Idaho may be expecting a good fishery this year on the hatchery salmon that begin their migration into the Columbia right about now.
But for fishermen along the California and Oregon Coast there won’t be a season. Federal officials have said they likely will close the salmon fishery from Washington to Mexico, which would be the largest closure in U.S. history. This time the center of the controversy is the Sacramento River and the California Central Valley’s fall Chinook. The Pacific Fisheries Management Council, which includes Idaho member Jerry Mallet, said this week it is prepared to shut down the fishery for 1000 commercial fishermen and 2.4 million sport anglers.
We are talking billions of dollars here.
Federal scientists say a shift in ocean conditions, which has happened far sooner than they expected, has brought warmer water and salmon predators north. The warmer water reduces the amount of zoo plankton that is a major food source for the fish.
But lack of water because of irrigation and other issues are also getting the blame. This issue is likely to overwhelm the Columbia salmon debate for a while.
Speaking of that, the Columbia tribes are said to be near a deal with the Bonneville Power Administration that would remove their opposition to a biological opinion in exchange for increased funding for salmon programs they support and benefit from.
This has the potential to completely restructure the politics of the Columbia debate especially around the issue of breaching four dams, harvest and hatcheries.
The critical question is how the deal will help the most endangered runs in Idaho and the Upper Columbia. Judge James Redden had urged the parties to seek a collaborative settlement but this one, if finalized leaves out the sport fishermen and the environmentalists and perhaps the state of Oregon.
It will be interesting to see how the tribes and the environmentalists spin this issue if in fact they find themselves on opposite sides.