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Oregon Pink Shrimp Fishery Has Slow Start; Fishermen Want to Let Shrimp Grow

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Seafood News] by Susan Chambers - April 3, 2017
A West Coast coldwater pink shrimp season is off to a less-than-stellar start.

Or more precisely, no start.

"I think I'm the only boat in Coos Bay (Oregon) ready to go," fisherman Nick Edwards said Friday.

The pink shrimp season in Washington, Oregon and California typically starts on April 1. But this year, many boats are still in port and many haven't even put shrimp nets on their vessels. Female shrimp typically haven't dropped their eggs yet.

The situation this year is similar to last year. In May, the Oregon fleet agreed to a voluntary "stand down," to stop harvesting and allow the female shrimp to lose their eggs and the small shrimp to grow. It didn't last long, as out-of-state fishermen not party to the agreement kept fishing or went to Oregon to fish.

Some of the shrimp on the grounds are in the 350-500 size or smaller. Fishermen said they would prefer to have the 250-350 size or larger, as it fetches a better price. They said much of the current global inventory of coldwater shrimp is in the 350-500 size.

The 2016 season came off an El Nino winter, when expectations that the warm water associated with that weather event would result in very poor shrimp recruitment conditions. But that didn't happen. The season didn't live up to the previous six years of record catches, but it also wasn't the worst post-El Nino season.

The recent winter had warm water conditions in many places, but not nearly as geographically spread out as the 2015-16 winter.

Oregon's state-supervised price negotiations were canceled in late March. Some fishermen are still talking with their individual processors in hopes of achieving a price agreement. But more fishermen want to hold off and let the females lose their eggs and the age-1 shrimp to get larger.
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PFMC Approves Limited Salmon Seasons; Effects Ripple to Other Fisheries

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Seafood News] by Susan Chambers - April 12, 2017

Sacramento, Calif. -- Dire West Coast ocean salmon seasons haven't officially started but already are affecting non-salmon fisheries such as sablefish and Pacific whiting.

Sablefish harvesters will get increased trip limits to help avoid salmon conflicts, and the whiting fleet will get a special additional bycatch allocation since moving out of Klamath salmon areas will force them into a higher bycatch zone.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council approved Tuesday no summer salmon seasons in parts of Oregon and California and limited seasons on the rest of the coast to protect struggling stocks such as coho in Washington and Klamath fall Chinook and Sacramento winter Chinook in Oregon and California.

Salmon trollers knew coming into the April PFMC meeting the struggle to balance resource conservation needs with the personal needs of individual income.

"Thousands of commercial salmon fishing families on the West Coast are going to be hit hard by another significantly curtailed salmon season this year, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association Executive Director Noah Oppenheim said in a statement. "... We know that these closures are caused by the same flawed projects and policies that closed the fishery nine years ago. Salmon need cold water, good habitat, and adequate flows now and into the future, and salmon fishing families and seafood consumers need sustainable, locally caught salmon."

The commercial non-tribal salmon fishery in the Klamath Management Zone, a 200 mile stretch of coast from Humbug Mountain in Oregon to Horse Mountain in California, will be closed this year. A limited fishery of up to 3,000 fish, with a limit of 60 fish per week per boat in the Fort Bragg area will be allowed in September. The area surrounding San Francisco will open for a limited time in August, September and parts of October. The salmon fishery will be open in May and June solely in areas south of Pigeon Point.

In Washington, both tribal and non-Indian commercial fishermen will have more opportunity this year due to improved status for many coho stocks -- but the improvement is slight.

In recent years, unfavorable environmental conditions, such as warm ocean water and drought, have reduced the number of salmon returning to Washington's waters, Washington Department of Fish and Widlife Salmon Policy Lead Kyle Adicks said in a statement.

"We're in the third year of a multi-year downturn in salmon returns," Adicks said. "Similar to last year, we faced significant challenges in crafting fisheries."

Tribal and non-Indian ocean commercial fisheries are designed to provide harvest opportunity on strong Chinook returns primarily destined for the Columbia River while avoiding coho stocks of concern. Coho retention is allowed in commercial fisheries north of Cape Falcon this year, which is an improvement over the non-retention regulations from last year. However, the coho quotas are very low in 2017.

Non-Indian ocean commercial fisheries north of Cape Falcon include traditional, but reduced, Chinook seasons in the spring (May-June) and summer season (intermittent openings during July through September). The Chinook quota of 27,000 in the spring is greater than the 2016 quota of 19,100. The summer season quotas include 18,000 Chinook and 5,600 coho.

Tribal ocean fisheries north of Cape Falcon are similar in structure to past years, with quotas that include 40,000 Chinook and 12,500 coho.

Already, Oregon and California fishermen are preparing to request the fishery be declared a fishery failure and are making alternative summer plans.

Some, like California troller Dave Bitts, may try to pump crab pots, or flush them out of areas where they got sanded in during one of the many storms over the winter and spring, and return them to their owners.

Other trollers may switch to another fishery, such as sablefish. The PFMC's Groundfish Advisory Panel noted that bad weather has prevented many fixed-gear fishermen from accessing blackcod they would otherwise harvest and requested an increase in daily, weekly and bimonthly trip limits. The Council agreed, noting that increasing those limits may also help salmon fishermen.

At the same time, the at-sea whiting fleets -- motherships and catcher-processors -- found themselves in a bind. Much of the recent whiting catch in years past has been off the southern Oregon Coast. While incidental salmon catches have been low and the fleets actively move away from areas where salmon are caught, they recognized the urgency of staying out of the Klamath Management Zone as much as possible.

However, that also means likely moving north and encountering more Pacific ocean perch rockfish, or POP, which is listed as overfished. Limited amounts of POP are made available as bycatch to the at-sea fleets.

The Council recognized the CPs and Mothership this year are caught between salmon and rockfish and made an allowance to transfer 7 metric tons of POP to the at-sea fleets from an open access contingency account.

“It has been another challenging year for the Council, its advisers, fishery stakeholders and the public as we strive to balance fishing opportunities on harvestable stocks of Chinook and coho with the severe conservation needs we are facing on salmon stocks, both north and south of Cape Falcon,” Council Executive Director Chuck Tracy said in a press release.

Decisions made at the Council now go to NMFS for approval.
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