Crescent City commercial salmon fisherman received a mixed catch of news last week.
On the plus side, the salmon fishing season will be close to a traditional one along the Northern California and Oregon coasts, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council decided Friday. The same panel virtually shut down commercial salmon fishing during the past few years.
On the down side, $60.4 million in federal relief to make up last year's shutdown likely will be vetoed. Congress placed the money in the Iraq timetable bill, and President Bush has made clear that pegging troop withdrawals to calendar dates is unacceptable.
In a twist of irony, the good news was predicated on a fact that some commercial fisherman are loathe to accept while the bad news likely will predicate Congressional action very acceptable to fishermen.
First, the good news: It was made possible by fishermen sacrificing their hauls during the last couple of seasons. Just as a farmer sometimes must allow his field to lay fallow so it can recover enough to grow a worthy crop the following year, fishermen needed to allow the Klamath River salmon to grow and recover for this year. Of course, the cause of the salmon's population collapse is far more complex than simple overfishing. Still, if the salmon population had not been allowed to age these past couple of years, the coastline likely would be shut down for many more years to come. In the same stroke, if something isn't done to address the variables that affect the salmon population ¬Ė low water tables from irrigation and limited living space due to dams ¬Ė commercial fishermen can expect more bans in the years ahead.
And now the bad news: Though a veto means no federal relief to the salmon fishing industry, there is good indication that the money will be coming. The votes appear to be present in Congress to ensure that the dollars will be placed in another bill. Most Beltway analysts agree that Congress eventually will have to pass a spending bill for the troops in Iraq. Since the president likely won't veto that bill, expect it to be laden with non-military spending, such as salmon industry relief and and an extension of the timber subsidy program.
Good things, we guess, come to those who are patient.