the state’s commercial and recreational salmon fisheries account for $1.4 billion in economic activity and include fishermen and women, fish processors, marinas, equipment manufacturers, Native American tribes and people in the hotel and food industries, among others.
HOW WE GOT HERE:
- Prolonged drought, severe wildfires, and associated impacts to spawning and rearing habitat, harmful algal blooms, and ocean forage shifts have combined to result in some of the lowest stock abundance forecasts on record for Sacramento River Fall Chinook and Klamath River Fall Chinook.
- In large part, the low returns and abundance forecasts are due to difficult environmental factors faced by these salmon on their initial journey out to the ocean three years ago.
- The low ocean abundance forecasts, coupled with low 2022 returns, led the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) to recommend full closure of California’s commercial and recreational ocean salmon fisheries.
- Commercial fishing in southern Oregon is also projected to face closures through the end of 2023.
PREVIOUS ACTIONS: The Newsom Administration has made unprecedented investments in recent years to revitalize salmon populations and support the communities that rely on salmon fishing.
- The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced $22.5 million for 19 projects last month to support the restoration of critical habitat for salmon, climate resiliency, wildlife corridors and wetlands restoration. The funding is part of a new $200 million effort to support critical restoration statewide. The projects announced last month include:
- Protecting Salmon: California awarded more than $8.2 million to eight projects in watersheds throughout the state to address drought impacts for salmon in rivers and streams important to their lifecycle. The largest project awarded will be led by the Yurok Tribe within the Oregon Gulch section of the Upper Trinity River where remnants of hydraulic mining have narrowed the river and lead to a loss of salmon rearing habitat. This project will reestablish the natural flow of the river as well as a functioning floodplain to greatly improve habitat for salmon across various life stages.
- Addressing Climate Impacts: Approximately $6.6 million was awarded to seven new projects to address urgent degrading water and habitat conditions due to climate change impacts. These projects include a focus on winter-run Chinook, improving the diversity of hatchery winter-run, as well as juvenile salmon collection system evaluation for re-introducing this species in the McCloud River above the Shasta Dam.
- Wildlife Corridor – Fish Passage: Wildlife corridors are essential to providing fish and wildlife room to roam, or in this case, swim. California awarded more than $6.5 million to three fish passage projects that will modify bridges and remove other barriers to fish passage in northern and central California.
- Last summer, working with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and federal partners, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) returned approximately 20,000 fertilized endangered winter-run Chinook salmon eggs to the McCloud River upstream of Shasta Reservoir for the first time since the construction of the Shasta Dam in the 1940s.
- The largest river restoration project in American history begins this year to remove of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. A project 20 years in the making to restore the river for and with Native American Tribes, it received final approval in December 2022 and will open up over 300 miles of historical habitat to salmon and steelhead that has been blocked by the dams for almost 100 years.
- More than $84 million was invested in the last several years to modernize hatcheries by replacing egg incubators and sorting machines, installing automated fish counters and water treatment systems, replacing aging vehicles in fish planting fleets and modernizing hauling trucks.
Copyright © 2023 Bay City News, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication, rebroadcast or redistribution without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. Bay City News is a 24/7 news service covering the greater Bay Area.