Yesterday, the Golden State Salmon Association voiced its frustration that years of declining salmon stocks and perceived mismanagement of the state’s water allocations finally hit rock bottom when Northern California’s 2023 ocean salmon season was first recommended to be canceled earlier this year and upheld by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the confirmation of closures, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has also requested federal disaster relief for the state’s fishing industry.
Today, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) acted unanimously to recommend a full closure of California’s commercial and recreational ocean salmon season. Options put forward by the PFMC last month for public review, which were developed by industry representatives, all proposed closure of both commercial and sport ocean salmon fisheries off California. This action follows recent projections showing Chinook salmon abundance off California is at historic lows.
After reviewing the Council’s recommendation, it is expected that the National Marine Fisheries Service will take regulatory action to enact the closure, effective in mid-May. In addition, the California Fish and Game Commission will consider whether to adopt a closure of inland salmon fisheries at its teleconference on May 17.
“This decision, while difficult, is intended to allow salmon to recover in order to provide future fishing opportunities, said California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Salmon are an iconic species in California. We treasure them for their intrinsic, cultural, recreational and commercial values. The state is committed to ensuring long-term survival of our salmon runs and supporting our struggling fishing communities. We are looking into all possible options to bring relief as soon as possible to fishing businesses to addresses costs incurred to maintain their commercial licenses and lost revenue when the season is entirely closed.”
Prolonged and historic 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. The low ocean abundance forecasts, coupled with low 2022 returns, led the PFMC to recommend full closure of California’s commercial and recreational ocean salmon fisheries.
In 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. Following a drought sequence, the 2016-2017 Sacramento and San Joaquin numbers were less than 135,000 returning fall-run Chinook. Three years later, after rains, it was over 200,000. Similar rebounds happened after 2010 had above average rainfall. Salmon returns three years later more than doubled from around 163,000 to around 448,000. These patterns indicate that salmon returning three years from now will benefit from the ample precipitation California has experienced this year.
“This closure is painful,” said Director Bonham. “We deeply appreciate the fishing community in California voicing support for this serious step to help these stocks recover. We have worked with our commercial and recreational partners over the years to rebuild other fisheries following closures and now some of those, like some groundfish populations, are providing opportunities for fishing for the first time in years.”
More information regarding the PFMC actions can be found on the PFMC website at www.pcouncil.org.
Following the PFMC’s recommendation of a full closure, Governor Gavin Newsom announced his administration’s request for a Federal Fishery Disaster Declaration to support impacted communities. Read Gov. Newsom’s news release.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: With the Pacific Fishery Management Council recommending a full closure of the ocean salmon season based on 2023 abundance forecasts of key salmon stocks off California and parts of Southern Oregon, the Newsom Administration is requesting a Federal Fishery Disaster Declaration to support impacted communities.
SACRAMENTO – Today, Governor Gavin Newsom and Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis announced a request for a Federal Fishery Disaster Declaration to support the salmon fishing industry as it faces a closure for the 2023 salmon season. This action follows projections that indicate California’s Chinook salmon abundance is at historic lows.
Recognizing the importance of salmon to California’s commercial fisheries, Acting Governor Eleni Kounalakis, on behalf of Governor Newsom, submitted the request to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo immediately after the Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended a full closure of California’s commercial and recreational ocean salmon season – a recommendation the National Marine Fisheries Service is expected to implement next month.
If approved, the Federal Fishery Disaster Declaration would begin the process of providing needed relief to fishing communities financially impacted by a closure.
“Countless families, coastal communities and tribal nations depend on salmon fishing – it’s more than an industry, it’s a way of life. That’s why we’re requesting expedited relief from the federal government,” said Governor Newsom. “We’re committed to working with the Biden Administration and Congress to ensure California’s fisheries aren’t left behind.
“To California’s salmon fishing communities, we’re working to get you expedited relief,” said Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis. “The Federal Fishery Disaster Declaration we’re requesting today is vital to supporting our coastal regions, and we look forward to getting families the help they need.”
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.
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.