Calif. Gov. Requests Fishery Disaster Declaration Ahead of Expected Season Closure

File photo of a salmon via California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

On April 6, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis announced a request for a federal fishery disaster declaration to support the salmon fishing industry as it faces a closure for the 2023 salmon season.

The action followed projections that indicate California’s Chinook salmon abundance is at historic lows.

Kounalakis, on behalf of Newsom, submitted the request to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo after the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) recommended a full closure of California’s commercial and recreational ocean salmon season—a recommendation the National Marine Fisheries Service is expected to implement in mid-May.

“The expected closure of the 2023 California commercial salmon fishery will result in loss of 100% of the five-year average annual ex-vessel value of $15,033,200,” Kounalakis stated in the letter to Raimondo.

“California commercial and recreational ocean salmon fisheries generated an annual average of $28.5 million and $17.2 million, respectively, in coastal community and state personal income. As such, California projects a loss for the 2023 season of over $45 million from a closure of the … commercial and recreational ocean fisheries.”

“To California’s salmon fishing communities, we’re working to get you expedited relief,” Kounalakis said. “The federal fishery disaster declaration we’re requesting … is vital to supporting our coastal regions, and we look forward to getting families the help they need.”

If approved, the federal fishery disaster declaration would begin the process of providing relief to fishing communities financially impacted by a closure.

“Countless families, coastal communities and tribal nations depend on salmon fishing—it’s more than an industry, it’s a way of life. That’s why we’re requesting expedited relief from the federal government,” Newsom said in a statement. “We’re committed to working with the Biden administration and Congress to ensure California’s fisheries aren’t left behind.”

Prolonged drought, severe wildfires, and associated impacts to spawning and rearing habitat, harmful algal blooms, and ocean forage shifts combined have resulted in some of the lowest stock abundance forecasts on record for Sacramento River Fall Chinook and Klamath River Fall Chinook.

In large part, the low returns and abundance forecasts are due to difficult environmental factors faced by these salmon on their initial journey out to the ocean three years ago.

The low ocean abundance forecasts, coupled with low 2022 returns, led the PFMC to recommend full closure of California’s commercial ocean salmon fisheries.

Commercial fishing in southern Oregon is also projected to face closures through the end of 2023.