The Secretary of Commerce has determined that a commercial fishery failure due to a fishery resource disaster occurred in two California ocean and inland salmon fisheries, the Sacramento River Fall Chinook and Klamath River Fall Chinook, opening the door to disaster assistance from the federal government.
The determination is in response to requests from Acting Governor Eleni Kounalakis.
“Secretary of Commerce, Gina M. Raimondo, working with NOAA Fisheries, evaluates each fishery resource disaster request based primarily on data submitted by the requesting official,” according to a statement from NOAA Fisheries. “A fishery disaster determination must meet specific requirements under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. For example, there must be economic impacts and an unexpected large decrease in fish stock biomass or other change. These impacts result in significant loss of access to the fishery resource resulting from specific allowable causes due to the fishery resource disaster event.”
“This positive determination makes these fisheries eligible for disaster assistance from NOAA. Fishery participants may also qualify for disaster assistance from the Small Business Administration. The Department of Commerce has fishery disaster assistance funding available and in the near future will determine the appropriate allocation for these disasters,” wrote NOAA.
All commercial and recreational fishing for salmon in ocean waters off California and most of Oregon was closed this year, due to the collapse of Sacramento River and Klamath River fall-run Chinook salmon spurred by abysmal water and fishery management by the state and federal governments during a drought, according to salmon advocates. All rivers in California were closed to recreational salmon fishing this year.
Tribal fishing for salmon on the Hoopa Valley Reservation on the Trinity River and the Yurok Reservation on the Klamath River was severely restricted this year. The total tribal allocation for Klamath River fall-run Chinook salmon on the Klamath River system is 1872 adult fish this year, according to NOAA Fisheries. The Yurok Tribe is allocated 80 percent of the salmon, while the Hoopa Valley Tribe is allocated 20 percent of the fish: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/...
The outlook for a fishing season in 2024 looks pretty dismal also, considering that despite the fishing closures, the upper section of the Sacramento River between Redding and Red Bluff is seeing very few fall-run Chinook salmon now.
On Battle Creek, the Coleman National Fish Hatchery has counted only 5200 adult kings and 245 jacks. This is the second lowest total of all time, according to J.D. Richey in an action alert for the Nor-Cal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association (NCGASA).
In addition, biologists have found only 116 carcasses and 109 redds on the main stem of the Sacramento River this fall.
“Coleman Hatchery expects a little under 9 million eggs, translating into about 8 to 8.3 million smolts out of a goal of 12 million – falling well below targets,” reported Scott Artis, Executive Director of the Golden Gate Salmon Association (GSSA). “And to make things worse, 2024 will still represent returns from a drought year class. Thus, returns are expected to continue to be depressed until October 2025 when some better numbers are anticipated.”
CDFW will transfer up to 5 million Chinooks to Coleman National Fish Hatchery
After an action alert by the NorCal Guides and Sportsmen’s Association was shared widely on social media, the Department of Fish and Wildlife responded by allowing a transfer of up to 5 million Chinooks from the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery in San Joaquin County to the Coleman National Fish Hatchery (NFH). The NCGASA had asked for 10 to 15 million eggs from CDFW-managed hatcheries.
“This week we are thankful for the Mokelumne River Hatchery and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife,” the hatchery reported on Facebook. “ We are cooperating with the CA DFW to increase the number of salmon raised at Coleman NFH this year after a low return to Battle Creek.”
“Over the next few weeks we are transferring up to 5 million Chinook salmon eggs from Mokelumne River Hatchery to Coleman NFH. Yesterday was the first transfer, with approx 800,000 green eggs brought to Coleman NFH,” the hatchery wrote.
In an update on Nov. 17, Nor-Cal Guides Executive Director James Stone responded to the hatchery’’s plan to take 5 million eggs from the Mokelumne. He noted that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service trucking Coleman smolts “leads to a 98% stray rate and collapses of the stock 3 years later.”
“The 5 million fish raised and transferred won’t contribute back to Sacramento Main Stem,” said Stone. “This where the chinook salmon population collapse is happening. Trucking Coleman fish in the 2014/2015 years led to the lowest return to Coleman and the Sacramento Main Stem in the history of the river — why can’t we learn from our mistakes?”
In contrast with the low numbers on the Sacramento, a record number of over fall-run Chinook salmon have returned to the Mokelumne River, a tributary of the San Joaquin River in the Central Valley, despite low returns on other Central Valley rivers: www.dailykos.com/...
The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) reported the 2023-24 fall run of Chinook salmon on the Mokelumne River is now “the most successful return in more than 80 years.” More than 20,000 fish – and counting – have returned from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the river, the most since record keeping began in 1940.
However, in calculating the ocean salmon abundance estimates that are used to craft the ocean and river fisheries each year, the Mokelumne River is not included because it is a tributary of the San Joaquin, not the Sacramento River. The ocean abundance modeling uses the salmon populations on Sacramento River and its tributaries, along with the Klamath River and its tributaries, to develop the ocean and river salmon fishing seasons.
Background: The real reasons for the salmon fishery collapse
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has blamed “drought conditions coupled with Thiamine Deficiency Complex, a vitamin deficiency that impacts reproduction, for the reduction in in-river spawning success the past several years.”
While these factors certainly contributed to the salmon decline, anglers, Tribal leaders and environmentalists also point to the failure of the state and federal governments to maintain a cold water pool in upstream Central Valley reservoirs so that cold water could be released for salmon during the drought.
“The bottom line for salmon eggs and juvenile salmon in the 2020-2021 seasons was a series of decisions that dramatically worsened flow and temperature conditions during the drought,” said Scott Artis, executive director of Golden State Salmon Association (GSSA). “This resulted in catastrophic losses in juvenile salmon in the 2020 and 2021 year classes.”
“Thiamine definitely played a role in this decline, but brushing off the impacts of poor temperature and flow conditions in our salmon rivers is simply engaging in PT Barnum style-showmanship as the Newsom Administration has us looking at the waving hand of drought while their other hand is neatly tucked into the water policy pocket- diverting our attention and our critical water resources that people, the ecosystem and salmon need. Newsom is the greatest water showman and I’m waiting for him to unveil the next Fiji mermaid of salmon,” he argued.
In addition, the overharvest of salmon in ocean fisheries over the past few years because of a flawed model for forecasting ocean salmon abundance used by the National Marine Fisheries Service and Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) also played a role in the collapse, according to anglers.
Last year federal fishery managers estimated that more than 180,000 fall-run salmon would return to spawn, based on the controversial ocean salmon abundance forecasting model, but less than 62,000 actually returned to the Sacramento River and tributaries.