North Coast commercial fishermen protest low salmon prices

Amid one of the best fishing seasons in almost a decade, commercial salmon fisherman on the North Coast are tying up their boats and will stay in port for the next few days in an attempt to drive up prices.

"The market is flooded and we need to let the market clear out," said Chuck Cappotto of Gualala, president of the Fishermen's Marketing Association of Bodega Bay.

North Coast commercial fishermen have seen the price paid for their hauls cut in half over the last two months. Though the ample supply of salmon is one factor blamed for the erosion of prices, it has also created a a much-welcomed bounty for recreational fishermen on the North Coast.

"It has been red hot," said Bodega Bay skipper Rick Powers, who runs charter trips for sports fishermen on his boat, the New Sea Angler.

"We have run 42 trips in a row. The fishing is absolutely excellent and the weather wonderful," Powers said. "The recreation season is still going full bore."

The commercial salmon season started in May with fishermen getting $6.25 a pound, but the price had dropped to $3.25 by the middle of last week. It has continued to slide, falling to $2.75 a pound by Saturday.

"It is very difficult for guy to make money when the price goes below $3.50 a pound, with the cost of gas and ice as it is," Cappotto said.

Along with an abundance of fish, there are other market complications: Fresh-caught salmon prices are usually high and compete against cheaper farm-raised salmon and frozen salmon.

"I don't know that demand has dropped off, but there are more options," said Todd Davis, seafood buyer for Oliver's Markets. "The farm salmon has become more popular, it is substantially cheaper. And the frozen Alaskan Sockeye salmon has become more popular, it is also less expensive."

Still, Davis said, there is demand for locally-caught fresh salmon, for sells for $16.99 a pound at Oliver's.

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