Salmon crisis causes political uproar

May 16, 2008 6:48:41 PM PDT
This year's Pacific salmon season has already been cancelled. Now, some claim the people managing the fishery actually made matters worse.

For 30 years, Dick Pool's been running Pro Troll, the nation's second largest manufacturer of salmon fishing gear. Pool equates the closure of the salmon season to the country's worst manmade fishery disasters.

"The magnitude of this collapse is certainly equal in economic terms to the Exxon Valdez or the collapse of the cod fishery in New England a couple of years ago. It is huge," said Pool.

The phone is ringing but the news isn't good.

"We're getting cancellations for orders everyday, we're looking at some red ink," said Pool.

Wednesday, the House approved a farm bill that includes $170 million in disaster assistance for commercial fishermen and the salmon industry. But Pool says he already knows of several retailers and boat dealers who have been forced out of business.

On Thursday, Pool attended a House hearing on how the National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS has managed the salmon population.

West Coast Democrats are now blaming President Bush and his political allies for destroying the western salmon fisheries by pumping too much water out of the delta, and encouraging scientists to cite low food supplies in the ocean for the salmon's demise.

"They changed the science, the conclusion of the scientists and what we see now is we've closed the entire Pacific fisheries to salmon and the salmon are much more endangered now than they were five, six, seven, 10 years ago," said Rep. George Miller (D) Martinez.

The Fisheries Service wouldn't talk to ABC7 News. They testified that the decline of salmon along the entire West Coast can't be blamed on those pumps,while defending their food supply theory.

In a statement, they said: "Therefore, the cause of the decline is consistent with the poor ocean conditions hypothesis."

Independent scientists are now reviewing the findings.

"We have identified a lot of short-term projects that maybe can get us a season again in 2010," said Pool.


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