California’s 2023 Salmon Fishing Season: A Crisis Leads to Federal Intervention and Public Involvement

The once-thriving salmon industry in California faced an unprecedented challenge in 2023, leading to a complete shutdown of the state’s commercial and recreational ocean salmon fishing seasons. This drastic measure was recommended by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) due to alarmingly low population estimates of the Sacramento and Klamath river fall Chinook salmon.

Recognizing the severe economic and social impact of this closure, Governor Gavin Newsom swiftly requested a federal fishery disaster declaration. This plea was met with approval from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, signaling the start of federal aid to the affected communities. As a result, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) allocated $20,625,729 for disaster relief.

To ensure these funds reach those in need effectively, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has crafted a draft spending plan for 2023, aptly named the Salmon Disaster Spend Plan. The CDFW’s plan aims to allocate the relief funding fairly among the fishing sectors, establishing qualifying criteria and individual payouts.

In a move to democratize the process, the CDFW is openly inviting public input on this draft plan. Stakeholders and community members are encouraged to provide their feedback on how these funds should be distributed. The deadline for submitting comments via email is set for 5 p.m., April 19, 2024, at the address [email protected].

As we look beyond the immediate crisis, the PFMC will be considering alternatives for the 2024 salmon seasons during their meeting from April 5-11 in Seattle. This meeting will be open to public attendance and participation, providing a platform for further discussion on the future of California’s salmon fishing industry.

Even as some salmon population numbers show marginal improvement, they remain significantly below historical averages. In light of this, Governor Newsom’s administration is prepared to continue seeking federal assistance if California’s salmon fisheries and fishing communities face ongoing challenges into 2024.

For more detailed information on federal fishery disaster relief and updates on ocean salmon fishing seasons, interested parties are directed to the CDFW website. Additionally, details regarding the PFMC meeting and how to engage with it are available on the PFMC’s official website.

The plight of California’s salmon is not just an ecological concern but also a socio-economic one. As such, it is imperative that all stakeholders—government entities, industry representatives, and the public—come together to navigate these troubled waters and work toward sustainable solutions for the future of this iconic species and the communities that depend on them.


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