Citing the economic, ecological and cultural importance of salmon, North Coast Rep. Jared Huffman is once again trying to identify, restore and protect the nation’s most outstanding salmon rivers and watersheds.
The Salmon FISH Act, which the San Rafael Democrat reintroduced Tuesday, would require federal agencies to identify critical areas of abundance and productivity of six species of salmon and steelhead trout and authorize funding for their conservation.
Huffman, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife, said the “ecological, cultural and economic importance of salmon is hard to overstate.”
The wild fish “support tens of thousands of jobs, sustain fishing communities, generate billions of dollars in economic activity and provide a food source for millions of people,” he said in a news release.
Commercial fishing boats landed 1.9 million pounds of Chinook and coho salmon worth $14.4 million statewide in 2020, according to preliminary figures in the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s report in February 2021.
At Bodega Bay, boats landed 686,409 pounds of salmon worth $4.8 million, the largest and most valuable harvest of 11 ports from Crescent City to Morro Bay.
Recent commercial salmon landings statewide have ranged from 228,000 pounds, worth $1.2 million, in 2010 to 3.8 million pounds, worth $23.6 million, in 2013.
Huffman’s measure was hailed by fishing interests in California and Alaska and co-sponsored by four Congress members, including Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena.
The bill “provides tools that should be helpful to the salmon populations up and down the West Coast,” said Mike Conroy, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations.
“Our members are becoming increasingly dependent on the salmon troll fishery and this legislation should provide comfort … that healthy and thriving salmon runs are a key focal point,” he said.
“The proof is in the implementation,” Conroy said.
Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, said in the release it is “so important for us to take special care of the remaining productive salmon habitat.”
“If we don’t, we’ll stay on the path toward devastated fishing communities and Pacific ecosystems and, ultimately, salmon extinction,” she said.
“We look forward to the protection of the last strongholds for these culturally and ecologically priceless animals,” said Ryan Henson, senior policy director for California Wilderness Coalition, an organization that has helped preserve 13 million acres of California wilderness.
Huffman introduced a version of the bill in 2019 that got no further than a hearing before his subcommittee.
You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.