Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and California Gov. Jerry Brown are calling for a federal disaster declaration in response to two years of dismal ocean salmon fishing seasons.
To protect a record-low run of salmon returning to the Klamath River this year, managers have canceled the salmon fishing seasons along a 200-mile stretch of the ocean off the coast of southern Oregon and northern California. Salmon fishing opportunities are limited by low runs coastwide.
A disaster declaration would allow fishing businesses and others that depend on salmon to request federal assistance. In a statement, Gov. Kate Brown said that assistance is “critical” both to salmon populations and coastal communities.
“Salmon are a vital component of Oregon and California’s natural resources and provide significant commercial, recreational, economic and aesthetic benefits to both states and Native American tribes,” she said.
The two governors sent a letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Thursday asking for an expedited declaration of a catastrophic regional fishery disaster under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
They cited reduced fishing seasons and “anomalous oceanographic conditions” in 2016 as a contributing factor to economic hardship in fishing-dependent communities. In 2016, Oregon commercial chinook salmon fisheries were only worth $4.3 million compared to the average value from 2011-2015 of $7.3 million. Recreational fisheries caught 4,100 Chinook salmon compared to an average of 16,400 fish from 2011-2015.
California’s commercial fisheries made $5.3 million compared with average revenues of $12.6 million from 2011-2015, and recreational fisheries caught just half of what they had been catching in previous years, according to the letter.
And this year is expected to be much worse, the governors said. They project income for Oregon’s commercial fisheries will be 63 percent less than previous years, and California’s commercial fisheries will earn 72 percent less revenue.
The letter notes the reductions in fishing seasons will also have negative effects on related businesses, including fish processors, fishing equipment stores, marine repair and moorage businesses, as well as recreational fishing guides, charter boat operators, bait shops and motels.