Judge rejects attempt to close California salmon fishery


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A federal judge Friday killed an effort by a group of Central Valley irrigation districts to stop commercial salmon fishing off the California and Oregon coasts, rejecting claims that the federal government acted improperly when it reopened the season this year.

In one of his final rulings as a U.S. District Court judge, Oliver Wanger summarily dismissed a lawsuit filed by the San Joaquin River Group Authority, which argued that to help low salmon populations recover, there should be no commercial catch.


The irrigation districts were concerned that if Central Valley salmon populations don’t rebound, they would be forced to release more water to support salmon migration in the lower San Joaquin River and its tributaries.

Chinook salmon numbers had dropped so much that federal managers in 2008 and 2009 closed the commercial season and permitted only a small catch last year. This year, citing rising numbers, they approved a limited season.

Wanger, who has handled many of the state’s most contentious water cases in his two decades as a federal judge, stepped down from the bench Friday to return to private practice.


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--Bettina Boxall