Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bass eating the Salmon?

A whole new take on the recent reduction in the salmon runs, from this article in the Modesto Bee.

An excerpt.

“Every spring, some of the water that might have gone to farms instead flows down the Tuolumne River to help young salmon get to sea.

“And every spring, officials with the Modesto Irrigation District say, striped bass gobble up many of these fish as they swim through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

“The MID is trying to get state and federal officials to control the bass population rather than seek increased releases from Don Pedro Reservoir.

“The district contends that the bass, introduced to California in 1879, have come to dominate the delta at the expense of salmon and other struggling native fish.

"What's written on the wall, from my perspective, is one word: predation," said Tim O'Laughlin, the district's general counsel, during a Nov. 17 presentation to its board.

“MID General Manager Allen Short said the argument has gained little traction with people who insist that the best solution for salmon is increased flows.

“But water is just what is needed, said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.

"MID is just in big-time denial," he said. "They and others have got to acknowledge that a certain amount of water has to be left for the estuary and the fish."

“Grader said salmon and bass co-existed for most of the past 140 years and they can do so again if river flows increase.

“Salmon counts ebb and flow on the Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne rivers, peaking most recently in 2000 with nearly 42,000 fish but plummeting to fewer than 2,000 last year. Officials expect low numbers this year because of drought in the mountains and warming ocean temperatures.

“The stakes are high: The MID and Turlock Irrigation District supply about 210,000 acres of farmland with Tuolumne River water, which also is part of the city of Modesto's drinking water supply.”