Sunday, 16 June 2024

Wiggins salmon fisheries bill signed by governor

NORTH COAST – A day after California's Chinook salmon season was canceled because of a crashing fish population, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill by North Coast Sen. Patricia Wiggins designating money for fisheries restoration.


SB 562, authored by Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa), designates $5.3 million to the state Department of Fish and Game to aid coastal salmon and steelhead fisheries restoration projects. Schwarzenegger signed the bill Friday.


On Thursday the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council completely closed commercial and sport Chinook fisheries off California and most of Southern Oregon because of the Sacramento River fall Chinook's “unprecedented collapse,” and the exceptionally poor status of coho salmon populations from Oregon to Washington.


“This is a disaster for West Coast salmon fisheries, under any standard,” Council Chairman

Don Hansen said in a Thursday statement. “There will be a huge impact on the people who fish for a living, those who eat wild-caught king salmon, those who enjoy recreational fishing, and the businesses and coastal communities dependent on these fisheries.”

 

Schwarzenegger also declared a state of emergency on Thursday in reaction to the salmon crisis.


SB 562 is an urgency measure, and takes effect immediately, according to Wiggins' office. SB 562's urgency clause required a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature.


The nearly $5.3 million Wiggins' legislation allocates to help fish comes from Proposition 84 – the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act – approved by voters in 2006, according to the bill's language.


“I thank the governor for his prompt action on this bill, which will help protect California’s $100 million dollar salmon industry,” Wiggins said in a statement. “And that industry is not just about fishermen – it extends to tackle shops, processors, ice suppliers, restaurants, native tribes and tourism.”


Enactment of SB 562 will also allow the state to leverage up to $20 million federal dollars for salmon this spring, according to Wiggins' office.


Pacific Fishery Management Council reported Thursday the reasons for the Sacramento fall Chinook stock's sudden collapse aren't readily apparent, however overfishing is not blamed for the situation. Rather, several possible causes – from changing ocean temperatures to human-caused and natural factors are believed to be responsible.


The council has asked the National Marine Fisheries Service’s West Coast Science Centers to lead a multi-agency task force to research about 50 potential causative factors and report back to the council in September.


The California Fish and Game Commission reported that it took emergency action because of the salmon situation, which resulted last week in the closure of the April 5 sportfishing openers south of Point Arena to the U.S.-Mexico Border.


Salmon populations around California face challenges. In February, the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network reported that endangered coho salmon populations in Marin County had plummeted. The group reported that coho have already gone extinct in 90 percent of California streams where they once were found.


In the Eel River watershed – the headwaters of which are above Lake Pillsbury in Lake County – coho salmon are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, according to the Eel River Salmon Restoration Project.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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