.Salmon Fishing About to Be Banned Again Off Sonoma Coast

One of Sonoma County’s most beloved traditions, dating back half a century, is underway in the rain out at the coast this weekend. The Bodega Bay Fisherman’s Festival has it all: a bounty of seafood and beer, bouncy houses, pony rides, the North Bay’s most popular and rockin’ cover bands, a water parade, a boat-building contest — the works. But there’s an undercurrent of doom these days in the North Bay fisher community that might dampen the celebration. That’s because federal officials are reportedly about to declare that no one will be allowed to catch any salmon off the California coast this year, for the second year in a row. This news comes after California’s crabbing season was cut short a few months early again, to protect whales and turtles that might get caught in traps and lines. This second annual ocean-salmon ban, on top of the repeated crab cutoffs, is a “crushing blow” — in the words of state politician Jared Huffman from San Rafael — to a state salmon industry valued at around $1 billion. And while many livelihoods are at stake, everyone does seem to understand why this is happening. Local salmon populations are in the pits right now, due to years of drought and low flows in local waterways — made worse, of course, by human diversions and dams. Dick Ogg, a Bodega Bay commercial fisherman and president of the Bodega Bay Fishermen’s Marketing Association, tells the North Bay Business Journal: “For nine months now, we’ll probably be without income. When you look at overall impact, it’s significant. Do we want the closure? Obviously, no. Is it necessary? Yes.” (Kenneth Brown, the owner of Bodega Tackle in Petaluma, tells the Los Angeles Times he has lost almost $450,000 in the last year alone.) So anyway, within the next week or two, state and federal officials are expected to make the official announcement about salmon fishing in the ocean — as well as another announcement about whether they’ll allow inland salmon fishing this year, in rivers and streams. Meanwhile, state politicians are urging President Biden to declare a “federal fishery disaster” so they can get relief funds into the pockets of locals who rely on fishing income to feed their families and pay their bills. Some $20 million in relief funds for LAST year’s salmon-fishing shutdown did finally just get distributed earlier this year, but officials like Huffman argue it’s not enough. On the upside: Many hundreds of millions more state dollars are being invested right now into restoring salmon habitats across California. There are also huge American-Indian efforts underway to introduce more salmon back into rotation, especially up north in the Klamath River area. More from a KRCB news radio report in mid-April: “In far Northern California, state fish and wildlife officials and members of four Tribal nations gathered on the banks of the Klamath, just below the Iron Gate Dam. They were there for the release of 90,000 juvenile coho salmon, following a tribal blessing. If you listen closely, you can hear a valve open, then thousands of baby fish plop into the chilly Klamath. For Kenneth Brink, vice chairman of the Karuk Tribe, the meaning could not be overstated. ‘This river is our church… and, that salmon is the cross on that church…’ Brink said. Fisheries officials released more than 400,000 fall run chinook salmon fry into the Klamath the following day. Philip Williams, a Yurok tribal council member, said he hopes this marks a watershed moment. ‘Tribal nations have been hopeless for a long, long time. With the dams coming down, all this collaboration with fish and wildlife, California, Oregon all coming together to revive this river, it restores that hope, hope in our government and hope in our people,’ Williams said.” (Source: CalMatters & CalMatters & Associated Press & KRCB & Bay City News via Patch & Bodega Bay Fisherman’s Festival & North Bay Business Journal & Los Angeles Times via Yahoo)


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