[env-trinity] Zeke Grader Opinion Article in Santa Cruz Sentinel News 4 11 10
bwl3 at comcast.net
Mon Apr 12 10:03:16 PDT 2010
Saving the salmon fishing industry
Santa Cruz Sentinel-4/11/10
By Zeke Grader
For two years, sport and commercial fishermen along 1,000 miles of coastline
in California and Oregon have been precluded from fishing for Central Valley
salmon because of the steep declines in salmon populations. The primary
reason was water diversions from the state and federal pumps in the Delta
that, until the recent drought, have increased over time.
Many factors have contributed to the historic collapse of the California and
Oregon salmon fishery. However, the operations of the State Water Project
SWP and Central Valley Project CVP have played a critical and central role
in the decline of salmon and the health of our rivers, streams, bays and
The Central Valley fall-run chinook salmon is the backbone of the commercial
and recreational salmon fishery, producing the vast majority of the salmon
caught in these states. In 2009, and in the absence of any fishing, total
returns of hatchery and naturally spawning salmon in the Central Valley
reached a record low: 39,500 fish. This figure is far less than the minimum
population of 122,000 fish necessary to sustain the fishery and a tiny
fraction of historic levels.
Earlier this month, more than 500 people attended an overflow meeting in San
Francisco to tell their personal stories and to make their business case for
saving water for chinook salmon and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
While the fishermen did make a compelling case, what became apparent was the
ripple effect on California's and Oregon's economy from years of salmon
fishing decline, punctuated by the past two years of the salmon closure. Not
only are fishermen and women facing hard times, but so are tackle and boat
shops, harbors, charter boat operators, harbors, restaurants and wholesale
seafood suppliers. In addition, many seafood consumers miss healthy, local
wild salmon on their plates. In total, the chinook salmon closure has cost
hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
A recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California concluded that
the survival of the salmon fishery is in jeopardy unless we change the way
we manage water exports in the Delta. It also concluded that there is a 70
to 90 percent chance that the fall-run salmon fishery would be not viable in
2050, assuming that future diversions match previous averages. The export of
millions of acre-feet of water through the Central Valley Project and State
Water Project pumps in the South Delta harm salmon in a variety of ways.
Prior to the new Biological Opinion and U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger's
2007 ruling that Delta pumping restrictions were necessary to protect
endangered species, and immediately prior to the collapse of the salmon
fishery, the state and federal pumps reached record highs in total Delta
If water exports are not brought into balance, the likelihood of sustaining
the fishery would decrease even further. We can, and must, do a better job
of managing the Central Valley Project and State Water Project to protect
and restore salmon populations, as well as the communities and businesses
that depend upon them.
This effort begins with maintaining the protections in the salmon and smelt
biological opinions. It also starts with pushing back on the political
pressure from some Central Valley agribusinesses and elected officials who
only listen to agriculture's demands for more water.
On April 15, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council will meet in Portland
to decide on a limited season for commercial salmon fishing. After two
consecutive cancellations of salmon fishing off the California coast, a
third year of closure is possible.
However, there may be a small, perhaps token, season for commercial salmon
fishermen this year. A short sport season for salmon that began last
Saturday is scheduled to last only through the end of this month -- a short
respite for a struggling industry.
It's time to stop siding with special interests who are demanding
unreasonable and unsustainable amounts of water for the Central Valley.
Zeke Grader is executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land/fax (call first to fax)
415 519 4810 mobile
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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