OREGON COAST Oregon’s salmon fishing fleet finally reeled in a break — but not many fish along with it.
The federal disaster relief funding for last year’s restricted Chinook salmon fishing season, signed by the president in May, finally reached Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission in August and checks are expected to start going out as early as this month. “It’s a huge relief,” says Nancy Fitzpatrick, administrator of the Oregon Salmon Commission.
The only pitfall is, with the way the 2007 fishing season is going, there might just be another disaster declared. “I’ve been around the fishing business for 30-plus years,” says Jeff Reeves, a North Bend-based fisherman and vice-chair of the Oregon Salmon Commission, “and this is the worst I remember seeing for Chinook.”
Out on his boat in August, Reeves suspected he might actually bring a profitable load to shore for the first time this year. But even if the salmon season picks up this fall, it got a slow start up and down the coast.
The scarcity drove up prices — at $6.30 a pound a single 15-pound fish is worth close to $100 — but was discouraging for the fleet when so many boats were coming back with light loads. So it was welcome news that every salmon fisherman would get at least $3,000 in relief funding for safety and maintenance work on their boats.
“We’ve had two real bad years in a row,” says Mark Newell, a Toledo-based fisherman and wholesaler. “People weren’t making enough money to keep their boats maintained.”
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