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Oregonian 4/7/06

Fish board acts to limit time, range of season

Chinook salmon - The council's recommendations could be chucked for something even tougher
April 07, 2006 From staff and wire reports

SACRAMENTO -- Federal regulators voted Thursday to impose severe restrictions on commercial salmon fishing off the coasts of Oregon and Northern California to protect dwindling populations of fall chinook salmon in the Klamath River.

In a bright spot, however, the council recommended that recreational fishing go forward in Oregon.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council decided that about 700 miles of coastline should be closed to commercial salmon fishing for most of June and July, the most productive months of the season. Off Oregon, trollers would be allowed just 27 days to fish, and then take only 75 fish per boat each week. Federal fishery officials said the closures would be the broadest ever imposed on the West Coast salmon fishery.

"It's a disaster, but it's something," said Curt Melcher, Oregon's representative on the council.

Off the Oregon Coast, fishing would be open only down to Florence on the Central Oregon Coast, the first time the rest of the coastline down to the California border has been closed, Melcher said.

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. This year might be different, however. The federal government has made clear it will accept little harvesting of Klamath River fall chinook salmon at all. A final decision is expected by next week, when Oregon and other states will be setting their own salmon seasons.

The council governs fishing from three miles offshore to 200 miles out. The states have authority within three miles.

Fishermen were relieved the council voted to allow some fishing this season -- many had feared a complete ban from Point Sur south of Monterey, Calif., to Cape Falcon near Manzanita 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, Calif., who heads the Small Boat Commercial Salmon Fishermen's Association.

The council, meeting in Sacramento, heard several days of testimony from dozens of biologists, environmentalists and fishermen. At issue was whether any fishing could be allowed without damaging the fall run of chinook salmon that spawn in the Klamath River and its tributaries. The salmon leave the Klamath and swim both north and south along the Pacific Coast, generally returning to spawn after three to five years. As a result, scientists are concerned that the Klamath salmon would be hooked by the trolling fleet, because there is no way to tell from which river a given salmon emerged.





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