Aquarium defends salmon listing


Mercedes Grandin, SeafoodSource contributing editor

Published on
July 6, 2010

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s decision last week to give Oregon and California salmon caught south of Cape Falcon, Ore., an “avoid” rating in its seafood-buying guide has ignited a debate over the sustainability of the fishery.

On Tuesday, Ed Cassano, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s director of conservation outreach, responded to allegations that the aquarium’s decision was shortsighted and may confuse consumers.

“The key factor is that Sacramento River fall-run chinook, which support fisheries in California and most of Oregon, are at a record low abundance and have failed to meet projected escapement goals for three consecutive years,” said Cassano. “In our view, a precautionary approach requires demonstrated evidence of improvement, not a projection or forecast of improvement, before you reopen a fishery — especially one in as much trouble as Pacific salmon.

“Our second concern is the bycatch of threatened and endangered salmon in other West Coast salmon fisheries. When you’re out trolling for salmon, you can’t tell which fish is on the hook until you’ve landed your catch,” he added.

Although California and Oregon salmon was listed as a “good alternative” prior to the fishery’s closing in 2008, Cassano said it would be unlikely that meeting escapement goals in a single season would move the fishery back to “good alternative” status.

“There is a general misunderstanding of ocean salmon management. The fishery is managed sustainably. That is why it has been closed the last two years, and fisheries are limited in 2010 and focused in northern areas where abundance of healthier stocks make up a larger proportion of the catch,” said Chuck Tracy, salmon officer at the Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

The council re-opened the commercial salmon fishing in California and Oregon with escapement objectives of 122,000 to 180,000 natural and hatchery spawners for Sacramento River fall chinook, 35,000 natural spawners for Klamath River fall chinook and 60 to 90 natural spawners per mile in index streams for Oregon coastal chinook.

Catch limits for adult Sacramento River chinook have been set at 8,200 (12.6 percent of the total allowable harvest) and 12,000 adult Klamath River fall chinook. The Council is targeting a spawning escapement greater than the minimum to reflect a more conservative forecast in 2010.

“The forecast for Sacramento River chinook is about double last year’s forecast. The 2009 Oregon coast escapement was greater than 60-mile for the first time since 2006. Klamath River chinook spawning escapement has exceeded its objective in 2008-2009 and is forecasted to exceed it in 2010,” said Tracy.

“We believe it makes the most long-term sense — for fishermen and for fish — to keep the salmon season closed south of Cape Falcon for another year, so that Sacramento River chinook can begin to recover,” said Cassano. “The long-term solution is to have healthy salmon populations that support vibrant fishing communities and contribute to healthy oceans.”

All Environment & Sustainability stories > 

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500