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Apr-05-2007 19:39printcomments

Fishermen Struggle to Stay Afloat in Another Year of Poor Salmon Returns in Columbia River

Fishermen Struggle to Stay Afloat in Another Year of Poor Salmon Returns in Columbia River, while Washington Troll Catch and Profits Drop 50% from Last Year.

Columbia River Bridge
Columbia River Bridge
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(SEATTLE) - Poor salmon returns again this year on the Columbia River have led the Pacific Fisheries Management Council to curtail fishing seasons for commercial trollers in Washington for the third consecutive year.

Decisions expected today during the fourth day of PFMC meetings in SeaTac will determine the fishing fate of west coast commercial, recreation and tribal fishermen.

The catch quota for Washington trollers is down 50% from what it was last year. The quota for Washington trollers for this year's fall chinook season in the Columbia north of Cape Falcon is 14-16,000 salmon, while the expected combined troll quota (catch for commercials and tribes) for chinook harvest is expected to be below 51,000.

With the average chinook salmon being worth $63, this year's take for tribal and commercial trollers combined has the potential to earn roughly $3.2 million dollars, which is $3.5 million less than what it was in 2002, the last good and profitable year of returns. Specifically for Washington trollers, catching their upper limit of 16,000 fish will yield roughly $1 million, compared to 27,258 fish yielding roughly $1.7 million last year, 2006.

"This is an incredible blow to fishermen who have to try and make a living on a fraction of their salary this year," said Joel Kawahara, a member of the board of the Washington Trollers Association and a troller based in Quilcene, Washington. "Washington state fishermen are continuously cutting their seasons back to accommodate the shrinking limits because we want to keep our jobs and keep fishing in the future. But our backs are up against the wall for the third year in a row."

Trollers, charter fishermen and gillnetters spoke to representatives from the offices of Rep. Norm Dicks, Rep. Jim McDermott, Rep. Adam Smith, Rep. Jay Inslee, Sen. Cantwell and Sen. Murray at a roundtable discussion at PFMC on Monday, April 2, to vocalize their concern for their jobs and the need for leadership to deliver real salmon solutions. Duncan MacLean, a troller from El Granada, California, thanked Rep. McDermott's office for sponsoring the Salmon Economic Analysis and Planning Act (SEAPA), HR 1507, this year in Congress. All office representatives were receptive in the meeting and promised to deliver the testimonies to northwest leaders.

"The federal government has repeatedly failed to deliver an effective recovery plan for salmon in the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and hard working people in the Northwest are paying the price for that failure. We're asking our Northwest leaders to fill that void and deliver real solutions," said Steve Wilson, a commercial fisherman who lives in Federal Way, Washington.

"What we've faced over the last 30 years on the Columbia and Snake Rivers is a slow-motion version of last year's Klamath disaster," said David Bitts, a salmon troller based in Eureka, California. "I'm not sure how many years we can be expected to bounce back from the loss in revenue. We really appreciate the efforts to secure economic aid for our struggling fishermen this year, but, in the future we'd rather have real solutions and sustainable salmon runs."
Source: Washington Trollers Association

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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