APRIL 11—The Pacific Fisheries Management Council decided to officially close both commercial and sport fishing for Chinook and Coho salmon along approximately 200 miles of the southern Oregon and northern California coasts for the remainder of 2017. According to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council ‘s website: “Fisheries from the Florence South Jetty to Horse Mountain, California vwill be closed for the entire season to reduce impacts on Klamath River fall Chinook.” This closure primarily affects coastal waters from Florence to Horse Mountain, not inland rivers in Oregon.
“Inland, spring-run Chinook fishing will still be allowed through Aug. 14 on the Klamath River and through Aug. 31 on the Trinity River. After these dates, both fisheries will close for the remainder of the calendar year,” according to the Lost Coast Outpost.
The coastal closure was due to the sharp decline in returning salmon to the Klamath River in California; “returns of spawning Klamath River fall Chinook are projected to be the lowest on record in 2017 due to drought, disease, poor ocean conditions, and other issues,” according to PFMC.
One parasite has been particularly impactful. The Oregon Public Broadcasting’s article “Drought Allows A Salmon-Killing Parasite To Thrive In The Klamath” details the complications of parasites on salmonids. The article points to the parasite Ceratanova, commonly known as “C” shasta, as the most prominent cause of salmon disease and death in the Klamath. While the parasite naturally resides in Northwest river systems, the abnormally warm water in the Klamath made conditions close to ideal for the parasite to multiply.
According to the Eureka Times-Standard, “Tribal fishery scientists such as Michael Belchik of the Yurok Tribe stated the low return of spawners is the result of several severe years of drought conditions and river management practices, which caused the waters to warm and become hot beds for toxic algae and deadly parasites.”
Native American tribes and commercial fishermen are most directly reliant upon the harvest. However, the decision will significantly impact coastal communities and economies. The closure impacts local industries dependent upon salmon beyond commercial fishing, such as tourism and dining.
This spells more than frustration for those who rely upon salmon for food, tribal ceremonies or the economic stimulation that salmon bring to Pacific coast communities. “There is a lot of tears and there’s a lot of questions about how am I going to feed my family?” Yurok tribe General Council Amy Cordalis said to the Eureka Times-Standard.
The article later said that the “Yurok Tribe Fisheries Department Director David Hillemeier said in good years the tribes would be allocated nearly 100,000 salmon by the Pacific Fishery Management Council for harvest. This year, Cordalis said they anticipate receiving 650 fish for the entire 6,100-member tribe.”
Multiple reports have noted the dire issues facing communities that rely on the salmon. In the case of the Yurok people in northern California, allocations have been roughly one salmon per ten individuals.
Removal of the dams along the Klamath is viewed as vital for salmon populations. OPB reported that “PacifiCorp is awaiting approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on a plan to remove its four Klamath River dams by 2020.”
The Eureka Times-Standard estimated that “the removal project will cost about $450 million, with $250 million coming from California’s $1 billion water bond Proposition 1 and the remaining $200 million from PacifiCorp ratepayers.” PacifiCorp is a Portland-based company providing power to California, Washington and Oregon, including Roseburg. Information about which ratepayers may fund the potential dam removal is currently unavailable.