Monterey Bay salmon fishermen soldier on.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
It’s been a long, hard summer for local salmon fishermen.
Commercial fishing was banned in the Monterey Bay for the entire month of June. Locally, fishermen were restricted to waters south of Point Sur. Commercial fishermen have also been limited by size restrictions: they could only keep salmon 27 inches or larger in May and September, and 28 inches in July and August. Sky-high fuel prices have also added to fishermen’s recent woes.
Following the July 4 reopening of the season with fishing allowed in the Monterey Bay, local salmon fishermen struggle forward.
At 4:30pm on a recent afternoon, the commercial fishing boats return to the docks at Old Fisherman’s Wharf, after 12 hours at sea.
Anthony Campo, a manager at the Monterey Fish Company, says the July season started off extremely well, even with the high price of gas.
Campo says the fuel prices were at their highest by the beginning of July—reaching upwards of $4 a gallon. They dipped to $2.25, and are now about $2.50 a gallon. He’s not complaining.
“July has been a good month so far,” he says. “They brought in so much [salmon] we couldn’t sell it all.”
Marc Heisdorf, a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), echoes Campo.
“[Fishermen] seem to be doing well,” he says. “They’re having a few off days, but overall they have been bringing in steady catches this month.”
Heisdorf says local commercial salmon fishermen have been bringing in an average of anywhere from 10 to 400 12-pound to 13-pound fish each day. He cannot provide a more precise number of the daily fish tallies until the end of the season.
Commercial fishermen were banned from fishing in the Monterey Bay during the entire month of June. That’s because of the low salmon stock in Oregon’s Klamath River, which used to be the third most productive salmon river system in the country. With the Klamath River’s population dropping so low, other salmon populations, including those from the Sacramento River, must be left alone so they can merge with the Klamath population.
In order to protect the Klamath River salmon stock, the DFG split up the California coast into six commercial fishing areas, each to be active during a designated time. Monterey Bay’s designated region includes waters from San Mateo County’s Pigeon Point in the north to the Point Sur area in the south. The current fishing season runs until Aug. 29. It will reopen on Sept. 1, and close again on Sept. 30.
Despite the shortened season, however, DFG’s Jamie Barlow says the fishing boats are doing alright.
Barlow, a DFG technician, collects data from the commercial fishing boats as they drop off their catches of the day.
Earlier in the week, Barlow says fishermen caught about 5,000 pounds of salmon in the Monterey Bay. But a couple of less than average days followed that successful day.
“The fishermen’s success relies on factors that tend to differ day-to-day,” he says. “Ocean current and ocean temperature have been unpredictable.”
Commercial fisherman Roger Consani pulls into the docks after a long day under the white sky. His boat Lorna Gay shows only a few battle scars from its hours at sea. Consani’s got a barrel full of 13-pound salmon. But, he says, “Today I caught a minimum. Salmon fishing has been mediocre here, in the bay.”
Right now, the price of salmon is around $2.42 per pound plus an 8 cents association fee. Consani says the market value has gone down substantially from what it was in May.
John Gradis, another commercial salmon fisherman, follows Consani in.
“It varies day-to-day,” Gradis says. “Today was an average day. Actually, it was a good day because there weren’t a lot of boats out.”
The devastated Klamath River salmon populations continue to affect local commercial fishermen. But, like Gradis says, there are still some good days.