Chinook Salmon fishing season cancelled

April 8, 2009 6:49:06 PM PDT
Regulators cancelled California's commercial Chinook salmon fishing season. This is the second year in a row of a closure due to dismal spawning in the Sacramento River Delta. Experts say the cancelled season last year cost the fishing industry close to $400 million in lost sales and jobs.

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It's a tough decision that no one is fighting. Pacific Chinook salmon that spawn in the Sacramento River Delta are dying in record numbers.

Every stakeholder in this room is concerned -- from policy makers, to marine biologists, to fishermen, and the decision rests with the pacific fishery management council.

It means another idle summer for Larry Collins' "Autumn Gale," which normally plies the Pacific for Chinook salmon every summer -- salmon that hatched in the Sacramento River Delta and made their way through the bay to the open sea.

But they're dying off, and that led to a $400 million loss for commercial fishermen last year when the season was cancelled.

Salmon fishing is a major source of Collins' income.

"Salmon's probably 60 or 70 percent of my income, which we won't get this year, as we didn't get it last year," said Collins.

As tough as that is, fishermen realize the cancelled season is necessary.

"Right now, natural fish, natural spawning salmon, simply are not surviving the trip to the Delta. That's the reason they're now trucking hatchery fish around the Delta. Moreover, what we're seeing with other fish in the Delta -- the smelt, the long fin others -- those populations are collapsing as well," said Zeke Grader from the Federation of Fishermen's Association.

Ecologist Steven Lindley looked into the reason for the collapse.

"When the juvenile salmon entered the ocean, they found very little to eat when they normally are expecting quite a lot, and they apparently starved," said Lindley.

Lindley says the drought is also contributing to the problem.

Fisherman Joel Kawahara believes there is a short-term solution.

"Increasing the amount of water that flows through the river is the most immediate and surest way to aid the salmon in the short run," said Kawahara.

Wednesday's vote to ban salmon fishing goes next to the U.S. commerce secretary for final approval.

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