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It's a bad year for California salmon. Here's how it hurts the economy and environment

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State officials were supposed to take a conservative approach to approving salmon fishing season this year—and they did.

California's fishing season had been scheduled to open April 1. Instead, as a result of low projections, the season has been canceled.

Salmon provides more to the state than meets the eye.

"People don't realize how much California's a salmon state," said Micheal Milstein, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesman. "The Sacramento River is one of the big salmon rivers off the West Coast."

As commercial and comes to a pause this year, here's what to know:

Economic consequences

According to the Golden State Salmon Association, "California's salmon industry is valued at $1.4 billion in economic activity.

Roger George, a Central Valley fishing guide, says he is hoping to protect salmon by "taking a hit right now in order to have something more positive happen later."

"Some of the people, the commercial fisherman off the coast, their businesses and their livelihoods, their way of life for those people is being jeopardized," George said.

Salmon will still make its way to plates across California, but the price tag may be higher as fish are brought in from Oregon, Alaska and Washington, The Mercury News reported.

Why is salmon important to the environment?

Salmon help feed the ecosystem by pushing oceanic nutrients into rivers streams.

More than 50 species benefit from the nutrients brought into the streams from salmon. They are then dispersed throughout the landscape through river food webs, according to the Wild Salmon Center, a conservation organization.

Overall, salmon "contribute to the richness of the river and the river ecosystem," Milstein said. "Those nutrients feed other things and in particular they also generate food for the young salmon when they hatch."

The healthier a river stream, the healthier the salmon stocks for future runs will be.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, salmon numbers are irregular during the three year life cycle. Data has shown that in years following wetter seasons fish stock has increased. Consequently there has been a decline in stock for years following drier seasons.

Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told The Los Angeles Times in early March: "The salmon are struggling, and we have great concern about their future, knowing we are fully committed to rebuilding them and saving them."

Why was the season canceled?

California's extreme summer temperatures and drought have both contributed to unsuitable conditions for salmon stock.

As a result, the National Marine Fisheries service canceled all ocean salmon fishery openers through at least May 15, according to a California Department of Fish and Wildlife news release on March 10.

"They've gotten hammered during the drought," Milstein said. "Many of the eggs have died from the water being too low or too warm."

In 2018, Chinook salmon nearly went extinct due to the five-year drought, in California. Fish officials put together a $100 million plan to rehabilitate the . Despite past efforts, 2023 projections for Sacramento River fall Chinook are forecast as one of the lowest since 2008.

This year's winter season has brought hefty rainfall to the Sacramento region, but whether the significant amount of water will help the Chinook is unclear.

"Certainly it's going to provide better conditions in the springtime," Milstein said. "But whether it lasts long enough to really benefit winter run and turn things around still remains to be seen."

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, current water levels in California can positively effects stock levels, but "evolving ocean conditions and ongoing climate disruptions" are reasons for caution.

When will fishing be allowed again?

The decision canceled all ocean salmon fishery openers between Cape Falcon, Oregon, through the U.S. border with Mexico through at least May 15

But Pacific Fishery Management Council has proposed three regulatory options for May 16 through May 15, 2024. All proposed options would stop commercial and sport fishing until April 2024.

That means it's likely there is no more salmon fishing this year.

PFMC is scheduled to meet April 1 to 7 in Foster City to make a final decision.

2023 The Sacramento Bee.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Citation: It's a bad year for California salmon. Here's how it hurts the economy and environment (2023, March 30) retrieved 12 June 2024 from
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