Fewer than 60,000 chinook, known in fish markets and on menus of swank restaurants as king salmon, are expected to spawn this fall in the river, less than half what regulators say is needed to justify a nominal fishing season and just a fraction of the 800,000 that arrived from the sea during the bumper crop of 2002.This "industry" has gross revenue of $150 million/year. Last year, the Congress gave them $60 million in "disaster relief" because the season was 10% of "normal." This year, they are asking for more "temporary/emergency" support. Why?
Federal scientists blame the anemic returns on a variety of factors, but have focused on poor ocean conditions, potentially linked to global warming, that have caused the chinook's food sources to plummet.
But anglers also blame troubles in the environmentally fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where fish populations have plummeted because of pollution, predators and increased water exports to the south.
"There's no smoking gun here, but there's a lot of spent shell casings and people who created problems in the delta," said Duncan MacLean, a Half Moon Bay commercial fisherman. "What started out as trouble for little fish like the delta smelt has blossomed into a problem for salmon and the whole state."
Federal lawmakers, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the governors of Oregon and Washington have petitioned the Bush administration to take steps toward renewing disaster assistance for the commercial fleet and its support network of packinghouses, fuel docks, tackle suppliers and other businesses.
The fishery needs time to recover -- if it is ever going to recover -- and the Feds [Why is this a federal issue? What does this have to do with Ohio? I am amazed by the ways the 10th Amendment is abused!] are keeping the zombie alive. If any aid is to be given, it should buy out fishermen (at book value, obviously*) so they can move to sustainable jobs.
Better yet -- the Feds should put property rights on rivers/estuaries and put them up for auction. If one owner has rights to an area, the owner will do all that's possible to restore the fishery for sustainable yields. That includes suing for environmental damage to his "asset" (the fishery) by various actors -- including the government [earlier post].
Bottom Line: This is a complex issue, but bureaucratic solutions are too slow and myopic. Political fights over water, smelt, and fish wil go on forever -- while all of these resources continue to decline.
*Many businesses depreciate there assets faster than actual depreciation to get tax breaks. If the feds buy out their gear, they should use book value because the gov't already paid for those boats...