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Salmon Season Alternatives Adopted For Review
by Dan Bacher
Friday Mar 22nd, 2013 3:59 PM
The Sacramento River Fall Chinook ocean abundance forecast is 834,200, slightly above last year’s forecast, according to Dr. Michael O’Farrell of the National Marine Fisheries Service. The number is based on the number of jacks (two year old fish) that returned the previous year.

Unfortunately, the winter run Chinook continues its struggle to survive, due to massive water exports out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, and the low numbers will impact fishing seasons below Point Arena. Spawner escapement of endangered winter Chinook salmon in 2012 was estimated to be only 2,529 adults and 145 jacks.

Salmon Season Alternatives Adopted For Review

by Dan Bacher

Three alternatives for 2013 ocean recreational and commercial salmon fisheries were adopted for public review at the March Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting in Tacoma, Washington. Detailed information on these ocean salmon fisheries will be available on the Council website (http://www.pcouncil.org) in the near future.

The Council will make a final decision for all ocean West Coast salmon fisheries for the May 1, 2013 through April 30, 2014 season at its April 5-11, 2013 meeting in Portland, Oregon.

For the month of April, the California recreational salmon fishing regulations are as follows, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Humbug Mountain (OR) to Horse Mountain:
♦ Closed * (season will be decided in April)

Horse Mountain to Point Arena (Fort Bragg):
♦ Opens April 6-30, 2013
- 2 salmon per day of any species except coho
- minimum size limit: 20 inches (total length)

Point Arena to Pigeon Point (San Francisco):
♦ Opens April 6-30, 2013
- 2 salmon per day of any species except coho
- minimum size limit: 24 inches (total length)

Pigeon Point to U.S.-Mexico Border (Monterey Bay south):
♦ Opens April 6-30, 2013
- 2 salmon per day of any species except coho - minimum size limit: 24 inches (total length)

The current options for the season below Point Arena starting May 1 employ a mixture of size limits and days off the water during the summer to reduce impacts on Sacramento River winter run Chinook salmon.

The majority of impact on regulations will be felt in the Monterey/Santa Cruz area, the region responsible for 60% of the winter-run stock impacts. Half Moon Bay, the Bay Area, and Bodega Bay region will also be impacted, since 40 percent of winter run impacts take place in this region.

Option 1 for the San Francisco and Monterey South areas features fishing for 5 days per week in June and the first two weeks of July.

Option 2 features a Chinook minimum size limit of 24 inches total length through July 31 in the San Francisco area and a 26" minimum length in Monterey South during June and July.

Under both options, the season would run from April 6 through November 10 in the San Francisco area and April 6 through October 6 in Monterey South.

Option 3 features a Chinook minimum size limit of 24 inches total length through July 14; 20 inches thereafter in both the San Francisco and Monterey South areas.

The season would be April 6 through June 2 and June 8 through November 10 in the San Francisco zone and April 6 through July 14 and Aug. 1 through Oct. 6 in Monterey South.

The Sacramento River Fall Chinook ocean abundance forecast is 834,200, slightly above last year’s forecast, according to Dr. Michael O’Farrell of the National Marine Fisheries Service. The number is based on the number of jacks (two year old fish) that returned the previous year.

Unfortunately, the winter run Chinook continues its struggle to survive, due to massive water exports out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, and the low numbers will impact fishing seasons below Point Arena.

Spawner escapement of endangered winter Chinook salmon in 2012 was estimated to be only 2,529 adults and 145 jacks. By contrast, over 117,000 winter-run Chinooks returned to the Sacramento River in 1969. (http://www.appeal-democrat.com/articles/year-123679-chinook-salmon.html)

The Klamath River abundance forecast is 727,682 fall run Chinooks, not the record abundance forecasted last year, but still above the long term average. A record run of 302,108 fall adult Chinook salmon returned to the Klamath River in 2012.

The California Fish and Game Commission will review the ocean recreational seasons and choose the in-river salmon season regulations at their April meeting. For more information, go to: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/salmonpreseason.asp

The following is the remaining actions in the process for selection of the alternatives:

Mar. 12-31: Management agencies, tribes, and public develop their final recommendations for the regulatory alternatives. North of Cape Falcon Forum meetings are tentatively scheduled for March 13-14 and March 26-28.

Mar. 20: Council staff distributes Preseason Report II: Proposed Alternatives and Environmental Assessment Part 2 for 2013 Ocean Salmon Fishery Regulations to the public. The report includes the public hearing schedule, comment instructions, alternative highlights, and tables summarizing the biological and economic impacts of the proposed management alternatives.

Mar. 25-26: Sites and dates of public hearings to review the Council’s proposed regulatory options are: Westport, Washington (March 25); Coos Bay, Oregon (March 25); and Eureka, California (March 26). Comments on the options will also be taken during the April Council meeting in Portland, Oregon.

Apr. 6-11: Council and advisory entities meet to adopt final regulatory measures at the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel, Portland, Oregon. Preseason Report II: Proposed Alternatives and Environmental Assessment Part 2 for 2013 Ocean Salmon Fishery Regulations, results from the public hearings, and information developed at the Council meeting is considered during the course of the week. The Council will tentatively adopt final regulatory measures for analysis by the STT on April 7. Final adoption of recommendations to NMFS is tentatively scheduled to be completed on April 11.

Apr. 12-20: The STT and Council staff completes Preseason Report III: Analysis of Council-Adopted Management Measures for and Environmental Assessment Part 3 2013 Ocean Salmon Fishery Regulations (Available April 22). Council and NMFS staff completes required National Environmental Policy Act documents for submission.

Apr. 22: Council staff distributes adopted ocean salmon fishing management recommendations, and Preseason Report III is made available to the public.

May 1: NMFS implements Federal ocean salmon fishing regulations.

Background on Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations:

While fall-run Chinook salmon numbers have improved from the collapse of 2008-2009, allowing recreational and commercial fishing to resume on the California and Southern Oregon coast, the species is still in big trouble. The Central Valley Project Improvement Act of 1992 set a goal of doubling Chinook salmon and other anadromous fish species by 2002.

The salmon population now stands at only 20 percent of the population goal required by federal law. There was a steady decline of fish from 2003 to 2010, including a record low of 7 percent. The closest we got to meeting the salmon doubling goal was in 2002, when the index peaked at 64.33 percent of the doubling goal. (http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/11/23/salmon-on-the-brink/)

The decline is the result of massive water exports out of the California Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas.

Between 2000 and 2011, more than 130,000,000 fish were "salvaged" in the massive state and federal pumps diverting water to corporate agribusiness and southern California, according to a white paper written by Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA). Considering that recent studies point out that 5 to 10 times more fish are lost than salvaged, the actual number of fish lost could be 1.3 billion or higher. (http://www.restorethedelta.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/CSPA-BDCP-Fish-Screens-Revised.pdf)

The carnage in the pumps has impacted 42 species, including Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, green sturgeon, striped bass, largemouth bass American shad and threadfin shad.

Record water amounts of water were exported from the Delta under the Brown administration in 2011 – 6,520,000 acre-feet, 217,000 acre feet more than the previous record of 6,303,000 acre feet set in 2005 under the Schwarzenegger administration. The massive diversion of water resulted in the record "salvage" of nearly 9 million splittail, a fish formerly listed under the Endangered Species Act and delisted during a political scandal under the Bush administration, and over 2 million other fish.

Rather than improving the dismal state of California fish populations, the Brown and Obama administrations are fast tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels. This project would likely lead to the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and other species, according to agency and independent scientists. (http://www.bay.org/assets/BDCP%20EA%20Briefing%20Paper%2022912.pdf)

As Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, said, "The common people will pay for the tunnels and a few people will make millions. It will turn a once pristine waterway into a sewer pipe. It will be bad for the fish, the ocean and the people of California.”

“The Winnemem Wintu Tribe supports No Tunnels – No Shasta Dam Raise! There should be billions of dollars spent for cleaning up the rivers, not diverting them,” she concluded.

For more information, go to: http://www.restorethedelta.org.