Thursday, March 30, 2006
The 2006 salmon season is tangled up in a mess of bureaucratic fishing line.
When the recreational season opens Saturday, April 1, temporary regulations will limit anglers to inside the Monterey Bay or three miles offshore.
Northern California’s season will be determined next week, when the Pacific Management Council may decide to severely limit—or outright ban—fishing. The council will make its final recommendations on April 7 at a meeting in Sacramento. Its plan will then be forwarded on to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Because it’s likely that the decision will sharply restrict the remaining salmon season, the numbers of recreational fishermen in the Monterey Bay in early April is expected to be unusually high. And this worries local environmentalists.
“We have seen 60 or more [otters] in Moss Landing Harbor near the boat launch,” says Karl Mayer, animal care coordinator for the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation program. “If fishermen are speeding out of the north harbor in the dark at 5am, the likelihood of boat strikes is fairly high.”
Biologists believe that limiting fishing will protect the Klamath River salmon runs, which have been critically low since a disastrous 2002 season in which tens of thousands of salmon died because of low and warm water in the river.
Every year, the Klamath salmon migrate south, mixing with the bountiful Sacramento Delta salmon. In order to protect these fish, it’s necessary to close the season early or restrict fishing, according to NOAA.
Earlier this week, a federal judge ordered the government to implement a Klamath River management plan immediately instead of waiting five years, which means farmers would have to do without irrigation water if the river level drops low enough to threaten the salmon.