100-year decline threatens the existence of Pacific salmon

March 19, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

SEATTLE -- It has taken everything civilization and nature could dish out, but the storied Pacific salmon may be able to take no more. Its numbers are melting away so rapidly that government regulators planned to announce today a proposal to cancel, or sharply curtail, the 1992 ocean salmon fishing season all along the West Coast, from the Mexican border to Canada.

Closing the summer salmon season in California, Oregon and Washington for both recreational and commercial fishing would be without precedent -- the result of a 100-year decline in a once vital fishery that ranged from Mexico northward.

Fish marketing experts said that the effect of a reduced or canceled commercial season along the West Coast probably would have only minor effects on salmon availability and price at the marketplace, because most commercial salmon comes from elsewhere. Last year fisheries in Alaska, British Columbia and South America actually produced a market glut.

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council in Portland today was to release three proposed options for the 1992 season, according to the commission staff. One would be its entire closure; the other two would offer different formulas to reduce the allowable catch by one-half or more to record or near-record lows.

A decision on which of the three to accept is scheduled to be made by the council April 10 after a brief period of public comment.

The federally empowered council regulates fishing in U.S. waters, from three miles to 200 miles offshore.

State officials in California, Oregon and Washington said that salmon were so few this year that inland salmon fishing closures or reductions may also may be instituted.

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