Productos del MarFeb. 23, 2011
Temporada de salmones se ve promisoria en California
A three-year near shutdown of salmon fishing off the California coast might be drawing to a close.
Spawning fish in the state’s most economically valuable salmon run last year met, barely, a key target for the first time since 2006.
Another key indicator — the number of adolescent fish in rivers — reached its highest point since 2004, a sign that the adult fish set to return from the ocean this year may have rebounded markedly.
“It looks like we’re going to be probably not in a normal season but back to closer to normal,” said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, a commercial salmon industry group. “There’s a reason to be cautiously optimistic.”
Regulators who will set the fishing season are likely to be cautious given the shocking depth of the collapse of Sacramento River fall-run chinook in 2007.
“About all I can say now is there is some potential for improved opportunity off California,” Chuck Tracy, a staff scientist for the Pacific Fishery Management Council, said in an e-mail Friday.
The number of adolescent fish was encouraging, Tracy said, but regulators have yet to determine whether restrictions will be needed to protect salmon expected to spawn in the Klamath River this year.
The Sacramento River fall run was historically the backbone of California’s commercial salmon industry, reliably producing hundreds of thousands of fish to supply millions of pounds of salmon for market each year.
In 2007, the run nearly disappeared.
Even amid a slump among all West Coast salmon runs, the sharp decline here stood out.
For the first time, a commercial salmon industry born during the Gold Rush era was shut down in 2008, and again in 2009.
Last year, the industry was allowed to fish for eight days.
The story was essentially the same for recreational anglers –a full closures in 2008 and 2009, and very limited fishing in 2010, though they were allowed to go after another, smaller run in the late fall.
Now, the salmon numbers appear to be turning around.
The council, which sets fishing regulations in the ocean, has a goal of 122,000 to 180,000 fall-run salmon returning to spawn each year.
Last year, it expected about 180,000 fish to return to the Sacramento River and its tributaries. Only 125,353 did.
For those whose livelihood, or recreational passions, rely on salmon fishing, that is cause for encouragement, but hardly elation.
Last year’s spawning fish faced almost no pressure from anglers, and they were a generation that benefited from swimming out of San Francisco Bay as babies in 2008, a year in which temperature and food conditions in the ocean have been described as the best in decades.
Some fishers worry that good news this year might reduce pressure to fix ongoing problems in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and rivers, said Marc Gorelnik, an El Cerrito recreational angler and board member of the Coastside Fishing Club.
Ocean conditions were also good in 2009, which might help explain why the outlook for salmon returns in the fall appears good.
Gorelnik and Grader said this year’s fish also were helped by new regulations on state water managers and the increased acclimating baby fish trucked to San Francisco Bay from hatcheries.
The collapse was caused nearly three years before it was detected in late 2007, according to a study of the problem commissioned by the fishery management council.
In early 2005, fish that swam out of San Francisco Bay as babies encountered food scarcity.
Warm ocean conditions put the lid on upwelling waters that host great blooms of sea life and instead filled the sea with low-fat organisms.
It was a year in which Cassin’s auklets, a seabird, abandoned their nests on the Farallon Islands, gray whales were reported to be emaciated and sea lions foraged far from shore, the 2009 report found.
Importantly, the ocean problems unmasked deep-rooted issues in salmon’s inland habitat, the report said.
Dams blocking upstream habitat led to the development of hatcheries, which are now producing most of the state’s salmon. Rivers and the Delta have lost floodplain.
In short, the state’s salmon are homogenized because they are nearly all produced in similar hatcheries and reared in similar habitats.
Like a lack of diversity in a financial portfolio, the lack of diversity in the salmon population’s genes means that their numbers are likely to bounce up and down with more volatility. A downturn in ocean conditions would not have caused such a sharp drop in salmon numbers if inland conditions were better and the population were more diverse, the report said.
The state Department of Fish and Game will host a meeting March 1 in Santa Rosa where the latest information on the outlook for the season will be laid out and public comment accepted. That meeting is scheduled to be from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council will host a series of meetings in Washington, Oregon and California before settling on tentative fishing regulations for the year April 12 in San Mateo.