A federal panel has canceled the commercial salmon fishing season off the California and Oregon coasts because of a severe decline in Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger responded Friday by declaring a state of emergency in California and asking the federal government to declare a disaster. KPCC's Julie Small reports that the move should help offset the losses to the state's economy.
Julie Small: With his declaration, Governor Schwarzenegger opens the door to guaranteed government loans and grants to people who earn their living by fishing for salmon.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: Through the state of emergency, and through the national fishery disaster declaration that we are asking the Bush administration, I think that we can assist financially and really get them through these difficult times.
Small: The governor's also instructed the state Department of Fish and Game to refund this year's fees for fishing licenses and permits.
Schwarzenegger: We are trying everything that we can in order to work together, because we are very much aware of the fact that this is a big burden, and a big hit to our economy.
Small: The state fish and game department estimates that the ban on commercial salmon fishing this season will cost California $255 million. California Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman says it could also jeopardize nearly 2,300 jobs.
Mike Chrisman: That's not only the commercial recreational fisherman, but that's the fishing-dependent communities up and down the coast.
Small: Governor Schwarzengger also signed a bill that will release millions of dollars to restore state fisheries. Scientists are still studying the reasons for record low numbers of Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River. They've identified some suspects, including agricultural runoff and the destruction of salmon habitat. The one thing that's certain: far too few salmon are making their way to the Pacific Ocean.