SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California on Wednesday banned fishing in some of the state's drought-stricken streams in an effort to protect imperiled salmon and steelhead, which rely on coastal waterways to grow and spawn.
The closures are aimed at protecting as many fish as possible as stream flows dwindle because of the severe drought, said Charlton Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"We fully understand the impact these closures will have on California anglers and the businesses related to fishing in California, and we really feel for them," Bonham said in a statement. "However the science is clear. Two-thirds of the wettest part of winter is now behind us, and conditions are looking increasingly grim."
Among the closures are the San Lorenzo River and its tributaries in Santa Cruz County; the Big Sur River and area streams; the Eel River in Humboldt County; and others.
Some anglers took the news in stride, saying the long-term health of the environment will benefit fishermen in the future.
"There will certainly be an impact this year on anglers and the businesses that supply them. But anglers would be ill-served in the long run by further stressing the present populations in coastal streams," Marc Gorelnik, of the Coastside Fishing Club, said. "First and foremost, we must be responsible stewards of our state's natural resources."
Most of California is in extreme drought, which led Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency.
The state this week also released a list of 17 rural communities in danger of running out of water within four months.
The sheer number of closures suggests how dire the dry weather has become for struggling populations of steelhead and salmon, both of which live part of their lives in fresh coastal streams and the ocean.
"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time the department has taken this kind of emergency action," said Jordan Traverso, a department spokeswoman.
The agency also recommended that the state Fish and Game Commission close parts of the much larger American and Russian rivers at the commission's Feb. 5 meeting.
"Let's just all hope for rain," Traverso said.