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Federal advisory group recommends curtailed Oregon ocean salmon fishing again; closing California season

A group of boats in a harbor. A large bridge is visible in the background.
Quinton Smith
Yachats News
The Newport-based ocean commercial salmon fleet will face another challenging year after recommendations last week from the Pacific Fishery Management Council. 

This story was originally published on YachatsNews.com and is used with permission.

Recommendations for the ocean salmon seasons off the coasts of Oregon, California and Washington were made last week with some OK news for some fishermen and devastating news for those in California.

Once again.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council — which oversees fishing along the West Coast — voted unanimously Wednesday to once again shut California’s commercial and recreational chinook salmon fisheries through the end of the year. Its recommendations are similar to those made in 2023, which was the first time such a closure occurred in 14 years.

The council based its decision on previous low water levels and high temperatures in rivers where salmon spawn, and with scientists saying the poor river and ocean conditions have resulted in historically low numbers of Chinook salmon. California’s Sacramento River provides the greatest proportion of salmon off the West Coast — it used to support 1-2 million fall Chinook every year but in 2023 only 134,000 returned to the river to spawn.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the next day that he was requesting a federal fishery disaster declaration to provide financial assistance to impacted communities — serving to both protect salmon populations and support the local fishing industry.

The agency’s recommendations for ocean salmon fishing were forwarded to the National Marine Fisheries Service, which will consider them by May 16.

Oregon and Washington fared better – but still not very good.

Once again recreational and commercial salmon seasons from Manzanita south along the central Oregon coast to the California border were significantly reduced.

For parts areas of Oregon north of Manzanita and into Washington, the recommendations provide about the same recreational and commercial opportunities as last year.

The council said federal requirements to conserve Fraser River coho in Canada, lower Columbia River natural coho, southern Oregon/northern California coho, Puget Sound Chinook, Klamath River fall Chinook, and Sacramento River fall Chinook are the main constraints for setting this year’s ocean salmon fisheries.

“The forecasts for Chinook returning to California rivers this year are again very low,” said council chair Brad Pettinger. “Despite improved drought conditions, the freshwater environment that contributed to these low forecasted returns may still be impacting the overall returns of Chinook.”

Central, south Oregon coast

Ocean salmon fisheries off the Oregon coast south of Manzanita are again limited mainly by the low abundance forecasts for both Klamath River and Sacramento River fall Chinook, the council said.

“While the forecasts for these two target Chinook stocks are a bit higher than last year, this year’s ocean salmon seasons will have significantly reduced opportunity compared to historical seasons,” the agency said in announcing its recommendations.

Oregon ocean commercial salmon fisheries from Manzanita to Humbug Mountain, which is between Port Orford and Gold Beach, will be open from mid-April though late May, then shift to a pulse of openers lasting a few days in June, July and August, and then open all of September and October. A limited coho season will also occur in September with a 2,500 coho quota, compared to 10,000 last year.

The area from Humbug Mountain to the Oregon/California border will be open for commercial fishing briefly from mid- to late-April.

The Oregon ocean recreational salmon fisheries from Manzanita south to Humbug Mountain is open for Chinook retention through October, with specific times and areas open for coho retention. October will be open for all salmon except coho and open only shoreward of the 40-fathom regulatory line, the agency said.

The area from Humbug Mountain to the Oregon/California border will open for Chinook retention by recreational fishermen from mid-May through August.

In the area from Manzanita to the Oregon/California border has a quota of 45,000 marked coho quota — compared with 110,000 last year. Harvest of marked coho salmon will be allowed beginning in mid-June through early-August from Manzanita to Humbug Mountain and mid-June through early-August from Humbug Mountain to the Oregon/California border.

A non-mark-selective coho fishery is scheduled in the area between Manzanita and Humbug Mountain for the month of September with a 25,000 coho quota, which is the same as last year).

Oregon north of Manzanita

Fisheries north of Cape Falcon near Manzanita on the north Oregon coast are limited mainly by the need to constrain catch of lower Columbia River natural coho.

The non-tribal ocean commercial fishery north of Manzanita includes the traditional seasons in May and June for Chinook and July to September for Chinook and coho. The Chinook quota is 41,000, slightly more than last year, but the coho quota is 15,200 marked coho, half of last year.

The ocean sport fishery north of Manzanita/Cape Falcon opens in mid-June to late-June and continues into September, unless salmon quotas are met earlier. The Chinook quota is 41,000 compared to 39,000 last year and the coho quota is 79,800 marked coho, half of last year’s quota.

“This has been another challenging year for the council, its advisors, fishery stakeholders, and the public, to say the least,” said council executive director Merrick Burden.

“The economic impact of closing a good portion of the west coast ocean salmon fishery will negatively impact the people that participate in the fishery, and the small businesses in coastal communities that rely on the salmon fishery,” Burden said.

The council said it developed three management alternatives in early March for public review and further analysis. The review process included input from tribal, federal, and state fishery scientists and fishing industry members; public testimony; and three public hearings.

Once the decision is approved by NMFS, the Oregon, Washington and California fish and game commissions will adopt regulations for state-managed waters that are compatible with the council’s actions.

For Oregon’s ocean commercial and recreational salmon information, go here.