[env-trinity] SF Chronicle 4 17 10
bwl3 at comcast.net
Mon Apr 19 10:42:30 PDT 2010
A skimpy salmon season
It's a season in name only. On a handful of days this summer, commercial and
casual anglers can chase salmon off the coast. But after two long years with
no open-water season, this brief window is a welcome sign.
If fish biologists are right, salmon in big numbers may be returning this
fall to the long-depleted Sacramento River system. The anticipated run means
that a dwindling salmon industry, sustained by nearly $200 million disaster
relief, will get a chance to work again. It may even buy a little peace -
though not much, we bet - in the water wars, which have pitted fishermen and
farmers in a dispute over crucial river flows.
The short season could mark an upswing for depleted salmon stocks. After
several years of alarm-level fish counts, the prediction is for 245,000 fish
in the Sacramento system. The proposed season - which actually began for
sportfishing on April 3 - might yield fish catches of around 50,000 from
here to Oregon.
These numbers pale against the past. Salmon numbered close to 800,000 in the
once-productive Sacramento in 2002, and the rapid decline is blamed on a
number of factors. Ocean conditions cut food supplies for the fish.
Pollution and drought harmed riverbed habitat for the spawning. Most
contentious of all, water diversions drained watersheds further and
prevented young fish from completing their journey to the sea.
Though a rainy winter has brought water flows up to normal levels this year,
the fight isn't over. Central Valley farmers won Washington's support for
increased pumping. The fishing industry earned validation from a national
science panel for its claims about the harmful effects of water siphoning.
Salmon have become a proxy in a wider war over the best use of California's
scarce and fickle water supply.
The decision for an abbreviated season has met with grudging acceptance by
fishing interests. The season is almost too short to be worth the trouble,
some say. But nearly everyone accepts the fact that limited fishing is
necessary to save the species.
The shortened season will be a test of this patient spirit. Tough-minded
management could bring back an iconic fish.#
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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