Thursday, January 31, 2008

Salmon, Waxing & Waning

A good look at the situation, though neglecting to note the difficulty of providing the right balance of cold water and proper river flow in the American for spawning, which the Auburn Dam would probably correct, but it is a correct call for much more study prior to a huge outlay of funds.

A new Auburn Dam report may address this issue in the coming months.

Editorial: Our shrinking salmon
Answer to 'unprecedented collapse' needed
Published 12:00 am PST Thursday, January 31, 2008

Throughout the ages, salmon populations have been known to gyrate from year to year.

Newborn salmon that enjoy a perfect combination of river and ocean conditions come swimming back in huge numbers three or four years later. Lousy environmental conditions lead to a salmon decline.

Apparently, life for Central Valley salmon was pretty lousy four years ago. The current fall run of fish is at near-record lows. A preliminary count suggests that the 2007 class of Valley salmon will consist of a mere 90,000 fish, compared to more than 250,000 in 2006 and 800,000 in 2002.

Federal fishery regulators are calling the downturn an "unprecedented collapse," meaning that commercial fishermen can expect to see fishing restrictions beyond those that are already hurting this industry. Gone are the days when consumers could easily find fresh, locally caught salmon for less than $10 a pound.

If only it were easy to understand what is driving this downturn. Dams, water diversions, pollution and loss of shady river habitat clearly are hurting the effort to rebuild numbers of natural spawners.

But water diversions have spiked steadily since the 1990s in the Central Valley, and salmon nonetheless had impressive runs from 2001 to 2003. That suggests that stresses on salmon go beyond the Valley's water projects and extend far out into the ocean.