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Fish and Game Commission Will Not Protect Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook
By Felice Pace
KFA Press, 04/28/06

Last night the California Fish & Game Commission - the appointed board charged with protecting California's fish and wildlife - held a hearing in Crescent City on the 2006-2007 in-river Klamath-Trinity salmon sport fishing regulations. Only one Commission member was present - Commission President Michael Flores. The meeting was dominated by fishing guides who were upset because the Pacific Fisheries Management Council failed to allocate the usual percentage of the planned catch to in-river sport fishers. In most recent years, in-river sport fishermen have been allocated 15% of the planned Klamath-Trinity salmon catch.

In fact, in-river sport fishers have exceeded the quota in the majority of the last 20 years - once by 270%! In addition, Spring Chinook Salmon - the stock most in need of protection from fishing - is not counted as part of the quota because it is not a "managed species." For example, while in-river sport fishers will in all probability not be able to keep adult Fall Chinook and Coho salmon this year, they will be free to take one adult Springer per day and three per week in the Trinity River above the South Fork and in the Klamath River below Weitchpec. In all there are 13 provisions in the proposed Klamath-Trinity salmon regulations that will result in harm to Spring Chinook.

Last year fewer than 100 Spring Chinook salmon were counted in the Salmon River - the Klamath's Spring Chinook's "stronghold." Scientists maintain that a minimum of 300 to 500 adult salmon are needed to maintain a salmon stock's genetic diversity and resilience. Salmon River Spring Chinook are the top candidate for a brood stock to restore salmon to the Upper Klamath River Basin if and when the PacifiCorp dams are decommissioned or provided with fish ladders.

A spokesperson for Klamath Riverkeeper catalogued for the Commission the ongoing decline and extirpation of Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook and called for measures to protect wild stocks of Klamath and Trinity River Spingers. Commission President Flores was told how salmon and restoration advocates and some tribes have worked for over a decade to convince the PFMC and California Fish & Game to manage and protect wild springers in the Klamath below Weitchpec. The sport take of Springers in this 30 plus mile stretch of river has only been monitored once. That survey occurred in 1999 by the Yurok Tribe. The survey found that almost 700 Spring Chinook were taken by guides and other sport fishers in just one month (April-May) between Sulfur Creek (a little above Blue Creek) and where the Klamath enters the Pacific Ocean.

But President Flores took the opportunity to attack those who seek to protect salmon. Because Klamath Riverkeeper stated that the Commission/DFG inaction was likely to result in an emergency petition under the California Endangered Species Act, Flores stated that he had been threatened and implied that the CESA is a bad law that diverts scarce resources to unproductive activities.

The California Fish & Game Commission will finalize Klamath-Trinity salmon fishing regulations when it meets on May 5th at Lake Tahoe. With support from the Department of Fish & Game, the Commission is expected to insist on "preserving fishing opportunities" at the expense of the Klamath River's most threatened salmon stock. But Klamath Riverkeeper is urging salmon and river advocates to contact the Commission on behalf of Spring Chinook. With other groups already working on ESA petitions for Klamath River Salmon, Klamath Riverkeeper fears that the decade long effort to preserve and restore Spring Chinook in the Klamath-Trinity without an ESA listing to the federal is about to end in failure.

Those wishing to comment on Klamath River salmon fishing regulations can reach the Commission via e-mail, fax, phone or mail:

California Fish and Game Commission
1416 Ninth Street
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090
Phone Number: (916) 653-4899
Fax Number: (916) 653-5040
E-mail: fgc@fgc.ca.gov

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