With a banner ocean salmon season prevailing across the North Coast, Crescent City Harbor’s lone fish cleaning station has not been enough to keep up with demand from anglers.
Recreational fishermen collected at least 175 signatures on a petition asking the harbor district to reinstall two open-air fish cleaning stations that the district removed last year.
“The overuse of this one cleaning station has occasionally caused unclean conditions,” the petition states.
Last summer, state regulators said the open-air stations were suspected of contributing to a die-off of juvenile Brown Pelicans, due to fish oil running from the stations into the water and fish carcasses getting tossed into the water. Hungry young pelicans, looking for alternative sources of food due to a high number of young pelicans and a shortage of forage food, flocked to the fish cleaning stations, sometimes choking to death on fish carcasses. The fish oil also coated some birds’ feathers, eliminating the insulating qualities of the birds’ coats and causing them to die from hypothermia.
The harbor district voted to preemptively remove the stations last summer, recognizing the potential of lawsuits from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Regional Water Quality Control Board.
“Removing the open air fish cleaning stations substantially reduced pelican mortality in the harbor, but it also increased congestion at the remaining, enclosed fish cleaning station,” harbormaster/CEO Richard Young said at a Tuesday harbor commission meeting.
The harbor commission heard from several upset fishermen, demanding another fish cleaning station, with many not understanding why state regulators were able to pressure the district into removing the stations.
“We want to encourage recreational fishermen, but we have constraints we have to work within,” said harbor commissioner Wes White.
Re-installing the open-air stations is not an option since the regional water board called the discharge of oily fish wastewater an illegal discharge, but Young recommended one possible option: pour a concrete slab at the old RV Park on Anchor Way, surround it with fencing or netting to keep the birds out, and connect the wastewater to the sewer system. That proposal would cost around $10,000.
Young said that the district was “a little overwhelmed” by the busy fishing season, but since the congestion at the one cleaning station has become a “real problem,” something has to be done.
Harbor district staff was directed to explore the temporary solution further.