Salmon Ban Threatens California Fishermen Northern California fishing communities are predicting economic devastation if federal regulators extend a ban on salmon fishing all along the Pacific Coast. Andrea Kissack of member station KQED reports.

Salmon Ban Threatens California Fishermen

Salmon Ban Threatens California Fishermen

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Northern California fishing communities are predicting economic devastation if federal regulators extend a ban on salmon fishing all along the Pacific Coast. Andrea Kissack of member station KQED reports.


This week, federal regulators will decide whether to recommend severe restrictions on salmon fishing off the coast of California and Oregon, or to close the season entirely. It's all in an effort to protect the dwindling number of salmon in the Klamath River. The decision could devastate coastal fishing communities.

And we have a report from Andrea Kissack of member station KQED in San Francisco.


It's a quiet, drizzly afternoon at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay. A foghorn sounds from the breakwater and weather worn fishing boats bob up and down in their slips. In just one month from now, these docks should be teeming with people--boats four and five deep, unloading fresh, wild salmon. But the threat of a fishing ban looms over this coastal community, worrying everyone--especially fishermen, like Joe Robertson who just bought his first fishing boat.

Mr. JOE ROBERTSON (Fisherman): I got a year-and-a-half old daughter. She relies on those fish. She don't know it yet, but she does. And I'm just trying to, like, have a good life for me and my family. You know, the facts are out there that we have nothing to do with this problem. It'll just destroy so many lives.

KISSACK: The problem is happening a few hundred miles north. Low water flows and parasite infestations are threatening Chinook salmon runs on the Klamath River. To protect the salmon, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council is considering closing the season. In Northern California last week, hundreds of fishermen jammed a public hearing to urge federal regulators to keep the season open. The fishermen blame the Klamath's environmental problems on the government and farmers for diverting water for crops.

Larry Collins has been fishing California's king salmon out of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco for nearly two decades.

Mr. LARRY COLLINS (Fisherman): I've watched 80 percent of my industry forced out of business by reallocation of the people's water resources, to the agricultural sector. I don't get paid not to produce products. I don't have crop insurance. I don't use subsidized water to grow subsidized crops.

(Soundbite of applause and cheering)

KISSACK: Last week, California fishermen got some good news, when a federal court approved a plan to immediately release more water into the Klamath to protect salmon. But that won't help river stocks this year. And here's a bitter irony. Right now, there are plenty of salmon swimming in the waters off California, most are coming from the Sacramento River. But because those Chinook will get mixed up with the Klamath Chinook out in the ocean, all salmon fishing could be banned. And that may not just devastate the fishermen, but the coast-side businesses that support them.

(Soundbite of ringing phone)

Ms. PEGGY BECKET (Owner, Huck Finn's Sports Fishing): Huck Finn's.

KISSACK: Back in Half Moon Bay's Pillar Point Harbor, Peggy Becket fields calls from recreational anglers concerned about the pending ban. She owns Huck Finn's Sports Fishing and runs eight party boats.

(Soundbite of ringing phone)

Ms. BECKET: I do their booking. I collect their money. I sell them tackle. I sell them ice, and sodas, and beer, and sandwiches, and things that they might have forgotten in the morning.

KISSACK: Becket has already cancelled several deep sea fishing trips, due to the uncertain season. She says she will not survive if salmon fishing is banned this year.

Ms. BECKET: You know, my whole life has been wrapped around this. My husband, that's all--he's 72--it's all he's ever done all his life, is fish and do fishing things. You know, he can't retrain and do something. This is what I've done. What would I go out and find a job doing?

KISSACK: Whether a recommendation is made to close or dramatically shorten this year's salmon season, National Marine Fisheries needs to sign off. Either way, the decision would have a huge impact on a more than $1 billion commercial and recreational fishing industry, along more than 700 miles of coast.

For NPR News, I'm Andrea Kissack.

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