Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Salmon Run in Trouble

Let’s hope this is just a natural aberration.

Salmon run verges on a collapse
Sport and commercial fishing are in jeopardy.
By Matt Weiser -
Published 12:11 am PST Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Sacramento River's fall chinook salmon population is headed for a collapse, according to new federal data, threatening the upcoming commercial and recreational fishing season on one of the country's most important runs.

The fall chinook run in the Central Valley has long been touted as a conservation success story. As many other species declined, fall salmon spawning in the Sacramento River and its tributaries held reliably above 200,000 fish for 15 years.

But in fall 2007, the number of spawners suddenly fell to just 90,414 fish, the second-lowest total since 1973. That includes wild and hatchery-raised fish.

The news came in a memo e-mailed Monday from the director of the Pacific Fishery Management Council to council board members.

The numbers are preliminary and normally are not made public until February. But they represent a steep drop from the 2006 return of about 270,000 chinook.

"It's frightening to think how far we've fallen so quickly," said J.D. Richey, a salmon fishing guide on the American River, a key tributary that contributes to the Valley's chinook run. "It's pretty bleak."