The recreational ocean salmon season for Crescent City and Eureka will run from at least Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, based on ocean salmon season alternatives released Wednesday.
Like last year, commercial salmon fishing from the Oregon border to Humboldt South Jetty may be limited to as little as two weeks from Sept. 16 to Sept. 30, with as little as a 3,000-chinook quota. Last year, commercial salmon trollers in Eureka (and, to a smaller extent, Crescent City) reached the 6,000-chinook quota fast enough to close the season in about four days.
Next week, there will be two opportunities, one in Eureka and one in Coos Bay, Ore., to comment on the alternatives at meetings held by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the federal agency that manages West Coast fisheries.
Ben Doane, the representative for the Klamath Management Zone Fisheries Coalition, a group representing recreational and commercial fishing interests in the KMZ, attends the PFMC meeting that crafts seasons to advocate for the region’s interests, including the last meeting in Tacoma, where the alternatives were developed.
Doane said KMZFC prefers the longest possible recreational season for both the Oregon and California zones, but it prefers the commercial alternatives that limit fishing to September in order to give sport fishermen more of an opportunity.
“It’s a balancing act of giving everyone a shot at the available resource,” Doane said.
Rick Shepherd, owner of the fishing vessel Sunset and acting president of the Del Norte Fishermen’s Marketing Association, also attended the PFMC meeting in Tacoma because “there are some fish to be had, and I wanted to make sure we had some representation from this northern area,” he said.
Shepherd prefers the commercial option that provides separate quotas for each month from May through September in order to give North Coast fishermen an opportunity to make money in their home port throughout the summer. Last year, commercial seasons in the Oregon KMZ were managed this way.
“I don’t see why we can’t have the same thing here,” Shepherd said.
Commercial salmon trollers frequently travel far distances to fish in whatever region is open, but since Crescent City fishermen make most of their money from the Dungeness crab fishery, they are less willing to travel, Shepherd said.
Shepherd lamented the fact that if the September-only commercial options are chosen, there is the possibility that the California KMZ could be the only area open for California commercial salmon trollers, which would bring dozens of boats from southern ports to North Coast waters.
“If you have 150 boats all trying to catch a few thousand fish then nobody does well,” Shepherd said, adding that dozens of vessels from southern ports fished out of Eureka last year, which contributed to the California KMZ quota being reached so quickly.
“All I’m asking for is a little bit of a fair shake on the North Coast so we can get some fish,” Shepherd said.
Aaron Newman, a commercial fishermen and president of Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association, held the California Troll Seat on the council’s Salmon Advisory Subpanel. He said he would’ve included more quotas for May through August in hindsight, but the alternatives themselves can change.
“Those options aren’t set in stone. We can combine options from each alternative or mix and match,” Newman said. “It’s been too long since we’ve had fishing in the KMZ in California.”
If an alternative with commercial fishing in May and June is ultimately chosen, it would represent the first commercial fisheries during these months in the California KMZ since the late 1980s, according to the council’s report.
Doane encouraged people to attend the meetings as in-person comments carry more weight than submitted ones.
“It would serve everyone’s interest if they at least had a representative from their area at that meeting, have a comment in writing and make a presentation on the comment,” Doane said. “An individual talking to your face is harder to ignore than if it’s a piece of paper in a binder.”
There will be a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, at Red Lion Hotel Eureka, Humboldt Bay Room, 1929 Fourth St., Eureka.
A Coos Bay public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, March 25, at the Red Lion Hotel, 1313 N. Bayshore Drive, Coos Bay.
The entire package of season alternatives can be viewed online at pcouncil.org in the document “Preseason Report II: Proposed Alternatives and Environmental Assessment Part 2 for 2013 Ocean Salmon Fishery Regulations.”