Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

Commentary by Samuel Strait – March 17, 2023

While I am sure that most of those that depend on a yearly salmon season
will have heard, California has elected to close the salmon season for
2023, with most of Oregon following along.  While most would assume that
it was the State’s Fish and Game Department that was instrumental in
calling for the closure.  It appears; however, that the fishermen were
part and parcel of that decision, citing low returns to the major salmon
producing rivers along the Pacific Coast.  This appears not to affect
the Northern Coast of Oregon and Washington where a different
specie, COHO salmon are the major population and are in sufficient
numbers to warrant a season.

The impact on local fishermen will be substantial and likely to elicit a
declaration of a emergency to cover the loss of income many will sustain
in 2023.  The other fallout will be a substantially reduced fresh salmon
market for sea food suppliers, restaurants, and associated businesses. 
Generally a devastating impact for many coastal communities which depend
on a robust salmon season for a substantial portion of their spring and
summer income.  While the current closure is set for 2023, even the loss
of a single season will translate into a ripple effect that will last
for several years in the future.

We are being told that the current closure is a result of several years
of drought, enviro-speak for “Climate Change”, something the Sacramento
government has been pushing for years.  This was likely to give cover to
all who are spinning the idea that the decline of the salmon population
began in the last few years.  The problem with that explanation is that
the decline of the salmon population began in the 1970’s and accelerated
after 1990, well before the recent staging of the drought as caused by
Climate Change.

Studies have revealed that overfishing in the Atlantic prior to WWI and
WWII were reversed during the war years to restore the population when
fishing did not occur.  Overfishing in the Pacific Ocean began to pick
up steam in the 1970’s primarily in the Eastern Pacific to feed
burgeoning populations of China, Japan, Korea, and Indonesia.  When
salmon are caught in large numbers by the factory trawl fishing of those
nations,  few salmon are able to return to the Pacific Coast rivers and
as a consequence smaller returning populations to spawn result in fewer
salmon returning to the ocean.  Not rocket science.

While the closure might be necessary, it will have a very small impact
on the returning salmon population until the overfishing of foreign
nations is brought under control.  This may be the beginning of a rather
bleak future for the salmon fishery for years to come, as even if
foreign fishing fleets were brought under control, restoration will not
happen for years.  Talking about drought merely deflects from the actual
problem with the fishery and will not affect positive change.  That will
only happen on the international level.

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