SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA (AP) - A federal regulatory body voted on Thursday to close the king salmon season in California's rivers after a near record low number of chinook returned to California's rivers.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council has approved the closure in 2023 of all commercial and recreational chinook fisheries along the Oregon coast, from Cape Falcon to the California/Mexico border. In the fall, recreational fishing for salmon will be limited off southern Oregon.
Marc Gorelnik, Council Chair, said in a press release that the forecasts of Chinook salmon returning to California rivers are at near-record lows. The poor conditions of the freshwater environment, which contributed to the low forecasted return, are not under the Council's control.
Scientists say that the chinook population has dropped dramatically following years of drought. The fishing industry says that Trump's rules, which allowed for more water to flow from the Sacramento River Basin into agriculture, caused more damage.
The closure affects adult chinook salmon that are part of the fall run. It is a major blow to the Pacific Northwest's Salmon fishing industry.
Many of the salmon that are caught in Oregon come from California's Klamath or Sacramento rivers. They spend an average of three years maturing in the Pacific Ocean, where they are often caught by commercial fishers. Then, they migrate back to their spawning areas, where conditions are better. They die after laying their eggs.
The Council is an advisory body to the U.S. secretary of commerce, who makes the final decisions, but has historically followed the council's rulings. The Secretary's decision is posted in the Federal Register in a few days.
Experts are concerned that native California salmon is on the verge of extinction. California's spring run chinook salmon are already listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Winter-run chinook salmon are also on the endangered list, along with Central California Coast Coho Salmon, which is off limits to California commercial fishermen since the 1990s.
Oregon is likely to allow recreational fishing only on coho during the summer, and chinook salmon after September 1. The salmon season will open north of Cape Falcon as usual, including the Columbia River and Washington coast.
Few are against the closure, even though it will affect tens and thousands of jobs. Many fishermen say that they want to act now to ensure healthy stocks for the future.
The hope is that the unusually rainy winter in California, which has largely freed California from the drought, will bring relief. A series of powerful storms that dumped record rain and snow in California has refilled most of the reservoirs. This has ended a severe drought of three years. Too much water in the rivers can kill eggs and young hatchlings.