Reaction To King Salmon Ocean Fishing Closures In California Waters

CDFW Photo

There was urging from California salmon fishing advocates for the Pacific Fishery Management Council to close the state’s Chinook salmon fishing season after years of drought and perceived water mismanagement has decimated the runs – some of the lowest run projections in recent memory prompted the concerns – there’s still an element of sadness to this week’s meetings. Here’s the PFMC release with three alternatives for 2023:

Seattle, Washington—The Pacific Fishery Management Council has adopted three alternatives for 2023 ocean salmon fisheries off Washington, Oregon, and California for public review. The Council will make a final decision on salmon seasons at its meeting on April 1-7. Detailed information about season starting dates, areas open, and catch limits for the three alternatives are available on the Council’s website at

Forecasts for West Coast Chinook and coho stocks in 2023 are a mixed bag, with some low and high points when compared to last year. Federal requirements to conserve Fraser River (Canada) coho, lower Columbia River natural tule1 fall Chinook, Klamath River fall Chinook and Sacramento River fall Chinook will be the main constraints for this year’s ocean salmon fisheries.

“Meeting our conservation and management objectives continues to be the highest priority for the Council,” said Council Chair Marc Gorelnik. “Balancing those objectives while providing meaningful commercial and recreational seasons remains a challenge in 2023.”

“The 2023 salmon season discussions have been dominated by the severely low forecasts for both the Klamath and Sacramento River fall Chinook stocks”, said Executive Director Merrick Burden, “the Council will need to deliberate on the best path forward in setting 2023 seasons with considerations for economic implications to the coastal communities and the low abundances of key salmon stocks and the need to ensure future generations of healthy salmon returns.”

Washington and Northern Oregon (north of Cape Falcon)

Fisheries north of Cape Falcon (in northern Oregon) are limited mainly by the need to constrain catch of lower Columbia River natural tule Chinook. Additionally, two natural coho stocks meet the criteria for either overfished (Queets River) or not overfished/ rebuilding (Strait of Juan de Fuca), which is also a concern when structuring 2023 fisheries.

Tribal ocean fisheries north of Cape Falcon

Tribal negotiations are underway, but at this time the Chinook and coho quotas for tribal ocean fishery alternatives range from 30,000 to 50,000 for Chinook salmon, and from 42,000 to 62,000 coho (which are the same as 2022). Under the range of alternatives, seasons open May 1 and continue through September 15.

Sport season alternatives

For the ocean sport fishery north of Cape Falcon the alternatives with Chinook recreational quotas range from 32,500 to 42,500, compared to 27,000 in 2022. For coho, recreational quotas range from 142,800 to 168,000 marked coho, compared to 168,000 in 2022. Starting dates range from mid- to late-June with the season continuing through most or all of September. Chinook and coho retention is allowed generally throughout the proposed seasons.

Commercial season alternatives

For the non-Indian ocean commercial fishery North of Cape Falcon, the alternatives reflect traditional seasons between May and September. Chinook quotas for all areas and times range from 32,500 to 42,500, compared to 27,000 in 2022. Coho quotas range from 27,200 to 32,000 marked coho, compared to 32,000 in 2022.


Oregon (south of Cape Falcon) and California

Fisheries south of Cape Falcon are limited mainly by the low abundance forecast for both Klamath River and Sacramento River fall Chinook. This year’s management alternatives are significantly reduced or closed to fishing opportunity to keep fishing impacts minimal given the critically low abundance forecasts for key California Chinook stocks of concern.

Sport season alternatives

While the Sacramento River and Klamath River fall Chinook abundances are forecasted to be very low, Oregon’s coho populations have a similar forecast to 2022.

Oregon ocean recreational alternatives from Cape Falcon to the OR/CA border include mark-selective coho fishing seasons starting June 17 and running through all of August, with one alternative from Humbug Mountain to the OR/CA border as closed. Quotas range from 90,000 to 110,000 marked coho (compared to 95,000 to 120,000 in 2022). In addition, non-mark-selective coho fisheries are proposed in all alternatives for the area between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain for the month of September, with quotas ranging from 15,000 to 25,000 coho (compared to 17,000 to 20,000 in 2022). Two alternatives provide Chinook salmon retention from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain from September 1 to October 31. In the area from Humbug Mountain to the Oregon/California border a mark-selective coho fishery is proposed in two of the three alternatives.

California ocean recreational fisheries in all areas from the Oregon/California border to the U.S./Mexico border are proposed to be closed in all three alternatives given the low abundance forecasts for both Klamath and Sacramento River fall Chinook.

This is the California Department of Fish and Wildlife press release:

Today, on recommendation from California and Oregon agency representatives and industry advisors, the National Marine Fisheries Service took inseason action(opens in new tab) to cancel ocean salmon fishery openers that were scheduled between Cape Falcon, Ore., and the U.S./Mexico border through May 15.

The sport fishery had been scheduled to open off California in most areas on April 1. The actions were taken to protect Sacramento River fall Chinook, which returned to the Central Valley in 2022 at near-record low numbers, and Klamath River fall Chinook, which had the second lowest abundance forecast since the current assessment method began in 1997.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) has produced three regulatory options (PDF)(opens in new tab) for the May 16, 2023, through May 15, 2024, time period. None of the three options would authorize commercial or ocean salmon sport fishing off California until April 2024. The alternatives were approved by the PFMC for public review today.

On March 21, 2023, the PFMC will hold a public hearing in Santa Rosa to receive public comment on the three proposed regulatory alternatives. The PFMC will then meet April 1-7 in Foster City to adopt final regulations. More information regarding the PFMC meetings and options can be found on the PFMC website at in new tab).

And finally, some reaction from the Golden State Salmon Association:

Fishery Council Moves to Close California and parts of Oregon Salmon Fishing in 2023

Water management decisions favoring agriculture tied to low salmon numbers

San Francisco  —  Salmon fishermen and women, and many businesses that serve both the sport and commercial salmon boats, are staring at no income in 2023 as a result of moves to close the season.  Coastal restaurants and hotels will also feel the hit.  

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) just wrapped up a meeting on Friday March 10 where it adopted proposals to close the season.  The Council (PFMC) will meet in early April and procedurally finalize the closure then. 

The closure of salmon fishing affects all of California’s marine and inland waters as well as ocean salmon fishing off most of the Oregon coast.  

 This is only the second time in history salmon fishing has been closed in California.  The decision was made due to low numbers of adult and two-year-old jack salmon that have survived the hostile conditions they’ve encountered in Central Valley rivers in recent years.  All of these rivers are controlled by upstream dam operations.  Dam operation decisions favoring agriculture over salmon survival have resulted in very poor natural salmon reproduction in recent years because lethal hot water left over after dam releases for agriculture have killed incubating salmon eggs.  In addition, strong releases of water in the spring needed to wash baby salmon safely out of the Central Valley to the ocean have been diverted or withheld.  

“Commercial salmon fishermen and women are the only group of Californians that sustainably produce food from California’s natural resources,” said Joe Conte of Water2table, a local seafood distributor.  “The closure of the salmon fishing clearly demonstrates that California isn’t taking care of the thousands of us involved in producing this incredible natural food.”

“Our local commercial and recreational fleets are devastated,” said commercial salmon troller Sarah Bates. “Those of us that depend on salmon have lost our livelihoods completely this year, and potentially next year. Aside from the economic impacts to our ports, communities and families, we are heartbroken at the condition of our ecosystems and frustrated at the colossal mismanagement of our public water resources.”

“My customers come long distances to fish for salmon and they’re willing to pay good money for the chance of taking a prized salmon home,” said Andy Guiliano, owner of Fish Emeryville.  “The boats in our harbor will suffer irreparable damage as a result of not being able to provide that experience and opportunity to people this year.” 

“GSSA is working to address the chronic lack of water dam operators provide to salmon,” said GSSA president John McManus.  “The Golden State Salmon Association is in court trying to get enforcement of existing laws to provide adequate water for salmon because water for salmon is water for people, the people throughout the state who make a living tied to salmon or who supply food for the family’s dinner table.  We’re talking about a sustainable, natural food and good jobs that are being taken so that water is delivered only to the politically connected.”   

“We’re relying on historic levels of state and federal hatchery production to repopulate our natural salmon runs at this point,” said Captain Jared Davis of the charter boat Salty Lady. “Adequate hatchery contributions are essential and were agreed to when the dams were built but they’ve been dramatically reduced in recent times.  We need to take action to get our natural salmon back now and to support this iconic species and make a decent living like we used to.”