[env-trinity] Various Articles- Salmon supply is collapsing
tstokely at trinityalps.net
Wed Jan 30 12:42:43 PST 2008
Salmon supply is collapsing, officials say; Number of fish that returned to spawn in the Sacramento River this past year is down by 67 percent
Associated Press – 1/30/08
By Terence Chea, staff writer
SAN FRANCISCO -- The state's largest salmon run is suffering an "unprecedented collapse," part of a broader decline throughout the West that has scientists vexed and likely will trigger severe fishing restrictions, according to federal fishery regulators.
The number of chinook, or king, salmon returning from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the Sacramento River and its tributaries this past fall dropped 67 percent from a year earlier, according to an internal memo to members of the Pacific Fishery Management Council.
The Central Valley salmon population has fallen by more than 88 percent from its high five years ago, when salmon restoration efforts in the Sacramento watershed were being touted as a wildlife management success story.
However, recent years have seen salmon populations steadily dwindle in the Sacramento and many other western rivers, and scientists are trying to understand why.
Some say they believe it's related to changes in the ocean linked to global warming. Others blame the troubles in California on increased pumping of fresh water from the Delta.
In his e-mail to members of the fishery management council, Executive Director Donald McIsaac offered "an early alert to what at this point appears to be an unprecedented collapse in the abundance of adult California Central Valley ... fall Chinook salmon stocks."
"The magnitude of the low abundance ... is such that the opening of all marine and freshwater fisheries impacting this important salmon stock will be questioned," he said.
About 90,000 returning adult salmon were counted in the Central Valley in 2007, the second lowest number on record, the memo said. The population was at 277,000 in 2006 and 804,000 five years ago.
It's the second time in 35 years that the Central Valley has not met the agency's conservation goal of 122,000 to 180,000 returning fish, according to the council, which regulates Pacific Coast fisheries.
More worrisome is that only about 2,000 2-year-old juvenile chinooks returned to the Central Valley last year, by far the lowest number ever counted. On average, about 40,000 juveniles, or "jacks," return each year.
The low number of juvenile salmon means this year's runs are likely to be even smaller.
Complete statistics on other key salmon runs won't be available for two weeks, but experts said it looks like a bad year for salmon elsewhere in the West.
Ron Boyce, a salmon program manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the Rogue River barely hit its goal of 20,000 fall chinook in 2006 and 2007.
Coastal rivers farther north are in even bigger trouble.
Oregon's Coquille River has seen steadily diminishing returns the past three years, and the Siletz River farther north saw 500 fish, less than 20 percent of the goal.
"This is a large-scale phenomenon affecting chinook stocks and other species coastwide," Boyce said. "It appears for those northern Oregon coast streams, we will not be able to make escapement goals even without any fishing on them."
It is difficult to point to a cause, but the fact that both hatchery and wild fish are showing low returns points to the ocean and estuaries, where salmon spend most of their lives, said Curt Melcher, deputy director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Last year there were very unusual conditions in the ocean, Boyce said. Southwesterly winds blew all summer, driving warm waters near shore and disrupting the marine food chain.
Some fishers and environmentalists say they believe the sharp decline in Central Valley chinook is related to increased water exports from the Delta, which supplies drinking water to millions of people in drought-stricken Southern California, as well as irrigation for America's most fertile farming region.
"It's time to reduce pumping of Delta waters before we destroy the fish and wildlife species we appreciate so much in California," said Mike Sherwood, an attorney for Oakland-based Earthjustice.
Salmon that spawn in Central Valley rivers form the backbone of the West Coast's commercial and recreational salmon fishery and are caught by fishers from Southern California to British Columbia.
More than 90 percent of the wild salmon harvested in California originate in the Sacramento River system, officials say.
"Sacramento fish are really what the fishery depends on," said Chuck Tracy, the council's salmon management officer. "When Central Valley fish are low, it gets really hard to catch fish even if you're given the opportunity."
The council plans to meet in Sacramento in March to discuss possible restrictions, including a complete closure of the salmon season that begins in May. Final decisions will be made at its meeting in Seattle in April.
"Even if they have a salmon fishing season, there won't be very much salmon to catch without a strong Central Valley component," said Alan Grover, a biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game.
Duncan MacLean, a Half Moon Bay fisher who is on a team that advises the fishery council, said he's bracing for hard times.
"It's probably going to be worse than anything we've experienced before," said MacLean, 58, who relies on salmon fishing for as much as 70 percent of his income. "It's going to put a lot of us out of business. I don't know how I am going to be paying my bills through the summer."
Dick Pool, who owns Concord-based fishing gear manufacturer Pro-Troll, said the salmon collapse will be felt in fishing communities all along the coast, noting that a recent study found that recreational anglers spend more than $2 billion annually in California.
"The impact is going to be huge," said Pool, a former board member of the American Sportfishing Association. "It will take its toll on manufacturing, retailers, wholesalers, fishermen and the charter fleet."
The salmon fishing industry is still reeling from severe limits on West Coast salmon fishing in 2006 to protect dwindling populations on the Klamath River in Northern California and Oregon.
After three years of poor returns, the number of returning Klamath chinook in 2007 exceeded minimums set by federal fishery managers. Preliminary counts showed about 50,000 spawners, though low numbers of juvenile fish indicate there may be poor returns of adult salmon this year.
The precipitous decline of Central Valley chinook marks a dramatic reversal for what's traditionally been one of the West Coast's most abundant salmon runs.
After hitting a record low of 83,000 returning adult salmon in 1992, Sacramento River salmon returns rose steadily during the next decade as the state and federal government spent about $1 billion to restore salmon runs throughout the river system. #
Salmon run verges on a collapse; Sport and commercial fishing are in jeopardy
Sacramento Bee – 1/30/08
By Matt Weiser, staff writer
The Sacramento River's fall chinook salmon population is headed for a collapse, according to new federal data, threatening the upcoming commercial and recreational fishing season on one of the country's most important runs.
The fall chinook run in the Central Valley has long been touted as a conservation success story. As many other species declined, fall salmon spawning in the Sacramento River and its tributaries held reliably above 200,000 fish for 15 years.
But in fall 2007, the number of spawners suddenly fell to just 90,414 fish, the second-lowest total since 1973. That includes wild and hatchery-raised fish.
The news came in a memo e-mailed Monday from the director of the Pacific Fishery Management Council to council board members.
The numbers are preliminary and normally are not made public until February. But they represent a steep drop from the 2006 return of about 270,000 chinook.
"It's frightening to think how far we've fallen so quickly," said J.D. Richey, a salmon fishing guide on the American River, a key tributary that contributes to the Valley's chinook run. "It's pretty bleak."
Even more worrisome, the count of 2-year-old chinook returning to spawn in 2007 was just 2,021 fish. That is not just a record low, but also a mere fraction of 36-year average of about 40,000 fish. Early spawners, also called "jacks," are considered a reliable indicator of the number of 3-year-old fish expected to spawn in the following year.
In addition, the 90,414 total falls below the council's minimum conservation target of 122,000 fish, which may compel officials to shorten the 2008 fishing season both in the ocean and in Central Valley rivers. The council meets in Sacramento March 8-14 to begin that regulatory process for the season that begins in May.
"The magnitude of the low abundance … is such that the opening of all marine and freshwater fisheries impacting this important salmon stock will be questioned," Donald McIsaac, the council's executive director, wrote in the memo. He called the numbers "an early alert to what at this point appears to be an unprecedented collapse."
The Central Valley run includes fish that spawn on the San Joaquin River. But the vast majority of the fall chinook spawn in the Sacramento River and its tributaries. These fish mainly range north in the Pacific Ocean, supporting the fishing industry in Washington and Oregon as well as California.
In 2006, the salmon season was drastically curtailed to protect the smaller Klamath River chinook. With fishermen still recovering from that, another reduction would sting.
"It's going to be devastating," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "It could mean no fishing at all."
It remains unclear why the run fell off so sharply in 2007. But many indicators point to poor ocean health, which may, in turn, be caused by factors linked to global warming, according to researchers.
For several years, changes in wind patterns have halted or delayed deep upwelling currents in the ocean. The upwelling drives a food cycle that produces plankton, which in turn feed tiny shrimp-like krill. The krill, in turn, are the primary food for young salmon spending their first year in the ocean.
The upwelling disruptions may have contributed to a decline in krill along with their salmon predators. Krill also feed a variety of seabirds, many of which also have declined in number.
Other experts said they believe poor environmental conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are to blame. Six other fish species are declining there due to a combination of near-record water exports, poor water quality and competition for food from invasive species.
"It's just another piece of evidence that our management of the rivers and the estuary are insufficient to support these species," said Tina Swanson, senior scientist at the Bay Institute. "We need to do better, and really quickly."
Many anglers fear a reduced season in 2008, but it may not be much worse than what they just went through because of the poor chinook return.
Richey, for example, had only 10 percent of the usual number of clients booking salmon trips on the American River last year.
"I basically just stopped offering salmon (trips) because there wasn't anything to catch," he said.
"To me, it just felt like there was a void in the Valley. It was odd. I guess having the chinook was something I've taken for granted all these years." #
Salmon arriving in record low numbers
San Francisco Chronicle – 1/30/08
By Jane Kay, staff writer
The Central Valley fall run of chinook salmon apparently has collapsed, portending sharp fishing restrictions and rising prices for consumers while providing further evidence that the state's water demands are causing widespread ecological damage.
The bad news for commercial and sport fishermen and the salmon-consuming public surfaced Tuesday when a fisheries-management group warned that the numbers of the bay's biggest wild salmon run had plummeted to near record lows.
In April, the Pacific Fishery Management Council will set restrictions on the salmon season, which typically starts in May. A shortage could drive up the price of West Coast wild salmon. The council's leaders said the news is troubling because normally healthy runs of Central Valley chinook salmon are heavily relied upon by fishermen. Runs on the other river systems historically have been smaller.
"The low returns are particularly distressing since this stock has consistently been the healthy 'workhorse' for salmon fisheries off California and most of Oregon," the council's executive director, Donald McIsaac, said in a statement Tuesday.
At its peak, the fall run has numbered hundreds of thousands of fish, exceeding 800,000 in some years. But this year the preliminary count has put the number at 90,000 adults returning to spawn in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries. During the past decade, the number of returning fish has never fallen below 250,000.
Through the years, the chinook, or king, salmon that pass through San Francisco Bay have suffered from diversions of freshwater to cities and farms, the operation of the water-export pumps that send delta water to other regions, exposure to pollutants and warming ocean conditions.
"We've known that the numbers were going to come in low, but we didn't know they would be this low," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, which represents commercial fishermen.
"This could end up closing us," Grader said. "Part of what we're trying to do is put a fish on the table that people can afford."
A few more than 1,000 commercial fishermen who catch the Central Valley salmon in the ocean from Santa Barbara to southeast Alaska received $40 million in federal relief funds two months ago. The fishermen were given the funds for losses they incurred due to fishing restrictions in 2006 initiated to protect the Klamath and Trinity river runs that were suffering from a lack of fresh river water. In addition, related businesses received $20 million in aid.
Grader, along with representatives of most sport and environmental groups, attribute the salmon decline primarily to Central Valley dams that flood or block spawning grounds and the delta water pumps that move water around the state.
"Twenty years ago, we identified the amount of additional freshwater we needed for healthy fish," he said. A federal law was passed in 1988 to reserve water to help fish, but the water only makes it as far as the delta - not out to the bay, where it would help migrating fish like salmon, he said.
Pollution that drains off farms also hurts the fish, Grader said.
Heidi Rooks, an environmental program manager in the Department of Water Resources, said the salmon's woes probably are linked to the Pacific Ocean.
"Although there are environmental challenges in the Central Valley and the delta, I'm concerned that ocean conditions, including currents and food sources, are influencing our salmon populations as well," she said. "We're working on habitat restoration, but it's not going to address ocean conditions."
Jeff McCracken, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which runs the federal part of California's water system, said he couldn't comment on the preliminary salmon numbers. He said the federal system is operated based on input from fisheries biologists.
The economic impacts from the loss of salmon also would affect businesses associated with sport fishing, including the boating, hotel and manufacturing industries.
"The last two years have been the worst salmon fishing years in all of California history," said Dick Pool, president and owner of Pro-Troll Fishing Products in Concord, a company that makes salmon-fishing equipment.
"The main reason has been the collapse of the delta. The tiny little smolts aren't making it the 100 miles from the rivers to the bay. As the water exports have increased over the last five years, the food chain has been significantly affected," he said.
According to the American Sportfishing Association, there are 2.4 million recreational anglers in California. The economic value of recreational fishing and related activities reached $4 billion in 2001, according to the association.
The popular chinook salmon is the most recent of the fish that feed in the rivers, delta and the bay to suffer a loss in numbers, said Tina Swanson, senior scientist at the Bay Institute, an environmental group.
Delta smelt, threadfin shad, longfin smelt and striped bass have declined in numbers starting in the early 2000s, she said. "That's the same time that the salmon that returned this year to spawn were going through the delta," she said.
The five highest water-export years have all occurred since 2000, she said.
Today's adult fish were migrating out to the ocean in 2005, the year the delta exports hit a record high, Swanson said.
Salmon are hatched in the rivers and feed in the delta and bay. At three to four months, they move to the ocean, where they feed near shore before they head for the open ocean.
"Dams along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers are holding back water, and the flows are usually less than what the salmon need," Swanson said. The low flows of freshwater to the bay can also raise overall water temperatures beyond what is healthy for juvenile salmon, she said. In the delta, the water pumps suck up salmon and other fish.
The pumping system moves the juvenile salmon into large, open areas of the delta, where they are prey for bigger fish.
Scientists studying the decline in fish populations also consider the effect of the ocean environment, although they agree that it is still too early to measure the effects of global warming. They look at the timing of migrations and food availability, said William Sydeman, a biologist with the Farallon Institutes for Advanced Ecosystem Research.
He found that in 2005, 2006 and, to a lesser extent, in 2007, the breeding failures of the Cassin's auklet on the Farallones could be linked to the demise of krill in the marine environment at the time when the birds needed it.
Salmon, too, feed on krill, anchovies and other small aquatic creatures, which are affected in abundance by ocean conditions.
When salmon come through the bay to the ocean, they spend time in the Gulf of the Farallones, the same as the Cassin's auklets, where they need to find sufficient zooplankton and other food.
"The ocean environment has a strong influence on how many survive the initial period at sea and how many come back to spawn three to four years later in the Sacramento River," Sydeman said. #
Salmon collapse could force fishing restrictions; Regulators issue the warning as the number of chinook in the Sacramento River falls to historic lows
Los Angeles Times – 1/30/08
By Eric Bailey, staff writer
SACRAMENTO -- -- Faced with an "unprecedented collapse" of California's Central Valley salmon population, federal regulators warned Tuesday that the West Coast fishing industry is on course toward steep restrictions this year.
The number of chinook salmon returning to the Sacramento River plummeted to near historic lows last year, and fishery experts are predicting similarly light returns this year.
Donald McIsaac, director of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, said the reason for the decline remains unclear.
But the numbers of chinook or king salmon returning to many other West Coast rivers were also down last year, and scientists suspect the culprit is ocean conditions linked to global warming.
"The implications of a precipitous decline could be substantial for both commercial and recreational fisheries coastwide," McIsaac said, drawing a comparison to 2006, when plummeting Klamath River salmon stocks prompted major fishing cutbacks.
Some environmentalists blamed the troubles on water exports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, headwaters of the giant aqueducts that funnel water to Southern California.
The Sacramento River's "missing salmon" were juveniles migrating to sea in spring 2005, when state and federal water managers "set records for pumping delta water south," said Mike Sherwood, an attorney with Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental legal group that has been jousting with water managers over water exports.
McIsaac sent an e-mail late Monday to members of the Pacific Fishery Management Council outlining the steep salmon decline.
Only about 90,000 returning adult salmon were counted in the Central Valley in 2007, the second-lowest number on record and nearly one-tenth the all-time high of more than 800,000 five years ago.
McIsaac said he wanted to give council members "an early alert to what at this point appears to be an unprecedented collapse." Particularly worrisome, he said, is the historic slump in the number of returning 2-year-old salmon, which are used as an indicator of future adult salmon returns. Just 2,000 of the young fish returned to the Sacramento River last year, an all-time low, compared with more than 76,000 in 2004.
The fishery council, which sets annual federal fishing limits on the West Coast, is slated to meet in Sacramento in March to discuss potential restrictions, with a final decision in April. The salmon season typically begins in May. #
Salmon run in big trouble, fish counts show; Those who fish may face stiff restrictions
Modesto Bee – 1/30/08
By Mike Mooney, staff writer
A dramatic decline in the number of chinook salmon returning to spawn in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, and elsewhere in California, could lead to severe fishing restrictions.
As of Tuesday, only 1,100 chinook, also known as king salmon, had been counted on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
That's about an 80 percent drop from the previous year, when about 5,800 returning salmon were reported in the three rivers.
"These numbers, while still preliminary, are very disappointing. There is nothing in particular that we can point to at this stage to explain it." said Kate Hora, Modesto Irrigation District spokeswoman.
In the Sacramento River basin, the number of returning chinook also has declined precipitously, leading federal fishery regulators to consider imposing stiff restrictions on salmon fishing this year.
Experts say the dwindling chinook population is part of a broader decline in wild salmon runs across the West.
The number of chinook returning to the Sacramento River and its tributaries is down more than 88 percent from the all-time high recorded five years ago, according to an internal memo sent to members of the Pacific Fishery Management Council and obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.
About 90,000 returning adult salmon were counted in the Central Valley in 2007, the second-lowest number on record, the memo says.
The population was at 277,000 in 2006 and 804,000 five years ago.
In an e-mail to fishery council members, Donald McIsaac, the agency's executive director, said he wanted to give them "an early alert to what at this point appears to be an unprecedented collapse in the abundance of adult California Central Valley ... fall chinook salmon stocks."
"The magnitude of the low abundance," he wrote, "is such that the opening of all marine and freshwater fisheries impacting this important salmon stock will be questioned."
Last fall, Doug Demko of FishBIO, a consulting firm with offices in Oakdale and Chico, told The Bee that salmon numbers were in decline throughout the West.
Why? Demko and other experts believe changing climate conditions, including warmer water temperatures in the northern Pacific Ocean, could be behind the dramatic decline.
Salmon thrive in colder water.
For years, conventional wisdom in the Northern San Joaquin Valley has been that more water flowing through rivers during the spring would lead to larger numbers of salmon returning to spawn in the fall.
MID officials have speculated that a host of problems could be making life difficult for the fish, including predatory striped bass, declining water quality, warmer water temperatures and delta pumping.
It's only the second time in 35 years that the Central Valley has not met the agency's conservation goal of 122,000 to 180,000 returning fish, according to the council, which regulates Pacific Coast fisheries.
More worrisome is that only about 2,000 2-year-old juvenile chinooks -- used to predict returns of adult spawners in the coming season -- returned to the Central Valley last year, by far the lowest number ever counted. On average, about 40,000 juveniles, or "jacks," return each year. #
AP: Officials Warn Of Salmon Population 'Collapse'; Regulators Could Close West Coast Salmon Fishing This Year
CBS Channel 13 – 1/29/08
The number of chinook salmon returning to California's Central Valley reached a near-record low last year, pointing to an "unprecedented collapse" that could lead to severe restrictions on West Coast salmon fishing this year, according to federal fishery regulators.
The sharp drop in chinook or "king" salmon returning from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the Sacramento River and its tributaries this past fall is part of broader decline in wild salmon runs in rivers across the West.
Regulators are still trying to understand the reasons for the shrinking number of spawners; some scientists believe it's related to changes in the ocean linked to global warming.
Only about 90,000 returning adult salmon were counted in the Central Valley in 2007, the second lowest number on record, according to an internal memo sent to members of the Pacific Fishery Management Council and obtained by The Associated Press. That's down from about 277,000 in 2006 and an all-time high of 804,000 five years ago.
In an e-mail to council members, Donald McIsaac, the agency's executive director, said he wanted to give them "an early alert to what at this point appears to be an unprecedented collapse in the abundance of adult California Central Valley ... fall Chinook salmon stocks."
"The magnitude of the low abundance ... is such that the opening of all marine and freshwater fisheries impacting this important salmon stock will be questioned," he said.
It's only the second time in 35 years that the Central Valley has not met the council's conservation goal of 122,000 returning fish, according to the council, which regulates Pacific Coast fisheries.
More worrisome is that only about 2,000 2-year-old juvenile chinooks -- an important indicator for the coming salmon season -- reached an all-time low in 2007, compared to a long-term average of about 40,000.
Salmon that spawn in Central Valley rivers form the backbone of the West Coast's commercial and recreational salmon fishery and are caught by fisherman as far north as British Columbia.
"Sacramento fish are really what the fishery depends on," said Chuck Tracy, who heads the council's salmon technical team. "When Central Valley fish are low it gets really hard to catch fish even if you're given the opportunity."
The council plans to meet in Sacramento in March to discuss possible restrictions on the salmon season that begins in May. Final decisions will be made at its meeting in Seattle in April. #
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