Local fishermen, scientists and agency representatives bent the ears of top-level state resource officials Thursday, urging more cooperation on a variety of issues from the Klamath River to ocean fisheries.

The Ocean Protection Council met at the Wharfinger Building, following a Wednesday tour of the lower Klamath and a salmon barbecue put on by the Yurok Tribe.

California Department of Fish and Game senior advisor Greg Hurner told the council that a group of tribes, fishermen, agencies and other stakeholders hopes to wrap up settlement talks surrounding four dams on the Klamath by year's end. A settlement, if it's successful, would form agreements on water supplies for farms, flows and water quality for salmon, and water for Upper Klamath Lake and wildlife refuges in the upper watershed as well, Hurner said.

The talks are confidential, giving the groups room to express concerns and work out sensitive issues, he said.

”It's to share ideas without repercussions,” Hurner said. “It's allowed people to get out of their comfort zone.

The talks began as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission began considering dam owner Pacificorp's request to relicense the dams for another 30 to 50 years.

State resources secretary and council chairman Mike Chrisman began the meeting by saying that the effort to establish “marine protected areas” along the 1,100-mile coast has been “historic.”

But two commercial fishermen urged the council to slow down and determine what effects the reserves are having before setting restrictions along the North Coast. Faced with significant reductions in quotas for fish like ling cod and other rockfish through other regulations, Crescent City fisherman Kenyon Hensel said he worried about the ramifications of marine protected areas here.

”We're concerned that it could be the end of our livelihoods,” Hensel said.

The state is currently working on protected areas -- zones with varying restrictions on different uses -- along the north central coast out to 3 miles. It's unknown whether it will shift its attention to the North Coast next, or move to another region to the south.

Trinidad commercial fisherman Mike Zamboni said that overfishing is a thing of the past, and that the economic reverberations of further restrictions would be severe.

”The state waters should be protected for fishermen,” he said, “not from fishermen.”

David Hull with the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District spent some time briefing the council on the attributes of the bay, orienting them on its importance for fish, wildlife and commerce on the West Coast. Researchers from the California Sea Grant talked about their efforts and offered their assistance.

Humboldt State University President Rollin Richmond also offered up the university's resources to the council.


John Driscoll can be reached at 441-0504 or jdriscoll@times-standard.com.