Fishery council proposes to cancel 2023 salmon fishing — salmon association argues water mismanagement

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Fishery council proposes to cancel 2023 salmon fishing – salmon association argues water mismanagement

STATEWIDE – The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) proposed March 10, to close salmon fishing off the coast of California for 2023. The council will take public comment, March 21, for consideration before a finalized decision in April.

According to the California Department Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the 2023 projection for Sacramento River fall Chinook, the most predominant stock harvested in California’s fisheries, is estimated at 169,767 adults. This is one of the lowest forecasts since 2008 when the current assessment method began. For Klamath River fall Chinook the forecast is 103,793 adults. This is the second lowest forecast since the current assessment method began in 1997. 

The department says salmon numbers are episodic over time and life cycles. This is generally a three year period from birth – from eggs hatching to returning adults from the ocean. The CDFW says the data indicates in years following wetter water cycles –  abundance is higher. For example, the 2010 above average rainfall resulted in higher stock forecasts in 2012 and 2013.

“Conversely, drier years regularly result in lower abundance three years later. Three years ago, in 2020, conditions were particularly severe with drought,” says the CDFW news release

Water Mismanagement

However, Golden State Salmon Association (GSSA) says water management decisions favoring agriculture are tied to low salmon numbers.

“The decision was made due to low numbers of adult and two-year-old jack salmon that have survived the hostile conditions they’ve encountered in Central Valley rivers in recent years. All of these rivers are controlled by upstream dam operations. Dam operation decisions favoring agriculture over salmon survival have resulted in very poor natural salmon reproduction in recent years because lethal hot water left after dam releases for agriculture have killed incubating salmon eggs,” said GSSA in a news release.

RELATED: Nonprofit says almond and alfalfa crops depleting California water resources

In addition, GSSA says strong releases of water in the spring needed to wash baby salmon to the ocean have been diverted or withheld.  

The association says salmon fishermen, women, and businesses are staring at no income in 2023 as a result of the decision. Coastal restaurants and hotels will also feel the hit.   

“The closure of the salmon fishing clearly demonstrates that California isn’t taking care of the thousands of us involved in producing this incredible natural food,” said Water2table owner Joe Conte – a local seafood distributor. 

GSSA says they are working to address the chronic lack of water dam operators provide to salmon. 

“The Golden State Salmon Association is in court trying to get enforcement of existing laws to provide adequate water for salmon because water for salmon is water for people, the people throughout the state who make a living tied to salmon or who supply food for the family’s dinner table. We’re talking about a sustainable, natural food and good jobs that are being taken so that water is delivered only to the politically connected,” said GSSA president John McManus.

Public Hearing

The PFMC – one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, is holding a public hearing March 21, 2023 on the adoption of the salmon management recommendations. 

The hearing is scheduled at the Courtyard by Marriott Santa Rosa in the Sonoma Ballroom, 175 Railroad St., Santa Rosa. Public comment can also be submitted electronically via e-portal in advance of the April council meeting here.

This is the second time in history salmon fishing will be closed in California. 

For more information about the 2023 salmon season visit


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