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After a historic summer of drought, state lawmakers and representatives from several California fisheries sounded the alarm bells for the return of salmon species and the commercial Dungeness crab fishing season at the 48th Annual Zeke Grader Fisheries Forum in November.
Charlton Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the last two years of drought were “the worst I’ve seen in my career.”
“It’s sinister,” he said. “The years 2020-2021 (years) are the second driest two-year periods on the all-time record in California. Forget the drought of 1970, it’s much worse than that. … We have such a water hole to dig, we would need the biblical rain levels from Noah’s ark to get out of the drought we are in.
“It’s dark,” said North Coast State Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg).
“For 48 years every one of California’s fishing specific committees, organizations, association boards and most importantly our fishermen and women have attended this forum to provide the California legislature and people with an annual report. on their needs, their objectives, their annual activities. and accomplishments, ”said McGuire. “There’s no question that since last year’s Fisheries Forum, our state’s fisheries have been through a lot, to put it mildly.”
Bonham hoped that decades of efforts to remove four dams along the Klamath River could save endangered salmon species.
“This is the largest dam removal and restoration project in the world. This would open up over 300 miles of historic salmon and rainbow trout habitat, ”he said, noting that demolition of the four Klamath dams is expected to begin in 2023.“ If we give a chance to nature and to these fish, they will survive. “
Bonham also urged commercial Dungeness crab fishermen to “keep hope” for the start of the season on December 1, but warned that “hope is not a strategy”.
Local crab fishermen have been devastated by the 2020 commercial fishing season, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the delays have also been associated with high levels of domoic acid in crab meat as well. than to the presence of whales migrating south.
“We’ve tried this a few times over the last few years, the MacGyver department is finding a way to balance the whales and open up the fleets,” Bonham said. “Sometimes the fleet decided they didn’t want to go fishing. So I’m super nervous that we try this again and then the fleet is going to stick a finger in our eye at the end of the day. We have to work on it together to have a chance to get the boats out commercially in time for the holiday season.
A month after the Fisheries Forum, the commercial Dungeness crab fishing season opened in northern Mendocino County as scheduled on December 1 for the first time in years.
“This season the price of crab is about three times that of last year, one of the highest prices we’ve had in an opener, which makes a huge difference,” said Patrick Burns, owner of Comet Fisheries. Times-Standard December 3. “Last year we caught very little crab and basically sold all of our crab from the wharf to the public just to get a better price to make ends meet.”
McGuire stressed the importance of the prosperity of California’s fisheries and coastal communities, noting that this is “absolutely critical to the future of this state and the future of rural coastal California.”
Isabella Vanderheiden can be reached at 707-441-0504.