Famed Salmon Festival Will Be Without Salmon This Year

Fisheries closed amid low fish run, though there's 'genuine cause for optimism'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2023 9:29 AM CDT
Famed Salmon Festival Will Be Without Salmon This Year
The Iron Gate Dam, one of four on the Klamath River to be removed to open up hundreds of miles of California river habitat to imperiled salmon.   (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus, File)

For the third time in seven years, there will be no salmon at California's famous Klamath Salmon Festival. The annual festival dating back almost six decades focuses on Chinook salmon, a key source of sustenance for the Yurok Tribe, which hosts the event. But this year, the Klamath River, which flows through Oregon and northern California en route to the Pacific Ocean, is expected to have one of the lowest fish runs on record, reports SFGate. Fishery managers previously closed commercial and recreational salmon fishing in California and most of Oregon for 2023 to conserve the population. Last week, the Yurok Tribe announced it would follow suit in closing its commercial and subsistence fisheries.

"We are not going to harvest any salmon this year to protect the overall fish population," tribe chairman Joseph James said in a Wednesday release. That means no fish for the festival. "This decision reflects our sacred responsibility to take care of the Klamath River's fish stocks," said James. Declining salmon runs attributed to dams, habitat loss, disease outbreaks, water quality issues, and environmental damage have prompted the Yurok Tribe to close its commercial fishery for six of the last seven years. The release notes "during all but one of the last eight years, the Tribe's extremely limited subsistence harvests ... did not come close to satisfying the needs of the Yurok people," with "less than one fish per member of the Tribe."

But "there is genuine cause for optimism" given "the largest salmon restoration project in world history," according to the tribe. As SFGate reports, crews are dismantling four dams on the river which block some 400 miles of salmon spawning habitat. The dams also "create warmer water behind them that eventually is released into the river where salmon live, and that definitely exacerbates those environmental conditions and the potential for disease," Brett Kormos of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife tells KRCR. Habitat restoration work is also underway in the river's large tributaries, which serve as spawning grounds and nurseries for salmon. While the work continues, the Aug. 19 Klamath Salmon Festival will carry on, just without its namesake fish. (More salmon stories.)

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