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So many salmon they\'re giving them away

Robust runs, low prices spur local fishermen to give it away

SOURCE: Chronicle Staff Writer
BYLINE: Glen Martin


Half Moon Bay commercial fishermen celebrated the Fourth of July by appealing
to one of America's deepest core values -- the desire for free stuff.

They handed out hundreds of silver-scaled, red-meated wild chinook salmon to
delighted visitors at Pillar Point Harbor in Princeton-by-the-Sea on Friday,
simultaneously striking a blow for independence from tight-fisted wholesalers.

"When we're only getting 75 cents to $1.25 a pound (from wholesalers), we
might as well give it away," said Duncan MacLean, the owner of the salmon troller
Barbara Faye and a spokesman for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermens'
Associations.

MacLean and fellow troller Jim Anderson distributed about 400 chunks of
salmon, each piece enough to feed four people.

Aspirants for the free fish apparently exceeded the supply, with about 500
people queued up along the Pillar Point Harbor dock to the parking lot.

MacLean said the giveaway was also a token of appreciation for a fantastic
fishing season -- salmon are more abundant than they've been in years.

Further, the event was a savvy public relations effort to call attention to
the off-the-boat retail trade fishermen are running at Pillar Point Harbor.

"We're selling seafood off the boats on most weekends throughout the year,"
said MacLean. "It's a great outing. People love to see the boats, the kids get
to touch the crabs and fish. And people love talking to fishermen and getting
their fish really fresh, without a middleman. Some of them walk out of here
carrying their salmon like a baby."

Live rockfish -- especially favored by Asian customers, say fishermen -- were
also purveyed at the docks on Friday.

"We've been out on the water for two days, so we're kind of sleepy," said Joe
Robertson, who works on a small and battered boat called the Irene.

"We got lots of fish, though," said Robertson. "We catch them all by
hook-and-line, then they go straight into the live wells."

The Irene's wells and tanks were indeed brimming with ling cod and rockfish
of various species.

"We'll get between $5 and $9 a pound (retail)," Robertson said. Fresh whole
salmon are currently selling to dockside customers for about $3.50 a pound,
said MacLean.

Beneficiaries of the hand-out were enthusiastic about the dock sales program.

"I came down here for my free piece of fish, but then I decided I wanted to
support the fishermen, so I bought another whole salmon," said Cephas Hisatake
of Daly City. "I figure they're doing something for us, so I'll do something
for them."

While fishery stocks have been depleted around the globe, California's
chinook salmon fishery is a happy exception. Populations have been robust for the
past several years -- due primarily to increased water releases down natal
rivers from government dams, say scientists -- and the current season bodes to be
the best since 1988.

Salmon are "stacked up from the Cordell Bank (near the Farallones) to Fort
Ross," said MacLean, and "they're bigger than we've ever seen them for this time
of year. Normally, you start off the season with fish averaging 8 pounds,
eventually going up to 13 pounds. This year, the fish started at 16 pounds, and
I've had one trip where they averaged 20 pounds. It's incredible."

MacLean said the waters off the coast are teeming with marine life of all
varieties.

"We're seeing a lot of whales, and there are huge quantities of krill," he
said. "We're seeing enormous numbers of baby rockfish and hake -- the salmon are
gorging on them. If (the federal government) is serious about restoring
rockfish, they should extend the salmon season for us."

Federal agencies recently placed tough restrictions on rockfish quotas
because several species have been overfished.

There is less competition out on the fishing grounds these days, said
Anderson, the owner and operator of the troller Allaine, and that's also helping
fishermen. The California salmon fleet has dwindled from about 5,000 boats to 500
in the past 15 years. Anderson, who has been fishing all his life, is
determined to hang tough.

"I grew up on my father's party boat, sleeping in the sink and steering from
an apple crate when I was five," said the muscular, silver-haired fisherman.

"With any luck, those of us who remain can survive," Anderson said. "Having
this retail outlet for our fish really helps us when the prices (from
distributors) get too low, as they are now."

The fishermen weren't shy about using the giveaway as a bully pulpit for
expounding on the virtues of wild salmon.

"People are finally starting to understand the problems with farmed salmon,"
MacLean said. "The recent lawsuit (against major grocery chains) over improper
labeling about the dyes that are used to make farmed salmon pink really
helped raise awareness. People also have to understand that pesticides and
antibiotics are used in salmon farming, that the wastes from the salmon pens are
horribly polluting and that farmed salmon simply doesn't taste as good as wild
salmon."

As far as the folks lined up on the pier were concerned, that was just
preaching to the choir.

"I come out here because I love the ocean and I love the boats, but I also
love wild salmon," said Frank Zurzola of Danville. "Whenever I go to the grocery
store, I always yell, 'When are you going to get some wild salmon?' The
clerks don't know what I'm talking about yet, but I'm trying to educate them."
 

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Re: So many salmon they\'re giving them away

Thanks for the great article. So they say the release of more water in the spawning rivers has made a huge increase of salmon in the ocean huh. Wow, they sure are smart down there in California. Maybe we could send some of our biologists to their schools then would we have stonger runs? :wink:
 

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Re: So many salmon they\'re giving them away

Nice of them to be so generous with our fish. I might be mistaken, but I believe those are southern Oregon fish.
 

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Re: So many salmon they\'re giving them away

Wonder what they are trying to suck up for?
 

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Re: So many salmon they\'re giving them away

Another example of increasing stream flows during critical times (outmigration on the Sacramento), better water quality in all the coastal rivers, and outstanding ocean conditions. Just goes to show you, you make the rivers, estuaries, and the ocean more fish friendly, and the numbers will rebound.
 

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Re: So many salmon they\'re giving them away

Glad to hear they have a positive take on this. Wonder if they have to shut the ocean down on fridays and saturdays like on the columbia? :mad:
 

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Re: So many salmon they\'re giving them away

The ocean has been good. We should have an outstanding fall run this year. Can't wait.

:dance: :dance: :dance:
 

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Re: So many salmon they\'re giving them away

From what I hear California has done a good job improving conditions for salmon on the Sacramento river. Seems like they got cooperation from several factions including enviromentalists and farmers. I don't all remember the details but I felt envious. Things have steadily improved over the past 50 years in the SF bay and delta.They even have Halibut fishing inside the bay. :shocked:
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Re: So many salmon they\'re giving them away

Just don't let the grass look greener on the other side of fence.

In the last two years we've had runs of fish on the Columbia that were the best in nearly 70 years.

We have the great ocean conditions to pat on the back for a lot of what has gone on both in California and on the Columbia.
 
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