louis martin
cns news & features

If the size of the catch were the only measure of a fishing season, then this year's salmon season was a good one. Unfortunately, when marketing factors and pricing are weighted in, '95 was not that great.

In San Francisco and Monterey catches were good, but at Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg, where the season was restricted to the month of September, the total catch was not. But even where the numbers where high--2.65 million pounds in San Francisco and 3.1 million pounds in Monterey--there were problems.

"A lot of fish were caught," said Vivian Bolin of the Salmon Trollers Marketing Association, "however, in the past few years the commercial fleet of California has lost its world market by not being able to keep a supply." At the same time, said Bolin, there has been an increase of imported farm fish that have taken up the slack and won over much of the market.

The result has been that a big catch may have no buyer. Additionally, a big catch may drive prices so low that going out is not worth it.

"In the month of July," said Bolin, "the price got dropped so low that the entire fleet tied up for three weeks." While there were plenty of fish to catch, there was simply no place to sell them at a reasonable price. "The fish buyers, the brokers," said Bolin, "couldn't move them that fast."

While a tie-up is termed a strike, fishermen have little leverage, said Bolin.

The sports season was a whole other matter. Marketing and price are not involved. 366,563 salmon were caught by California anglers, 353,000 south of Shelter Cove.

For sport fishermen it has been an "excellent" year, according to Melodie Palmer-Zwahlen, associate marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Game. The highest count since 1982 has been 239,000, she said.

For commercial fishermen, said Palmer-Zwhalen, there were better years during the 80s. "Back in 1988 they landed 14 million," she said. In '87, 8 million were landed. "So they did have some good years back in the late 80s, but this was still a good year."


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