For the first time ever, salmon fishing in the Pacific Ocean has been banned. The prohibition, imposed by a federal panel, applies to waters off Washington, Oregon and California, though not to Alaska or British Columbia. "The combination of effects has created a natural disaster," says Robert Turner, director of fisheries for the state of Washington. The "effects' are mostly caused by humans, though unusual weather patterns over the Pacific are also to blame. On shore, logging, agricultural use and dams have drastically altered salmon habitat. The populations of coho and chinook salmon have been declining for more than a decade in almost all coastal rivers, although some systems such as the Columbia River have seen fish counts decline for decades. The salmon's decline in the Columbia coincided with the construction of dams. Already hard hit by layoffs in the timber industry, the season closure is already spawning predictions of economic disaster for many coastal towns. The Pacific Fishery Management Council, an arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce, ordered the closure at a meeting March 11 in Portland, Ore.