The Pacific Fishery Management Council earlier this month adopted three public review alternatives for the 2017 salmon seasons off the West Coast of the United States. The Council will select a final alternative at their next meeting in Sacramento, California on April 6-11. Detailed information about season starting dates, areas open, and catch limits for all three alternatives are available on the Council’s website at www.pcouncil.org or http://tinyurl.com/salmon2017.
Fisheries south of Cape Falcon (in northern Oregon) are limited by the need to protect Klamath River fall Chinook, and south of Point Arena (in northern California), they are also affected by the need to protect Sacramento River winter Chinook. Returns of spawning Klamath River fall Chinook are projected to be the lowest on record in 2017 due to drought, disease, poor ocean conditions, and other issues. At the same time, the Council must protect Sacramento winter-run Chinook, which are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Because both of these fish intermix with other stocks in the ocean, fisheries targeting more abundant stocks must be constrained.
“The salmon runs this year will present a challenge for ocean fishermen and managers throughout the West Coast,” said Executive Director Chuck Tracy. “In the north, several coho runs will keep ocean quotas lower than normal. In the south, the low forecast for Klamath River fall Chinook is unprecedented, and the most restrictive alternative the Council will consider allows no ocean fishing between Cape Falcon, Oregon and the U.S./Mexico border after April 30 this year.”
“This year will be an exceptionally difficult year for ocean salmon fisheries, especially in Oregon and California. However, there are alternatives that may provide at least limited opportunity for both commercial and recreational ocean salmon fishing along much of the coast,” said Council Chair Herb Pollard.
California ocean sport fishing alternatives for areas south of Horse Mountain provide seasons that are fairly conservative in comparison to recent years to protect Klamath River fall Chinook and Sacramento River winter Chinook. These protective measures include shortened seasons and mid-season closures.
Commercial season alternatives south of the Klamath Management Zone are also heavily constrained this year to protect Klamath River fall Chinook and Sacramento River winter Chinook. In the Fort Bragg management area (Horse Mt. to Pt. Arena), two of the alternatives are completely closed, and the third only provides for a September fishery. There is more opportunity south of Pt. Arena, but seasons are still constrained compared to recent years. Two of the alternatives include August-October fisheries in the San Francisco management area (Pt. Arena to Pigeon Pt.) and May-June fisheries in the Monterey management area (Pigeon Pt. to the U.S./Mexico border), but the third alternative has these areas closed for the whole season.
Public hearings to receive input on the alternatives are scheduled for March 27 in Westport, Washington and Coos Bay, Oregon; and for March 28 in Fort Bragg, California. The Council will consult with scientists, hear public comment, revise preliminary decisions and choose a final alternative at its meeting April 6-11 in Sacramento, California.
The Council will forward its final season recommendations to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for its approval and implementation by May 1.