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NW Salmon Runs: How Low Can You Go?

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August 21, 2007

Sport fishermen will be allowed a few more weeks to catch a salmon this fall along the Washington coast. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has increased recreational salmon fishing from five to seven days a week on the coast, in some areas through September 15 and others through September 30.

One of the reasons the longer season is possible is because so few fishing buffs have shown up this year. It's a reflection of another year of lower wild salmon runs, which also is affecting communities that depend on the economic aspects of fishing. This year, the adult Chinook salmon run is reported to be 30 percent lower than it was last year. Rhett Lawrence, policy analyst for the coalition Save Our Wild Salmon says the commercial salmon fishing business has been plagued by quotas and early closures of some areas.

"We wish that the season were longer and that there were no limits. Right now, these fishermen are struggling, and that has effects all through the economy."

Lawrence adds it's hard to put a good face on such a dismal season, although some are trying.

"We're continuing to see the numbers go down every year. And then, at the same time, we see federal agencies talking about, y'know, 'the fish are doing better than ever,' and sort-of looking the other way and pretending that it's not happening."

Lawrence explains the wild salmon return numbers need to improve for at least eight consecutive years in order to signal progress in the plans to save the fish. His organization, made up of conservation and fishing groups, sees this year's figure as proof that the current fish restoration plans are not working.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA