Feb 25, 2010 1:14 PM by Steve Adamson
It appears that there is going to be a third year in a row of no salmon fishing coming up for California. After the smallest number of king salmon on record returned to spawn last fall in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River system, the Pacific Fishery Management Council will likely recommend to close the salmon season once again.
Only about 39,530 natural and hatchery king salmon returned in 2009 to spawn. Those numbers are down even further from the 66,264 in 2008 and 90,000 in 2007. Thus, with the numbers even smaller this past year, it appears that the 2010 salmon season will not happen.
A minimum of 122,000 are needed to maintain the health of the fishery, according to the Department of Fish and Game.
For local fisherman, the news couldn't be more disappointing. "Our community all relies on salmon. It's just hard up and down the coast on everybody," says Morro Bay salmon fisherman Tom Roff.
Local restaurants like Dorn's in Morro Bay say it hurts their business when they can't sell local California wild salmon. General Manager Chris Dorn says, "People come in specifically for that local product and when we can't get it, the sales definitely go down. People don't want farmed salmon, they don't want frozen salmon, they want fresh local salmon."
Roff noted that, "the sad part is for many years California fisherman took a hit on the price because farm salmon drove the price of wild fish down. People finally decided that even though wild fish costs more money, they taste better, they're better for you....and now that we have a pretty good demand for it in California, we can't fill it. It's really a crazy situation."
While biologists don't know the exact cause that has led to the sharp decline, Roff has his own theory on why it has happened. He says fish have been killed near the pumps that export water from the spawning grounds in the Sacramento river. "The state has allowed an additional 16-18% of water withdrawals from the river at the time the fish were migrating out of the system."
"The years we had the best salmon fishing, the flows were restricted at certain times to allow the out-migration of the smolts." ( young salmon )
Whatever the root cause is, the bottom line is that there are simply too few fish spawning right now. As the Department of Fish and Game begin the two-month long management process February 25h to evaluate data used in establishing ocean and river salmon fishing seasons, the anticipation is that the data already seen is indicating it'll more than likely mean no salmon fishing again for California in 2010.
Over the past two years of no salmon fishing, the Department of Fish and Game estimates at least 2700 fishery jobs have been lost in the state.
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