FORT BRAGG, Calif. — Salmon is king along California's Mendocino coast, but the monarch has been dethroned, leaving all the king's men and women in this hard-toiling town fearing for their livelihoods in a way they never have before.
"As of now, I'm broke," says Randy Thornton in the cabin of his 50-foot boat, his face coppered by sun and wind. Overhead, salmon rods with brightly colored lures are racked, idled for the year. Thornton's charter-fishing business has been killed by an unprecedented yearlong ban on salmon fishing — both commercial and sport.
Last week, California's Department of Fish and Game voted to ban salmon fishing in state waters, which extend out three miles from shore. Five days before, the Pacific Fishery Management Council had banned salmon fishing in the 200-mile-wide swath of federal waters off California and Oregon. The agencies took that step to shore up a salmon population that has plunged by 90 percent in the last five years.
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