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Second year of closure for state’s ocean salmon fisheries

Members of the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) acted unanimously this past week to recommend closure of California’s commercial and recreational ocean salmon fisheries through the end of the year, mirroring recommendations made last year to close the fisheries in 2023.

Salmon stocks continue to be impacted in California from ongoing issues associated with drought and climate disruption. The salmon currently present and returning to California’s coast and rivers were impacted by a multi-year drought, severe wildfires, and associated impacts to spawning and rearing habitat, harmful algal blooms and ocean forage shifts. The low ocean abundance forecasts, coupled with low 2023 returns, led the PFMC to recommend full closure of California’s commercial and recreational ocean salmon fisheries.

After reviewing the PFMC recommendation, it is expected that the National Marine Fisheries Service will take regulatory action to enact the closure, effective in mid-May. In addition, the California Fish and Game Commission will consider whether to adopt a closure of inland salmon fisheries at its May 15 teleconference meeting.

Following the actions, CDFW will work to expedite a request for federal fishery resource disaster determination for the State of California 2024 Sacramento River Fall Chinook and Klamath River Fall Chinook ocean salmon fisheries. Governor Newsom made a similar request in response to the closure in 2023, which was approved.

“After the closure last year, this decision is not an easy one to make,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “While we have been enjoying back-to-back wet winters this year and last, the salmon that will benefit from these conditions aren’t expected to return to California until around 2026 or 2027. The current salmon for this year’s season were impacted by the difficult environmental factors present three to five years ago.”

Salmon are significantly important to California’s cultural and natural resources. These important species provide significant commercial, recreational, economic, intrinsic, and cultural benefits to California Native American tribes, fishing communities and the state. California is taking several steps to rebuild salmon stocks across California. In late January 2024, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a California Salmon Strategy for a Hotter, Drier Future: Restoring Aquatic Ecosystems in the Age of Climate Change. The strategy has six priorities and 71 actions that will benefit salmon stocks in California.

“While incredibly painful to fishing families and fishing communities, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations supports the closure,” said George Bradshaw, president of PCFFA. “We all need to be doing everything we can to give California’s salmon a chance to recover. It has to be an all hands-on deck effort to ensure survival for our Central Valley and Klamath salmon runs.”