CA salmon season closed for 2nd consecutive year, threatening livelihoods of Bay Area anglers

ByLena Howland KGO logo
Thursday, April 11, 2024
CA salmon season closed for 2nd consecutive year
California's salmon fishing season is canceled for a second consecutive year.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- California's salmon fishing season is canceled for a second consecutive year.

The news comes at the end of an already shortened Dungeness crab season, which just ended on Monday, April 8.

The double whammy is threatening the livelihoods of Bay Area anglers.

"Salmon is about 90% of my income on an annual basis," said Sarah Bates, a salmon captain.

RELATED: CA's shortened commercial Dungeness crab season closes to protect whales

It's a massive hit for seafood distribution, the charter boat industry and coastal communities, but especially for commercial fishers like Bates.

She says it's already putting people on her fleet out of work.

"Many of us are unfortunately not finding work on land. Bank accounts are unhealthy. Mental health is even more unhealthy right now, and I do fear that we are going to start losing members of our fleet. We're going to start losing some capacity as a port to deliver seafood to California," she said.

Many fishermen say the news of this closure is a double-gut punch after Dungeness crab season has already been cut short.

MORE: Experts explain why salmon run seeing record numbers, sizes in parts of Bay Area

"Salmon and crab is kind of our iconic San Francisco fishery. They've closed it down again mainly because of water policy issues," said Joe Conte, owner of Water2Table Fish Company. "Most water is going south into the desert to grow almonds. They're taking that out of the river system."

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says low fish populations are just one of the reasons for the closure.

"Ultimately, it's not enough water for all interests, especially in years of drought," said Kandice Morgenstern, a representative with the Salmon Technical Team at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. "We chose to be extra conservative, close those fisheries so that they have the best chance of returning and spawning and sort of building our stock status back up to healthy levels as quickly as possible."

MORE: Canceled California salmon season becomes financial burden for fishers

On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom requested for a Federal Fishery Disaster Declaration.

"We'll continue working with the Biden administration and Congress to ensure California's fisheries and impacted communities are supported during this critical time," Newsom said.

As for the $20.6 million that was allocated for last year's closure, that "spend plan" hasn't been approved by Congress yet.

"We're still waiting," Bates said. "But what we're asking for is actually something much, much greater than $20.6 million. What we need is a comprehensive and funded plan to bring back our salmon population so that we can go back to work."

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