Federal Aid Sought in Wake of 2023 California Salmon Season Closure

Image: Golden Gate Fishermen’s Association.

Three major California fisheries organizations are urging the U.S. Department of Commerce to support more than $30 million in disaster assistance in the wake of closure of the 2023 salmon season in California to protect and preserve the fishery.

The organizations are the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), the Golden Gate Fishermen’s Association (GGFA) and the Northern California Guides and Sportsmen’s Association (NCGASA).

The leaders of each noted that while the state of California and California Department of Fish and Wildlife requested a total of $30,784,670 to be shared across commercial, processor, bait and charter industries that the Department of Commerce in late January announced that the state would receive only $20,605,103.

The three organizations told Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), in a Feb. 5 letter that the lower amount was not acceptable.

The 33% reduction in what was already a minimal amount of funding requested is “a slap in the face of a salmon industry that supported the decision to close the 2023 for the protection and preservation of the species, with a specific promise that their industries would be made whole through federal disaster funding,” they said.

The organizations noted that they had collaborated in petitioning for the 2023 closure, after CDFW reported in its pre-season briefing some of the worst fisheries numbers in the history of the state.

They said the numbers followed years of drought, poor federal and state water management decisions, occasional failure to meet hatchery egg mitigation goals, inaccurate season modeling, and inability of fisheries managers to meet their own mandated escapement goals.

While it’s been nearly a year since decisions were made to close the salmon season, not one affected business or individual has received any financial compensation, an insult to the men and women struggling to survive the closure, they said.

The organizations said that their industry, steeped in multi-generational traditions and culture, relies on good governance of the salmon fishery to make a living.

As a final note, they said that the economic value of the industry during the last disaster declaration, in 2008-2009, was $170 million while now, with a calculated economic loss of $30 million, the industry has not even 15% of the economic output it had 17 years ago.