Yurok Tribe Closes Fishing Four Days Per Week, Partially Blames Marijuana Farms


Chinook Salmon [Photo by Josh Larios from Seattle, US via Wikimedia Commons]

Press release from the Yurok Tribal Council:

In response to the decline of wild spring Chinook salmon in the Klamath-Trinity Basin and concern about the status of green sturgeon, the Yurok Tribal Council has adopted stringent spring fishing regulations, including a four-day per week closure. “Closing the fishery is never an easy decision for our Council, especially when similar efforts aren’t made by others that harvest these imperiled stocks,” said Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr., Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “Our people depend on these fish to feed their families. We decided to make this sacrifice today to protect this crucial spring staple for future generations.”

The Tribe is concerned that wild spring Chinook of the Klamath Basin, especially those from the South Fork Trinity River (SFTR), are following a trend toward extirpation. More than 11,000 adult spring Chinook were estimated to return to the South Fork in 1964, yet during four of the last 12 years, less than 100 fish were counted during snorkel surveys of the river. Poor habitat is the primary factor that has led to the decline of spring Chinook, which has motivated the Tribe to engage in habitat restoration efforts in the SFTR. Harvest is not considered to be a primary factor contributing to stock’s decline, however the Tribe considers prudent harvest management to be a necessary tool to preserve this stock for future generations.

Currently, there are no regionally coordinated conservation objectives guiding the harvest of spring Chinook. The Yurok Tribe has chosen to reduce spring Chinook harvest impacts for the past couple of decades. This is consistent with the Tribe’s responsible approach to natural resource management, which puts a premium on long-term sustainability.

We encourage co-managers regulating the harvest of this species to adopt similar rules to protect these fish and begin to rebuild the Klamath River’s spring salmon populations,” David Gensaw, Vice Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “It is not easy for our fishers to stay off the river, while others proceed without consideration for these imperiled fish.

In recent years, water quantity and quality has decreased on the South Fork Trinity as a result of numerous large-scale marijuana farms in the watershed. During the summer months, when juveniles are rearing/emigrating and adults are migrating upstream to hold until the early fall, millions of gallons of water are illegally diverted to support the clandestine cannabis growing operations. At the same time, fertilizers leached into the waterways degrade water quality critical for the survival of juvenile and adult spring Chinook.

Another component of the spring regulations requires that the dorsal fin be removed from all harvested spring Chinook, so that they can clearly be identified as subsistence-only catch. As in past years, to protect these limited stocks, the Tribal Council adopted regulations making it illegal to sell or purchase spring Chinook. The adopted regulations are the result of four public fisher meetings, as well as review sessions with the Natural Resource Committee and the Yurok Tribe Fisheries Department.

The Tribe also adopted several regulations to further protect green sturgeon, in addition to the four-day per week closure. While population numbers are not available for this species, there are concerns that green sturgeon numbers are in decline. The enormous fish don’t reproduce until they are at least 15 years old, which makes them especially vulnerable to over-exploitation and habitat degradation.

Yurok people are inextricably connected to the natural world. The health and welfare of the Tribe is directly linked to that of the diverse ecosystems in the temperate rainforests of Northern California. Since there are no supermarkets on or near the Yurok Reservation, traditional foods, such as spring salmon, provide sustenance to many Yurok families. The decrease in availability of these important sources of nutrition coincides with a spike in diabetes and other health-related issues. To see the complete Spring Fishery regulations, please visit www.yuroktribe.org



  • Ban nylon nets.

    • Stop gillnetting , and play by the rules like everyone else/ non tribal members. Don’t blame your so called fishing methods on weed growers. KEEP YOUR NETS AWAY AND PROBLEM SOLVED. Fish with a pole.

      • But there is no gillnetting on the eel River and the salmon run there is in worse shape than the Klamath sooo how do you explain that?

        • Over fished years ago and poaching. Plus the Eel is the 3rd largest sediment load river. Do you know the count of Chinook on the Eel?

          • I heard about the Eel being one of the top sediment loaded rivers back in the 70’s.
            Only the ” Yellow River ” in China carried more dirt per gallon.

        • Christopher Contreras

          That’s because there is no water in the EEL -because all the feeder creeks are being dammed up for the pot farms.

      • Whose rules? There are rules regarding fishing they are allowed 50% of the harvestable surplus. WHat are the rules regarding weed cultivation and water use? I thought so its illegal.

    • How about banning white people on the reservation?

  • It’s surprising there’s any water left in the South Fork Trinity. Hayfork and Hyampom have blown up crazy- just look on Google Maps satellites. Here’s a crazy idea- start busting the biggest grows! The plants just sit there in broad daylight drinking up that river. All you have to do is drive up to them and cut them down. Oh, but that’s too much work for the sheriff! What a stupid problem we have. Hey- but at least we get to drive a species into extinction so let’s light a spliff to that! Oh and weed is so medically awesome check out my vacation tan and my new monster truck brah!

    • Most of the followers of this site are growers.

      • sharpen your pencil

        While people stealing water from the river plays a HUGE part in this. The tribes continued over fishing, as well as lack of enforcement of existing guidelines can’t be swept under the rug. No body but the tribe is over fishing the trinity. When most of your tribe is severely over weight I think you can afford to cut back on your salmon intake and maybe you could grow yourself an awesome garden…

        The tribe constantly fails to except any responsibility for anything that happens on tribal land. Somehow everything is someone else’s fault, and they wonder why they have such a bad drug issue in their community, but wait that isn’t their fault either….

        • They are overweight from eating processed foods. Poor people have poor diets. More salmon would probably be a good things for them.

        • The Tribe does not overfish. Where is your proof? The Tribe gets 50% of the harvestable surplus and the commercial and recreational fisherpeople get the rest. It doesn’t matter how they are caught they are caught and counted. It doesn’t surprise me, but disgusts me that people come from a place of bigotry and hate in their indictment of the Tribe for bringing attention to the plight of the salmon. The Tribe is specifically mentioning the SF Trinity which is impacted a great deal by weed farming. Spring Chinook require cold, clean water in the summer because they are stream-type Chinook and must mature in streams as opposed to ocean-type which come into the rivers in the fall mature. Weed farming takes springs and headwaters which are the sources of the cold, clean water the Chinook require.

          There is a strong correlation between the sources of food and rates of diabetes in Indigenous populations. Eating traditional sources of food does not result in obesity and diabetes. Eating today’s diet of processed food high in refined sugar and other contaminants affects many, but has an even greater affect on non-europeans.


          • Thanks for taking the time to comment Dan, you speak the truth.

          • Dan, I’m all for sustenance fishing. Im all for native rights. But lets be honest here. I spend lots of days on the river. I have been to many dances. I see nets stretched across the river (which is illegal), left over night( again, illegal) and sometimes left for days. Ive seen boats packed full of salmon and not a single fish counter or anyone keeping up with numbers. Who keeps up with the harvest up river? Sure at Klamath mouth there is some accountability, but what about the rest of the river??

            • They make multiple trips up and down the river every day to count nets and fish. I am more confident in their numbers than I am rec fishing or commercial ocean fishing. Just because you don’t see it happening doesn’t mean it is not. we tend to see (or not) what we want to see. Cognitive dissonance.

        • Last year the Yurok Tribe made a concerted effort to stop grows on the reservation. Why are you trying to mislead and misinform?

  • Thats nice, what about the other players along the river? The state of California, the federal government, the other tribes?

  • gold rush..green rush. its been happening for well over a century now.

    also it seems a little ridiculous that someone would say that this would lead to a spike in diabetes.

  • Laurie Jensen

    I have seen first hand how the fertilizer’s and rodent poisons kill off not only the fish but also our 4 legged furry and feathered friends. I have nothing against pot grows, but so have a major problem with using fertilizers that are not organic, and using rodent poison is really wrong. Not only does it hurt the wild-life but it gets into our water that we are using. I hope it isnt way to late to correct this problem!!! Gill netting has been a way of life for all the Indian Nations for century’s, and the Salmon always came back and filled the rivers. Once the greedy pot growers started using non-natural organic fertilizer, and poison’s is when this decline on the Salmon started. Dont put the blame on netting, go back to natural fertilizers, and traps for the rodents, then our streams and creeks would run pure again, and we would all benefit Hope you all have a wonderful Mothers Day Week-end

    • I have no argument with regards to organic fertilizers and pesticides, but the use of nylon gill nets is far removed from traditional fishing methods. Also, the decline in fisheries preceded the “green rush” by decades.

    • “Gill netting has been a way of life for all the Indian Nations for century’s”, I’m not sure this is fact, at least not the local natives. Gill netting is new. The native tribes of the Klamath/Trinity did not use gill nets. Show me an old photo of traditional fishing using gill nets.

      • Natives kill Sturgeon all the time. The nets they use are non discriminating. They kill ever species that gets caught. The problem with the decline in these fish is multifaceted. There is no “one” cause. The decline started many years ago with commercial fisheries located on our local rivers. The local tribes should also do a better job of policing the rivers. Many times I’ve seen gill nets stretched out in the river and left for days without anyone checking them. Also, the tribes should not be allowed to sell fish either. CFW needs to ramp up enforcement on poachers. Poaching in all of our local rivers is huge.

        • Why should you say how the fish are used? They get 50% of the harvestable surplus. Commercial fishermen and rec fishermen get the rest. Why should commercial fishermen be able to sell their fish and not the Tribe? You sound like you would rather the Tribe not be treated equally.

          • They were awarded the privilege of gill netting for sustenance , not for commercial enterprises. Also, jump through the same regulations and have a spotter on the boats of you want to sell the fish.

            • Simply not true. The Boldt decision said nothing about selling fish or not selling fish. And who says selling fish isn’t part of their sustenance? How do they purchase fishing equipment and boats.

        • Christopher Contreras

          Mrs. Jensen I agree with you 100%, with the endangered Pine marten at risk we cannot afford these greedy growers with their poisons- they have no clue what they are hurting!

        • Christopher Contreras

          [edit] they Yurok have inhabited their land for over 10,000 years,until the white man decided to push them aside to open their commercial canneries at the mouth of the river-(that is stealing plain and simple!)once the stocks almost crashed the canneries were left like a ghost town and once the fisheries came back it turned into a whitemans sport paradise and then in the 70’s sparked river wars where white law enforcement agents thought it was o.k. to beat elderly Yurok women with batons for just trying to pull in fish for their families-a cowardly act by the white establishment- NEVER AGAIN!!!!!

      • Old photos? Remember Tribal fishing was outlawed for decades. FOr the 10,000+ years before that there weren’t a lot of pics. You can find rocks on the Klamath that were used to anchor nets. In addition, they put up weirs. They certainly didn’t use “poles.” Sturgeon have always been used by the Tribe. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to continue? They monitor the harvest and now they are restricting it. They simply want other people to take responsibility for their share of the harm.

        • “Sturgeon have always been used by the Tribe. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to continue?”, maybe because there is only a handful left of the species.
          I’m not so sure about the nets. Im pretty sure a native told me they traditional did not “net”. Netting was some what new. Dip nets, yes.

          • Than I guess those anchor stones were for show?

            • Biz As Usually

              Not sure. How many traditional nets have you seen? Who teaches net weaving? How many people on the Klamath/Trinity now how to weave a traditional net? What is the native word for gill net? Who taught the ancient practice of gill netting? What material was used for these nets? What proof is there that gill nets have been used traditionally? Did they fish from the bank or hand dug canoes? I truly want to know.

  • Who can’t fish the 4 days of no fishing?

    “Our people depend on these fish to feed their families”, some of them, maybe.

  • fiveyearsaheadofmytime

    “no supermarkets on or near the reservation”? Except for one in Hoopa, one in Willow Creek, and a handful in Crescent City.

    • sharpen your pencil

      Honestly they would probably go for a McDonald’s before they would go for anymore supermarkets…. Also wtf is up with Klamath taking out the subway for slot machines and a Chester Fried. Nothing says a commitment to health like that combination…… “don’t worry kids, you see these slot machines? Well soon enough you can go to the big casino and lose all your money, look into the bright lights!”

    • The Yurok reservation? Reading comprehension please.

  • Decades of commercial fishing in the ocean catching 100s of thousands of pounds a year and the drought are the two big salmon killers, hate to say it but eliminate commercial salmon fishing in the ocean and their numbers will sky rocket.Allow private fishermen to fish all they want,if you want a salmon go out and catch it.Private fishermen wouldn’t be able to harvest entire schools or put a dent in the population.Win win situation

    • sharpen your pencil

      Also… having operational hatcheries would help a lot. You would think a community that “lived” off of fish would be a leader in this activity…..

  • “Harvest is not considered to be a primary factor contributing to stock’s decline,”
    Well, if they weren’t harvested, they would have a chance. It still boggles me any fish make it up river. Have you ever seen how many fish get pulled out of the Klamath/Trinity rivers by net?

    • How many fish are caught in the ocean? The Tribe is allocated 50% of the harvestable surplus.

      • Well, last year, in this area , very few. But yes, the charter boats and rec fisherman can put the hammer on some salmon.

      • Are we talking strictly KMZ fish or what? Also, to say gill nets were historically used on the Klamath is laughable at best. Grandpa would love to hear that comment.

        • It’s irrelevant if they did or didnt. They have a very short time to catch their share of the fish. What other method could they use? Weirs have their own set of problems including delaying migration in a system that has already had fish kills because of delayed migration and overcrowding. During the time when the Tribe is harvesting fish they are not catching non target species. Nets are a non issue. Bigotry is obviously an issue. Many Native Americans see the white man’s practice of hooking a fish in the lip and playing it over a long period of time torture. It’s all a matter of perspective. Native Americans don’t make a sport out of harvesting their food.

          • fiveyearsaheadofmytime

            The Yurok chairman definitely doesn’t make harvesting his food a sport, he just drives around until he sees a deer, then shoots it from inside his truck. Very unsportsmanlike!

            • Christopher Contreras

              IT ON THE REAL!

              • fiveyearsaheadofmytime

                You think you’re “keeping it on the real” but I’m guessing that you’ve been waiting a long time to spew out these words as a form of self confirmation that you are the righteous bro that you’ve convinced yourself you are.

                My comment, that you obviously took very personal for some reason, is based on a present day fact and I posted it as a response to something Dan stated.

        • Well they are not harvesting non-kmz fish in the Klamath River. Ocean fishing is in large part dictated by the number of Klamath fish in the ocean.

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  • Why isn’t anybody talking about Big Ag taking all water out of the Klamath for cattle ranching and produce farms? That’s the real reason the fish are declining. Farmers and cows are more important than fish. If it wasn’t for the tribes fighting for the fish, the Klamath and Trinity would be dead rivers already! And yes, nets are traditional.. Ever heard of dip nets? There’s more pesticide and fertilizer from farm runoff than all the marijuana grows. And the farms get the water for next to nothing$! What about the offshore commercial fisheries? Are they also expected to use a more ‘traditional method’ of fishing?! When it comes to fish harvest allocations, off shore fisheries gets the lions share, not tribes..

  • ” Ever heard of dip nets”, very different from stretching a gill net across the river. Yes, the ocean fisherman do get the lion share.

    • There is no way dip nets could be used to effectively harvest their share of salmon over the short time that fish are running. Dip nets are also not effective in many parts of the Yurok reservation. Karuks dip net upstream at Ishi Pishi falls but the conditions are entirely different.

  • I don’t like the insinuation that other interests are not concerned with returns. As a commercial salmon fisherman from the most northern port in California, I have been subject to severe restrictions for several years now. We’re doing our part. We depend on the fish too, you know. They feed our families too. Habitat degradation is a real issue here, but maybe it’s time for the natives to look at other means of procuring besides the gill net. It ain’t the only “traditional” means of catching.

    • So how are they supposed to catch their share over the short period of time that fish are migrating upriver? Weirs cause overcrowding and migration delays which are known to cause fish kills on the Klamath. What does it matter how the fish are harvested? And the only people insinuating are people that somehow believe that the Yurok Tribe exercising their treaty rights is the issue. Poor habitat conditions affect the harvest of Tribes, commercial, and recreational fishermen. Commercial ocean fisheries have significant bycatch of undersized and non target species. Tribal fisheries do not have by catch they keep and utilize everything they catch. It really is curious to me why there is so much animosity towards the Tribes exercising their treaty rights as upheld under the Boldt decision.

      • fiveyearsaheadofmytime

        You repeatedly mention how you just cant believe all the bigotry and animosity against native Americans. At the same time your statements are full of derogatory remarks about white people. You are a racist! It’s very clear that you hate white people. It’s too bad that your knowledge of the river and the fish is tainted by your hatred of white people. Not all white people are bad and not all native Americans are good.

        • Christopher Contreras


        • I know I hate myself. I was responding to the hateful remarks and ignorance when people commented on the diabetes epidemic, Native Americans not using traditional gear, they have no right, etc, etc. WHy is that when someone stands up for another’s rights you get attacked? Its called bigotry. You may not think you are, but deep down you hate the fact that Native Americans exercising their rights just catches in your craw a little bit. I know many fine white people, myself included…

          • fiveyearsaheadofmytime

            For the record I did not say to you, Dan, that you must hate yourself. I said that as a reply to C.C. Replies are indented to the right and below the comment it’s in relation to.

  • I know a bunch of growers on lower sf that are good folks, and would be interested in a solution if there was one put forward. Let’s talk ideas that would help, instead of blame game. I like the big 50k gallon+ Rainwater catchment steel tanks. They last forever (unlike bladders) and are good addition to any homestead. Downside- expensive. But maybe some financing system could get figured out.

  • Ban gill netting! Don’t you have a casino?

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  • 500 lb Gorilla

    Lots of Finger pointing! ignoring the fact that breeding fish are being removed from their breeding grounds, with equipment and methods that were not available to a native population that was no where near the size of our modern society. This doesn’t do much for reproduction. Do all the studies you want, build all the habitat you want. Blame everyone else, and thier recreation, activity, or industry. If anyone truley cared for the resource and not just their interest, they would begin by stopping all removal of spawning fishes! Period! Its all BS beyond that. Time to start farming. We don’t go out and try to feed our entire population by hunting wild land animals in their breeding grounds. Why should the ocean be treated different?

  • Lots of misinformation all the way around. Cannabis culitvation certainly did not make springers on the South Trinity or eleswhere in the basin decline to their current low numbers. Dams, hatcheries, overfishing, mining, and sloppy logging all played major roles and still do. in the South Fork Trinity, the 1964 flood filled in their holding a rearing pools as it caused lots of failures of sloppy roads. This is a hard one to restore. The issue with cannabis is that now that springers in the South Fork are on the brink, any additional problems can be serious. The Tribe should be commended for the fishery closure days and hopefully the Hoopa Tribe can follow suit. The Yurok Tribe has been falsely emphasizing the impact of cannabis cultivation in general, which makes them look ignorant or dishonest. Hopefully that can do a better job in framing the issues more accurately in their press releases.

    and for all the racists out there, the Tribes did use wiers on all local rivers that could have wiped out the falls runs but they didnt becuase they were good managers with a focus on balance and stewardship

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