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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 7, 2006

Salmon fishers lose two months

By Terence Chea
Associated Press

Small coastal towns such as Half Moon Bay, Calif., above, depend heavily on seasonal income from serving the salmon fleet.

TONY AVELAR | Associated Press

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. Federal regulators voted yesterday to severely restrict salmon fishing off the coasts of Oregon and Northern California this summer to protect dwindling populations in the Klamath River.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council decided to close about 700 miles of coastline to commercial salmon fishing for most of June and July, the most productive months of the season. Federal fishery officials said the closures were the broadest ever imposed on the West Coast salmon fishery.

The council's decision, which some members described as "brutal" and "gut-wrenching," still must be approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which generally follows the panel's recommendations.

Fishermen were relieved the council voted to allow some fishing this season many had feared a complete ban from Point Sur south of Monterey to Cape Falcon in northern Oregon but they said it would be difficult to earn a living under such strict limits.

"We're getting a lot of fishing time in areas with no fish and very little fishing time in areas that do have fish," said Mike Hudson, of Berkeley, who heads the Small Boat Commercial Salmon Fishermen's Association.

The council, meeting in Sacramento this week, heard testimony from dozens of biologists, environmentalists and fishermen on whether it was possible to preserve a salmon fishing season without hurting Klamath chinook.

While salmon populations from the Sacramento and Columbia rivers are healthy, Northern California's Klamath River has seen poor returns of spawning salmon. In recent years, Klamath water has been diverted for farming, leading to lower river levels, warmer water and an increase in parasites that attack young fish.

Because salmon return to spawn in the rivers where they were born, fishery managers are concerned that catching the reduced numbers of Klamath salmon could deplete future generations.

There are plenty of salmon in the ocean, but it's nearly impossible to catch those salmon without taking Klamath fish because fishermen can't distinguish between salmon from different rivers.

The 1,200 West Coast fishermen who trolled for salmon last year are worried about communities up and down the West Coast that depend on the trade.