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Regulators call for no commercial salmon fishing on Sonoma Coast until August

Fishery managers on Tuesday advanced a framework for this year’s West Coast salmon season that roughly halves the length of the commercial season in an effort to protect diminished king salmon runs.

Meeting in Sacramento, the tri-state Pacific Coast Fishery Management Council chose the least restrictive of three alternative proposals before them, but nonetheless curtailed the season substantially, even compared with last year, officials said.

“Folks are worried,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “They’re reeling from the one-two punch of last year’s Dungeness crab disaster and poor salmon run, but they’re resolute.

“Fishermen are stewards of the resource, and they understand that the health of salmon populations is more important than one season,” he said.

Chinook salmon has been a staple fishery for the North Coast, typically ranking No. 1 or 2, ahead of or just behind Dungeness crab. Landings in 2014 for Bodega Bay and Fort Bragg were valued at ?$7.5 million.

But five years of drought and three years of warmer than usual ocean conditions have taken a toll, reducing survival of young salmon in freshwater streams and upon arrival in the ocean.

Advocates also blame dams, water exports and water management, in addition to degraded habitat and pollution, for long-term effects on the health of the fishery.

In a typical year, the commercial salmon season would open for May and June, and then again in August and September, in the San Francisco region, which runs from Point Arena on the Mendocino Coast to Pigeon Point, located between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay in ?San Mateo County.

This year, there will be no commercial fishing until August anywhere north of Pigeon Point, with fishing off the Sonoma Coast allowed in most of August and September. Ten days of fishing are to be allowed south of Point Reyes in October, as well.

The Fort Bragg district will be hit especially hard, with commercial fishing only allowed in September, and then subject to a limit of 3,000 fish for the season, or 60 fish per week per boat.

The commercial, nontribal salmon fishery along 200 miles of Northern California and southern Oregon, beginning around Arcata in Humboldt County, will be closed for the season.

Sport anglers, who were permitted to start fishing April 1, will lose the first half of May off the Sonoma Coast but then can fish May 15 through Oct. 31.

North of Point Arena, recreational fishermen can drop their lines through May 31, and then again from Aug. 15 to Nov. 12.

The proposed schedule must still be formally approved by May 1 by the National Marine Fisheries Service, though it typically follows the recommendation of the Pacific Coast Council.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

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