Poor Salmon Forecast for 2021 Suggests Restricted Fishing Season

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 25, 2021

Any restrictions likely to be developed in next several weeks

San Francisco, CA  — Today officials forecast there are about 271,000 adult Sacramento Valley salmon now in the ocean off the West Coast.  This compares to 473,183 forecast a year ago at this time and suggests some restrictions are likely to be enacted in the 2021 salmon fishing season.  In the months ahead, officials with the Pacific Fisheries Management Council will use this forecast and other information to set times and areas open to both sport and commercial ocean salmon fishing for 2021.  If restrictions are deemed necessary, we’ll learn of them then. 

Although 473,000 plus salmon were forecast last year, after the number caught was added to those that returned to spawn, the real number came out to be 370,000, about 22 percent fewer than forecast.  

About 138,000 adult salmon returned to spawn in the Sacramento Basin during 2020, which is 105,000 fewer than the 233,000 salmon predicted to return to spawn.  In addition, about 14,000 jacks, or two year old salmon, returned to spawn.  The jack number in 2020 is used to forecast the number of adult salmon officials believe are now in the ocean.    

One reason for the drop off in the 2021 salmon forecast is chronic over-diversion of Central Valley rivers. 2020 returns were also bolstered by added hatchery production in 2017 that contributed to the 2020 fishery. There was no additional hatchery production to aid 2021 fisheries and returns. 

“It will be several more weeks before we begin to learn what kind of restrictions we might see on fishing this year, but the treatment of our salmon resource by freshwater managers as an afterthought is taking its toll,” said GSSA president John McManus. 

The number of fish that returned to the Klamath Basin, although slightly better than forecast, was still not enough to plot a 2021 commercial fishery free of concern.  Commercial fishing in the Fort Bragg zone, stretching from Pt. Arena to just north of Shelter Cove in southern Humboldt County, will likely be limited in 2021.  

“If water managers would leave more water in the rivers during some of the drier years, we’d always have more salmon,” said GSSA director and co-owner of Reel Magic Sportfishing Mike Aughney.  

Since baby salmon are considered one year old when they leave the Central Valley in the spring, and most return as three year old adults, you can usually count on good fishing two years after lots of rain and snow.  Although there was decent rain and runoff in 2019, this year’s forecast is poor, in part because of the severe decline of salmon in the last drought.  

“Drought could revisit us almost anytime, including this year.  We need to build and fortify in the good years so we don’t get wiped out again in the bad,” said GSSA secretary Dick Pool.  

“That’s why GSSA is working overtime to get salmon recovery, habitat improvements, and hatchery improvements on the state’s radar.” 

About GSSA: The Golden State Salmon Association (www.goldenstatesalmon.org) is a coalition of salmon advocates that includes commercial and recreational salmon fishermen and women, businesses, restaurants, a native tribe, environmentalists, elected officials, families and communities that rely on salmon. GSSA’s mission is to restore California salmon for their economic, recreational, commercial, environmental, cultural and health values. 

Currently, California’s salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in economic activity and 23,000 jobs annually in a normal season and about half that much in economic activity and jobs again in Oregon. Industry workers benefiting from Central Valley salmon stretch from Santa Barbara to northern Oregon. This includes commercial fishermen and women, recreational fishermen and women (fresh and salt water), fish processors, marinas, coastal communities, equipment manufacturers, the hotel and food industry, tribes, and others.

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Media contact:  John McManus, 650-218-8650 john@goldenstatesalmon.org