March 17, 2008

Federal officials consider Pacific salmon fishing ban

Salmon fisherman Dan Kleinman unloads his catch in this Aug. 8, 2005, file photo at Tides Wharf in Bodega Bay, Calif. (AP Photo/The Press Democrat, Chad Surmick)

By Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Federal officials are a step closer to banning salmon fishing on the West Coast.

The move comes amid a collapse of the central California chinook salmon fishery. The run is usually one of the most plentiful on the West Coast.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council has voted to consider the fishing ban, as well as two other options, to deal with the issue. One alternative is severely limiting fishing. Another is hiring fishermen to catch and release salmon for scientific projects.

"This is a major disaster. We've never had one ever like this," council chairman Donald Hansen said after the vote. "It will have a major impact on California commercial fisheries for salmon, recreational fisheries, California charters."

The action has prompted Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as the governors of Washington and Oregon to ask the federal government to declare a resource disaster if fisheries are closed or restricted.

The closest the council has come to halting all salmon fishing was 2006, when a decline in Northern California's Klamath River run forced severe restrictions on the number of fish caught.

The Sacramento River chinook run is usually one of the most plentiful on the West Coast, providing the bulk of the fish caught by commercial trollers off California and Oregon.

But this year's returns - even with no fishing allowed - are expected to reach less than half the council's goal for spawning a new generation. It marks the third straight year of declines, and the outlook for next year is no better.

Many coastal communities that still have salmon fleets have yet to recover from long-standing downturns in fishing and timber.

"It's going to have a big effect on our coastal communities," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the San Francisco-based Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.

Closing fisheries in the region could lead to higher salmon prices.

Experts aren't sure what's been causing the population collapse.

Yeah, right - the biggest DUMPER of CRAP is the

US DoD -

but let's not mention that EVER.

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