Saturday, January 09, 2010

Poor Sacramento River salmon runs a bad sign for Oregon's fishing fleet

What remains of the Oregon coast's salmon fishing fleet is largely dependent on chinook salmon that are born and spawn in California's Sacramento River but mature in the ocean.

Poor runs in the Sacramento have led to the repeated shutdown of the salmon fishing here, and the signs are pointing to another nonexistent commercial fishing season this year.
The Sacramento Bee's Matt Weiser reported this week on the state of the fall chinook runs in the Sacramento River:

The run as a whole seems likely to turn out the same or slightly smaller than in 2008, which was the smallest year ever recorded.

"We are really upset," said Dick Pool, president of Pro-Troll Fishing Products, a Bay Area manufacturer of salmon fishing tackle. "Every appearance is the fall run returns this year (2009) may set a new record low."

Weiser reports the cause of the poor runs is two-fold: poor ocean conditions, and environmental degradation and water withdrawals for irrigation in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Those poor returns contrast with relatively strong runs in the Columbia Basin and on coastal river further north.

The fishing seasons are set by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

Weiser's article goes on to say that the fall chinook run could eventually be listed under the Endangered Species Act, leading to further fishing and farming restrictions.

In a related story in Redding's Record Searchlight, Dylan Darling reports on the effect the disappointing run is having on the system's biggest salmon-producing hatchery:

Normally, the hatchery's biologists choose the biggest, strongest and healthiest fish to supply eggs and sperm for the following spring's young.
This year, Darling reported, they aren't being so picky.

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