Recommendations by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to provide dual areas of protection to Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon were approved by the state Fish and Game Commission on April 17. An emergency regulation closing 5.5 miles of spawning habitat above the city of Redding on the Upper Sacramento River will go into effect on or about April 27. Enhanced protective measures were also included in the ocean sport and commercial fisheries regulations for the 2015 season.
“We are taking proactive measures on two fronts to protect these endangered fish both in the ocean and on their natal spawning habitat,” said CDFW Chief of Fisheries Stafford Lehr. “The fishing communities have stepped forward to support these measures and work towards long-term sustainability of the resource. None of us wanted to be in this situation, but heading into a fourth year of extreme drought calls for extreme measures.”
The emergency regulation closes all fishing on the 5.5 mile stretch of the Sacramento River from the Highway 44 Bridge where it crosses the Sacramento River upstream to Keswick Dam. The area is currently closed to salmon fishing but was open to trout fishing. The closure will protect critical spawning habitat and eliminate any incidental stress or hooking mortality of winter-run salmon by anglers.
The Commission also adopted ocean sport fishing regulations, which will mirror federal regulations approved earlier this week. CDFW, in consultation with representatives of California’s sport and commercial salmon fishing industries, recommended additional strategic protective measures for winter-run Chinook salmon to the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). Following a two-month evaluation process, the PFMC recommended federal regulations that provide for sport and commercial seasons off California designed to target more abundant stocks, including Sacramento River fall-run Chinook salmon, while minimizing contact with winter-run Chinook.
“The CDFW proposal to reduce the allowable ocean harvest rate on winter-run salmon and change the timing and location of ocean fisheries south of San Francisco was accepted by the PFMC after in-depth analysis, review and discussion,” said Marci Yaremko, CDFW’s representative to the PFMC. “The Commission concurred with these recommendations, realizing their conservation benefit to all winter-run.”
It is highly unusual for a state to propose even stricter guidelines on a listed species than required by the federal Endangered Species Act. However, CDFW scientists believe the additional protection provided in the emergency river closure and additional ocean fishing restrictions will help a significant segment of the winter-run population to avoid losses.
“Given the gravity of the current situation, the Commission recognizes the need for highly protective measures,” said Commission President Jack Baylis. “It is imperative that our fisheries are given the best protections.”