Thursday, January 24, 2008

Shrinking Salmon Runs

Quite a few less salmon this year than in years past, not a good thing.

Posted on Wed, Jan. 23, 2008
Here’s the catch: fewer salmon
David Sneed

For the first time in its 25-year history, Central Coast Salmon Enhancement will not raise and release Chinook salmon into the ocean at Port San Luis this year.

The Grover Beach-based fisheries conservation group endured a series of setbacks last month, including its four rearing pens washing up on the beach during heavy swells.

But the biggest problem facing the group is the state’s collapsing salmon fishery.While volunteers were working to salvage the pens, word came from the Department of Fish and Game’s Mokelumne River Hatchery in San Joaquin County that so few fish migrated upstream from the ocean last year that no fish will be available for any pen-rearing programs.

“It’s not going to happen this year — maybe 2009,” said Thorv Hessellund, president of the group’s board of directors.

Although the group does habitat restoration and public education work, pen-rearing as many as 140,000 small fish each year is Central Coast Salmon Enhancement’s cornerstone activity.

Over the years, the group has released more than 1.5 million salmon into the ocean, where they are caught by recreational and commercial anglers.

“This is a big loss in terms of the mission of the program,” Hessellund said.

The group has also lost two of its 20-by-40-foot rearing pens. Unusually large swells in December ripped all four of the pens out of their moorings and washed them onto the beach at Port San Luis.