CA Congressman Huffman Introduces The Salmon FISH Act

October 18, 2019

In early October, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) held a public meeting in Arcata to discuss updating the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). A roundtable of regional and local officials were candid about the problems, many pointing to essential fish habitats that needed protection.

Yesterday, Huffman, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife and Co-Chair of the Congressional Wild Salmon Caucus, introduced The Salmon FISH Act, intended to identify, restore, and protect the most important salmon rivers and watersheds in America. The bill will also ensure adequate funding to sustain thriving salmon populations.

One of the regional officials at Huffman’s listening session a few weeks ago was Mark Gorelnik, vice-chair of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which supervises fishing in California's oceans.

“Salmon is the lifeblood of fishing communities all up and down the coast," said Gorelnik. He added that four of California’s salmon stocks — two kinds each of Coho and chinook — have been declared overfished, which means they cannot be harvested. 

"They're not overfished because too many fish are taken out of the ocean. They're overfished because inland habitat — specifically water flow — has caused their numbers to fall. Juveniles are not surviving. They're not migrating. And the councils have no power to do anything about it."

This theme was repeated again and again over the course of the next two hours, according to a report in the North Coast Journal at the time. 

The problem, panelists said, is that while federal law protects the salmon while they are in the ocean, it has no power over inland rivers, where juvenile fish hatch and grow to maturity. Dams run by a different federal agency that has no mandate for fish conservation cut off water from the rivers, leaving them vulnerable to algae and overheating. Young fish die in the overheated waters and are vulnerable to the parasites and disease germs that flourish in warmer water, reported NCJ’s Elaine Weinreb.

Huffman’s new bill, titled The Salmon Focused Investments in Sustainable Habitats (FISH) Act, aims to improve the resiliency of those important salmon rivers in the country. It will also protect the essential habitats that have not yet been degraded and will help support the jobs and economic activity that depend on healthy salmon runs.

“Salmon have great ecological, cultural, and economic importance, and are a symbol of the American West. This is certainly the case for the fisheries and communities in my district, including many tribes that have relied on salmon since time immemorial,” said Representative Huffman. “The Salmon FISH Act will protect and restore the outstanding salmon habitats that still remain so that they can not only support thriving wild salmon, but also the communities and economies that depend on them.”

“We thank Congressman Huffman for taking this strong and important step forward for salmon today.” said Guido Rahr, President and CEO of Wild Salmon Center. “Salmon stronghold rivers and other important salmon conservation areas contain the most important wild salmon populations left on the planet. By protecting them, we will ensure strong runs of wild salmon into the future. Salmon are foundational for resilient coastal communities: a sign of ecosystem health and clean water, a source of jobs and food, and an inspiration to us all.”

“The Smith is considered one of our nation’s salmon stronghold rivers – and this is great news,” said Grant Werschkull Co-Executive Director of the Smith River Alliance in northwest California. “There is definitely a need for restoration within these core salmon producing watersheds. Investing in salmon habitat restoration brings diverse partners together and truly is investing in the health and future of our communities. We’re grateful to Congressman Huffman for his vision in introducing this legislation.” 

By:  Peggy Parker
Source: Seafood News